Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Smile, Say Cheese!"

They start young, don't they?

I ran across this cute image while Photoshopping a wedding I shot a couple of weeks ago. I had completely forgotten I shot it.

These two are sisters and were both flowergirls at the wedding. One seems to be a budding photographer and had borrowed her mom and dad's digital camera to use.

She was running around taking everyone's picture! I recall doing this as a kid too, but my old Kodak Brownie never had any film in it. But today with digital, kids can immediately see the results of their work! If I had this technology when I was young, imagine how quickly I could have learned how to take a good picture!

If I were this little girl's parent, I would encourage her to use the camera as much as she wanted to see how fast she improved. I bet if she kept at it, by the time she was a teenager, she could be shooting weddings and making money for her college education!

By the way, the other sister will be going into modeling and will be making a lot more money... lol

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bridal Fashion Show at The Congress Plaza Hotel - Nov. 19, 2006

I have been selected to photograph a Bridal Fashion Show to be held on November 19 at The Congress Plaza Hotel & Convention Center located at 520 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605.

The hotel is sponsoring a bridal expo on that date (I will be participating there as well) and then right after the expo, they will hold a fashion show!

Come to either or both events and see me in action! Photos will be available for you to see on my website after the event.

This is a great opportunity for me and I look forward to taking some great runway shots of the models. Thanks to The Congress Plaza Hotel and a special thanks to catering manager, Slavyana Brooks for setting this up for me! You're the best!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Does a Polarizing Filter Help All The Time?

Not always...

These two images were taken a few minutes apart. One is obviously much richer in color (in the sky) than the other. Both had the use of a circular polarizing filter on the Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 lens.

So why does one have so much richer sky color than the other?

It's in the angle and time of day that the image was shot. Each image is almost 90 degree angle from each other. The sun was mostly overhead. But the angle of where the sun was in one picture compared to the other made all the difference in the world when using the polarizing filter.

A polarizing filter is designed to filter out stray reflections as the light enters the lens. This can help do things like darken the sky, eliminate reflection on shiny surfaces (like glass), etc. It's a much used filter for outdoor photography. But it's use is often dependent on where the light source is. In this case even the sun at a different angle can make a difference in the sky color. Without the filter, it most likely would have looked about the same from photo to photo.

Fuji S5 Pro Camera

Well, everyone has been talking about the newest Fuji camera which is slated to hit the market in early 2007. Looks a lot like the Nikon D200, doesn't it? lol

The claim to fame for Fuji cameras has been in their image sensor and the wide dynamic range it offers. Plus, for low light photography, the high ISO ability is very good on their cameras. I use the Fuji S3 Pro all the time when I need a good shot in low light.

But whether this camera will do everything photographers have hoped for in a Fuji camera is yet to be seen. Will I switch to this camera from my S3? I haven't fully decided yet. But I'm just as anxious as the next photographer to see if this new camera will make me excited enough to retire the S3 Pro.

Price? Don't know that either. Doesn't really matter. If it's good and will help me do my job better for my clients, I'll get one. If it's really just a few convenience features, but no real improvement in image quality, I may pass on it. I'll have to wait until 2007 to make the final judgement call.

What happened to the S4 Pro? Vaporware! It doesn't exist!

Edit Note: I found out that the Japanese word for "Four" sounds very similar to the word for "death." So it's possible that the S4 was passed over because of superstition. That doesn't surprise me because I have heard of other superstitious things that are avoided as well. Like the fact that some hotels don't have a 13th floor button on their elevators!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Can You Wear These?

My bride from this past Saturday's wedding wore these shoes all day!

She's really into shoes (ask anyone) and I was really surprised that she was able to wear these the entire day. Most brides either bring another pair of shoes for the reception or just go barefoot by the time of dancing.

But from what I heard from her bridesmaids, the bride is well known to be able to wear high-heeled shoes all day long and have no problems with it.


For the rest of you brides, consider bringing an alternative pair with you for the reception. And do your bridesmaids a favor and get them something too.

After years of standing on my feet all day at weddings (often I don't get a chance to sit down for more than 30 minutes the entire day) I've learned that the key to whether you can last the entire day often is determined by how comfortable your shoes are. So for me, I wear the most comfortable shoes I can get that look acceptable for a formal event.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Congress Plaza Hotel - Chicago

It's been a while since I have been in The Congress Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in downtown Chicago, but I'm glad I was there for yesterday's wedding!

