Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"All My Children"

Image borrowed from website

Many years ago, while I was still in college, my mom, sister and I would watch "All My Children" on videotape. My brother would watch occasionally and my dad had absolutely no interest in it at all. Since we all had either jobs or school to attend when the TV Soap Opera was on, we would tape the show and watch it in the evenings. I can't recall who started us watching, but I'd guess it was my mom...

I must say that soap operas can become addicting. I watched for several years, but I haven't watched for many years... at least 23 years or more.

But yesterday during lunch, I decided to check out the old show to see if I would recognize anyone from the show after at least 23 years away from it. You know what? A BUNCH of the same people are still on that show!

Sure we all know about Susan Lucci (who plays Erica Kane on the show), but I couldn't believe it when I saw all the other characters I knew years back!

There they were:

Erica Kane
Tad Martin
Dixie Martin (now a ghost)
Dr. Joe Martin
Palmer Courtland
Opal Gardner (now Opal Courtland)
Adam Chandler
Jackson Montgomery
Jesse Hubbard (who died and somehow is now back alive)
Angie Hubbard (who was re-marrying Jesse Hubbard)
...and if I'm not mistaken, Greg Nelson (who I believe is not a regular, but came back for Jesse's wedding?)

Anyway, people seem to come and go on soap operas... but they also come back! Many of these characters had left "Pine Valley" but now they seem to be back! Some come back from the dead (Jesse Hubbard had died... so how did he come back to life again???) and others just come back dead... as a ghost (Dixie Martin is a ghost now.)

Are soap operas like real life? NO WAY!

But it is kind of cool to see how writers bring back people to a show. Sometimes they come back as ghosts, sometimes a long lost twin brother or sister (of course it's the "evil" twin who comes back), sometimes they move away and then come home, but whatever... nothing keeps people from coming back, not even death.

So if you watch "All My Children", can you tell me how it is that Jesse Hubbard is back from the dead? The show's website just says that he was thought to be dead, but wasn't. Typical! How does that happen? Was there no funeral for Jesse? No body buried? How? Why? Huh? :)

The current story line from what I can gather is that Angie and Jesse just got re-married and during the festivities, Tad Martin's uncle comes in and shoots up the place. One girl is shot (and has since died... but hey, don't worry... she could always come back somehow), Tad Martin is shot and is in critical condition, but Jesse and Angie are safe.

Ah soap operas... ya gotta love 'em... :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Engagement Session At Navy Pier

Once again, I returned to Navy Pier to photograph an engagement session. The last time I was there, I shot a proposal.

We were able to get some nice images before Pier security stepped in and told us that we could not take our photos there! They even threatened to confiscate my camera if we did not stop shooting. (From information I have about photographer's rights, I don't believe they can legally do that, let alone threaten me about it as well.) Hmmm... considering how many cameras and other people were there to take photos of themselves having fun, I guess we were singled out because I had a bigger camera than most other people there. Didn't seem quite fair, but we did not cause problems and we stopped.

Of course that did not stop us from finding other areas "around" Navy Pier to take photos! Out on the street shooting INTO Navy Pier also gave us some nice shots. I reasoned that security did not have the authority to stop us if we were out on the street taking some photos...

This is not the first time I have had security try to ruin a photo session. When Millenium Park first opened to the public, my clients and I were approached and told to stop taking photos as well. This was around the time that 9/11 had occurred. But today, there are SO MANY wedding photos taken at Millenium Park that I guess it's ok now. Regardless of the nasty way we were treated this time at Navy Pier, we still got our shots and I'm sure my clients will be happy with the results!

(6-09-08 Update: I spoke with the head of security and also the PR department at Navy Pier and was told that a $100 shooting fee is required to shoot at Navy Pier. So going forward, clients will be required to pay this fee if they want to go to Navy Pier to have their photos taken.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Illinois Wesleyan University

Illinois Wesleyan University has some very nice libraries! Here's one of them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Campus Life

Recently, I visited the University of Illinois at Champaign / Urbana and took these shots out on "The Quad." Anyone who has ever attended U of I should recognize this area easily.

When I think of life on a big university campus, I think of the U of I Quad. There's something about this area that just says, "COLLEGE," don't you think?

The guitarist sitting on the lawn playing his instrument also says, "college" to me too. There's no place better to do that than out on the U of I Quad!

Oh... and no visit to U of I should be without a trip to Papa Del's Pizza either! That is an absolute must! :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

PR-24 Police Baton Vs. Photography Monopod

Back in the 1990's, I received a certification to use and carry the police baton known as the PR-24... in the State of California! During my evidence tech training days, I took classes in a lot of things including firearms training (one of my favorite classes) and of course crime scene photography.

