Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Brady Bunch

When I was growing up, "The Brady Bunch" was one of my favorite shows. It still is.

Recently, I purchased the complete series on DVD to share with my daughter. Now she's hooked on the show! It seems the 70's family appeals to today's kids just as much as it did back when it first came out!

The show ran for 5 seasons, so there's a lot of episodes to watch! Believe it or not, I've seen every episode - even before having this DVD set!

The DVD set comes complete with a shag carpeted cover and 21 discs. We'll be watching for a long time. These shows are "Far Out," "Heavy," "Groovy," and "Outta Sight!"

Who's your favorite Brady?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Chicago Skyline

It's hard to beat the Chicago Skyline at night.

This past Saturday's wedding was a long one, but well worth it! We were all over downtown Chicago taking photos but this one late at night is one of my favorites. We shot this one around 10:10 PM.

A time exposured shot filled-in with flash on a hazy summer's night created this almost surreal look for the skyline. The dark brown / sepia tones really sets this image apart. A fun bride and groom helps too!
No Photoshop trickery on this shot... it's virtually straight out of the camera. Just a little exposure compensation and color balancing and that's it. This new Fuji camera is just incredible! Of course, knowing how to create a shot like this helps too...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Do You Have What It Takes?

I'm often stopped by other photographers asking what it's like to be a pro photographer.

It seems everyone with a new camera wants to be considered a "pro" photographer. I was told by one of my former clients that she had heard of a person who received a new digital camera as a gift and now thinks she's a pro photographer. Really?

There's more to being a pro than just owning a digital SLR camera! Putting your camera on "Program" mode and taking random photos does not make you a pro. Getting paid for your work doesn't make you a pro either... at least in my opinion. Anyone can pay someone to take a photo, but that doesn't mean his/her photos are going to look good.

To be a real pro, you need to understand photography. You need to have an eye for it. You need to be able to work under pressure and to handle any lighting situation thrown at you. Just owning a digital camera does not make you a pro.

It's easy to photograph a wedding where the lighting is perfect and everyone is cooperative. But what about the weddings that have terrible backlighting or very dim lighting and nobody wants to cooperate? How easy is that?

Being a pro photographer means being able to adapt to situations. You need to know how to work with people, work with lighting, and work with your camera. And, if you get paid to do it, then that's great. But many pros keep working on their skills long after they have learned the craft. That's why so many continue to go to seminars, read various publications, and continuing their education in photography. And, they PRACTICE too!

So if you want to be a pro photographer, it takes more than just owning a nice camera. It takes hard work and dedication as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Day of Music

(photo courtesy of Dale Janzen)



Chicago Sandy

Astrummer and JJFields

Alicia and Uncle Dizzy 60


Uncle Dizzy 60


I spent nine hours yesterday just hanging out with friends from the Acoustic Guitar Forum playing guitar and electric bass!

Our gracious hosts, Jim and Alicia opened up their home once again for a day of guitar fun and food. Like last year's gathering, Jim was slaving over a hot grill and offering us such goodies as Salmon, Filet Mignon, Pork Chops and more. Alicia made all the other non-grillable foods in the kitchen. Chicago Sandy brought her coffee machine and offered up her specialty coffees.

As for music, I got to play electric bass most of the time and that was just fine with me. Uncle Dizzy 60 brought his Fender Precision Bass and I jumped at the chance to play it. JJFields brought his Ultrasound AG-30 amplifier for me to use with my Taylor DDSM guitar. Wow, I've got to get myself one of these! For such a small amplifier, it packs an incredible sound!

To see more images from this year's get together, click here. To see images from last year's gathering, see the June 2006 posts in the archive section of this blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Two Similar Lenses - What's the Difference?

This past week, my daughter was using a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 XR Di II LD lens while I was using the more expensive Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 G ED-IF AFS-DX lens to photograph Navy Pier. We both had the lenses mounted on similar Fuji S5 Pro camera bodies set for the identical setting.

