Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Made of Honor

Patrick Dempsey has a new movie that's coming on on Friday called "Made Of Honor." He plays the best friend of the bride who gets asked to be her Maid of Honor.

What do you think about this? What if the "Best Man" was a woman? Would she be the "Best Woman?"

Last year, I photographed a wedding where the best friend of the bride happened to be a man. He was her "Maid of Honor." But what do you call him? Is he the Man of Honor? The Person of Honor? Obviously, you can't call him the "Maid" of Honor...

Really, there is nothing wrong with having a man for your "Maid of Honor." It's just different. Our wedding last year went just fine. It was a little strange when we photographed the formal photos though. I wasn't sure what to call the guy... and a lot of other people didn't know what to call him either. And no, he didn't have a bouquet!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Roundtable Discussions at Russell Lowe Photography

On May 8, 2008, I will be hosting another Roundtable Discussions on Wedding Photography. I instituted this program to help fellow wedding photographers in the Chicago area and I hold this in the boardroom of my office.

The image above was taken during a break at one of our discussions last year. While not all photographers are depicted here, you can see from the mess on my boardroom table, there were more photographers in attendance. OK... I don't have a "round table," but you know what I mean...

While many of those who will attend at the next session are new wedding photographers, some are also veterans like myself. This year marks my 18th year photographing weddings. I learned from others in the past and also from experience. This is my way of giving back to the industry.

This year's sessions will include a couple of other photographers who have been full-time veterans as well. So those new photographers who attend will benefit from the years of experience we share.

Welcome to all those who will be attending. It's nice to have you with us this year!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Data Recovery

I have been performing data recovery on one of my external hard drives.

Recently, I installed a new 500GB internal hard drive in my computer but while preparing the drive for installation, I accidentally deleted the partition of one of my external drives! No fear, none of my wedding photography images are on this drive, but a lot of my other daily data is! By deleting this partition, the drive becomes inaccessable.

I called several data recovery firms and found that most charge anywhere from $500 to $2000 to do a recovery on a 200 GB drive. But with the advice of several friends, I went on-line to find some data recovery software to do it myself.

I purchased "Recover My Files" for $59.95 and have successfully recovered all of my files from this external hard drive! I highly recommend this program if you are in need of data recovery. It does take quite some time for the program to search for all of the files on a large disk drive, but you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by doing it yourself!

I did have some problems finding my Microsoft Outlook email files on the first try, so I decided to do another search specifically for Outlook files. It's searching right now as I'm typing this. As you can see in the screenshot above, so far it's found two of these files. So I'm hopeful this will also be recovered. (Edit: 4-25-08 - Email is back up and running and fully intact!)

All of this work has taken a toll on my time and pushed my workload schedule back by several days. But I'm thankful that at least I have not lost some critical files.

So, if you ever find yourself in need of recovering files... consider Recover My Files. It's well worth the $59.95 price!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Little Creativity

Saturday's wedding was almost rained out. But just about 1/2 hour before the wedding was to begin, the rain stopped and the sun started to peak through the clouds.

I shot this image with the Nikon D3 body and Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens just as the sun started coming out. A change in color balance provided the drama...

Show Me The Wedding!

Fisheye lenses can show it at! This image was taken with a Nikon 16mm fisheye lens on the "full frame" Nikon D3 camera.

Walking Down The Aisle

The Nikon D3 handled the lighting condition just fine as the bride from Saturday's wedding came walking down the aisle. This is one frame out of the many I shot as the bride came towards me. I utilized the Nikon D3's "rapid fire" ability of 9 frames per second to shoot this image. The color out of this camera is just great!

High ISO on the Nikon D3

I was asked to post some images from yesterday's wedding that were taken with a high ISO. Well, here are two that were done at ISO 3600 (top image) and ISO 6400 (bottom image.) Click on the images to take a closer look. No flash, just ambient light...

Recognize This Shot?

I just posted something about copying other photographer's work on my last blog entry and here I am doing it!

This image is a recreation of a famous photo taken after the war (WWII that is...)

My groom from Saturday's wedding is in the Navy and he always wanted a shot like this... so here it is!

The image was taken with a Nikon D3 with a Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens and a Nikon SB-800 flash. The image was converted to B&W with the help of Adobe Photoshop CS3.

Oh... the bride's famous last words before we did this shot was, "Don't drop me!" :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What Drives Excellence?

I was thinking the other day, "What Drives Excellence?"

Take professional photographers for example. We go through a lot of equipment. Well, many of us do at least. I know I do. Why do we do it? Will it make us better?

For some, they buy new gear just to have the latest and greatest toy. Bragging rights!

For others, it's because they can see a new image in their minds, but they can't create it because of the limitations of using their current gear. So they buy a new camera or a new lens.

