Thursday, August 30, 2007

What Have I Been Dealing With This Week?

What a CRAZY week!

Like many in the Chicago area who got hit hard by storms last Thursday, our home was without electricity for three days! And to make matters worse, our home had six inches of flood water in the family room, utility room and washroom too! Our entire neighborhood was hit hard and many families were in just as much trouble as us. We could hear the sound of portable gas generators running all day long.

We lost a lot of items to the flood and now we need to contend with the probability of mold growth. Most likely, we will need to replace our flooring as well as walls...

Because of this disaster, I am running slightly behind in my Photoshop work, but I'm still covering my weddings!

As I was busy photographing a wedding last Friday (see Sunday's post), my in-laws all pitched in and helped us clean up the house. Without their help, we would still be dealing with this flood. Our neighbor helped us as well by bringing over his portable sump pump and we borrowed electricity from a neighbor across the street who luckily did not lose electric power.

So we have been living in a totally messy house for the past week since all that was downstairs is now upstairs trying to dry out. It's not fun.

On a brighter note, I spent the entire day today in a training class to improve my skills with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Scott Kelby, the president of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) and also the world's number one selling author of computer training books (or something like that) was the instructor.

Lightroom has become a major part of my photography workflow this year and with this training, I should be able to work even more efficiently. About 500 people were in attendance at this training with many from out of state. It's nice to know that so many professional photographers took a serious interest in improving their skills. That's proof again that continuing education is vital to success in this industry. It takes hard work and dedication to continuing education to keep our skills sharp on both the photography end and the post production computer end. This benefits not only us, but also our clients as well.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Group Photo At Pheasant Run


This image was taken at last Friday's wedding.

Working with the DJ, we gathered all the people at the reception for a couple of shots with the bride and groom. We took one serious shot, one smiling shot and one "goofy" shot. Guess which one this was?

I was situated in the balcony area of the reception hall and had my camera on a tripod pointed down at the group. We had the house lights brought up and I took the shot with only the house lights. Not bad!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The White House


I recall taking this image of the White House many years ago with a cheap Sony camera.

I had been on a trip out to the Washington DC area and remembered once driving past the general area years ago but never getting to see the White House. So on this second trip, I wanted to make sure I got to go see it.

Security was very high, but it was just before the 911 incident had occurred. So you were able to go right up to the fence which keeps the property off limits from the general public. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, The White House looks SO SMALL!" It wasn't as grand as I had thought it would be. I remember seeing photos of the White House when I was young and imagining it would be this huge home. It wasn't.

I had heard that right after 911, all tours had ceased to the White House. I'm not sure what they are doing today, but I hope things have opened up for tourists to see now. It's a real pity how times have changed since the 911 attack.

I've never been on a White House tour. Maybe one day...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who Writes This Stuff?


I've noticed lately that Fortune Cookies no longer include "fortunes!"

"Promote literacy. Buy a box of fortune cookies today."

What?!

What kind of Fortune is that? That's Marketing... not Fortune Telling!

Who writes this stuff? You can't even use the time-tested, "... in bed" comment after that fortune either. It doesn't make any sense then... LOL
If you don't know what the "... in bed" is all about, just think of a fortune you would normally receive in a good fortune cookie and add the words, "in bed" after it. You'll get the idea. For instance, "You will have great success." Now add the words, "... in bed." Don't blame me... I didn't make this up. Blame Confucius!

Ear Manipulation



When I was younger, I recall going to a grocery store that was run by some of my relatives on my dad's side and getting my ear pulled by my "uncle" whenever he wanted my brother and me to do something for him.

Then, a couple of years ago, I went to the Museum of Science and Industry with my young nephew where we saw a display of someone getting his ear pulled with a caption that read "Manipulation." My nephew immediately said, "That's what Auntie does to me!" (Disclaimer: Not my wife... another "Auntie"!)

At this past Saturday's wedding, the bride wanted a photo taken with her brother. So she immediately grabbed his ear to get his attention. "He's your younger brother, isn't he?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "Figures!" I replied.

Seems to be some kind of trend here, don't you think?

Monday, August 20, 2007

International Wedding Weekend





This past Friday and Saturday, I photographed two weddings.

Friday's wedding was an African wedding uniting two African families from different parts of Africa... Cameroon and Kenya. Family members and friends flew in from all over the world for this wedding from as far as Africa to as close as New Jersey. Of approximately 150 people who attended the wedding, only 6 were from the Chicago area!

This group of guests were really a lot of fun! I couldn't help laughing at all the jokes they kept playing on the bride and groom! And wow, do they like to dance! We were treated with everything from traditional African dances and chants to dancing the Electric Slide! They were a great group to be with.

The next day, I photographed a wedding uniting French and Chinese families! It was a treat to hear French being spoken one minute and then Chinese the next! Families came in from France and from Washington DC. Since the annual Air and Water Show was happening downtown that day, I wondered if we might have problems navigating through the area to get our shots before the wedding. Our wedding was at The Drake Hotel. But because it was raining on and off Saturday, I think people just stayed off the streets a little more than usual. We were really lucky because whenever it rained, we went to an indoor downtown location to shoot. Then when it stopped, we'd drive over to another outside location to get our shots! We had a great time trying to figure out where to go next and getting to know each other while taking our photos.