Our goal was to capture Navy Pier artisitically and to see how our shots compared. Overall, she did very well for someone who has had little formal training. She has a pretty good eye. Perhaps that's from seeing all the photos I shoot every week and hearing me describe which images are good and which are not. Anyway, while comparing our shots, I noticed that all of my images seemed to have a slightly richer color quality to them than hers. Although the images seemed almost equally as sharp, the Nikon lens did appear slightly sharper as well.

This is not to say that the Tamron lens did not do a good job. I'd say without images to do a direct comparison against, I think it would be very hard for anyone to tell the difference. It's very close. And for the price difference, I think the average person would have to agree that the Tamron offers a lot for the money.

Doing a quick search for current prices, the Tamron lens sells for approximately $439 whereas the Nikon lens sells for $1200. That's a big price difference. Is it worth it? For the pro, yes. For the average consumer, perhaps not.

I had purchased the Tamron as a backup lens to use whenever I did not want to lug around the big heavy Nikon. For the most part, I'd say it's one of the best lenses for the money. It compares favorably to the big Nikon lens at a fraction of the cost. But if I had to do critical work in which I needed the absolute best quality image, I'd be grabbing for the Nikon lens to do that work.

If you want a high quality lens at a lower price, buy the Tamron lens. Buy the Nikon if you need a sharper image with better contrast and better color and price is no object. You can't go wrong with either lens, however.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Segway on Patrol at Navy Pier - Chicago, IL

The Chicago Police Department patrols Navy Pier on a "police" version of the Segway Human Transporter! This officer was surprised to catch me photographing her twice... once in a store and then another time later while patroling the common areas.

Last year, my family got to try out the Segway while visiting downtown Chicago and we all loved it. It's such a blast to ride that I highly recommend everyone who visits downtown to try it. (Check out the April 2, 2006 post on this blog.) If the prices of these ever come down, I'd be tempted to buy one. What can I say, I'm a gadgets freak!! I think the police officer looks cooler than I do though, don't you? I look kind of "nerdy" with the stuff that the tour group company required us to wear: a reflective vest and helmet - not to mention the thin wheels with the cheap looking hub caps that are standard on "civilian" Segways. I wonder if she'd let me try her vehicle if I told her I was former law enforcement... LOL

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wedding Crashed by Little People

On the way to their own wedding, my client's wedding got crashed by these little people!

ISO 1600 Low Light Images - Fuji S5 Pro

These were taken in very low light during this past Saturday's wedding.

As you can see, shooting without a flash maintains the intimacy of the performance and adds a little "drama" to the shot at the same time.

Since having the Fuji S5 Pro's, there's just so much more I can do even with very little light!

Brookfield Zoo Outing - Lots of Fun

Yesterday was a great day to be at the Zoo! A bunch of local photographers joined my daughter and me for a day at Brookfield Zoo to do a little shooting.

So where are all the animal shots? Well, believe it or not, it was more fun shooting the wild antics of the photographers than the animals!

We were a serious looking bunch... lots of pro gear in tow. Our huge 70-200mm f2.8 lenses dominated the scene as we just blew away all those "tourists" with their little point and shoot cameras! Everywhere we went, I could see the other zoo guests looking at us.

At one point, we saw a sign for someone who was having a wedding shower at the zoo. One of us suggested we go crash it just for fun to see if they might need a wedding photographer!! That would have been a hoot since most of us were professional wedding photographers!

Oh, and if you have not seen any cicadas in your neighborhood and wondered where they were all hiding, I can tell you that they are all hanging out at the zoo! Everywhere we went, we were bombarded by the little bugs! They are huge, but they don't really do anything to you (other than land on you.) We all had a good laugh everytime one landed near Gina! That quick scream was our way of knowing we didn't lose her in the crowd. LOL

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterday. I had a great time and I hope you did as well.

"What's In That Pelican Case?"

I've had a couple of people ask me what is inside my camera case when I go to weddings, so I thought I'd show you.

This is a Pelican 1624 case (basically a 1620 case with padded dividers) which has a pull out handle and dolly wheels for easy rolling. Fully loaded with my equipment, it weighs 62 lbs! Not the easiest case to lift in and out of the trunk of my car!

For destination weddings, I use the Pelican 1514 case (a 1510 case with padded dividers) which is similar to the large case, but sized to fit in the overhead bins of an airplane.

