Monday, August 31, 2009

How I Spent My Money Growing Up

All Images Borrowed From The Internet

Like many kids in the 60's, I got an allowance from my parents. I think I initially got $0.25 per week. Eventually, that went up to as much as $2.00 per week. So what did I do with all that money?

Well, model building was a big thing for kids back then. You know, the plastic models that required you to use model glue to put it together. I bought a lot of models. They included cars, army tanks, ships... but the four models that were my favorites were:

The Visible Man
The USS Enterprise (Star Trek)
The Flying Sub (Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea)
The Robot (Lost In Space)

I recall owning at least two (maybe three) models of the Enterprise, two Robots and at least two Visible Man models, one of which I still have today, but it's a more recent version.

What happened to the rest? Well, I guess they either broke or I threw them away.

I really liked the model of the Enterprise because it had lights that lit up the interior of the ship. And the Robot was probably my absolute favorite model.

I recall that you could not buy the model glue without a note from your parents. Back then, kids used to "sniff glue" to get high and model glue was one of the more potent products. I'm not sure what they do today. And no, I never sniffed model glue! I could never understand why anyone would sniff things like that.. it would just give you a major headache! Why would anyone want that?!

Besides model kits, I'd also buy comic books. My favorites were Superman and Archies Comic books. I've probably owned some Spiderman comic books too back then and a variety of others, but I can remember which. No, I don't collect comics today. Back then, we just read them and threw them away. Yeah, if only we knew then what these comic books would be worth today!

Checking out eBay, I'm surprised by how many nostalgia products are sold... and at pretty high prices too. Makes me think that perhaps you should not throw ANYTHING away because one day, it could be worth something. But then, you'd be a pack rat and that's not good either.

How did YOU spend your money as a kid?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lost In Space Robot B-9

Photo borrowed from the Internet

While I would not say I'm a huge Lost In Space fan, I did grow up watching the TV show.

I think anyone who's ever watched the show will remember the Robot on the show. The best episodes seem to be the ones that featured the Robot, Dr. Smith and Will Robinson. Who could forget the Robot constantly saying, "Warning! Warning!" and "Danger! Will Robinson!"

Anyway, I ran across a very cool eBay ad for a full-sized, 7 ft. tall working Robot. Check this out. Be sure to play the video on the ad as well. The robot talks, moves and lights up! This has got to be the ultimate item for any Lost in Space fan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is There Any Worth To Old Computers?

Over the years, I've gone through quite a few desktop computers and laptop computers. Technology changes and software requirements demand faster computers. So is there any value and worth to old computers?

I've literally had to throw away computers and monitors. Nobody seemed to want them. I couldn't give them away, and I couldn't donate them either! It seems nobody wants old technology.

Several of these computers worked just fine too. It's just that as I upgraded my software, I found I needed a faster, more powerful computer. So, the old computer gets pushed to the side as the new machine takes over.

Currently, I have two desktop computers and two laptop computers (three laptops if you count my wife's work computer and four laptops if you count my daughter's too.) Who in the world needs that many computers?! I believe I've thrown away three computers so far and that's not counting upgraded motherboards. Do I count those too in the throw-away count? Right now, I have one desktop computer that should be thrown away or given away and also one laptop computer which works just fine but doesn't see much use.

I wonder how many computers the average household has and how many are just sitting around gathering dust as well.

And what about printers? I've owned six so far in which four are still being used. It seems at least with printers, I can still get some use out of them regardless of their age. But don't get me started on printer ink... wow is that stuff expensive...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Montrose Harbor - Chicago

I was at the Montrose Harbor in Chicago yesterday and took this quick grab shot with a Fuji F10 point & shoot camera.

While it's not a particularly spectacular shot, what makes it interesting is the object in the upper right of the image. I ddn't notice this when I took the shot. Do you see it?

Click on the image for a closer look and move to the upper right of the image. You might be a little surprised by what you see.

