Monday, February 12, 2018

Volo Auto Museum - Volo, IL

(Click on the photos for a larger view)

I went to the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, IL today.  Wow!  What a museum!  This beats the auto show!

Not only did they have a lot of cars from movies, they had a bunch of cars for sale too!  If you are in the market for a collectable car, this is the place to get it!  I was shocked at how many cars they had.

Besides cars, there were exhibits like scooters, antique boat motors, Wurlitzer jukeboxes and military displays!  I plan to use this museum to train Balanced Exposure students on how to photograph museum exhibits and how to adjust cameras for proper exposure!

I found myself constantly adjusting my exposure settings since the various exhibits' lighting kept fooling my camera's meter.  I believe the students will learn a lot by accompanying me to this museum to see how to proper evaluate their settings and dialing in the right exposures.

Come with me when we do a class here!  It will be worth learning how to interpret camera meter readings and adjusting exposures properly!

Besides the cool exhibits at the museum, I was lucky to meet Dick Shepard, the museum's commercial photographer as well.  He showed me his photo studio where he takes quality photos of the cars they have for sale.  It's a large converted garage with overhead continuous lights with light diffusion panels.  The studio is also equipped with studio flashes.  Above, you can see a photo of a vehicle ready to be photographed in the studio.  The floor rotates continuously so that various angles of the cars can be taken without driving the cars!  Looks great in videos too!  Very impressive.  He said they never touch up the cars in the photos, so what you see in the photos are the way the cars are when you buy them.

My favorite exhibit?  Can't you guess from the photos?  It's the Batmobile from the 1966 TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward!  I grew up with Batman & Robin so this car just brought me back to my childhood!

Friday, February 02, 2018


This is a Japanese Tanto.  This short sword is made of 1080 carbon steel and is very sharp.

I purchased this sword to compliment my Japanese Katana which is made of 1095 carbon steel and is extremely sharp.

The higher the carbon steel number, the harder the material.  But it also makes it more brittle.  The lower the number, the softer the material, but more flexible.  If you look closely, you will see part of the "hamon" line near the base of the blade.  The reflection of light hides the rest of it along the blade.  The line is created by putting clay on part (but not all) of the blade when it is fired to harden the sword.  This makes part of the blade that does not have clay heat up more than the part that has the clay.  The sharper edge does not have the clay, so it becomes hotter.  Once plunged into water after the firing, the sword hardens and actually curves the blade as well.

The reason that you do not want the entire blade hard is for the strength of the blade when struck.  If another sword were to hit your sword, you want your sword to flex a little so that it doesn't just break.  But, you want the edge to be really sharp.  The hamon line due to the clay keeps the back part of the sword more flexible but keeps the edge part harder to allow better sharpening.

This technique has been done for centuries of sword making and is the reason why these samurai swords are so sharp!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Ring

I ordered a Chicago Cubs replica ring from for $3.95 plus $9.95 shipping from China.  I had seen their ad on Facebook for a while and after reading a bunch of comments and looking at the photos posted by those who had ordered, I figured I would take a chance and see if the ring was any good.

Well, it is!  The disappointing part though is that they sent me the wrong ring and the wrong size!  I had ordered an Anthony Rizzo player's ring in size 11, but was sent a Kris Bryant ring in size 8!  I immediately emailed the company and within 12 hours, I got a reply that they would ship out the correct ring and that I could keep the wrong one too!  So, two rings for $6.95 each isn't too bad!

These rings are shipped from China, so had I needed to return the ring, it would not be worth it.  I'm glad that Britecrew is backing up the mistake and will send the correct one soon.

These rings are very heavy in weight and the quality actually looks really good.  They remind me of the "high school" rings that so many people order.  I never got a high school ring and always wish I had ordered one.  In college, I never ordered one of those either.  But at least, I can remember the 2016 win of the Chicago Cubs after having breaking the billy goat curse!

Get one of these rings if you are interested in sports!  The company seems legit and will back up any problems!  If you order a ring, be aware that not all of the players rings seem to be made of the same quality.  One person posted a photo of multiple rings he had ordered and only the Bryant and Rizzo rings looked good to me.  The others seemed to lack in quality both in ring design and "gem" quality.  So to be safe, only get the Bryant and/or Rizzo rings.  The photos here are of my actual ring taken with my iPhone 6s+.

I used this printable ring sizer to check my ring size:

Friday, January 26, 2018

Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo - 1-26-18

I attended the Chicagoland Fishing, Travel & Outdoor Expo at the Schaumburg Convention Center today with my friend Gayle.  It was appropriate because Gayle was the one that taught me how to fish!

We went up and down the aisles looking at all the fishing gear, boats and exhibits from fishing guides.  It was great!  We felt proud that we didn't buy anything too since we both have more gear than we know what to do with, but there were plenty of vendors selling goods.  If you are looking to get some discounts on fishing tackle, you won't be disappointed!

The show continues to run another couple of days, so go if you are interested in fishing!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Moods at Chef Vince's Zeal - Schaumburg Illinois

I haven't seen The Moods in over 11 years!  We had worked a wedding together back in 2006.  I was photographing the wedding and The Moods were hired to be the band.  Great bunch of guys!  But over the years, a couple of the members had either retired or moved on and new guys have been brought in as replacements.  Still good!

They played at Chef Vince's Zeal restaurant in Schaumburg this evening and my wife and I decided to go see them and have dinner.  The bar area that they played in was crowded, so we were lucky to be able to get a table in the back.  The sound was decent considering the size of the venue, but there wasn't enough room in the bar area for all the diners and people who were dancing in the aisles.  Still, we had a good time and I was glad to see the guys and take their photo again!