Although I enjoyed my firearms training (I'm pretty good with a handgun), I had a desire to learn to use non-firearm weapons as well. To be certified to use the PR-24, I took a course designed specifically for police officers and security guards who use the PR-24 as part of their certified weapons to carry. Although I have had martial arts training and am proficient with several martial arts weapons, I was still required to take the training if I wanted to be certified. The PR-24 is fashioned after the Okinawan weapon known as the Tonfa. But the PR-24 was designed specifically with law enforcement in mind. Basically, it's considered a "side-handled baton" and it's a lot heavier and longer than a standard Tonfa.

Today, law enforcement officers have many kinds of non-firearm weapons to choose from. The Orcutt OPN III is law enforcement's answer to the Nunchaku (nunchucks as it is commonly known as.) The ASP is an expandable baton. This weapon is probably best known as the weapon that Olympic Figure Skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked with on the ice. Many of these weapons for law enforcement can find their roots in the martial arts.

But instead of a police PR-24 baton, today you'll find a photography monopod hanging from my belt. Used with a special tilt head on the monopod, they fit perfectly when carried in a standard carpenter's hammer holder attached to my belt. I use the monopod to steady my camera, especially when using a long lens like the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens. But recently while on the elevator going to the parking garage at Navy Pier, someone actually thought I was a security guard because he mistook my monopod for a baton! Now I don't know too many security guards who also carry a Nikon camera with them while out on patrol, do you? What was he thinking?!

But can I utilize a monopod like a baton? You better believe it! Besides the PR-24 training, that "straight baton" training I took as well wasn't taken for no reason you know! And if that monopod can't protect me, I can always throw my Nikon D3 at an assailant! Well, maybe not. The D3 costs too much! :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Photographing Destination Weddings

Destination Wedding
Chattanooga, TN

Ruby Falls
Chattanooga, TN

Every now and then, I get asked if I would be willing to travel to another state to photograph a wedding. My answer has always been, "Sure! Why not?"

As long as my airfare, hotel accomodations (a day before and a day after the event is required), cab fare, car rental, gas, incidentals and meal expenses are paid on top of my normal wedding booking fees, I'm good. Other photographers also add in the extra time away from their home base (remember, we need to be there a day before and a day after the wedding) but I don't require that. I just ask that for those added days... the accomodations, meals and car expenses be covered.

Just last year, I photographed the wedding of guitarist Doyle Dyke's daughter in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The only things I asked Doyle to pay extra for were the airfare, hotel, car and meal expenses. It worked out just fine, AND I even got a chance to take in a little of the local tourist attractions too by visiting a local cave (see photo above). (Also check out the June 4, 2007 entry in the archives of my blog for more photos from last year's destination wedding.)

So, will I travel for a wedding? Sure thing! Tell all your out-of-state friends! :)

Navy Pier

Here's a shot of Navy Pier at 7:45 PM in May on a rainy day. The image was taken with a Nikon D3 at ISO 1000. Shutter speed was set at 1/60 second. A Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens was used at a focal length of 34mm with an aperture of f2.8.

Although the light is being lost due to the weather and time of day, it does create a nice mood. Still, the image could be brightened up in post production if needed (see the image of Suresh and Michelle playing with the "kids" below.) Be sure to click on the image to see a larger version.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wedding Proposal at Navy Pier

I had the opportunity to photograph a proposal of marriage at Navy Pier! In the 18 years I've been photographing weddings, I've never had a "groom-to-be" contact me to do this. I've photographed engagement sessions for couples, but that's usually done after they have booked me to photograph their upcoming wedding. But never have I had someone contact me to photograph the actual proposal!

Suresh and Michelle are a wonderful couple. You can easily tell that they are very much in love and to have the opportunity to photograph the proposal for them really made me very happy. I hope that they will consider me to help photograph their wedding next year as it would allow me the chance to say I've worked with them from the very beginning and followed through with their actual wedding ceremony.

Here is the story behind this wonderful event...

Suresh gave me a call after being referred to me by another photographer who could not help him due to his commitment with another photography assignment. After talking out the details on the phone, we decided that we would try to photograph his proposal to Michelle in the Crystal Garden area of Navy Pier. Afterwards, he had planned to take Michelle to Cite Restaurant which is located directly across from Navy Pier on the 70th floor at the top of Lake Point Tower. He told Michelle that they were to meet his boss for dinner there and that perhaps they could go to Navy Pier beforehand.