Monday, August 17, 2009

American Girl Place - Chicago Downtown

Many years ago, we took our daughter to the American Girl Place when it was still on Chicago and Michigan Avenue downtown. The store is now located in the Water Tower Place, not far from old store. But what's nice is that they have a LOT more room in the new location.

What I always thought was cute is that the girls can bring their dolls in to get their "hair" done in the store's salon. Cost seems to vary from $10 to $20 depending on what style you pick for your doll. The dolls sit on their own little "beauty shop chairs" while the stylists work on the doll's hair. And, you can even get your doll's ears pierced!

Let's not forget the doll hospital as well. If your doll isn't feeling well, bring her in and they'll fix her right up! My daughter had a doll that had a bad eye. It was interesting that they thought it would be easier to just replace that doll rather than replace the eye of the doll. Hmmm... doll trade in? Can't do that with a "real" kid if the kid had problems... :)

While this is basically a "girl's store," I still have fun going in there! If you've never been to this store, go check it out. You'll be amazed at the variety of dolls available and all the accessories you can buy for them as well. It seems many dads have a good time as well from what I can tell.

By the way, my daughter was saddened to learn that Samantha, the victorian doll was "retired" and replaced with a doll named, "Rebecca." One of the store employees told us that many of the girls my daughter's age ask her daily, "What happened to Samantha?" Be sure to click on each image to take a closer look.

Patroling Chicago Downtown

I took a trip downtown today and found these Chicago Police Department officers gathered around. What I found interesting was the new technology and old technology of how they patrolled the streets.

Police Segways, Police Bicycles and old fashioned "Walking the Beat" are some of the ways Chicago PD now work the streets. Each have their benefits, but if it were me working downtown protecting the city? I would want the Segway! Be sure to click on each image to take a closer look.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul

What can I write here that hasn't already been written about the passing of legendary guitarist Les Paul? He passed away today at the age of 94. He lived a long and incredible life.

Les Paul invented multitrack recording and the solid body electric guitar. Every recording artist and every guitarist can thank Les Paul for that.

For me, I owned a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (since sold and I still regret that today) and currently still own a Gibson Les Paul 25th Anniversary guitar. My dad bought both of these guitars for me but the 25th Anniversay holds a special place in my heart since he bought that one for me without any hesitation when I showed him an ad for the guitar and told him that one day that guitar will be a collector's item. It will never be sold by me, so I suppose I'm the final collector of that one! Well, my daughter gets it after I'm gone and she has instructions that it goes to one of her kids after she's gone. So really, it's our family that will be the final collector of this guitar. My 25th anniversary Les Paul is number 26 off the production line for this model. It was also displayed at the NAMM show when this model was introduced to music dealers worldwide. (NAMM stands for the National Association of Music Merchandisers.)

My friend Doyle Dykes has had the opportunity to play with Les Paul several times. He's mentioned many times that playing with Les Paul was one of the biggest thrills for him. It must have been incredible to have two legendary guitarists like Les Paul and Doyle Dykes playing together on stage. I wish I were there to see and hear that!

Les Paul will never be forgotten, but he will be sorely missed.

Perseids Meteor Shower

I just witnessed my first meteor shower!

The Perseids Meteor Shower is best seen on August 12 and 13 and so my daughter and I decided to stay up to see if we could see any meteors. Sure enough... we saw several meteors streak across the sky!

In all my years, I have never witnessed a meteor shower. It was exciting to see several actual "shooting stars" this evening!

Did I catch it with my camera? Are you kidding me? :)

Shanghai Bridal Consultants

Photo by Glenn Young

My friend Glenn Young sent me this photo which he took when he was in Shanghai China recently.

The store's name is "Paris" and it's a Bridal Consulting business! Apparently the bridal consultants name their businesses after locations in Europe! He said a store down the street which also offered Bridal Consulting services is named "Rome." I find that interesting!

Planning a wedding must be a big business in China if there are several stores on the same street in Shanghai offering the service. From the photo, you can see that flushmount wedding albums are just as popular there as they are here in the USA.