But the 1624 is my main case for most weddings and that's packed from top to bottom. The divider section which holds my small lenses comes out to reveal a lower compartment which holds my larger lens, more flash / battery packs and cameras. The large 70-200mm f2.8 lens stores vertically in the right side of the case.

Overall, the 1624 has enough space to allow me to bring enough equipment to cover the average wedding along with backup gear. Still, I continue to wear my Lowepro belt system to hold many of the needed gear throughout the day. Things I don't need access to as often stays in the case. The case is always locked with padlocks and then secured with a bike cable and padlock to a stationary object at the church or reception hall. So if you are thinking of walking off with my gear when I'm not looking, be ready to carry out a church pew or a reception hall table as well because that's what my case is often locked to!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Haley Dykes In Concert - Silverdale Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN

This past weekend while I was in Tennessee photographing the wedding of Holli Dykes and Lucas Brown, I decided to spend Sunday with Holli's sister, Haley and her fiance Joshua instead of doing some more sightseeing before going home. I was satisfied with just having visited Ruby Falls and felt that was enough.

I've known Haley for about 3 years now, having gone to many of the shows that she and her dad, Doyle Dykes holds in the Chicago area. Over these years, I've gotten to see how Haley has grown and matured as a musical artist so it comes as no surprise that she is now in demand for performances of her own.

She was scheduled to play at 9:30 AM, 11:05 AM and 6:30 PM at Silverdale. I go to church on Sundays so it was especially convenient for me that Haley was performing locally in Chattanooga while I was there. It made deciding where to go a lot easier for me!

Although I stayed up late after the wedding of her sister on the night before, I got up early and checked out of my hotel room and headed for the church. Luckily for me, the church was only several minutes from the hotel.

As we were waiting for the 9:30 church service, I had the opportunity to help Haley warm up by playing Joshua's Taylor 915 guitar while Haley played her mandolin and sang. Joshua played Doyle's custom-made Taylor T-5 electric guitar since I was using his guitar. This particular T-5 has the well-known "White Rose for Heidi" on the headstock of the guitar... just like the DDSM guitar.

I stayed for both the 9:30 and 11:05 services and then later we all went out for lunch. At 2:00, we headed back to the church as Haley had asked a drummer and bass player to join in for the 6:30 performance and they needed to practice. Unfortuanately, I had to leave to catch my plane ride home, so I only stayed until 3:30 PM.

During that time though, I continued to photograph the practice session and got to see how Haley worked as she prepared for a gig. I am used to hearing Doyle back up Haley on guitar, so this was the first time I have heard her play with other musicians. Her fiance Joshua is very good on the guitar so Haley still has quality sound even without her dad there! By the way, Joshua meets the "Russ Lowe Seal Of Approval" when it comes to being the future husband for Haley! What a terrific young man! I like him a lot, and yes, they are a cute couple!

Before I left for the airport, I jumped in with the band for one song by playing the nice Yamaha grand piano that the church had on stage. It was a little hard to keep proper time since I didn't have a monitor aimed at me and I could only hear the drums echoing off the walls. Hopefully I did ok...

Well, I won't be seeing the Dykes family again until November when Haley and Joshua get married. I'm already looking forward to it!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Dykes / Brown Family Wedding!

Holli and Lucas Brown

Heidi, Haley, Doyle and Aubrey

Doyle and Holli

Rita, "Whistle" and Doyle
What an exciting weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee! I was asked to photograph the weddings of guitar legend Doyle Dyke's daughters Holli and Haley and this past Saturday was Holli's wedding. I have selected only a handful of images to show here to keep the most initmate images private for the family.

The weekend started out with a very scary plane ride into Tennessee on Friday. Because of storms in the area, my plane was tossed around in the sky as we approached our destination. At one point, the plane dropped so fast that I could literally see the people in front of me jump up out of their seats! It was like we were at one level and then the plane had dropped to another level below us, leaving us hang in the air for a moment before we dropped as well. It was kind of like one of those amusement rides where the floor drops out from under you. I told the story to Doyle who was so apologetic about it that I had to keep telling him that it wasn't his fault! It was just part of the experience of the weekend. I even overheard the flight attendant say to the pilot, "Well, at least nobody cried and nobody threw up!"