Little did Michelle know that she was going to be proposed to at Navy Pier and of course, she did not know that Suresh had planned for it to be photographed and that a dinner for about 30 family and friends followed afterwards.

When they arrived at Navy Pier, Suresh excused himself to go the the washroom so that he could call me to let me know they had arrived. He planned to go on the ferris wheel before heading over to the Crystal Garden to propose. Just as they arrived at the ferris wheel, it started to rain! Luckily, it wasn't heavy rain, but I was getting wet from the raindrops! I stayed as far away from them as I could and used a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens on my Nikon D3 to capture them in line. A couple of times, Michelle saw me and actually smiled for my camera as she could tell I was taking her picture. But later, after asking her whether she realized I was there to photograph her, she just said that she thought I was either a tourist or perhaps worked for Navy Pier.

I was a little conspicuous though... I had this large camera and lens and a big backpack on my back. Plus, I had a monopod hanging from my belt too! Where I normally wear a camera belt system which houses all of my lenses and things I need to be mobile, I felt that would be too conspicuous... so the backpack was the only other choice to stow my gear and still look a little like a tourist.

Afterwards we headed to the Crystal Garden area (an inside garden) but we found that it had been closed off for a wedding! Only a small pathway was left so that visitors to Navy Pier could cross over. But when we entered, Suresh and Michelle ran into some friends from their church! So they had to stop and talk to them for a while before moving on. I kept thinking, "Poor guy! He is probably agonizing over what to say to Michelle and now he has to stop and talk to someone. It's got to be throwing off his concentration!"

After they said their goodbyes to their friends, they walked over to a small open area with a table and some chairs. Suresh knew I was around, but Michelle didn't pay much attention to me. She was too into what he was telling her. He told her how much he loved her and as he was preparing to pull out the box with the ring inside, he went down on one knee and then knocked over the chair he was sitting in! Then, as he was fumbling to pull out the box with the ring, he dropped the ring!

They did not know this, but I had stopped the traffic from crossing in front of my view of photographing them by waving at people to stop. Finally, somebody said, "Oh my God! He's proposing to her!" Everyone was amazed at what they were seeing!

I had told Suresh earlier on the phone that I could guarantee that Michelle would not know I was photographing her because she would be too focused on what he was saying. Sure enough, after asking her later, she told me that she had no idea that a crowd had gathered around them to watch Suresh ask her to marry him and that I was taking a bunch of pictures of them!

After she accepted his proposal of marriage and they hugged and kissed, Suresh pointed me out and Michelle was really surprised. You can see it in her face in the photos above.

We went on to do some more photos, but I purposely tried my best to leave them alone. I did not want to spoil their big day by posing them and taking over by telling them what to do. Sure, we did some posed shots, but basically, I thought it was best to leave them alone to enjoy their time together.

After the photos at Navy Pier were taken, Suresh confessed that they were not going to his boss' dinner party but rather, he had reserved dinner for them at Cite Restaurant. So he "asked" me if I wouldn't mind following them to the restaurant to take a few photos since the view was so nice there. I said, "Uh... ok." Of course, Michelle had no idea that I was "in" on this secret party plan and that 30 of her family and friends were already there waiting for them to arrive! As we walked over, it had begun to rain on us. Luckily, it was very light rain though.

At the party at Cite, everyone was so excited and happy to see them! Michelle got to show off her new ring and we all had a great time taking some special photos. When it came time to leave, I packed all my gear in my backpack and headed out. I knew it was going to be a tough walk back to the Pier because it had begun raining hard. But I weathered the storm and walked in the hard pouring rain back to the Pier to get to my car. Yeah, I was drenched... but my gear was nice and dry in the backpack. Kudos to Lowepro camera bags!

Thanks to everyone involved in this event. I am lucky to have great photography friends to refer me to this wonderful couple and also to be given the opportunity to witness the proposal and to be the first to congratulate the couple on being engaged! Congratulations to Suresh and Michelle!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Which Subject Is More Interesting?

Everyone notices the swan in the water and takes a picture.

I notice those who do the picture taking...



How Much Is A Bird In A Tree Worth?

If a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush, how much is one in a tree worth?

This little guy was hanging out in one of the trees at the Chicago Botanic Garden today. He hung around long enough to let me get a quick shot.

Getting Off The Beaten Path - Chicago Botanic Garden

At the Chicago Botanic Garden, many people take the standard paths. Of course that's where all the nice flowers and plants are. But have you ever tried getting off the beaten path and forging another?