We were in The Gold Room on the second floor. This is one impressive room! The huge ornate ceilings demand attention. What a great room to hold a wedding reception.

I was very lucky to be allowed to take a couple of photos from the balcony area of the room. Normally off-limits to guests, I was escorted up to the balcony to take my shots. I'm very glad I got the opportunity to do this because these images really show off the room. I used a Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens on a D200 camera to capture the majesty of the room.

Later in the evening with the lights dimmed to a nice amber glow, the first dance by the bride and groom took on an "old world" feel which reminded me of something you'd see in Europe. Cool!

Be sure to click on each image to get a closer look.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Moods Live!!!!!

Is this turning into a music blog or is it really a photography blog?!

I could not go without writing a quick review of this incredible CD that I just received in the mail from The Moods! What great music! It's playing in the background while I type this post...

If you are into songs by such artists as The Stylistics, The Temptations, The Drifters or any of the old Motown artists, you have GOT to get this CD! The Moods cover songs from this era like nobody's business! I am not kidding when I tell you I am so impressed with these guys... not only do they sound great, they are great performers too! Live on stage, they really get the crowd moving.

If you are in need of a band for your wedding and really want to impress your guests, hire The Moods! Can't give them a higher recommendation than that!

Did you know that all of the members of this vocal group have very impressive credentials? They have performed on many recordings other than their own and some of them are actors as well. Check out their biography page on their website and you'll be just as impressed as I am.

Rock on guys! Here's to you!

****Click Here for The Moods****

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hofner - Beatle Bass

Wow! I recently saw this Hofner "Beatle Bass" hanging on the wall at Guitar Works in Evanston, IL.

This is the same model that was played by Paul McCartney during The Beatles' reign as the British Invasion was hitting the USA in the mid-sixties!

A friend of mine had one of these way back when I was playing in a band in the 70's. Unfortunately, his kids broke the bass years later. But this one looks like it's in great condition. I wonder how much something like this sells for today?

Vintage instruments, especially ones like this, tend to increase in value over time. The sign on the instrument has very fine print below the 1965 that reads, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! All you need is $."

I guess that says it all...

Every Color Of The Rainbow

Unlike Acoustic Guitars which tend to favor natural wood finishes, electric guitars come in a variety of colors.

This image was taken at Guitar Works in Evanston, IL during the recent Doyle Dykes / Haley Dykes workshop. Many brands are represented on this wall, but I particularly like the pink guitar in the middle of the image. Click on the image to get a closer look. Yes, that's "Hello Kitty" on the guitar! I can just imagine some "Rock 'N Roller" playing this guitar at a heavy metal gig... lol

A variety of colors, sizes, shapes & electronics... ah, life is good...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Doyle & Haley Dykes at Guitar Works - Evanston IL

Last night, Doyle Dykes & his daughter Haley Dykes performed at a Taylor Guitars clinic held at Guitar Works in Evanston, IL.

These are two of my favorite performers and ever since meeting them a couple of years ago, I am fortunate to call them my friends. They are absolutely the most "down to earth" people you could ever hope to meet even though they have international fame.

After driving for hours to get to Illinois from their last gig in Canada, they set up their own gear and performed for over 2 solid hours. Afterwards, they spent time signing autographs and then packed up their gear and headed over to WGN Radio located in downtown Chicago. There they spent another two hours on the radio with friends Steve King & Johnnie Putman. I'll bet they were back on the road headed to their next gig right after that!

Being musicians in demand is HARD WORK! Don't let anyone fool you into thinking this is easy. The schedule these two keep is tough.

If you have never had the opportunity to see Doyle and Haley perform, you are missing out. Check out their websites for updates on their schedules and go and see them if you get the chance! I promise you will have a great time. Until then, pick up a few of their CD's and enjoy!

By the way, I think it's cute when Haley calls Doyle, "Daddy." :)

Note: To see a video slideshow of Doyle & Haley that I photographed, Click Here and use the member name: RussLowe (no space between my name.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

GPS on a PDA

Images borrowed from

Wow! All I can say is Wow! Global Positioning Systems (GPS) rule!

This is such a cool piece of technology!

In all these years of photographing weddings, I have been lucky to make it to every wedding without a problem. But what would happen if I got lost one day going to one? Yikes! So I thought that it would be worth investing in a GPS unit for my car to minimize the possibility of that happening. Sure, a lot of new cars have these things built-in, but my vehicle doesn't have one built-in.

