Monday, March 31, 2008

Grover Cleveland Elementary School - Chicago, IL

I'll be visiting my old elementary school tomorrow! I haven't been inside the building since 1971!

The assistant principal is giving my brother, a former classmate, and me a tour of the school and I hope to take a bunch of photos as well.

Most likely, I'll post something about my visit tomorrow, so be sure to stop by my blog again tomorrow evening for more info and photos of my tour!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Photography In Dark Churches

The Friday before I left for the WPPI tradeshow in Las Vegas, I photographed a wedding in what had to be the most dimly lit church I've ever had to work in. The Century Memorial Chapel in the Naper Settlement of Naperville, IL was built in 1864 and then the building was relocated to its current location in 1970. It's an old church.

I wondered how I was going to photograph this wedding since I was not allowed to use flash during the ceremony. But with my trusty Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens and my Fuji S5 Pro camera, I was able to do it. I set my camera to ISO 1600 and opened the Nikon lens to f2.8 and shot most of the wedding from the back of the church. The EXIF data on the top photo show that I shot the closeup image at f 3.2 at 1/18 second at ISO 1600 at 116mm (the equivalent of 174mm in 35mm film equivalent.)

I could see many guests looking at me wondering what I was doing way back at the doorway of the church and shooting without a flash! I'm sure they tried to shoot some images with their point and shoot cameras with flash and could only get a few feet of coverage. And here I was doing it way in the back of the room without a flash!

The two images I've posted here show you what I got. The closeup was shot from the doorway at the entrance to the sanctuary and the fisheye shot was done just a few feet from that point. I've purposely left the fisheye shot darker so you can see how dark the church was. In reality, it was even darker than this!

I often wonder how some amateur photographers work in places like this. While they may feel prepared to shoot a wedding, often they aren't because they could only be expecting good lighting conditions. But hire someone like this and then throw them into a challenging church like The Century Memorial Chapel and you'd better hope they have top of the line gear and the knowledge of how to get a good shot.

Just yesterday, I spoke with a bride on the phone who contacted me via my website. She asked what I charged and so I told her. It was way above her budget (even though in comparison to other photographers, I'm well within reason.) She told me that she was leaning towards hiring a photographer who quoted her $1300 for the wedding including an album. I was shocked, because some of my albums alone could cost that and it wouldn't even include my work of photographing the wedding (I only sell quality albums that are custom designed.)

I had to wonder what kind of photography she was going to get. When brides hire photographers strictly on price, they are asking for potential problems. Oh well... can't convince everyone I guess...

Monday, March 24, 2008

More Images from the WPPI Tradeshow

Klingon's aren't allowed at WPPI... only at the Hilton!

Gary Fong's booth

Denis Reggie - aka "The Father of Wedding Photojournalism"

Nikon packs 'em in

Epson's new printers

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm Back From Vegas!

The View Outside the Condo

Paris Hotel

Ballys Hotel

Gary Fong Demonstrates the Chrome Dome

Gary Fong signs autographs for his book "Snaps"

"Mr. & Mrs. Claus" - Outside of Circus Circus

Caesar's Palace

"Star Trek - The Experience" at the Hilton Hotel

I'm back from attending the 2008 WPPI tradeshow in Las Vegas! WPPI stands for "Wedding and Portrait Photographers International." The tradeshow is the largest of its type and about 10,000 photographers gather for it.

The convention was held at the Ballys and Paris Hotels, but I stayed at my sister's condo which was at the other end of the Las Vegas strip, near the Hilton Hotel and the Convention Center. Not as convenient as staying at a room in Ballys but I'll guarantee it was a better room than most people had! My traveling partner (another photographer from Chicago) told me it was the nicest place he'd ever stayed in... yeah, it was THAT good!

The scenic images above are the views outside of the condo.

The tradeshow had a LOT of things to see and we also attended many seminars as well. I was especially interested in seeing all the albums available from the album vendors. There are a lot of choices! I'll be incorporating some of them for future weddings.