Today I had the opportunity to do that. Check out the top photo. This was taken away from the standard path that most people take. There's a lot of great spots at the Garden that are not often traveled by the average visitor.

The next time you go to the Botanic Garden, try walking along the outskirts of the garden. I think you'll be surprised how nice these areas are as well.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Makes The Nikon D3 Weigh So Much?

What makes the Nikon D3 weigh 2.7 lbs without a battery and lens? The answer is in the body construction itself.

Whereas other cameras may have plastic bodies, the Nikon D3 is made out of magnesium. Although magnesium should be lighter in weight than some other metals, it's still metal... so it's going to weigh more than any plastic camera body.

The D3 was designed with the professional in mind. Some pro photographers take their cameras to the remote areas of the world and have to work in extreme conditions. So the more rugged the camera, the better the chance of coming back with an image without fear of camera malfunctions.

Luckily, most wedding photographers do not have to worry too much about photographing in jungles or the artic. But like other professionals, we still want a solidly built camera we can rely on. It's hard to beat something made like the Nikon D3! (Somehow, seeing that second image of the D3 in its skeletal form reminds me of The Terminator!)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Roundtable Discussions Another Success

On Thursday, we had another great discussion about Wedding Photography.

We had a full house as usual and we went on for four full hours (we were scheduled for only three hours!) We shared our albums, ate junk food and discussed various topics concerning our businesses.

It was great to see that we all are passionate about our businesses and about the wedding photography industry! Thanks to all for attending.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sodium Vapor Lighting and White Balance

Auto White Balanced Image

Custom White Balanced Image
Recently, I had the opportunity to take some photos in the John Hersey High School gymnasium. Anyone who has ever tried to take photos in there knows how difficult it is to get a decent image because of the gym's use of the yellowish sodium vapor lighting. Not only is the lighting hard to work with, but flooring, bleachers and walls in the gym have similar color tones as well.

Sodium Vapor lighting contains very little if any elements of white light. So no matter how hard you try to white balance your camera for it, it doesn't work very well.

Look at the top photo. This is a typical shot taken in the gym using "Auto White Balancing" with the Nikon D3 camera. I've had the chance to see photos from other photographers who have tried to shoot in this gym and many end up like this.

But look at the shot in the second photo. This was taken with the same Nikon D3 camera while using custom white balancing. You can see it's a huge difference. Look at the wall behind the drummer. You can see it's supposed to be off-white. That's not the case in the first photo!

Even though the white balance has been corrected, the gym still has an overall yellowish look to it because of the other things in the gym. The bleachers are of a yellowish color (you can see the bleachers in the far right of the image.) Then look at the floor... because it's a yellowish colored wood, it makes even the corrected photo look yellow! Then add in the yellow walls and even the yellowish wood on the back of the piano... you get the idea.

Now, consider that the overhead gym lights cast a yellowish light too... it's a nightmare! It's a very difficult room to take a good photo in!

I've often wondered who designed the color scheme in this gym. What were they thinking! But regardless, the new Nikon D3 came out on top of it all and with a little photography "know how" I've conquered the lighting in this difficult room!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Freed's Bakery of Las Vegas

Want to see some interesting wedding cakes?

Check out Freed's Bakery in Las Vegas! Although they don't make their cakes available here in the Chicago area, it's still worth taking a peek! They are the premier wedding cake company in Las Vegas! Their designs are amazing!

Interestingly enough, I went to school with the husband of the owner of this bakery! We attended the same Junior High School (Park View School) and also the same high school (Niles West) and had gotten in touch with each other because of reunion announcements from other classmates.

It is just coincidental that we are now in complimentary professions (I photograph weddings, his spouse makes wedding cakes.)

Check out their website to see some amazing designs! I'll bet they taste even better!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Second Copy

Following up on the recovery of files from the mishap with my external hard drive recently, I decided to safeguard my data by purchasing a copy of the software called "Second Copy."

At $29.95, Second Copy is a relatively inexpensive backup solution which copies any modified data file that is specified in a certain location. Every 2 hours, I have it backing up all of the files in the My Documents folder on my internal hard drive and also my Outlook email files. If a backup every 2 hours isn't enough for you (or if it is too often for you), you can specify how often the program backs up data (every few minutes, every hour, every week, etc.)

So far, this seems to be the perfect backup solution for me. I don't need a full drive backup, just a backup of data files modified. And since it's automatic and runs in the background at all times, I don't even have to worry about forgetting to do a backup!

I highly suggest getting a copy of Second Copy if you are interested in an easy solution for safeguarding your data files. Save these new files to another external hard drive.