Thursday, January 29, 2009

Recorded Songs By Me

While many of my blog readers have seen a LOT of info about guitars and musicians here, most have not heard me play anything! So I decided to upload a few songs I recorded in the past. I haven't recorded anything in a while though... still, I sound pretty much the same anyway. I usually just lead worship at church and play guitar there.

If you go to, you'll get to hear an oldie but goodie entitled, "How Long." This is a song I used to play all the time back in the 70's... but I re-recorded this version around 2003. This is a slightly extended version of the old song by the group "Ace."

One of the other songs is an instrumental named, "Lights Out San Francisco." The arrangement is totally not by me... it's by guitarists Craig Chaquico along with Peter White. But I decided I wanted to find out how I'd sound doing it.

Check out the songs and let me know what you think! And yes, that's me playing and singing everything you hear on the recordings.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another Computer Crash!

Not too long ago, I had a major computer crash which cost me over a week of work trying to get my computer back up and running. I had a corrupted data drive at that time which needed recovery work done. Luckily, I was able to do that myself with the help of data recovery software. But it ate up a lot of my time back then.

Being paranoid, I went out and bought a software called Second Copy which copies the files I want backed up on a consistent and automatic basis. Just before the crash this time (actually, my computer would not display anything on the desktop except the picture I used as a wallpaper on the screen) I had done the last backup earlier in the morning.

This time's computer problem made me lose perhaps 150 emails which I did not get a chance to move to the data drive and resided only on the C: drive of my computer. After trying everything from running "Last Known Good" and "Safe Modes" upon startup, I determined that it was hopeless to get the computer up and running. I even got several "blue screen" notices while trying to fix the computer. Blue Screens are known as the kiss of death in computers. The only thing left to do was to wipe the drive (reformat it) and to reinstall the operating system and all the programs.

So anyone who had sent me an email in the past few days, I'm sorry, but it's gone. However, the multiple thousands of other emails I have received over the years still remain safe as it was backed up on my data drive. All of my critical data and work is also safe. All that I lost with the crash this time around was time, some emails and some email addresses, plus my appointment calendar. Most of the calendar was backed up on my Dell handheld computer, however.

To get the computer working and to load all the programs back took one LONG day of effort. That's actually not too bad considering how long it took to fix the last crash! In fact, this crash helped me to clean up the computer by eliminating some programs I no longer use and also the re-installation actually helped speed up the computer as well.

If you want to be safe on your computer, store your data on an external hard drive and only use your internal C: drive to load your operating system and program files. If you ever have a crash like mine, you'll be able to get yourself back up and running in a faster time and you won't have to worry about lost data. You could even backup the C: drive completely too to get a faster recovery time... but I prefer to reload the programs as needed and to eliminate those I don't use anymore. Somehow a clean install always seems to speed up the processing time of the computer... at least for me.

Happy Chinese New Year!

"Gung Hay Fat Choy!" - This is the traditional Chinese greeting wishing congratulations and to have a prosperous and good year. Be sure to say this to every Chinese person you meet today!

This lunar New Year is the year of the Ox. You would be born in the year of the Ox if your birthday was in 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997 or 2009. But remember, each year, the actual date in a lunar year changes, so the change of the year doesn't always fall on January 26 as it does today.

Why not go to your favorite Chinese Restaurant today and celebrate the New Year?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Metallic Print Option for Leather Albums

I wish I could show how much different Metallic Prints look compared to standard prints on a blog, but I can't. The unique qualities of this print option has to be seen firsthand to be appreciated.

This year, my leather albums have a couple of new options... metallic prints for the albums and also Photo Covers.

It's not really that expensive to have your entire album printed on Metallic paper, so consider this option if you are looking at getting a wedding album. Each image takes on a special "sheen" that really grabs attention compared to a standard print.

Call for an appointment to see the new albums and album options!

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Little Creativity

With a little bit of Photoshop magic... I can create some fun images like this. If you want some of your images worked on... let me know! Cost is very minimal, but the fun factor is huge! Click on each image to see a larger size.