Doyle had personally picked out a suite for me at the Hilton hotel and wow... I was really impressed! The suite was huge! It even had two TV sets in there! With free WiFi internet connection, I was able to send off a few emails to friends and to post about Ruby Falls (see Saturday's post...)

As usual, I didn't sleep too long before waking up at 3:30 AM on Saturday. So after watching some TV and doing some work on my computer, I decided to go sightseeing since the wedding wasn't until later in the day on Saturday. I went to Ruby Falls which was only about 30 minutes from my hotel.

After returning from Ruby Falls, I got really sleepy and took a nap before heading off to the wedding. The wedding was very intimate with only 20 people including me. Family only at this wedding! I was so honored when Doyle's family kept reminding me that I was part of their family now. That was so touching! I have to admit that the Dykes family has got to be one of my favorite families because they were all so nice! And Holli's new in-law's, the Brown's, were equally as nice too!

Although the wedding was perhaps the smallest wedding I have ever participated in, it has to be one of the nicest weddings I've been to in a long time. Being small and intimate, there was definitely a "southern charm" to everything. The ceremony was performed by Doyle's brother Aubrey who is a minister. Aubrey also played keyboards at the wedding and was accompanied by Doyle. Holli's two sisters, Haley and Heidi both sang a song called, "Forever and Always" which Holli had written and Haley had recorded on her CD, "The Mystery of Her." Yes, sister Heidi is the daughter of Doyle who was the inspiration behind the famous "White Rose" that adorns each of Doyle's signature guitars. To see a picture of the white rose on my Doyle Dykes Signature Model guitar, see my post on November 16, 2006. I joked with Heidi that I was going to put a picture of her in my guitar case so that whenever anyone asked what the rose on my guitar was for, I could just pull out her picture and show them!

The ceremony was very special. Lots of tears of joy from the entire family.

The reception was held in the next room where everyone sat at one huge table. I was invited to join in at the table as well for dinner as the family once again reminded me that I was part of their family now too. We were served with a terrific tasting chicken breast that was so large many of us couldn't even finish it! The wedding cake was also huge... much more cake than 20 people could possibly eat. I've seen cakes this size for 150 people or more!

We finished off with dancing and the garter and bouquet toss which were caught by sister Haley and her fiance Joshua. Their wedding is scheduled for November 2007 in North Carolina. I'm looking forward to photographing their wedding later this year!

After the wedding, Doyle packed up his truck and headed out to his next gig. Wow, he had just gotten into town late on Friday and immediately after the wedding, he had to go to the next gig! Talk about a tight schedule!

I spent Sunday at Silverdale Baptist Church with Haley and Joshua. Haley was scheduled to perform at the church at 9:20 AM, 11:05 AM and 6:30 PM. We had lunch after the two morning church services and then I hung around with them until 3:30 PM before heading off to the airport to catch my plane ride home (which was very smooth...) Haley had two other musicans who came to play with them at the 6:30 PM concert at the church, so they held a practice session during the afternoon. I stayed and played piano with them on one of the songs... just for fun. I also got to play guitar while Haley played her mandolin and sang during a warm-up before the 9:20 service. Haley commented that this was the first time she has ever heard me play in the three years we have known each other.

It was an exciting weekend for me and for the Dykes and Browns... one that we will surely not forget. I'm very fortunate to have been asked to share in this special time with them. Best wishes to Holli and Lucas Brown!!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Ruby Falls - Chattanooga, Tennessee

I'm currently in my hotel room in Chattanooga, Tennessee waiting to go to photograph Holli Dyke's wedding. But since the wedding is not until later in the day, I decided to get up early to go do a little sightseeing!

I went to visit Ruby Falls. This underground natural water fall is in a cave located on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. I love caves! I recall going to my first cave with my family when I was young. Ever since then, I've wanted to go back and so I could not pass up this opportunity to do so. Often they light up the caves with dramatic lighting as you can see from the images of the falls itself. So I photographed Ruby Falls with my Fuji S5 set at ISO 3200 and used only the light provided.

I'll have some photos from the wedding soon... so watch out for it on Monday!