Which one am I?

Well, I'm both, actually. I like having the latest and greatest camera and lens. I like having bragging rights! Who doesn't? But I also have a burning desire to get a better image... to get something that my mind's eye sees, but I can't get because of my current gear. So I get something new in hopes to achieve that image.

What drives excellence? I think it's the desire to be excellent... to not be ok with just being "OK." It's the desire to be better than "OK."

I have many professional photography friends. Although not all of them fall into the catagory of being driven to excellence, most of them do fall into this catagory. One of my friends just purchased a Nikon D3 camera recently. Why? Because he hopes it will get better quality images than he was getting with his old camera. Why? Was his images of poor quality? No... far from it! He's one of the best photographers I've seen in a long time. But he's driven. He wants to be the best. Now THAT is what it takes to be the best. The desire and drive to do it.

Many of my photography friends look to me for advice. I give it freely. We'll talk about everything from how to achieve a shot technically, to how to get more wedding bookings. Why? Well, the business of photography is more than just taking a nice picture. It's also a business and so we need to be well rounded in that area as well.

But often our talks do revolve around photography gear and our images. Even when we aren't "working" we are still thinking about our photography gear and our images. I wonder if we dream about this stuff too! Probably.

And, we practice! Even when there isn't a wedding happening, we'll go out and practice. Considering how many photos we take in a given year, do we really still need to practice? You better believe it! Just like the top classical musicians who practice daily to keep their "chops" up, we do the same thing.

So what drives excellence? We do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Flash Lighting

Saturday's bride looked fantastic even with a flash illuminating her!

This image was taken with a Fuji S5 Pro camera and a Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 FX lens. Shutter speed was set at 1/30 second with the lens at f3.5 at a focal length of 35mm (53mm equivalent in 35mm film settings.) The Nikon SB-800 flash was set to TTL-BL and was diffused with a Gary Fong Lightsphere Cloud with the top dome on.

Ambient Lighting

Here's another look at my bride from Saturday's wedding as she was getting ready in her hotel room.

The image was taken with natural sunlight coming in from the windows and a little tungsten light from the lamp behind her. The image was taken with a Fuji S5 Pro camera and a Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 lens. Exposure was 1/160 sec at f2.8 with the sensitivity set at ISO 800. Focal length of the lens was set at 66mm at a 1.5 crop factor on the S5 (the equivalent of 99mm on a 35mm film frame.)

The Staircase at the Hotel Indigo - Palatine, IL

What is it about winding staircases that makes an image interesting?

It seems that whenever a location has a winding staircase, it's a "MUST HAVE" photo. Does it get boring? I don't think so.

Every staircase seems to have its own unique character. Add in some dynamics like color or the amount of the "wind" within the staircase and you've got a totally different image. Plus, the various angles in which the staircase can be photographed can change the entire look of a staircase. Of course, a beautiful bride and handsome groom add quite a bit to the uniqueness of an image too!

This image was photographed with a Fuji S5 Pro camera set at ISO 1000 at 1/20 second exposure (the second image was at 1/18 second) with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 DX lens set at 17mm with an aperture of f 2.8. No auxillary lighting was used... just the existing ambient light. The image was corrected for white balance and exposure within Adobe Lightroom and further enhanced within Adobe Photoshop CS3 with Neat Image plug-in for noise reduction.

Yeah, I like photographing staircases. Always have, always will! This one is from this past Saturday's wedding at the Hotel Indigo in Palatine, IL.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Park View School - Morton Grove, IL

It was raining when I got there!

This is what you see as you drive up

An impressive Mosiac was recently installed in the office

We held our school "assemblies" here

A new addition to the school!

The hallways

I remember these lockers! I had a hard time remembering the combination!

One of two computer labs at the school

Recent courtyard changes

This was my old "homeroom!" Mr. Adler was my homeroom teacher.

The "entrance" for Junior High students

The entranceway to the new "Warrior Dome" gym

The new "Warrior Dome"

The music classroom looks the same to me! Mrs. Clancy was our music teacher.

The old gym has added new gear

Another view of the new equipment

The old gym

The former "Home Economics" classroom has evolved

The new kitchen

I attended Park View School during 8th grade after my family moved from Chicago to Morton Grove in 1971. I graduated there in 1972.

It was a difficult time for me adjusting to the suburbs after living in Chicago all my life. Things were different and I had no friends other than my new neighbors. At Cleveland School, I was a popular kid. But at Park View, I was a nobody.

I recall going through school with only a handful of kids to call my friends. No doubt, there were "cliques" at the school and I wasn't in any of them! In fact, I was one of the only Asian kids in the school. Today, Park View has about 25 percent Asians attending according to the Assistant Principal. I recall there being more of a Jewish population when I attended.

