Thursday, February 26, 2009

John Hersey High School Orchesis - Feb 26-29

Images taken with a Nikon D3 and Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens

Starting tonight, John Hersey High School Orchesis will be presenting their annual dance show.

I had the opportunity to photograph them this year and got some great shots! During their practices on Monday and Tuesday, I shot nearly 4000 images. Why so many? Well, the first day was done for me to get an idea of what to expect during the show. Many of those shots were done "wide" so that I could review the images and see what to shoot the next day. So on Tuesday, I shot "tighter" and got more close ups.

Often in events like these, a lot of images are taken. That's not to say all images are good! We're looking for the few that stand out and often that's done within milliseconds in timing. So while a grouping of images are taken of a given scene, perhaps one will be a "keeper" out of the bunch.

These two images are examples of what you can expect to see at the show. Come out to Arlington Heights, IL and see the show yourself! The shows startat 7:30 PM. My daughter choreographed several of the dances too!

Monday, February 23, 2009

St. Louis Science Center

This museum reminded me of a combination of the Museum of Science and Industry and The Field Museum (both from Chicago.) In fact, the "Sue" dinosauer exhibit was being shown here when I went to visit last week. Well, the real Sue is probably still in Chicago, but a traveling version was in St. Louis last week.

Definitely a facility designed more for children perhaps in the middle school age, the Science Center still had interesting things in it for the adults too. Lots of hands-on exhibits besides just static displays, the Science Center offered a lot for free. Parking was $8, but that's still reasonable.
All images were taken with a Fuji S5 Pro camera and a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Godin - Multiac Grand Concert Duet

This is the guitar I usually go to when playing a solo live.

I prefer to play nylon-stringed guitars when playing smooth jazz tunes and the Godin works great in a live setting. Since there isn't a large sound hole in the guitar, the chance for feedback is slim. But this guitar is "chambered" internally. The pickup is an LR Baggs Duet system which is controlled by one of the sliders on the top of the guitar. The other sliders control volume and tone. You can even null out problem feedback frequencies by using the notch filter and/or phase switch.

The guitar is set up like a standard classical guitar with a 2" nut width and a neck to body connection at the 12th fret.

Besides being powered by a battery, the guitar can also be phantom powered with 48 Volts from your PA mixer via a mic cable instead of the standard guitar cable with a 1/4" plug. This allows constant power without fear of a battery draining out.

While it does look a little different than most classical guitars, it plays very well and sounds great when plugged-in. The body is just a little thicker than a typical electric guitar, but much thinner than an acoustic. Plays well and sounds great with lots of control over the tone of the guitar!

Fingerprints and the Polaroid MP4 Copy Camera

 (Image found on the internet)
Polaroid MP4 Copy Camera
(Image found on the internet)

I recall when I was first interning as an Evidence Technician that I was tasked to take some photos of any fingerprints I found on some evidence I had just recently dusted for fingerprints. The camera that we used in the crime lab for this function was the Polaroid MP4 copy camera. This huge camera system was mounted to a copy stand which had incandescent lights positioned to eliminate as many reflections as possible.

The camera could take both standard Polaroid photos as well as take photos with large 4"x5" sheet film (large format film.) For this work, I was asked to take the shots with 4x5 film.

Being new at all of this work, I didn't know at the time what constituted a "good" fingerprint from a bad one. I was, after all, just a new intern. So every smudge I found, I photographed. I must have taken 50 or 60 shots. Well, after the film was developed, my supervisor called me over to tell me that not a single shot I took was worth taking! He explained to me that there were certain qualities in the fingerprints that needed to be there in order to make any kind of identification. Often in court, fingerprint examiners will be asked by the defense attorney, "How many points are needed to have an identification?" This is a difficult thing to answer, but in general, I'd say you'd need around 9 points to make a decent identification. But some experts can do it with less.

Back to my story... None of the prints I found on the evidence had a significant amount of points to make an ID. Most were just smudges. Totally worthless. I had basically wasted 50 to 60 sheets of 4"x5" film. That was expensive and time consuming! I felt awful!

But my supervisor said that everyone who comes through the lab makes this same mistake. In the hopes of catching a criminal, interns without any experience will document anything and everything. While it was a costly mistake to make, I learned an important lesson that day. Take photos of only the prints that had a chance to be identified. This meant that even though I was not a Fingerprint Examiner, I had to make the decision in the field as to which fingerprints found would actually get sent to the fingerprint examiner to examine!