Later at the reception, we were all treated to a Chinese "Lion Dance." During the dance, the bride and groom feed the lion a monetary gift given in a red envelope which is said to bring everything from wealth, good fortune, health and happiness.

Yes, I'm tired after two weddings in a row, but I had fun...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Window Light


Here's a variation on the "classic" window light pose.

Most often, photographers who use window light for portraits have the subject INSIDE the room allowing the window light to stream in to create its magic. But this shot I took has the subject OUTSIDE of the room!

The sunlight makes for nice hairlight and detail lighting. The warmer light from inside the room blends nicely with the outside light creating a warmer tone and nice modeling to the face as well.

This shot was not planned. It was "grab" shot. I saw the subject leaning in from the window, so I raised my camera and took the shot. I had been shooting images inside for a while and just happened to see this subject peering in through the open window. I shot it as quick as I could relying solely on the camera's aperture priority mode to capture the right exposure. I couldn't have asked for a better shot! True "portrait quality" for something that could have easily been just a snapshot! This shot is right out of the camera. No post production Photoshop work was necessary other than very slight cropping. And yes, this is a JPG image... it was not shot in RAW format. (ISO 1000, 1/60 sec at f 2.8 at 70mm - Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens / Fuji S5 Pro camera)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fishing at Busse Woods




Not too far from my Schaumburg office is a forest preserve called Busse Woods. I used to get up early in the mornings and go there to fish. I haven't done that in years.

I found it very relaxing to be out there by myself and just sit on a stool while waiting for the fish to bite. I'd catch bullheads or catfish, but an occasional walleye came my way. But the most common fish I caught was a really small fish called bluegills. They are so small, they always get tossed back into the lake. I recall one time my daughter was with me and she caught a frog! That really "freaked" us out!

I usually did the "catch and release" that other anglers do, but once in a while, I'd bring home my catch if it was legal size. And yes, I had a fishing license!

Last week, I went back out to Busse Woods to do some photography with a friend who is getting into photography. So I showed him my favorite fishing spot. This may not be the best place to fish, but it looks nice and it's a good place to go if you want to have some time to reflect.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Taylor GS8e Custom with Cutaway




On July 2nd, I posted about the Taylor GS8 Custom I had purchased.

I removed the pickguard from this guitar and thought I'd post a picture of what the guitar looks like now. I prefer my guitars without pickguards.

Taylor DN3




I purchased this Taylor guitar on eBay and planned to use it as my "beater" guitar. I got an exceptional price on it and couldn't pass it up. It was in mint condition too!

What was to be just a guitar to use when I didn't want to use my more expensive Taylor GS8, has now become the guitar I use every week at church!

I added a K&K Pure Western Mini pickup system and external pre amp to the guitar and it is now able to be "plugged in" and amplified.

Even though this is Taylor's least expensive all-solid wood guitar, it competes favorably to their more expensive models. It's a basic guitar with very little in terms of "bling," but wow... it plays great, sounds fantastic and is everything I would expect from a Taylor guitar.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced guitar, be sure to check out the Taylor DN3. Add an inexpensive pickup from K&K and you've got an incredible guitar for the money. And if you can find a deal on a good used one, jump on it and buy it! By the way, installing the K&K pickup was so easy! You can add one of these great pickups to any acoustic guitar.

The Rabbi Was Late, But He Was Great!




Saturday's wedding was supposed to be outside, but because of the threat of rain, it got pushed inside.

We had "wall to wall" people at the wedding and we all had to wait. Since this was a Jewish wedding on a Saturday, the ceremony had to wait until sundown. But when the time came for the wedding, we were still waiting for the Rabbi to show up!

Unfortunately, the Rabbi was delayed due to a traffic accident which blocked the road and just could not get to the wedding on time. Twenty minutes after the planned start time, the Rabbi finally showed up. What a relief!

Although we all had to wait, it was worth it. The Rabbi was so much fun! He kept everything light, made everyone laugh and that was exactly what we all needed!

We may not have gotten an outdoor wedding, but we all had a fun indoor one. Did I wear a yarmulke? Sure did.

To the bride and groom... Mazel Tov!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Vertical or Horizontal?



Which of these two images do you prefer?

Both of these images were taken on 7-7-07. Yes... the biggest wedding day of the year. This was taken at the Embassy Suites in Schaumburg, IL.

The images were shot from the 2nd floor looking down. The camera was a Fuji S5 Pro with a Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 DX lens set at 17mm. Exposure was 1/20 second at f 2.8 with the camera's ISO at 1600. I steadied the shots by leaning the camera on the railing from the second floor.

No flash was used and only the natural light of the environment lit the scene. It wasn't very bright when I shot this image as it was taken after 10 PM, so no sunlight was available.

What do you think? Vertical or Horizontal (Portrait or Landscape)?