Nikon D3 with 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens

I'm often asked what I use to capture most of my images from afar.

Well, here it is... I use a Nikon D3 camera body with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens. The combination is great for low light, distance shots. Sometimes I'll add on a Nikon SB-800 flash to it as well, but most often it's just as you see it here.

The camera and lens weigh about 6 lbs without the flash. It's not a lightweight by any means. But this combination allows me to capture great images from a distance in relatively low light. I'd say during the actual wedding ceremony, I use this combo the most. Often I am not allowed to get too close during the ceremony and very rarely am I allowed to use a flash. So it's not unusual for you to see me in the back of the church sanctuary shooting with this.

Heavy, but effective!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Happy Birthday... to me and my daughter!

My daughter and I share the same birthday... January 15. People always say, "Really? That's amazing!" But if you think about it, there's a 1 in 365 chance of that happening, so really it's not THAT amazing. Hey, we share the same birthday as Martin Luther King too... how amazing is that? :)

Now I won't tell you how old each of us are, but let's say this... both of these birthdays have major significance in the scheme of life. I'll let you try to figure that out...

School has been cancelled for her today because of the extreme cold temperature here in the Chicago area, so she's thrilled about that. But she has to study for final exams... bummer!

We'll go out later for dinner, but not much else is planned. I've got work to do and she's got studying to do. That's how we plan to spend our birthdays today.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Planet Groove at Blues Bar - Mount Prospect IL

Yesterday, my friends Harpist Jennifer Keller and her husband Chris invited me to join them to see Planet Groove play at Blues Bar in Mount Prospect, IL.

This seven piece band is appropriately named because they were always in the groove! Tight is the first thing that comes to mind. These guys have been playing together for a long time and you can tell. Everything from the rhythm to the horn section, it was right on the money.

I had never been to Blues Bar before although I've passed by it often. So when Jennifer emailed me a link to the band's website, I found out that they were playing nearby so we decided that it would be good to see the band play. A friend of hers is one of the saxophone players in the band and so it was fate that we would all connect.

Whenever I think of horns in a band, the first group that I think of is the rock group Chicago. So when Planet Groove broke into a series of Chicago tunes, I was thrilled! I'd seen the group Chicago play several times and they have been one of my all time favorite bands, so hearing Planet Groove cover material from them was really exciting!

And what about Blues Bar? Well, it was hopping! I had always thought that Mount Prospect closed down in the evening, but I was wrong! Everyone goes to Blues Bar! While Planet Groove didn't start playing until 9:30 PM, that didn't stop the clientele at Blues Bar. They kept coming in well past the hour.

Decorated with an authentic police car from the movie The Blues Brothers starring John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, this place was made for music. Blue neon lights carried on the theme of the Blues. Even after a significant amount of snowfall earlier in the day, it didn't stop the patrons from coming out to see Planet Groove. Oh and they have a HUGE monitor along the wall of the bar so patrons upstairs can see all the action going on downstairs.

Check out both Planet Groove and Blues Bar if you get the chance. You won't be disappointed! Be sure to click on each image to see a larger version.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

How Honest Are You - Part II

On November 30, 2008, I wrote a post asking, "How Honest Are You?" Well today, I got a chance to see how honest I was.

I had lunch today with my brother at KFC. Yes, we like that greasy, messy chicken every now and then. Definitely not something you want to eat too often though... but it's ok every now and then.

Anyway, as I went up to pay, I gave the cashier $10.00 from which he was supposed to give me $4.00 plus some change. Well as he counted out the single $1.00 bills, I thought I noticed that one of the bills was a $10.00 bill. He handed me the money and I took a closer look. Sure enough, besides the coins, I was given four bills... 3 singles and 1 ten. Hmm... I was right.