But by the end of the school year, I had made several good friends and then it was over! I was headed for high school. Surprisingly, I found that I did not keep in contact with ANY of the friends I made at Park View while I was in high school! I had to start all over again making friends.

But now, thirty six years later, I find I am in contact with many of my former classmates from both Park View and Niles West (my high school.) With the help of websites like and school records, I attended my 30th year high school reunion back in 2006 and I've kept in contact with some of my former classmates.

Recently, our classmates sent out an email message announcing a get together at a local restaurant in Wheeling, IL in July and then also a big 50th birthday bash in Las Vegas for those who can make it. Well, I was always one year younger than my classmates because I had skipped third grade while attending Cleveland School.

While I cannot attend the Las Vegas event, I do plan to go to the July gathering and will of course take my camera with me.

I am surprised at how many of my former classmates still remember me. Like I said, I was the "new kid" at the school in 8th grade, so I fully expected nobody to really remember me. But I was wrong. Several people do remember me!

Park View has changed over the years, but many things also remain the same. Most noted is the addition of a new gymnasium known as the "Warrior Dome." Also the old gym has added a lot of equipment overhead! And what was once our cafeteria, has now become the main office! The cafeteria has gotten smaller because of it.

Technology has of course been added to the school with many computers in two rooms for both Kindergarten-6th grade and for the Junior High.

Many thanks to Assistant Principal Andy Petroline for taking me on a guided tour. It was good to see the school again!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Nikon D3 and Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 FX

Coming soon is the Nikon D3...

This is a full-frame (similar to 35mm film) digital camera. It's Nikon's top-of-the-line digital camera. It's claim to fame is that it is the first full frame digital camera from Nikon and that it has the ability to shoot low light photos up to ISO 6400 with very little noise. And, it can also go as high as ISO 25,600 too! Oh, and it can shoot up to 11 FPS (frames per second) making it the fastest sports camera in the world as well.

I have a new "standard" lens coming too... the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 FX lens. This lens will replace my trusty Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 DX lens. Essentially the focal lengths are the same, but one is for full frame and the other is for 1.5 crop DX format. This new lens is also the top of the line in "standard" zooms.

What does this mean for my photography? Well, more ambient light photos are in the works for me! I'll be able to easily shoot in any lighting condition, including dark churches. Plus, images should be sharper with the help of faster shutter speeds and a sharper lens. The drawback I see immediately though is the weight. With flash and bracket, I'll be handholding over 6.25 lbs of camera equipment... not to mention my heavy camera/lens belt system I wear all day too!

This is a hefty investment, but I expect it to be well worth it. My clients deserve the best and this is it! Besides, more toys for me to play with. :)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Why Are Some Photographers More Successful Than Others?

While at the WPPI Tradeshow in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to speak with a lot of other photographers from all over the USA. Some were successful and others were not.

I noticed that the successful photographers all had a good outlook on life and the industry in general. Those that were not as successful had nothing but "doom and gloom" to say about the industry and their lives.

I had to wonder why some of these people were photographers. Really, would you hire someone who had a negative outlook on life? Would you like to have that person there at your wedding?

I had a long talk with one veteran photographer who complained to me about the difficulties he was having embracing the new software program called Lightroom from Adobe. He complained that it was too difficult to use and that anyone using it had to be crazy. I sat there listening to him complain about it all the while thinking that Lightroom had revolutionized my work this past year.

Then, the photographer told me how all these "new" photographers had entered into business and stole all of his clients. They charged less than he did and so his clients were leaving him and going to them. Again, I couldn't help but think that it wasn't just the pricing, but perhaps it was that they had picked up on his negative attitude.

After he was done complaining, he asked me what software I used in my post production photography work. So I told him... Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. He was shocked. "You use that piece of crap?" I told him yes. "It's got to take you forever to work on your images!" he exclaimed. But I told him it had actually saved me days of work. He could not believe it.

Then he asked me if the new photographers who were cheaper than me were taking away my business. I told him, no. Those brides looking for a low price weren't my clientele. Again, he was shocked. He asked me how long I've been shooting. "Eighteen years." Total silence on his part. He was also a veteran who had been shooting about that long. Maybe it was too long for him...

I explained to him that my clients don't hire me based on my price. They hire me based on my personality and my outlook on how I will help them at their wedding. And I told him that I use software like Lightroom to speed up my work. He just had to invest in the time to learn how to use it. So I gave him some tips on how to do it and he was again amazed.

I hope I helped him in using that software. But even more than that, I hope he got the message that it's not what you charge or what you use for your work on computers or cameras... it's how people perceive you as a potential vendor that gets you hired.