From that point on, I made sure I learned more about what was considered a "good print" from a "bad one." You can find all sorts of "bad" prints on evidence. But it's always exciting when you find a good one and it get's identified. Yes, my work in the crime lab has sent criminals to prison. I did that even when I was just a lowly intern. By the way, it would be a terrific find to get a print on a piece of evidence that had the kind of ridge detail that you see in the image above. That would be an incredible find! Most likely you'd only get a small portion of a print and chances are it would not be as "clean" as you see it above. FYI: fingerprints are catagorized as "Whirls," "Loops," and "Arches." What kind of print would you call the one above?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Kodak Portra Film

Years ago, I shot only with film. That's because that's all we had before digital!

Kodak VPS film, later replaced by the Kodak Portra series of film was what I used to shoot weddings and any work I needed which might want to be retouched. The film had a great lattitude allowing me to be "off" in my exposures and still be able to be brought back to full image quality.

But when digital became a medium where the average professional photographer could afford it, I moved to the new format. Still, film was something that was familiar and comfortable to me. But I haven's shot a single frame of film in many years.

While film has it's following, I've long abandoned it. I recall when my family used to own a stereo store, when Compact Discs first came out, all the high-end audiophiles panned it. "Too bright! Too Sterile sounding! It doesn't have the warmth of analog!" Yeah, we heard it all. But some of what was said was true. CD's did sound a tad too bright... initially. But as producers got more familiar with the new format, and new technologies were being developed to help tame the new digital format, the CD became accepted. Still, analog vinyl enthusiasts still exist and people still buy high-end turntables, cartridges, pre-amps and vinyl recordings (if they can find good copies.)

Is this what's happening in film as well? Are the only ones still using film the "die hard" enthusists? Yes and no. Many commercial photographers still shoot in film. There's a certain "film quality" that exists and it's hard to capture the same look with digital. But for most practical purposes, digital has taken over. It's easier to shoot and delete images you don't want or need and it doesn't cost you any extra money. With film, every frame you shoot is costing you money. So should film be abandoned simply because of cost? I don't think so.

If you want a certain "look" to your images, film can be the answer. If you like to shoot a lot and don't want to spend for every shot you take, digital is the way to go. So why not move totally to digital and forget film? Well, film is a totally different animal compared to digital. You can overexpose a shot with film and be just fine. If you do that with digital, the details will be gone and you can't get it back. With film if you underexpose a shot, it will print up looking "muddy." If you underexpose a little with digital, chances are, you can make it look just fine in Photoshop.

It's totally opposite with film compared to digital! Schools still teach film. If you take a photography class, there's a good chance you'll be taught film. They'll teach you the basics of photography and they'll teach you how to develop B&W film. Why? Well, it's a good way to see and learn the fundamentals of photography. Too often, people today buy digital cameras and all of a sudden, they think they are now pros in photography. I hate to tell you, but it takes a lot more than just a new shiny camera to be a pro. Learning the basics is very important. And there's no better way to learn than to be forced to shoot on a medium where you can't immediately see the results (unlike digital which have LCD screens on the back of the camera for instant gratification.) And, having to learn to develop film and printing a good image using "burning and dodging" techniques will teach you the fundamentals of what makes a good image.

Today, I use all the things I've learned in the past with film and film developing and printing when I work with digital. I try to get the best exposures I can and then I "fix" things in Photoshop by using the knowledge of what looks good when I used to shoot in film. Had I not had the experience of learning to develop and print in B&W and Color films, I don't think I would be as good a photographer today. Other photographers have commented to me that I know so much about the technical aspects of photography. Well, that's just because I come from the "old school of film." You'd be surprised how many of today's photographers have never shot in film! They went straight to digital! That's ok, but there still something about having first learned with film that is so satisfying.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recording Gear

Tascam 38

Otari MX5050B-II

Tascam M520

Roland VS-880EX

(All photos found on the web... thanks to whoever photographed these images!)

Over the years, I've owned a variety of music recording equipment.

Since posting a link to some of the songs I've recorded in the past, I've gotten inquiries about what gear I've used. Well, before digital was invented, the old analogue open reel recorders were the only way to go. But with limited resources available, I have always been only able to purchase eight track gear. No, that's not the same as the old "8-track tape" equipment found in cars in the 60's! It just means eight individual recording tracks.

Open reel recorders ranged from mono "full-track" recorders all the way up to 48 track recorders. When I learned to work in studio recording with Gary Hedden from Hedden West Studios in the 70's, I learned on an old 16-track Ampex recorder and mixed on an old Sphere console. When I bought gear, I purchased a Tascam 38 eight track recorder, an Otari MX-5050B-II two track recorder and a Tascam M520 twenty input, eight bus mixer.