It was a tiring trip, but well worth it. And, who can complain being in weather in the low 70's? After all, today I had to deal with all the snow that fell in Chicago! I want to go back to Vegas to get away from this snow!!! Oh, and how much money did I lose in Vegas? Not a cent. I didn't gamble. But the cost of food and taxi rides were unbelievable!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Photo courtesy of

This will be my last post on my blog until at least March 21.

I'm headed for Las Vegas on Sunday and will be gone for several days. The Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) convention will be happening and I'll be there. An expected 10,000 professional photographers are expected to attend.

I'm traveling with another photographer from Chicago and we'll be rooming together. Special thanks to my sister who has a vacant condo in Las Vegas (as an investment) and is allowing us to stay there. Also, big thanks to my sister-in-law for graciously giving me her frequent flyer miles to get me there for free!

Our schedule is going to be filled with training seminars. We'll have training from 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM and then will have a break to see the tradeshow from 10:30 to 4:30. From 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM and then from 7:30 PM until 9:30 PM we'll be in two other training seminars. We do this for several days.

I'll be bringing my Fuji S5 Pro camera along with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens to keep the weight down. I'll do my best to take as many photos as I can to document the trip. Of course, I'll post some here on the blog as soon as I can.

I'm looking forward to the trip and learning new photography tricks and business tips. I'm also excited to see all the new albums and equipment available to wedding and portrait photographers for this coming year!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Celine Dion - "A New Day" - DVD

I decided to stay up all night for a marathon viewing session and watch Celine Dion's 2 disc DVD set entitled, "A New Day" and I have to tell you, it was well worth it!

While I enjoyed her music before watching the DVD, I am now so much more impressed with her and the Las Vegas production that was put together to showcase her. The show lasted many years in Las Vegas and after watching this DVD, I'm sad I didn't get to see it in person.

If you want to see the most expensive live show ever put together, this is it. Perhaps even more amazing than the show DVD itself, is the accompanying DVD which gives you an "insider's look" of the entire show day. You'll get to see how the show is put together... while it happens! You'll see Celine on stage performing and on a split screen, you'll see the dancers getting ready.

There's a lot of hard work involved to put together this kind of show and it takes a lot of talented people, both on-stage and off. I really appreciated this DVD because it reminded me of how hard my own daughter and her fellow dancers had to work to put on their dance show at her high school (see my post February 20, 2008 post - John Hersey High School Orchesis.)

Whether you like Celine Dion or not, there's no denying that she is extremely talented and that this show is simply breathtaking.

Watch both discs of this DVD set. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I was reading Gary Fong's blog the other day (Gary is a world famous wedding photographer but today is an inventor of light diffuser products for photographers) and someone in the comments section of one of his posts mentioned watches.

Well, watches are an interesting topic for me. I have quite a few. But lately, I've been wearing a relatively inexpensive watch as my daily watch. It's an Invicta 9094 automatic movement watch. It's kind of a cross between a Rolex Submariner and an Omega Seamaster. It has a bezel that looks like a Seamaster, but the rest of it looks like a Submariner. Both of these watches are world class timepieces, but you'd be surprised at how the Invicta gives them a run for the money at a fraction of the cost.

The automatic movement of the Invicta is similar to the perpetual motion winding mechanism of a Rolex. It is self winding so no batteries are needed for these types of watches. Is the Invicta accurate? Well... it's probably as accurate as you can expect from something that emulates a Rolex. So that's pretty accurate, right? Well, no.

A cheap $20 Timex Quartz watch is going to be far more accurate than an Invicta or a Rolex. Surprised? Well, don't be. The Invicta and the Rolex both have mechanical movements that don't have the consistency of a quartz movement. An Invicta or a Rolex is going to be either fast or slow by a few seconds per month. Not a big deal really, but that cheap Timex Quartz is probably going to be right on the money all the time. So why do people pay so much money for something like a Rolex? Well... status maybe?

Really, the Invicta isn't quite a Rolex. But for a fraction of the cost of a Rolex, who cares? It's a great "everyday" watch and that's what I use it for. It's built really solid and that's what I like. I tend to favor the "Diver" style watches and have several.