Recently, I met with a potential client who happened to be the sister of one of my past clients. She was excited to show her fiance my work and for him to meet me. She was at the wedding when I shot it for her sister but her fiance was not because he had to be at another wedding in Las Vegas.

Well, when we met, I could tell that he wasn't really happy to be there. Actually, many grooms are the same way. The bride is excited, but the groom isn't. It showed too in this case.

But we went on and I made my presentation and asked the bride what she wanted for her photos. Slowly, I could tell the groom was beginning to loosen up and begin to enjoy being there. In the end, he admitted to me that he really had a bad attitude coming in and that he really didn't want to be there. I told him I could tell. Then he said something to me that I really appreciated.

He said, "You know, you really made me appreciate wedding photography. I didn't want to be here, but what you said and what you showed made me realize I was wrong. I'm really glad you are going to shoot our wedding."


With that, he invited me to join them for dinner after our meeting. I thanked him, but told him that since it was a Sunday, I needed to get back home to be with my family.

So why do some photographers succeed where others fail? Is it because these photographer's work is better than the others? Sometimes, yes... their photos are better. But often, it's more that the client feels more comfortable with this photographer than his competiton. So they hire him.

Those are my clients. And that's why I'm still in business. They like my photos and albums, but they LOVE me.

Nice, huh? :)

Do You Look At Photos Like I Do? Are You A Social Butterfly?

Ever since becoming a photographer, I don't think I look at photos the same way as "normal" people do.

For instance, when I see photos of celebrities in magazines, I don't see the "star" but rather I see the way the lighting was done. Or, I'll look at what they are wearing first and then I see the person.

Or how about photos of products. I don't see the product itself first, but I see how the product was "styled" or how the photographer angled his camera to get the shot. Then I see the product.

Recently, an email message was sent to me announcing another get together with my former classmates from my high school. So one of my best friends emailed me to ask if I was going to go. He wasn't planning on it, but wonder if I would because I'm such a "social butterfly."

I had to laugh out loud about that comment because it's true. Today, I probably could be considered a social butterfly. I wasn't like that when I was younger. But to get the shots I do today as a photographer, I do need to be a social butterfly. I can walk up to a total stranger and strike up a conversation. To get a great shot, sometimes you need to build up that kind of rapport with people. Other times, it's best to stay back and shoot photojournalistically without interacting with the person.

I think my camera opens a lot of doors for me. I've had the opportunity to photograph celebrities (both famous and infamous) and have had access to places that others are not allowed. I've photographed crime scenes, autopsies, fashion shows, weddings, funerals, animals, buildings, products... you name it.

So if I look at photos a little different than most people, I guess it comes with the territory.

Yeah... it's fun to be a professional photographer.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

11x14 Standard Album - Front Cover Cameo

The 11x14 Standard Album has been the most popular album for this year's weddings. But wait! The company has announced a new option for it... Front Cover Cameos! The cameo size is 3.5"x3.5".

If you have an 11x14 on order and would like to see the new sample 11x14 with the cameo cover, please give me a call to set up an appointment.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Morris A. Kaplan Auditorium - Cleveland School

The auditorium at Cleveland School is really special. I remember being in the auditorium during the school "assemblies" and also the talent show we had in my final year at the school. A lot of great memories of my time at Cleveland school were held here in this auditorium. So I thought I'd give another look at this great room.

Cleveland School was built in 1910 and it is definitely built like a tank. Even after all these years, the building has held up very well. If you ever want to see how they made them in the past, this building is where you should go to see that!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Grover Cleveland Elementary School - The Tour!

I attended Grover Cleveland Elementary School from 1964 to 1971. After all these years, today was the first time I went back to the school to see how it had changed over the years. Assistant Principal Gabriel Parra was our tour guide and spent over an hour with my brother, my former classmate and me to show us all the new things at Cleveland. Wow! The school has changed for the better and yet some things remained the same. Thanks Mr. Parra! Cleveland is the BEST!

Cleveland school now has grass instead of concrete playgrounds!

Instead of our old monkey bars, the school has added modern equipment.

There is even a Pre-School building now.

Computer labs are a part of the school today.

The library was always a fun place to visit and learn.

I was a hall monitor and a patrol boy when I attended. These were my stairs!!
Kids used to slide down these banisters and I'd send them back up the stairs to walk down instead!

The gym has added new basketball hoops and an electronic scoreboard!

We used to play "Dodgeball" in the gym. I remember the welts I'd get from playing!
Today, a smaller, "squishier" ball is used... less bodily damage to the players!

We used to have to climb these poles. I could never do it.

The pride of the school is the auditorium. It is still very impressive.

The same Baldwin grand piano that my brother and I played when we were students is still being used in the auditorium!

I remember the boiler-room when I was a kid. It still looks the same!