Today, I have a Roland VS-880EX digital workstation which is also 8 tracks. I had a Yamaha 16 track workstation for a short time, but sold it due to lack of time to work with it. I think if I were to buy another piece of recording gear today, it would be a 24 track recorder / workstation or perhaps I'd move to recording on the computer. While I do have Cubase (a 24 track digital recording software) for my computer, I've yet to use it. I prefer to work with workstations as I'm more familiar with something I can get my hands on. But I do see that computer recording is probably the way to go to save some space on my desktop!

Monday, February 09, 2009

My First "Good" Guitar

The very first guitar I owned was a cheap electric that was purchased from a store called Korvettes in Morton Grove, IL. My dad and I went there to find one so I could learn to play guitar. I believe it cost $59.95. It was similar to a Gibson ES-335 but it played awful. It had a very high action making it almost impossible to play anything past the 3rd or 4th fret.

One day, my dad went to a music store near where he worked and was planning on picking up a Fender Rhodes Suitcase 73 keyboard for my brother. While he was there, someone came into the store and asked if the store would buy back the guitar he had purchased from them, but the store was not interested. So my dad asked him what it was... a 1969 Fender Telecaster Thinline. My dad didn't know much about guitars, but he remembered me telling him that Gibson and Fender made some of the best guitars.

My dad asked the man how much he wanted for the guitar and case and he said, $175.00. My dad did not have that much cash on him, so he told the man that if he would go with him back to his company, he'd get the cash. The man agreed.

When I got home from school (I was about 10 years old), my dad told me he had something for me on the sofa. I couldn't believe it when I saw that rectangular Fender case laying on the sofa! When I opened it up, there was the Fender Telecaster Thinline! I was the luckiest kid around!

My dad was always good to me. And he always encouraged me and my brother and sister to practice and do well with our instruments.

As for that first guitar, I sold it for $59.95... yes, the same price we paid for it. And years later, we traded my Fender Telecaster Thinline guitar for a shiny new Gibson Les Paul Deluxe guitar. I've always regretted trading that Fender Telecaster. (I also traded the Gibson Les Paul Deluxe many years later too and regretted that as well.) Maybe one day, I'd like to get one of the re-issued copies of this guitar. I'd like to get one of the Gibson Les Paul Deluxe as well.

I found the photo above on the internet, but can't recall from which site I found it. While it's not the exact guitar I had, it looks exactly like it. One day...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Why I Post What I Do On My "Photography" Blog

Well, it seems that some of the content on my blog has some people scratching their heads. "Why does he post about that on his blog?"

Some topics are just not that politically correct if you are out to get business. Really, posting about "Holding The Date" can turn off potential clients. Sure can! But then others will also see that I speak my mind and I don't pull any punches... even if that means I could lose some potential clients as well. That's ok.

The thing is, sometimes you need to say what needs to be said. Would you rather work with someone who's afraid to address issues on the day of your wedding because it's not the popular thing to say? Or would you rather work with someone who's going to tell you exactly what needs to be done to get the wedding moving in the right direction?

You see, there are two ways to look at every issue. I just choose to look at it the way I think is right. And you may choose the other way. That's ok. Do what you think is right.

For me, I post about a LOT of different things... guitars, forensic work, computers, photography... yeah, there's a lot on here. But I don't see my blog as just a photography blog. It's a place for me to share things about me. I share about things that interest me and hope that they also interest you. And I share things that could affect you as well. Right or wrong, it's definitely not your average photography blog... because it's not just about photography!

Many people know that I'm also a moderator of The Acoustic Guitar Forum, one of the largest, if not the largest acoustic guitar on-line forums in the world. I've been a member for years there. And I have a lot of friends on there as well. So when you read about posts about guitars, you know it's for them... and for you... if you have an interest in music and guitars! It's not just about photography. Although, I might take a nice photo of a guitar and post it! That's the photography portion!

So you see, this blog is multi-purposed. While it does allow my wedding and portrait clients a way to see new work from me, it also serves as my own way to communicate to more than just wedding clients. Still, I hope and trust the content you read here is entertaining and educational at the same time!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you will become a regular visitor!

Will You Hold My Date Open? - An explanation for photographers and bridal couples

Before you read the following, please know that this is not a rant on my part. It's just basic education for both photographers and bridal couples since many people check my blog for this kind of advice. You most likely won't see something like this on other photographers blogs as it's considered "not good business." But I'm a 19 year veteran of weddings. People expect me to be good at what I do and to be honest about all aspects of wedding photography. I hope you will read this in that light.