The good watches only come out for special occasions. One of my favorites in my collection is an Omega Seamaster that used to belong to my dad. That watch is probably circa 1964 or so. It's a wind-up watch. Yeah, they don't make them like that any more! Today's version of the Omega Seamaster is known as the James Bond watch. It's seen in many of the recent Bond films. My dad's Seamaster in no way resembles that watch though. Omega has updated the styling of the Seamaster since my dad's watch was made.

Some watches don't seem to reflect what they cost. And if you really want something really accurate... go buy yourself a basic Quartz movement watch. A Timex will do just fine.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Taylor GS - A Follow Up

Well I had a chance to play the "new" Taylor GS -MS (Maple / Sitka Spruce) guitar at church yesterday. Wow! It sounded great!

Acoustically, the GS is my favorite Taylor guitar. It may not be the fanciest in terms of inlays or wood bindings, but it's the best all-around guitar for sound. But plugged in with the K&K Pure Western Mini pickup in place and the K&K preamp, it's hard to beat!

The clarity of the guitar was really impressive. Everything from the deep low bass to the shimmer of the upper register, the sound really stood out.

With the help of Elixir Nanoweb - Phosphor Bronze - Light gauge strings, this guitar could be the one I finally end up keeping!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Taylor GS - Maple / Sitka

This is my second Taylor GS - MS (now known as the GS6.) I had an earlier one of these guitars a little over a year ago which had the Taylor Expression System installed, but I sold it.

I went through a bunch of guitars since then, but after considering what guitar seemed to give me the best all-around performance of all, I decided that the GS in maple and sitka spruce had the best sound quality. So this time, I purchased the same guitar but without the ES system and installed a K&K Pure Western Mini pickup in it instead. I prefer the sound of this pickup over the ES system. I play the K&K with the K&K external preamp and usually cut the mid-frequencies by about 20 dB at 1.5 KHz. Besides the K&K pickup, I also installed new Gotoh Delta 510 1:21 ratio tuners, brass EZ-Peg bridge pins and my custom truss rod cover.

This GS (as did the other GS-MS) had the best bass response out of all the GS guitars I've owned, including the R. Taylor Style 1. It's deep and punchy and crisp all at the same time. And the clarity is unbelieveable as well! I use Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze Lights on this guitar and it works out great! Even though the string gauge is light gauge, I don't feel I'm missing anything. The GS is designed for medium gauge strings to drive the top more, but the lights are just easier to play.

So once again, a Taylor is back in my home and is doing quite well. This one could be the one I keep!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Autopsies - Not For The Squeamish!

Can you handle going to an autopsy?

I remember back in the 70's, there was a TV show called "Quincy." Quincy was played by Jack Klugman (of the "Odd Couple" fame.)

Well, Quincy had an opening to his show that had a bunch of rookie police officers standing in front of the autopsy table ready to see their first autopsy. I recall Quincy saying something like, "Welcome to the facinating world of Forensic Science..." then he'd pull back the sheet that was over the body and then one by one, the cops would faint from what they saw. It was a hoot!

Well, autopsies are actually quite interesting. As many of you know, I had gone to many of these because I had studied and worked in Law Enforcement in the past as an Evidence Technician. I remember at my first autopsy, I was totally facinated by what I saw. Looking down at the body on the examination table with all of the "insides" of the body taken out and the rib cage removed, the body was just a shell. Never saw that before! By the way, the rib cage is removed by cracking the ribs using huge gardening cutters... like the ones you see when you have to cut down tree branches. I'm not kidding!

It takes a while to get used to, I suppose. But after several autopsies, it wasn't quite as shocking as you might have thought it would be. Today, you can see "fake" autopsies being done on the show "CSI" or the now defunct show, "Crossing Jordan." They are showing a lot of things like this on TV today. No way would something like this be shown in the past!

Is it gross? Sometimes. Decomposition isn't pleasant and I've smelled that before. I think that's the worst part about it. But if it wasn't for that, I don't think it's any big deal.

Sorry to gross you all out on this post. But I haven't thought about or written about my forensic past in a while...