If you have the opportunity to go see them play, do so!  You won't be disappointed with their sound and act. If you like songs from the Motown era and more, you will love The Moods!  They put on a great show and know how to get the crowd moving!

As for the photography, it was a difficult venue to shoot.  While The Moods had lights on them, most were small overhead bulbs that put harsh lighting on them creating hard shadows on their faces.  The Nikon D4 and Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 had their work cut out for them.  I shot most of the images with Aperture Priority using exposure compensation as much as -2 EV.  The remaining effort to improve the images were done in Adobe Lightroom.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


I always wanted a Japanese Katana (samurai sword), so I finally got one!  Better watch out if you break into my home... and yes, I know how to use it!

This is a high quality sword, unlike the cheap ones you find at many Chinatown gift shops.  Those just aren't worth the money.  Get a good one if you plan to get one!

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike

I bought myself an early birthday present to help my diet... a Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike.   It was on sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods for $399. I remember that during my physical therapy for my knees, I was asked by the physical therapists to ride a recumbent bike for several miles before each therapy session, so I figured maybe I could get my own and continue this to help my knees and to help my diet!

I took my time building the bike so it took me around 2 hours to assemble it.  It's relatively easy to build actually.  Everything you need is included with the bike for the assembly.  It turned out great!  Instructions were nicely detailed and even your screws and nuts and washers are packed in a cardboard that is shrink wrapped and labeled.  That made it really easy to identify the parts!  While some places offer an assembly option for a cost, I think most people could actually build this themselves and save the money.  You might need two people if you are older just to help steady the bike during the first phase of installing the stabilizer bars for the bike, but other than that, you can do the rest yourself.

As for operation, if you download the Schwinn Trainer ap, the machine will bluetooth the workout session data to the ap. The ap in turn will update your burned calories to the MyFitnessPal ap! Nice!  I use the MyFitnessPal ap to track my calorie intake during my diet.  The console is easy to use, but not that intuitive.  If they had thought this part through a little more, perhaps it would have been better, but after fumbling a bit, I was able to figure out how it works to get the various programs to run.  There's no on-off switch, but the console will turn itself off after about 5 minutes with inactivity.

Even after just pedaling just several miles on the bike, I can tell that it seems really smooth and quiet.  I am finding that my hamstring muscles and hamstring tendon are really aching after even just a few sessions!  I suppose I'll have to work up the ability to do several miles at a time.  When you don't use these muscles as often as you should, you are going to ache after exercising!

While I had hoped to keep the bike in the family room so that I could pedal and watch TV, my wife prefers it in my office, so that's where it will stay.  I'll watch Netflix and YouTube on my iPad Mini and plug it into the bike's built-in speakers.  The built-in fan is nice too to help cool you off while riding.

I am 5'10" tall.  For me, I have to put the seat all the way back.  I wonder for those with long legs or taller than I am, would the bike be too small for them?  It's no problem for my wife or daughter as they are shorter than I am.  I like the pedals to be just under the point where my legs are fully extended.  It's less strain on my knees this way.  Even on a regular road bike, you should adjust the seat post and seat so that your knees are just slightly bent.  Too many people pedal with their seat post too low on a bike.  That's not good for your knees.

Overall, I'd say the bike is really good.  It is comfortable and even with my bad knees, I can pedal away safely.  If I ever do get knee replacements, it will be important to have for my rehab as well.  Overall, a good purchase which I hope to use daily!  Highly recommended for those who need some exercise but must limit the impact on their joints.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 Willow Creek Christmas

2017 Willow Creek Christmas 1:00 PM Saturday. The image was taken with a Nikon D3400 camera and Nikon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens at ISO 2200 at 1/30 sec and f5.6 (aperture priority). Exposure compensation at -1.0 EV. Who says you can't take a great photo with an entry-level DSLR camera? Camera supported with a monopod.

The second shot was taken at ISO 800 at 1/40 sec and f5.6 with -0.7 EV compensation.

Lighting changed constantly throughout the program. I needed to compensate the lighting accordingly. Without good knowledge of lighting and the camera, I doubt most people trying to take images with their DSLR's or iPhones would have been able to get consistently decent shots.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Nikon D3400 Camera and Nikon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 Kit Lens

Too often, I hear people complain that their "entry-level" camera and kit lens isn't good enough. Well, read on...

I recently purchased a Nikon D3400 and 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens from B&H Photo for $396.95 (on sale due to the holidays). I purchased this for the school in case someone needed to borrow it during the Photo Essentials class because they came in with the wrong camera for the class. 

Anyway, I had the chance to use it on my most recent cook of pulled pork on my new 14.5" Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. I was immediately impressed with how clean the image looked and how rich the colors were! Of course, I used one of the new Balanced Exposure Custom White Balance Reflectors to set the custom white balance... something I could never do with an iPhone for the food photos on my food blog. The images were SO GOOD for a camera and lens combo of only $396.95!

My very first digital camera was a Nikon D100 which cost $1999 at the time (without a lens). That camera was a 6.1 MP camera with terrible color in comparison to today's cameras. I used this to take "professional" photos! Today, the entry level D3400 is 24.2 megapixels... much larger than the old camera! It is so much more capable than my first digital camera and for a lot less money.

So, don't think your basic camera can't take a good photo... it can! You just need to be sure your exposures and color balance are correct and your composition is right. This image of the pork shows how rich the colors can be. There's ample shallow depth of field too from the lens. Also, look at the bricks behind it... very accurate colors if you saw the real bricks.

Make the most of the gear you have! Shoot correctly and you'll have very satisfying images.

Oh, if you want to see more images from this cook to compare the quality, check it out on my food blog:

Happy Holidays everyone!