So I immediately pointed out to the cashier than instead of four dollars, I had gotten thirteen dollars instead. While he seemed totally confused, I just told him that instead of four $1.00 bills, I got three $1.00 bills and one $10.00 bill. It didn't matter. He didn't get it. Another worker came over and tried to explain it to him in Spanish, but I still don't think he understood. Whatever... I just told him to give me a $1.00 bill and I'd return to him the $10.00 bill. He did that. Still, I don't think he quite understood why.

What would you have done?

I had two chances to keep that $10.00 bill. The first time would have been to pocket the money and say nothing. The second time would have been to give up trying to explain to the cashier that he had made a mistake and then just pocket the money. I did neither because it would have been wrong to do either.

Some people might say, "Boy, are you stupid! If you kept the money, you would have made $3.00 plus some change and had gotten a free lunch out of it too!" But others might see what I did as the right thing to do. How honest are you?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Flashed by the Paparazzi

Sunday's bride was wiping her dress since something got spilled on it. But as I saw her doing that, I noticed a woman in front of her trying to take a photo of her... so I raised my camera to try to capture the woman taking the photo.

Little did I know that I would be clicking the shutter release at the exact same time that her flash would go off on her point and shoot camera!

The result is spectacular! Nice "star" pattern from her flash and the backlight helped rim-light the bride and the person helping her. Cool! Then a moment later, another woman decided she wanted a shot as well. While not as spectacular as the first image, the creative way she is holding the camera makes it interesting.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sand Ceremony

Often, in place of a Unity Candle, a "Unity Sand Ceremony" is done at weddings. It symbolizes a blending of the family and often children are invited to participate as well since they are part of this union too.

I was lucky yesterday in that the minister allowed me FULL ACCESS to the ceremony as we had discussed this beforehand. He realized how dark it was at the Naper Settlement Chapel and allowed me to go anywhere I wanted and to use a flash as needed. Great! That solved a huge problem of lighting in that church as it is one of the darkest churches I've ever had to photograph in before. I've been to the Naper Settlement Church in the past, so I knew what to expect and was ready to shoot the entire ceremony with just the ambient light there. But I'm so happy when the minister allows me to do whatever was needed. That's called working together!

Besides, the minister said we had worked together in the past since he recognized me! I've shot a LOT of weddings in the past and I just can't remember all the ministers I've worked with... but it sure is nice to be recognized by them!

Pre-Ceremony Photos

Often before photographing the wedding, I'm with the bride taking photos of her getting ready. Whenever I tell potential clients that, I can just imagine what they are thinking... "OK, so when I'm getting dressed, this guy is in the room with me???"

Well, yes... and no. I'm there when you are getting things put together, but I'm not in there when you are dressing! Often the best photos of the day are taken before the wedding. Close up details of your dress, shoes, hair, etc. are often shot at that time.

But sometimes, there's a shot just waiting to be taken, and that was what we had yesterday. Roxann was already dressed and ready for me when I got to her room at the Herrington Inn in Geneva. There right in front of us was this huge bed with drapes all around it (not quite a full canopy)... so I asked her, "Is this the room that you are staying in after the wedding?" She replied, "Yes." So how could I resist not taking these shots? "Can you pose for me on the bed?" I asked. And this is what she did for me. She was a good sport about it too! Great shot, don't you think?

Mariachi Monterrey

Yes! A Mariachi band! I wrote about how much I loved Mariachi bands back on Dec 18, 2005 (see the archives) and I was happy to see one at yesterday's wedding.

When my clients Roxann and Horatio came to see me last year to book their wedding for Jan 4, 2009, the first thing I asked them was, "Is there going to be a Mariachi band?" Roxann says, "Most likely."

I told them the story of how I started out in my wedding photography career shooting weddings in San Diego. It seemed no matter what kind of wedding I had in San Diego, I had a good chance of seeing a Mariachi band at the wedding. It didn't matter if the wedding was not a Mexican wedding... hey, it's San Diego for crying out loud!

So I'd become accustomed to seeing the guys at the reception. Then I moved back to the Chicago area and poof! No more Mariachi bands! I missed them.