Rather than purchasing a dedicated GPS unit, I decided to get a bluetooth capable unit that would instead work in conjunction with a new handheld PDA (Personal Digital Assistant.) My older Hewlett Packard PDA doesn't compare to the new units and with all the appointments and weddings going on in a year, I need to keep well organized. It just made sense to upgrade this piece of electronics as well.

The Dell Axim x51 is a Pocket PC unit running the new Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system (OS). Along with Office Suite programs like Outlook, Word, Excel and Powerpoint, I can even store MP3's on the PDA and use it as an MP3 Player or video player! An Apple iPod would be better of course, but this is an all-in-one solution for more than just music and video.

For the price of the PDA and GPS unit, I could have purchased a dedicated GPS unit. But it would not be able to do all the things I can do with the PDA. This is a great solution for doing multiple things!

Investing in all these extra items may not seem necessary for doing my job as a wedding photographer. But to me, it's worth it to guarantee my clients the best service they deserve. And arriving on time without getting lost is a very important thing in my opinion.

Edit Note: 10-09-06 The GPS has paid off on the last couple of weddings already! At the last few weddings, the limo drivers left me behind (I often follow the limo to the reception or other photo locations) and I used the GPS to find where I needed to go! Without it, I would have had a terrible time finding the locations. GPS is incredible!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fly Me To The "Moon"

Ok... I had debated for a while whether to post this image or not, but in the end, it was just too weird not to share it.

In all these years of shooting weddings, this was a first for me. Apparently, this became a tradition for one of my clients and his friends to do a "moon" shot at every wedding they attended. I've blurred the details so as to not show too much, but you get the idea.

I'm just glad I didn't have to take a "full monty" shot of these guys too!

Sorry if this image offends some of you. I'm just doing my job...

Edit note: See the comment section for an explaination of how the "moon shot" came about...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Photography Workshop

Last night was the first photography workshop at my new location in Schaumburg.

We covered a LOT of topics and ran 3 hours straight without a break. Halfway through I asked if anyone wanted a break but nobody wanted to take it! I guess everyone just wanted to get as much information as possible!

This workshop was an overview of various concepts you need to understand to get good photographs. Even with three solid hours, we only touched on the concepts but didn't have enough time to explore each in-depth. Perhaps future workshops can concentrate on specific areas.

If you are interested in participating in a future workshop, please let me know!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fireplace Warmth

This image was photographed during this weekend's wedding at the Katherine Legge Memorial Lodge in Hinsdale, IL.

The top version is slightly "warmer" in color temperature than the bottom version. Although the bottom version's color is more correct, it tends to lack the warm, cozy feel of the top version.

Sometimes allowing the color temperature to be "wrong" is the right thing to do. In the case of this fireplace, having that warm tone adds some character to the image.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Casual Pose

You may recall this couple from an engagement photo I posted back on 5-08-06. They were posed casually sitting in front of a tree.

I decided to take a photo of them by another tree during their wedding last Saturday, just for a contrast to their casual pose at the engagement session. But seeing that their best photos seemed to be when they are relaxed and not "overly posed," I asked the groom to just lean against the tree and then the bride to lean against the groom. Simple, but effective!

We had perfect lighting with the sun cooperating by giving a nice overcast light for this shot. We couldn't ask for a better day for an outdoor wedding at The Country Squire in Grayslake, IL. Picture Perfect, as they say...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Spider Update

I decided to check up on our "little friend" to see how he was doing. Well, he moved to a new location but he's still hanging upside down.

I shot this image with the same technique as last time by putting the flash on the floor, but this time I used a Fuji S3 Pro camera instead. I focused manually because autofocus could not lock in since he is so small. I changed the aperture to f 16 this time because I wasn't happy with the shallow depth of field provided by the f 5.6 aperture last time. Now, his legs are much sharper. Speaking of which, it does appear that one of his legs is injured because it's much shorter than it should be. I noticed this on the other photo as well, but figured it was because of the angle in which he was shot. I don't think so anymore... he's injured.

Also with the larger depth of field, you can see the mess he's made with his web. It was not visible in the previous image because it was blurred out along with his legs at f 5.6. Which image version do you prefer?

I've always thought that spiders must have a lot of patience. They hang in the same position for days waiting for some other creature to come along so they can grab them for food. But what if nothing comes along? How long should they wait before giving up and moving on?

Scary looking guy isn't he? Again, his total body length is really only about 1/4 inch. He's just your typical house spider. But magnified in a macro shot, I suppose all spiders are a little scary looking. :)