On occasion, photographers will have a request from a potential client they've met asking if the photographer will hold their date open while they go off to think about whether to book him/her. Or sometimes, the photographer will get that same request while the bridal couple takes their time to check out other photographers.

For me, my answer has always been, "The first person who signs a contract with me and secures the date with the required retainer, gets me for that date." This is the policy of many other professional photographers as well.

Sometimes the photographer may get an upset bride who will say, "That's not fair. We talked to you first and yet you booked someone else after us." Think about that...

What is really being said is this... "Hey, we don't want to commit to you. But we'd like for you to commit to us. While we are thinking about it, can you put your business on hold? Should someone want our date, can you call and let us know and give us first crack at it? We may not be able to come in right away when you call, but hold that date for us. Don't meet with the other person because we just might want to book you." Then, perhaps a week later (way after the fact that the other bride has gone off to find someone else who is definitely available on her wedding date) the first couple calls or emails back, "We've decided to go with someone else. Thanks."

Where does this leave the photographer? Well, basically the photographer is out of luck... from both parties who were considering that date.

Sounds fair, right?

This hasn't happened to me in a long time. Probably because I won't let it. But I recently read a thread on one of the photography forums I frequent about this very thing. I can't help but wonder why it's ok for the photographer to take the chance of losing business for someone who can't make up their mind or wants to just prolong committing to him. How is that right?

My advice to all brides has always been, "If you find someone you like to photograph your wedding, book him on the spot." I tell that to everyone. Now that may mean they won't book me but will book someone else instead. That's ok. I'd rather they work with someone they feel most comfortable with... and that could be because of price issues or because of personality issues. Or perhaps it's style issues. Whatever. But to ask someone to hold a date without a commitment so you can think about it is just not right.

On the other hand, many couples can't make a decision on the spot and that's ok too. If they need time to think about it, or to check out other photographers, that's ok. Just don't ask if the photographer will hold your date for you. That's the part that's not right. And don't assume that because you were first to meet with the photographer, that the date will be automatically held until you make up your mind. That's not right either.

Luckily for me, nobody has said this to me in a long, long time. But you know what my response will be if it is asked. The answer is "NO." But I do hope you'll come back anyway and can understand my position on this issue.

Harsh? Perhaps, if you don't understand why it has to be that way. All photographers who are doing this for a living are running a business for their livelihoods. Where you would not want to mess up your own livelihood, please don't ask to mess up the photographer's.

That's my two cents.

New Business Card Design

I was up late last night and decided to design a new business card. While the old "Horse and Carriage" card has gotten a lot of mileage for me, I felt it was time to make a change.

This card features my clients from last year, Michele and Tyler. While Michele was concerned that she would not look good in photos, I found that far from the case. She was a beautiful bride and she worked hard with me to make sure we got good photos.

I'm always happy when brides are willing to work a little to get the right shots. The more time we spend together taking photos of the bride and groom, the more choices you have for your album.

This new card design has a little more contemporary feel to it and that's good. I like the dynamics of the photo, don't you? Read Michele's nice testimonial on my webpage at

Monday, February 02, 2009

How Much Time To Allocate For An Appointment

Many brides ask me, "How long will our appointment take?"

Well, that all depends. If you don't like what you see and hear at our appointment, we could be finished in about 1/2 hour. But if you like what you see and hear, plan on perhaps 2 hours or even 2.5 hours! While that seems like a long time, often people I meet tell me they can't believe how the time flew by as we talked about their wedding and looked at albums.

In addition to that, signing a contract agreement takes time as well. By signing a contract, you lock in the date so that other brides coming in can't take the date away. How often does that happen? A lot more times than you might think! Certain dates are very popular and really, there are a limited amount of Saturdays available in any given "wedding season." So everyone is trying to find the right vendors quickly and lock in their dates.

My advice is this... if you find someone you like... book them immediately. It's always sad to tell someone whom I have met with earlier in the week that their wedding date had already been booked by another couple who came in after them with the same wedding date, but they signed a contract locking it in.

Oh, one more thing... be sure to leave enough room between your appointments with vendors. Lately, I've been meeting with potential clients who have had to leave our appointment early just to make it on time for their next appointment. While it may seem productive to schedule several appointments in one day, it's hard to cover everything necessary to tell you about your wedding photography if we are rushed to finish. What usually happens is that some things you really need to know about weddings is missed and forgotten. That's not good for you or for the photography! Please plan accordingly. You need at least 2 hours plus drive time from appointment to appointment.

More Songs Uploaded

I decided to upload a couple more songs for you to hear. Check them out at