Earlier this year, my sister Elizabeth (also co-host of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast) and I went for a visit to the Golden Door spa in California, and we had a wonderful sisterly time there.
So when the Golden Door suggested that I participate in an advertising spread they were planning, I was intrigued—especially when I learned that the photographer was Alexi Lubomirski.
Lubomirski is a very well-known photographer who’s perhaps best known for taking the official photographs of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for their engagement and wedding.
I’d never participated in something like this, so I figured it would be an interesting adventure to see what was involved. And boy, was it! I’ve never done anything like that before.
The idea for the photograph was that I would look as if I were magically leaping through the beautiful bamboo grove on the grounds of the Golden Door.
How you may ask, is this effect created?
They built two platforms about five feet off the ground and photographed me jumping from one to the other. Later, the platforms were erased, so I look like I’m flying through the air.
This was a giant undertaking—I counted nineteen people. There were people operating cameras, wind machines, fog machines, lights, and reflectors, as well as clothes stylists, hair stylists, a tailor, and a make-up artist, and people supervising all the work. Of course, this team was assembled to take photos of several different people, not just me.
I found it surprisingly difficult to do my small part. I had to jump from one foot to another, swing back my left arm, keep my chin down, smile but not too much, point my toe, and extend my hand. (It’s funny about my chin, I have a strange impulse to throw my head back whenever my photo is being taken.)
The image was created by pulling together several different images, so what you see represents a composite of all the best shots. I was relieved to hear that! It took some of the pressure off to get every aspect right. I have trouble rubbing my stomach while patting my head, and this was a whole new level of coordination.
I really enjoyed doing this. For one thing, it was new and different, and it’s always interesting to be involved in something novel—especially in an area like photography, where I experience the end product often but don’t know about how it’s created.
I had trepidations that this might have an Austin Powers “work with me, people” vibe, but Lubomirski created a warm, reassuring, but also somewhat brisk atmosphere that I appreciated.
I have to admit, though, that at one point the sheer massiveness of this operation struck me, and I started laughing—and he said, “Great smile, do it again!” and of course, I couldn’t.
Also, I really enjoyed the feeling of what I call “varsity team.” I did an episode of “A Little Happier” where I talk about the satisfaction, and the almost aesthetic pleasure, of working with the varsity team. What a joy it was to collaborate with people who are such masters of their work.
Also, as it happened, many people had taken the Four Tendencies quiz, and it was a lot of fun to hear what Tendencies were represented by whom. As you’d expect, because Obliger is the largest Tendency, we had lots of Obligers. But all the Tendencies were represented. In this kind of work environment, I couldn’t really see the different strengths and weaknesses of the Tendencies play themselves out, but I got the sense that if I’d worked with these folks much longer, I would’ve been able to start to tell who was what Tendency, for myself.
I love mastery, routine, and familiarity, so I really push myself to try to do things that seem offbeat, unexpected, and unfamiliar. Research and my own experience confirm that although this is often challenging (especially in anticipation), in the end, doing something new and different makes me happier.
The atmosphere of growth!
Here’s the final photo as it will be displayed in their advertisement: