Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Most Stressful Part of Weddings

Recently while reading some comments on one of the wedding forums I frequent, I was "surprised" to learn that many other fellow photographers find the drive to the wedding location the most stressful part of the wedding! I say "surprised" because I think so too!

During the wedding and the reception, I'm in control most of the time. I know what to do, what to expect and how to handle myself and my cameras. But the drive getting to the ceremony or the reception is totally dependent on other things beyond my control. Traffic problems, closed roads, limo drivers going the wrong way while I'm following the limo... it all adds up to lost time and sometimes even getting lost! I've had many limo drivers leave me behind a red light even after I had told them not to do that! I wonder if they do it on purpose sometimes!

That's why I invested in a GPS system for my car. It takes some of the stress out of getting lost. Often I find that alternative routes must be taken because traffic is not cooperating and when it's dark outside, you can't really rely on looking at a map. That GPS unit has saved me at several weddings last year.

I recall in the early years of photographing weddings that the ceremony itself was also a point of stress for me. Lighting conditions in churches can often be rather poor and unless you really know how to use your camera, you can count on poorly exposed images or images with a lot of camera shake going on. Luckily today, I've photographed so many weddings that this isn't really a problem for me any more.

Yes, traveling is the most stressful part of weddings for me and a lot of other photographers. Are you surprised?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Working Meez

Here I am working hard...

Question is... do I look like this shooting weddings or crime scenes? I especially like the one handed shooting style though! The fancy footwork takes practice!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

This is me. Or should I say Meez...

Too bad I'm not playing a Taylor guitar here. Looks more like a Martin guitar. It's a little weird in that the guitar looks like it's "cracking open" right below the pickguard every now and then. I bet a Taylor guitar wouldn't do that! lol

I'm a sucker when it comes to making stuff like this on-line. Try making one of yourself at

My daughter made one of herself...

2006 In Review

At weddings (especially wedding receptions) I often get to photograph people doing some rather unusual things. Take for example this balancing act. At a recent wedding reception, this young lady was determined to balance this spoon on her nose. I'm not sure if she ever succeeded or not since I didn't hang around long enough to find out (I had other photos to take...)

2006 was kind of like this for me as well... trying to keep things in balance.

A lot went on for me in 2006. My photography business continued to mature and I am very comfortable shooting strictly in digital. The last few years has seen huge growth in digital capture and the industry has embraced the new technology nicely. Clients no longer ask if I can shoot some images in film anymore. They have accepted that digital is the way to go.

Other things remained the same for 2006 as well. I remained the top referred wedding photographer for the Chicago area on (a referral service) and I saw consistent referrals coming to me from past clients. This year, I even booked a client who was referred to me from someone who was not a past client but simply because that person had heard about me from someone else. So "thank you" to whoever has been passing my name around! I don't know who you are, but I appreciate the kind words you have been saying about me to people you meet!

In 2006, I also purchased and sold a LOT of guitars in search of the right guitar to use for both performing and for recording. Ultimately, I ended up keeping a Taylor GS and a Taylor DDSM (Doyle Dykes Signature Model.) The GS will be used at church weekly and the DDSM will be used for special performances.

2006 was also the year in which I attended my 30th year reunion with my high school friends. I think that was the highlight of the year for me. I had wondered for many years what became of the people I went to school with and I was very happy to find out that many of them did very well for themselves over the years! In our graduating class, we had everything from dentists, doctors, attorneys, accountants, musicians, actors, gymnasts and even photographers!

What's in store for me in 2007? Stay tuned!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Floor Sander

Recently we removed the carpet in our living room / dining room and contracted a company to refinish the hardwood floor underneath. There was a section of the entranceway that was covered with a vinyl flooring that was glued directly over the hardwood floor. This extended from the entrance all the way to the kitchen.

Since our house was not new when we purchased it, one of the original owners must have had this done many years ago. The carpet covered over the rest of the floor so having the vinyl section made sense then... but it did not make sense if we were going to just use the hardwood floor by itself.

I wondered how the contractors would remove the glued-on vinyl floor and after they tried to peel it off (that didn't work well) they finally decided they would just SAND it off! The machine they used is the sanding machine they normally use just to sand the hardwood. In literally two strokes (one forward pass and then a reverse pass) that old vinyl floor was history! I could not believe how quickly that vinyl floor was removed!

These photos were taken with a Fuji F10 point & shoot camera with its built-in flash.

I suppose "The Karate Kid" would have loved to use this machine after Mr. Miyagi told him to "Sand The Floor!" And a Buffer would work great for "Wax On, Wax Off" too!


Monday, December 18, 2006

"The Boardroom"

"The Boardroom"
Russell Lowe Photography
1901 N. Roselle Road, Ste. 800
Schaumburg, IL 60195

When I meet clients, I have a couple of rooms I like to use at my office. But "The Boardroom" is my favorite. Usually, only the bride and groom come to see me, but I can accomodate others as well if they come too. Sometimes a bride will bring her bridesmaids or her parents. No matter. I have room!

I use this room to hold photography workshops as well. The "wedge-shaped" table always grabs attention!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Is There Value In Older Cameras?

Nikon D100 / Nikon 28-70mm f 2.8

The latest and greatest cameras seem to be the desired items to have. I know I usually get the latest gear to use for my business.

But there is still value in the older digital cameras as well. On the used market, you can pick up some incredible deals on cameras that are only a couple of years old. Still plenty of life left in those cameras too if you buy the right ones!

For instance, last year I sold two Nikon D100 cameras on the used market. I had purchased them for around $1500 each (camera body only) and vertical grips for around $200 each and sold them for $650 each including the vertical grips. Not a bad deal last year for the purchasers.

So why did I recently buy another used D100? Because at $325, it beats any point and shoot camera out there for the price! I'll add a vertical grip to it which I can get on eBay for around $80... and that's for a new one too! Granted, I need to add a lens to the camera which will ultimately raise the price of the camera, but I already have a bunch of lenses.

Nikon's latest camera, the D40 comes in around $599 for a new one (without a vertical grip but includes a zoom lens) so the D100 on the used market has to come in well under that price in order to sell. At a selling price of $325 for a camera that is built extremely well, I think that's an incredible deal.

My advice? If you are looking for a DSLR camera but want to save some money, check out the deals on used cameras. There are lots of great cameras out there for incredible prices!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Displays

Last week while driving in Arlington Heights, my daughter and I noticed a park with lots of holiday lights. We said to each other that we would come back the following week to take some time exposure shots of the displays. The next day, one of my past clients emailed to ask me to share some instructions on taking photos of her mom's holiday lights on her home. Coincidence?

So tonight, my daughter and I braved the slight mist of rain and went out and took a couple of shots.

As we were walking back to our car, I noticed the sign above the parking lot and decided to photograph that as well. I decided to leave the color balance as is because it gives a different "feel" to the image.

These images were taken with a time exposure setting between 1/4 second to 1 second shutter speeds with an aperture of f 4.0. ISO was set to 400. The camera was a Fuji S3 Pro and the lens was a Nikon 12-24mm f 4.0 DX. I did not use a flash and the camera was mounted on a tripod.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Shootings In The Workplace

On Friday, there was a shooting in the workplace at a law office in downtown Chicago. Four people were killed (including the gunman) and one was injured. My "cousin-in-law" Dan had worked for this law firm in the past and knew some of the people who were killed.

This shooting reminds me of two cases I had worked on in the past when I was working at The San Diego District Attorney's Office. One involved a man who went to the workplace of his girlfriend and started shooting. The other was a case in which a gunman went into the emergency room of one of the San Diego hospitals and started shooting.

The worst case I can recall seeing in photos was the McDonald's Massacre in 1984 in San Ysidro California in which lone gunman James Huberty open fire on the patrons of a McDonalds after leaving a note for his wife that he was going to go "Hunting For Humans." He killed 21 people and injured another 20 before the police killed him. This was the worst mass murders I have ever seen in photos. My supervisor at the San Diego Police Department was an evidence technician at the time and he helped work the crime scene. This was a few years before I worked there. He had the photos from the crime scene and also the autopsy photos and so he shared that with me. It was unbelievable. I recall driving to that area while I was working for the DA's office and the site was pointed out to me by one of the DA investigators. The actual McDonalds building is no longer there as it was torn down.

It is unfortunate that our society has so many disturbed people who do things like these shootings. Because of all the things I have witnessed firsthand and from photos I've seen while working in law enforcement, I suppose I'm a little more cautious than many people when it comes to looking out for crime or danger. Often my own family thinks I'm too cautious and I know they get tired of hearing me tell them to be more careful wherever they go. But I think until you have experienced something yourself, it's hard to understand why some people are a little more "paranoid" about things than others.

All I have to say is be careful out there. We live in difficult times and it's always better to be on the side of caution than to overlook safety. It's been said that most people will be affected or connected someway with a crime over their lifetime. I know I've personally had a few already and of course hundreds as well because I had worked in law enforcement. I'll write more about these in the coming weeks on my blog. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Do You Really Need A Professional Wedding Photographer?

Recently, I met a woman who had gotten married a couple of years ago and she told me that she did not hire a professional wedding photographer but rather had some family friends shoot her wedding. As this was her second marriage, she just did not feel compelled to hire a professional.

She told me that after she got the photos back from everyone who took photos at her wedding, she noticed that there wasn't a single photo of her and her new husband together in the shots! Apparently everyone was taking photos of individuals at the wedding but nobody thought about taking a picture of the bride and groom together.

I suppose saving a few dollars is always on everyone's mind. But to save a few dollars and miss something as obvious as photographing the bride and groom together is unthinkable! Is this important in wedding photography? I'd say it is...

Today with the advent of low-priced digital cameras, I see a LOT of people taking photos at weddings. At some weddings I even see people who use cameras as nice as my cameras, although nobody seems to use the terrific lenses I use which often costs as much as the camera itself... sometimes more!

So why do you need a pro to shoot your wedding photos if you have access to so many amateur photographers who can shoot your wedding for free or perhaps at a low cost?

It's been often said that it's not the camera that makes the picture, but the photographer's vision that makes the picture. This is so true! The camera is just the tool that captures the image, but it's the vision of the photographer that composes the shot, determines the proper exposure to get the right effect, and the photographer's knowledge of what to shoot and when to shoot it that makes for a nice coverage of the day.

I have told many potential clients I meet that if you want someone to take your wedding photos for $500 or less, I'm sure you can find someone to do it. I have seen ads from a photographer out of town who advertises that he will shoot your wedding photos for free if you pay for his trip and hotel bill to your location. This photographer just wants to see the world, I guess.

I'm bothered by these types of photographers as it seems that their interest in this work is not in the best interest of their clients' needs. Anyone with a camera today can call themselves a "pro" photographer by charging just a few dollars to get a job taking photos. But it's the true professional photographer who spends lots of time learning and honing his/her craft by study and working at many weddings and improving his/her skills and offering better images at each wedding. Besides time investment, the working pro often continues to upgrade his/her equipment too to offer better images as well. It's a constant upgrade path.

I know I do this every year. Sure, my current cameras can continue to do the job. But often something new comes out to make a slight improvement in my images and I will sell last year's gear to buy this year's new models to improve my quality. I do this because I'm looking out for my client's best interest. I want them to have the best available and if that means spending a few dollars (ok, it's usually in the thousands, but who's counting) to get a better quality, I do it.

I attend seminars, read lots of books and magazines and visit countless webpages to learn to do a better job. I practice new techniques all the time too. Now I am going into my 17th year since I started shooting weddings, so why do I really need to do all this extra work? Again, there is always something new to learn that can improve my skills. And I like to put my clients interests first.

So do you really need to hire a professional wedding photographer to photograph your wedding? Only you can decide that. But if your wedding day is important to you, I'd say there's really no other way to go if you want excellent photos to document the day.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fuji S5 Pro shipping in February

The Fuji cameras are known to have one of the best image sensors around. Many professional wedding and portrait photographers rely on their cameras to get great skin tone color and high dynamic range. I like using the Fuji S3 pro camera for its ability to get great low-noise high ISO shots. This basically means I can get good images in low light conditions.

This new Fuji S5 Pro camera will be my next camera purchase. I am replacing one of my Nikon D200 cameras with this new Fuji. So for 2007, I will be shooting with two Fuji cameras (either an S3 and an S5 or perhaps two S5 cameras if I can sell my S3) and one Nikon camera.

Fuji cameras use Nikon lenses. In fact the new S5 camera is based on the Nikon D200 body. It adds Fuji's terrific image sensor and of its own software control.

So if this new camera is so great, why not just replace the final Nikon D200 with all Fuji S5 Pro cameras? Well, the D200 is actually going to be able to shoot faster than the S5. At least that's what the current specifications state. So there may be times where the D200's speed will come in handy.

The price between the D200 and S5 Pro is not really a factor either. The Fuji is only $200 more in retail price. That's really a major surprise to many photographers. Fuji's cameras are typically more expensive than Nikon's and many of us have been anticipating a higher cost. But Fuji surprised everyone when they announced the retail price of the camera body to be only $1895.

So as great as the photos were in 2006 with the new D200 cameras I shot with this year, 2007 promises to be even better! Every year adds a new dimension to my photography work!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Sixteen Track Recorder

Yamaha AW4416 Sixteen Track Workstation

Well, it's not really 100% "new" because it's really used... but it's "new" to me!

For years I have been recording on a Roland VS-880EX eight track workstation. Before that, it was a Tascam 38 open reel eight track recorder with a Tascam M520 20-channel mixer. Mixdown was done on an Otari MX-5050BII open reel two track recorder.

Times have changed. Whereas I needed a lot of space to house all the recorders and mixers to do music work, today I can do the same thing and more in just a small space on my desktop!

When I learned how to record music, I worked on an open reel recorder that was sixteen tracks and the tape was 2 inches wide! The recorder was made by Ampex. I was taught by studio owner / engineer Gary Hedden, who owned Hedden West Recording Studios in Schaumburg, IL. Gary has since gone on to become a very well known audio engineer having worked with many famous recording artists including: Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Gloria Estefan, Wynonna, Steve Winwood, Amy Grant, Tommy Sims, Raul Malo, Suzy Bogguss, Don Potter, Phil Keaggy and Chester Thompson. I was one of Gary's first students at his studio.

Today he does acoustical consultations. I was just in contact with him a few weeks ago after sending him an email message when I saw his name mentioned on one of the various guitar websites I frequent. I had not been in contact with Gary since around 1976... thirty years ago! Yes, I was just a teenager when I started learning how to be a recording engineer!! And isn't email and the internet wonderful? I can be in contact with just about anybody via email!

Anyway, this Yamaha recorder is only sixteen tracks. Today, you can get 24 tracks easily. But I decided that this older Yamaha unit will suit my purposes just fine. It cost me a lot less money since it's older and used; plus to me, sixteen tracks is going to be a luxary after having to work with only eight tracks all these years!

Yes, today's gear is all digital. That's the amazing thing about this technology. I can do so much more today than in the past. I recall selling all my old recording gear in San Diego just before moving back to the Chicago area and really being bummed out about it. But looking back, it was the best thing that I could have done. Today, I can do much more and it costs much less!

I hope to do some more recording this winter during my hiatus from weddings. This is going to be fun!

New Blog Name!!!

Check out the new name on my blog!

The Blog Formerly Known As "Russell Lowe Photography" is now called, "Russ Lowe's Photography, Music, Forensics & More."

Why the name change? Well, when I first started this blog, I talked mostly about photography and weddings. But over the year, I started to add more about music, guitars, forensics... really other topics I enjoy besides just photography.

The reaction has been generally favorable in that people seemed to like a variety of topics. And being realistic, during the winter months when the "wedding season" is essentially very slow for those of us in the Midwest USA, I need to post about more things other than just photography and / or weddings to keep this blog going!

So, I decided just using the name "Russell Lowe Photography" on the blog was really just a little too limiting and not really 100% accurate in what is discussed here. The new name really tells more about what this blog is all about.

Don't get me wrong, there will still be plenty of things to read about and to see concerning photography and / or weddings! I have not forgotten my roots! But I just thought it would be best to open up the blog to more things and to let the title describe it more accurately!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Photography Workshop Photo!

Photo by Andy Schneider

This image was taken at one of my recent photography workshops by Andy Schneider of Digital Take Video Production. Andy was among the workshop attendees and he sent this image to me yesterday.

We covered a lot of territory at this workshop which was geared towards photographers who are just starting out in their photography careers with digital SLR cameras. We touched on everything from basic photography concepts through using Photoshop for conversion of images shot in RAW (as opposed to shooting in JPG.)

The workshop was held in one of the conference rooms at my Schaumburg office. Although I can accomodate up to eight students at one time, I kept this particular workshop to only four students so that I could have more time answering specific questions from each student. Even with three solid non-stop hours that evening (nobody wanted to take a break!!!) we only had enough time to touch on some very basic concepts.

Feedback from each attendee indicated that they learned a lot and that they are already incorporating these new found techniques in their own photography work.

I'm glad to offer these workshops and hope to do more in the future. If you are interested in attending a future workshop, let me know. The hardest thing is finding people with similar interests or needs so that everyone can benefit equally.

I have a lot of fun teaching photography and hope to do more!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Apple Pie a la "Mole"

A few weeks ago, my daughter had a Chemistry assignment to do. The project was to make something that had a Mole in it.

According to Wikipedia, "The mole (symbol: mol) is the SI base unit that measures an amount of substance. One mole contains Avogadro's number (approximately 6.022×1024) entities."

Her chemistry teacher provided a paper pattern to make a Mole and with some brainstorming, she submitted the "Apple Pie a la Mole" you see above.

The pie was made of wood and then covered with homemade "paste" made of flour and other ingredients. The apple slices were made entirely of the flour material.

Among the entries from her classmates:

Rock 'n Mole
Mole-ing Alley
The Spice Moles
Moler System

But nobody came up with my favorite: "Mole, Larry & Curly!"

We also thought of "Molester," but thought that might be a little difficult to pull off... lol

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vivitar 283 Flash

A year or two ago, the Vivitar 283 flash was discontinued. It was the end of an era.

The 283 and 285HV flashes were the workhorse flashes of the industry. I still own two 283 flashes and use them on occasion. Many of my weddings were photographed with these flashes because they gave a high quality of light and were extremely reliable flashes.

I'm not quite sure how long the 283 flashes were on the market, but I do know it was available in the 1970's. Although it is an older model, the 283 and 285HV flashes were favorites (and still is) among professional photographers. The 285HV version has a zoom flash head whereas the 283 does not.

Since the 283 is now discontinued, the price of the flash has gone up. But for many years, you could purchase a new 283 for around $69. Yes, it's cheap compared to modern day flashes! My Nikon SB-800 flashes sell for approximately $315 each! Sure, there's more automation on the Nikon flashes which makes my life a lot easier, but it doesn't really give off any better light than a 283 used properly. And both flashes have about the same power ability as well.

Why do pros still use the 283? Because of its simplicity and reliability. You need to know how to properly use a flash to get good results and that's part of the pleasure of using the 283. It hones your skills.

If you decide to get a 283 (if you can find a good used one) be sure to get a Wein voltage regulator before mounting it up on your new digital cameras though. Some of the 283's out there have very high trigger voltages (upwards to over 300 volts!!) that can fry your digital camera! The voltage regulator helps protect your camera. It keeps the voltage to a safe 6 Volts or under.

Today you'll see me using my Nikon flashes at most weddings. But on occasion, you can see me sporting my trust 283's whenever I want to get back to basics. At every wedding, I bring four flashes with me... two Nikon SB-800's and two Vivitar 283's. I don't go anywhere without my trusty 283's!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

My friend Steve gave me a call yesterday to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. He told me that it was has favorite "holiday" of the year because it is the kind of holiday that does not require anything from anyone except the love of having your family and friends around. No gifts, no expectations.

I think he's right in that Thanksgiving is just about being thankful for all the things you've received for the year.

For me, I'm thankful for my family and friends and for all the new friends I get every year. I meet a LOT OF PEOPLE over the course of a year's time... new clients, potential clients, wedding guests, etc. Sometimes I can't even remember the names or faces of all the people I meet, but they all seem to remember me and my name!

Over the course of a year, I will literally photograph over 10,000 people. Now it may not be portraits of individuals, but sometime during the wedding day, whether it's a family group photo or a table shot of guests, these people will be photographed.

I'm thankful for all the new people I meet every year. Many of my clients refer their family and friends to me and so my client list grows every year. But many of these clients become my friends too, they aren't just my clients.

Take the time today to think how fortunate you are when you are spending time with your family and friends. Life is good!

Wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 20, 2006

Bridal Fashion Show at The Congress Plaza Hotel

Yesterday, I participated in a Bridal / Fashion Show held at The Congress Plaza Hotel - Downtown Chicago.

The fashion show was a lot of fun to photograph. It always amazes me how fast these models can change clothes and come back out for another walk down the runway! They did a fabulous job and I got some great shots as well!

Friday, November 17, 2006


Perhaps it was the recent 30 year reunion with my high school classmates that got me on this nostalgia kick, but I've been really enjoying listening to all my old Chicago albums again! In a survey of my classmates from the reunion, the group Chicago was mentioned more times than any other group as their favorite band. No other band even came close to being mentioned as often as Chicago!

The first album entitled "The Chicago Transit Authority" is probably my favorite album of all time. Since then, Chicago has gone on to release a total of 30 albums! That's incredible!

Their unique sound, complete with a fabulous horn section, solidified their place in Rock 'n Roll history and every band I knew that had a horn section had to cover at least a few Chicago tunes. I recall playing in a band in the late 70's and we covered a few Chicago tunes too.

I recently purchased a DVD which featured Chicago along with Earth, Wind & Fire. Wow, both groups still sound great!

I recall seeing Chicago in 1976 at the University of Illinois. Guitarist Terry Kath was still alive and I remember how much I enjoyed the show. It was the first concert I ever attended and I was amazed at how good the group sounded. I had the chance to see them again several years later at a concert in Chicago as well.

After all these years, their sound still holds up. I encourage you to check out their songs!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Taylor Doyle Dykes Signature Model (DDSM)

This is the latest guitar acquisition for me... a 2006 Taylor Doyle Dykes Signature Model guitar!

The DDSM was designed in conjunction with Doyle Dykes, one of my favorite guitarists of all time. It has solid Big Leaf Maple back and sides and a solid Sitka Spruce top and a florentine cutaway. Electronics is the incredible LR Baggs Hex Pickups with a custom acoustic equalizer preamp. A shallower body than most Taylors makes the guitar easier to handle. And the new short-scale neck makes it so much easier to play. The playing action is absolutely the fastest I've ever played on an acoustic guitar!

This guitar was built for live performances. The sound is bright, full bodied and articulate. It has the most distinct sound I've ever heard from an acoustic-electric guitar.

The guitar is adorned with abalone inlays including a beautiful White Rose on the headstock. Doyle tells the story that many years ago when his daughter Heidi was very young, she asked him if God would bring her a rose. Not knowing what to say, he just told her that they should pray about it. The next day when a rose did not appear, she asked her dad why she didn't get a rose. So Doyle just told her that perhaps she needed to tell God what color rose she wanted. "Do you think God needs to know that," she asked? So again, they prayed and this time she asked God for a White Rose.

Doyle didn't quite know what to do. He had thought about all the "plan B's" he could do... perhaps he could call a florist... But after his concert, a mentally-challenged woman in her mid-thirties came up to him and handed him something wrapped in foil. She told him that God told her to bring him something from her garden. Figuring it was some vegetable that she had picked from her garden, he said, "Well, I'll be very happy to eat this later." Hearing that, she said, "Well you better not eat that!" So he unwrapped the foil and there was a single White Rose!" Totally amazed, he said, "This is not my rose." The woman looked at him and said, "Well, God TOLD me to give this to you!" So he told her the story of how Heidi had asked God for a white rose to which she simply replied, "Oh, that's nice." And then she just walked away. Doyle just stood there "slack-jawed" in amazement. Of all the people God could have picked to deliver this, he picked a simple woman to do His work.

Later that evening he went home and Heidi ran up to him and said, "God brung me my rose, didn't he?!" As Doyle handed the rose to her, she just said, "I just KNEW God would bring me my rose!"

So to this day, as Doyle performs all over the world, he tells this story of Heidi's White Rose and then plays the composition he recorded called, "White Rose For Heidi." It's a powerful story and a testament to the power of prayer and belief in God.

As you know, I attend every Doyle event here in the Chicago area when he comes to play. Over the years, I've gotten to know Doyle personally and I'm very excited to have one of these special guitars of his.

To see a custom slideshow I photographed of Doyle in March 2006, click here. Use the member name RussLowe (no space between my name.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Better Than A Studio Backdrop

I have always told my clients that it is better to use the natural settings at their receptions than to use a studio backdrop. Why? It shows where your reception was held! Besides, those backdrop images often look like you went to someplace like Sears or JC Penneys to get them done!

Often you can find a few areas at a nice reception hall that can act as your backdrop. This image was taken at the Herrington Inn located in Geneva, IL.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Classic Poses

"Formal" wedding poses are classic.

These are the photos you will most likely want blown up to 8x10 or larger. If you have a picture frame, most likely, these are the kinds of photos you'll put in them.

As much as my clients like the photojournalistic shots I do, these classic poses are really necessary too. Your family will not only expect them, but you'll appreciate having them too.

I shoot these formal images really fast. Ask any of my past clients and they can tell you how quick it goes. It always takes more time to get people to come up to have the photo taken than it does to actually take the photo.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Beatles Tattoo

Since we are on the topic of The Beatles, I thought I'd post this image of a Beatles tattoo!

One of the bridesmaids from a wedding I shot recently had this tattoo on her back. She told me she had it done because her dad was a huge Beatles fan. The apple of course is a reference to the record label that the Beatles owned called Apple Records. Any way, she said right after she had this done, her dad had one put on as well... I think she said it was a Yellow Submarine!

Now that's fan dedication!

Also, see the comment on the Beatle Figurine post for more details...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Beatles Figurine

I'm not sure when I got this little guy, but he was on my birthday cake many years ago! I suppose it had to be sometime around 1964 or 1965 when the British Invasion and Beatle-mania was happening. I hadn't yet learned to play the guitar (that was around 1969) but for some reason, my parents thought I would like a Beatles birthday cake and that I would like the guitar.

Little did they know that just a few years later, I would quit piano lessons and ask them if I could learn guitar instead! Look what happened after that... at last count, I've owned around 19 guitars & basses!

I've always thought this figurine looked like George Harrison, but it's never been specified which Beatle it was. In fact, it never really references The Beatles, but considering it was in the mid-sixties and based on the outfit he's wearing, it's got to be one of The Beatles. Who do you think he looks like?

I kept this figurine all these years because it reminds me of just how much my parents did for me and of course it's guitar-related!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Latest Testimonial

I decided to post any new testimonials on my blog as well as on my website. This way you will all know when a new one has been put into the Testimonial section of my website at

This one is from Angela whose wedding was August 19, 2006. Thanks Angela!


"My husband and I were married on August 19th of this year and we found Russell Lowe through Russell was our first photographer we interviewed and he ended up being our last. I had no idea what to expect from a photographer, you hear a lot of things from other newlyweds and their experiences but I really think you have to go with your gut. Russell was extremely honest, both with his prices and his views on photographing weddings. We told him that he was our first interview and he actually told us we should go out and get a second opinion. To me, I liked Russell because you can tell just by talking with him that he is so passionate about what he does and he loves his job. He has a blog on his website where he'll post not only wedding related material but also material related to picture development, it was very interesting and gave me a different perspective on photography itself. I think another key point to Russell's business that is definitely worth writing about is his option of letting the bride and groom layout and put together their entire album, page by page (this is a separate charge, very minimal, but definitely worth it). This was key because our package contained more photos than our album would hold so who better to decide what pictures went in the final version? We just finished putting ours together last weekend and it took over 4 hours. It was very time consuming and difficult at times but when you are the one to make the decision of which photo of mom and dad you want in the book, it's your decision. Overall, our experience with Russell was fantastic, most of the time throughout our wedding that day I didn't even know he was there. Having just gone through the experience of a wedding I realize how important your photographer is and I am so glad that we found Russell. Best of luck to all you bride-to-be's, you're going to have the time of your life!" - Angela from Chicago, IL.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

How Many Guitars?

Taylor 314ce-L4

I was talking to one of my clients the other day and the topic of my guitars came up. Since my wedding work is winding down for the year, we were wondering what I was going to write about on my blog during the winter.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I enjoy talking about guitars because besides photography, I love to play my guitars. But how many guitars have I gone through in my life so far? I really didn't know. So tonight, I made a list of all the guitars I have owned and still own. I'll get to that in a minute. But let me tell you about the first two guitars I ever owned...

My very first guitar was a "no name" electric guitar that my dad bought me at the old Korvettes store in Morton Grove. It was a hollow body thinline electric guitar similar to a Gibson 355 with an awful neck that made it really hard to play. I remember it cost $59. I also got a Kingston 15 watt amplifier to go with it. Not sure how much that cost.

A few months later, my dad happened to run into a "deal" for another guitar while he was at a music store buying a Fender Rhodes 73 key suitcase model keyboard for my brother. Some guy came into the store and tried to return a Fender Telecaster Thinline guitar that he had bought a few months before. The store owner didn't want to buy it back, so my dad asked the man how much he wanted for it. $175. Well, my dad really didn't know anything about guitars, but he remembered me telling him that one day I would like to own a Fender or Gibson guitar and he knew that Fender guitars could not be purchased for only $175 back then.

He didn't have enough money with him, but he asked the man to get in the car with him and they drove to my dad's workplace and he got the $175 and bought it! I recall coming home from school and my dad said he had something for me and it was on the sofa. I was in shock when I saw that guitar! That was the biggest surprise I ever had!

I was only eleven years old when my dad bought me that Fender Telecaster. Not too many kids can claim to own a real Fender Telecaster at the age of eleven! My dad was the best! Later, he bought me a huge Fender Bandmaster Tube amp to go with it! We got that for only $225.

Like my dad, I bought my daughter a Fender Stratocaster when she was fourteen.

So here's the list of my guitars:

Owned and Sold:
“No Name” Hollow Body 355 copy from Korvettes
Fender Telecaster Thinline
Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
Gibson Les Paul ‘57 Goldtop – Custom Shop
Takamine F340
Takamine NP45C
Takamine CD132SC
Takamine EAN60C
Ovation Legend – Steel String
Yamaha FG Series - 12 String
Taylor 414rce
Taylor 614ce
Taylor 314ce-L4

Fender Precision Bass

Currently Owned:
Gibson Les Paul 25th Anniversary
Ovation Legend – Nylon String
Taylor GSMSe
Taylor Doyle Dykes Signature Model (DDSM)

Fender Jazz Bass - 5 string version

Owned by my daughter:
Fender Stratocaster

How many guitars is enough? Is this too many?

I don't think so...


I Have The Funniest Clients!

I asked the father of the bride to give his daughter a kiss on the cheek and this is the reaction we got from the bride! She just "cracks me up!"

Yesterday I gave my clients their photos and we all had a big laugh when we saw this image. I threatened to put the image on my blog and she just said, "Go ahead... I don't care!" So there... now it's on the blog for everyone to see!

When you have clients as fun as this, your photos can't help but look great!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I Missed Halloween This Year!!

Well it's around 1:50 AM and I'm still working!!

Yesterday (I'm tempted to just say "Today" since I'm still awake) I was out delivering two different albums to two different clients in two different cities. I was stuck in traffic for what seemed to be an eternity and by the time I got home, there were no more kids going around asking for candy. :(

In fact, because I was driving on major roads and not on residential roads, I didn't see a single kid in a costume this year! That has never happened to me before. Even if I had to work, I would at least see a couple of kids walking around in their costumes going from house to house. Well this year, I didn't see anyone! I MISSED HALLOWEEN!

Now if I were still a kid, I'd be very upset. But since I'm not a kid anymore (at least not physically) it really doesn't matter. But I'm still a kid at heart and I MISSED HALLOWEEN!

I think I'll pout a little more and then go to bed. Besides, I can always steal my daughter's candy from her work of collecting candy. :)

What? That's not ok?


Monday, October 30, 2006

1150 Prints. Too much? Not enough?

This wedding client received about 1150 fully Photoshopped corrected prints, full-resolution Photoshopped digital files in both color and in black and white and they are also getting an album. Is that too much?

Most of my clients don't think so. Other photographers might say it is too much. Why? Well first of all, it's A LOT OF WORK to have to deliver so many prints and to work on so many images on the computer! And, it could be argued that giving every photo may not represent the "best" of your work. Well, I disagree. If I click the shutter release on my camera, there's a reason I did it and so my clients should receive it.

For all these years since 1990, I have been providing my clients with virtually every image I shoot at their weddings (if they want that) and I have been giving away the files and negatives (when I shot in film.) Why? Because it's important to my clients to have them. That's why.

Although not every image will be the kind of "artistic" shot that will win awards, they all help tell the story of what happened on the day of their wedding. Sure, many images are artistic in nature, but others are just nice looking photos of their family and friends. Is that important to the photographer? Probably not. Is it important to the bride and groom? You bet it is!

Because of that, many of my clients decide they want everything and I work on a lot of images per wedding. It's a lot of work, but within four weeks time, I can give them all of their images, printed and also burned on CD-R's. That amazes most of them.

To this day, I continue to do this for my clients and that's why I'm a full-time photographer. I can't offer this level of service and work this business part-time. My clients have told me that they appreciate what I do for them and for their images and that's what drives me to keep doing it this way. Sure, I can save myself time by offering less... but then I would not be giving my clients the best service I know I can give.

If this level of service makes sense to you... then I might be the right photographer for you. If not, call me any way and we can discuss it.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is It Time To Sell The Hasselblads?

Not too long ago, Hasselblad medium format cameras were the wedding cameras of the best photographers. The huge square format 2-1/4" x 2-1/4" film negative size allowed for some very large prints to be made without image degradation. I had three of these cameras.

Up until last year, people were still asking me if I shot in film. But today, nobody asks that any more. Everyone assumes that I shoot in digital today. In just the short time of one year, the question of film has gone to the wayside.

I think most people have accepted that digital is the new reigning king of cameras. If your wedding photographer is still shooting film, I can tell you that eventually, he /she is going to have to switch to digital. Clients now demand it.

So, should I sell my Hasselblad gear? To be honest, I've already sold two of the three cameras and some of the lenses. I only have one more left. I seriously doubt I'll ever shoot it going forward, but part of me wants to just keep the last one anyway because it's a symbol of times past. What do you think?

Monday, October 23, 2006

More from Old Orchard Country Club...

We took these golf carts out on Saturday to get some photos out on the golf course. I had never driven one of these before so it was a blast to go plowing through the golf course on Saturday.

At this wedding, all the groomsmen knew me from a wedding I shot just a couple of months ago. Both the bride and groom from that wedding were in the bridal party of this wedding. I photographed the bridesmaid's sister's wedding last year as well.

So I should not have been surprised when the ringbearer came up to me pointing and said, "Hey... I know YOU!" It was so cute!

That little guy had so much energy all day long! He was seen running all over the place and chasing the flowergirl around. I had to comment to the bridesmaids that he's just starting to chase girls at an early age...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Old Orchard Country Club

When I was growing up, whenever I heard "Old Orchard," I thought of the outdoor mall in Skokie, IL. But this "Old Orchard" is actually in Mount Prospect.

We were lucky to get these photos yesterday on the Golf Course. Just as we were finishing up, it started to rain.

This is a great looking place to hold a reception. The views are great and so was the room. I'll post more on this wedding tomorrow!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


What in the world are "Fingerweights?"

Andy Schneider of Digital Take Video recently sent these things to me to try out. Andy is a professional videographer whom I had met last year while working a wedding together. Since then, he's taken my photography workshop and has kept in contact with me over the year.

He recently shot a video for the makers of this product and they gave him a set of the weights which he passed on to me. Andy reads my blog and he remembered that I play guitar, so he thought I could benefit from these.

Initially, I admit that I thought these things were really a joke. After all, they clip onto your fingers and the weights look like steel versions of fuses! But after trying them for the past few days, I have to say I really like them! It's not easy exercising your fingers with these on. The idea of course is to add resistance to your playing so that when you don't have them on, you can play your instrument a lot faster.

Before I had the Fingerweights, I was using the device pictured below the Fingerweights. The Gripmaster is a hand exerciser with individual springs per finger. I've had this one for at least 10 years. This particular one is the medium tension version... but they might as well have been called heavy tension because it's not easy to push down on this thing! I probably should have purchased the light tension version, but being the macho guy I thought I was, I figured I'd go one step up. Wrong...

Hard-core guitarists like me buy all sorts of stuff to try to improve. This is a prime example of what sorts of things we get into...

This Blog Is Changing All The Time!

It's been one year now since I've started blogging and I've noticed a change in the way I write and a change in the things I write about.

Whereas the earlier posts have been more "instructional" or "educational" in nature, I'm finding I am opening up more and sharing different things that have been happening in my life besides just photography, forensics and music.

Don't get me wrong though... this blog will most definitely center on those topics most as those are the things I most enjoy working on, but I also would like my clients, potential clients, friends and family to learn more about other things that make me tick as well.

So going forward, don't be surprised to read about things that have absolutely nothing to do with the three main topics I've written about over the past year.

You've been warned! :)

Is It Thursday Already?!

Seems like I just posted something yesterday! :)

Here's an interesting tidbit... Disco is back!

In the 70's the Disco craze was peaking and then it just dropped off the face of the earth. DJ Steve Dahl had his "Disco Demolition" where he burned a bunch of Disco Records at Comisky Park (is that what US Cellular Field was called back then?)

But lately, it seems at every wedding I attend today, disco is back and very popular again! In the past few years, we've even seen platform shoes, bell-bottomed pants and other 70's items come back as well.

So here's some advice to all the new brides and grooms... keep all your stuff for about 30 years and then you can bring them out of the closet and use them again! Of course, does that mean that bell-bottomed pants will be popular again in 2036?

Please, someone tell me that they will never bring back the polyester "Leisure Suits"...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another Forensics Case

It's been a while since I have written about some of my past forensics cases, so I thought I'd share one today.

I recall being called out on a homicide case in which a body had been found dumped in an area under an overpass of one of the highways in San Diego. The man had most likely been murdered at some other location and the body was transported to this site and left there.

Now this is not an unusual occurance, but what I found strange was how many people had gathered on the overpass to watch the police do their work. While we were down below processing the crime scene for evidence, I could not believe that mothers were bringing their young children to watch us work! I recall commenting to the detectives there that this was not an appropriate thing for young children to see and they agreed. But I suppose the curiousity of it all got the better judgement of the parents.

It is necessary to take photos of the crime scene and we did that like we normally would. But to get a good photo of the face of the victim, I had to straddle the body (stepping over him) to get a close up shot. Now this might not be the type of portrait I do today, but it was a necessary one in order to help identify the victim.

Later in the day as we were scouting the area for additional evidence that might have been left there, we found a dead chicken on the side of the road. Most likely, this had nothing to do with the crime scene as it was quite a distance from the scene. I was informed by one of the other evidence technicians that this was a probably a chicken that lost from a cock fight. Cock fighting is illegal and cruel, but it happens. I had never seen anything like this before.

So do I miss taking photos like this crime scene? Actually I do. It is very exciting to work a crime scene. It's "dirty work," but somebody's got to do it. But the satisfaction you feel from having done a good job can't be beat.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Taylor GS Guitar

This is my new Taylor GS series guitar with the Expression System (ES) electronics installed. Just got this yesterday! It has a Sitka Spruce solid top and solid back and sides made of Big Leaf Maple.

The GS (Grand Symphony) is a new body shape from Taylor Guitars and it is awesome! The signature Taylor sound is still there (nice and bright) but it adds low frequency impact like no other Taylor in the past.

This guitar looks a lot like the guitar I posted on August 28th, doesn't it? Well, I replaced that guitar with this one. It does not have as much fancy trim as the 614ce I sold and it doesn't have a cutaway, but it does have a very impressive sound to it.

Here's what's been modified on this guitar from the standard GS guitar:

Gotoh Delta Series 510 Tuners in Antique Gold with Black Knobs
Bill Nichols - Custom Truss Rod Cover
Clear Pickguard installed by Taylor Guitars
EZ Pegs Brass Bridge Pins
Bob Colosi - Fossilized Walrus Ivory Saddle
ES electronics installed

Cool, huh?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Still Thinking About The Reunion!

Well it's Monday and I'm still thinking about the reunion from Saturday!

Pictured above is Allison Sprague, Gene Earl & Greg Sprague.

Mr. Earl was my Driver's Education instructor. Years later, he became a winning basketball coach for the Niles West girls basketball team when they went downstate to win the championship! I think they called the team, "Earl's Girls" at that time! I'm so glad that he came to our reunion. A couple of other faculty attended as well.

Greg & Allison Sprague were our gracious hosts and it was because of them that this reunion got organized. I spoke with Allison about how this all came about and she told me that she had organized her own reunion earlier this year. I suppose Greg figured he could do the same for us. So in reality, we all need to thank Allison for this! I think she taught Greg everything he needed to know about organizing a reunion! Thanks Allison! Behind every good man is an even better woman...

I spent the weekend reading all the interesting things in the reunion booklet that was given to us. Everyone's address and email addresses are in there... so there's no reason not to keep in touch going forward. And I could not believe some of the comments that people left on questions like "Most Unforgettable Memory / Event." For you Niles West alumni... check out the middle of page 21 from RRR... Whoa! For the rest of those who check my blog... sorry... I can't type that comment here!

I think it's going to be a while before I get the reunion out of my head. It was a great evening!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Niles West Reunion

Last night I attended my 30th year reunion with my classmates from Niles West High School at the Renaissance Hotel in Northbrook. It was an exciting night and I got a chance to reunite with many friends I have not seen in 30 years! Many thanks to my friend Greg Sprague and his lovely wife Allison for taking the time to organize this event. We all had a great time!

The photo above is a group photo of my friends from Parkview Junior High in Morton Grove, IL. My family had just moved from Chicago to Morton Grove in time for me to attend Parkview for eighth grade. It was an adjustment period for me moving from the city to the suburbs, but I had great friends to help me along. Many thanks to everyone for making me feel welcome.

In high school, I was one of those kids who just attended school, but didn't really do much else other than hang around with just a handful of friends. I didn't go to any of the school activities, wasn't in school sports and didn't play in the school band. I just went to school, studied hard and that was it.

So I must admit that I wondered if anyone would even remember me at this reunion. Sure, the few friends I hung around with would remember me, but what about the rest?

Well, I was very surprised to find that many people did remember me! In fact, it seemed many already knew what I had done with my life over the past years because they had read about me on! Many people came up to me to ask me what it was like to be a CSI technician and how I was able to transition into photographing weddings! The power of the internet has really had an impact on the world for getting information out there, wouldn't you agree?

How have I changed in all these years? Well, I would say I am more outgoing today than I was back in high school. I think if I were not the way I am today, there would be no way I could be a photographer. I'm not afraid to walk up to a perfect stranger today and start up a conversation. Back in high school, there would be no way I could do that.

So, to all of my former classmates, THANK YOU for making last night a memorable occasion. I had not intended to bring my camera and take any photos, but Greg asked me to do it so we could get some group pictures of our Junior High friends. But seeing how there were so many other junior highs represented at our reunion, how could I not help out taking those photos as well? And no... I was NOT the official photographer at this reunion! Many people asked me that... I was there as one of your classmates to attend the event. But somehow I knew that if I had my camera with me, I would not be able to resist taking photos of all of you all night long! But I did limit myself... had I been there to document the event on an official capacity, I probably would have shot between 600-800 images during the evening! Instead, I just took a handful of snapshots.

I encourage you all to keep checking my blog weekly to see what I'm up to. I update this blog on Mondays and Thursdays (sometimes more...) So by the time we have another reunion, you'll all know what I've been doing!

See you all at the next reunion and thanks for making last night one to remember!


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Niles West Tour

What an exciting morning!

I attended a tour of my old high school, Niles West in Skokie, IL. We had a good turnout for the event and I reunited with a lot of people I have not seen in over 30 years! Sure we've all grown a little older, gotten a little wider (some, not all of us...) but we've all matured very nicely!

We were all very cordial to each other and I'd say it was a real kick to reconnect with some of my friends. Some still have that great sense of humor I remember and we all just couldn't help reminiscing.

I will be attending our reunion this evening and will post a pic or two on my blog.

Welcome back, Niles West!!