These guys were just as good as any other Mariachi band I'd encountered in the past. There were 8 guys (one is hidden behind the violinist) and wow were they loud! What I'm most amazed at is that the singers can really "belt out" the lyrics! They don't need mics... they just sing as loud as they can and believe me... it is LOUD!

After they were finished (they played for 2 solid hours), one of the guys came up to me to ask if I could send them some photos! I was happy to do that and asked that he send me an email with their address. When I got home from the wedding, I was surprised to see the email so quickly!

If you need a Mariachi band, contact Mariachi Monterrey at 773-370-4656 and ask for Rene. "Se Habla Espanol"... of course!

Taylor T5

Photo courtesy of Craig Bonett

The "Liberty Tree" T5
Photo courtesy of Raul Blacksten

Doyle Dykes playing a "Koa" T5

A couple of years ago, Taylor guitars introduced the T5 "hybrid" guitar. At first, I didn't know what to make of it... was it an electric guitar, or a thin-bodied acoustic? The guitar had the ability to create a variety of tones ranging from a Telecaster twang to an amplified acoustic guitar. That's quite a feat!

I had considered getting just one guitar to bring with me as I played at church that could handle both acoustic tones and also electric tones. But based on what our congregation liked in worship music, I decided to buy as good of an acoustic guitar as possible. Ultimately, I ended up with a Taylor GS with Maple sides and a Sitka Spruce top. But while the T5 did not end up as my choice for guitars, I have to say, those who have chosen it do seem to get a lot of "mileage" from it.

Doyle Dykes plays one on his recent CD entitled "Bridging The Gap." While he chose to use the guitar for it's electric sounds, I've heard him play the T5 in "acoustic" mode as well. The T5 does an amazing job of simulating the sound of an acoustic, which allows guitarists to easily switch from one sound to the other without switching guitars!

Check out a T5 if you want to get a guitar with lots of versatility. To read more about the amazing Taylor T5, click here. To see the full range of Taylor electric guitars, click here.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Another Minolta Meter

Image taken in manual mode at 1/60 sec, f 2.8, ISO 3200

Back on October 27, 2008, I wrote about one of the only original items of photography equipment that I still use for my wedding work today... a Minolta Autometer IIIf light meter. It was having some problems recently but if I bumped it around, it would work.

Well, it appeared that I could not trust it any longer as the problem seemed to happen more often. So I decided I needed to finally replace it. I was lucky enough to find a fellow wedding photographer who was selling her used Minolta Autometer Vf meter because she rarely used it and so I snatched it up! Minolta is no longer in business, but these meters have been very accurate and have served well for years.

The new meter arrived today, just in time for my next wedding on January 4. After allowing it to warm up from being out in the cold from shipment, I gave it a quick test... works fine! I decided to pull out my old Minolta meter to see how close my old 1990 meter was to the new one. The accuracy was within 0.1 f stops of the new one! Amazing!

Now if the old meter wasn't having intermittent problems, I'd still rely on it. But it's now time to retire it. But I'm happy to report that yet another Minolta meter will take it's place. I wonder if this one will last 18 years as well?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Resolution

Do you make New Year's Resolutions?

Because we often put together unrealistic expectations, most resolutions are destined to fail. One of the most common personal resolutions has got to be "Lose Weight." While it might be something that can be done initally, most people fail after some time and go back to their old habits.

What are my resolutions? Well, every year, I promise myself that I'll lose weight. Like everyone who resolves to do this, I never keep this promise. So this year, I'll just give it the "old college try" and see where it goes. If it happens, great. If not, oh well.

What else would I like to resolve? Well, I don't think I want to resolve anything personally. But I will try to make certain things happen for my business in 2009 including:

Book more weddings by giving clients more options
Book more events to round out my wedding schedule
Concentrate on building my portrait and commercial photography business
Network more with my professional photography friends
Try not to spend so much money on new gear (that's really hard!)

What are you resolving to do for 2009?