I met Glenn on a flight from Chattanooga Tennessee to Chicago on my way home from photographing the wedding of guitarist Doyle Dyke's daughter Holli a couple of years ago. We had a long delay in our flight and he was sitting next to me at the airport. We struck up a conversation and I found out that Glenn was a former wedding photographer back in the film days! Well, we hit it off and spent hours talking about photography.

Glenn is known as the "King of Bamboo" (I think his daughter calls him that) since he sells bamboo products, including flooring and also bamboo cloth for clothing! Yes, bamboo can be made into clothing! I don't know of anyone who knows more about bamboo than Glenn! He travels to Asia constantly for his business. He saw this store and took a photo of it so that I could see how things are done in China. Cool! Be sure to click on the photo to take a closer look. In fact if you zoom in by clicking on the image, stare at space between the huge string of pearls and the wall's edge on the left side of the photo... then move the image up and down several times quickly with your mouse. Keep staring at the space between the pearls and the wall while you move the image up and down fast. You'll swear those pearls are moving in and out! An optical illusion, of course!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why Photobooks Cost What They Do

Recently, I have had a very interesting email exchange with a potential client about why photobooks cost what they do. And, one of my students who is designing his first photobook made an interesting discovery about them too... they take a LONG time to design!

To make a photobook, you have to design each page just like you would for any "regular" wedding album. The storyline in each book needs to flow and make sense just like a regular album. So picking out the photos and laying them out on the page has to be logical from page to page. And, each facing page must "relate" to the other page as well.

The cost of the books really are a combination of two things... the book itself and the labor it takes to do the album design. And, in the case of designing albums from photos taken from other photographers, sometimes the images used must first be Photoshop corrected for exposure and color as well before they can be used for the layout design. That also adds expense.

This is why photobooks from photographers often cost more than if you did it yourself by ordering one directly from an on-line service who prints the books. Often people don't realize that the cost of the books on-line do not include any design. While you can use some of the on-line layout templates that some companies offer, they don't have the same design quality as a custom made book. And, there are different "qualities" from one brand of photobook to the next. Some use pages that are just like photo paper and others have laminated pages which resist water damage.

Each of my photobooks are custom designed and I only offer top quality photobooks as well. No two books are exactly alike in terms of layout. It takes longer to do it this way, but my clients enjoy knowing that their books are completely unique. Be sure to click on each image to take a closer look.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Photoshop Is Going Strong

As much as I would like to show some of the work I've been doing lately, I can't.

Lately, I have been working on images that have been supplied by clients but since I did not shoot the images, I can't show them here. But I can tell you that some of this Photoshop work has been very challenging and that's a good thing.

I've been able to do standard things like fixing exposure, color, etc. But the really fun stuff is when someone brings in an image to work on and asks for the near impossible. Then, when it's finished, even I am impressed by it!

Let me say this... if you have any images that need work and you can't figure out how to do it, contact me. I'd be happy to give it a try. There's more than one way to fix most images and that's what's been fun about working on other people's images.

I may even start soliciting other photographers to see if they want help in correcting their images. I think I can do it relatively quickly and cost effectively too since I'm so experienced in it.

Bring it on! :)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Nikon Introduces the 70-200mm f2.8 VRii Lens

Image borrowed from Nikonusa

While I have a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens that's one of my favorite and most used lenses, that doesn't make me stop thinking that maybe this new VRii version just might be better.

The new lens sports a better Vibration Reduction system allowing better handheld shots up to 4 times slower for shutter speed than a non-VR lens. The older version of this VR lens can do 2 times slower. What this means is that the new lens will theoretically allow you to handhold without camera shake down to about 1/15 second at 200mm.

The theory is that you should be able to handhold any lenses at the reciprical of the focal length of the lens without camera shake. So at 200mm, you should be able to handhold the lens at 1/200 second shutter speed. VR gives two more stops (1/100, 1/50 second) and of course VRii adds two more stops (1/25 and 1/15 second - roughly.)

This is a huge improvement in the theoretical value. While the standard VR is supposed to give 2 times the ability, I have been able to handhold my older VR lens 3 times (down to 1/25 second) consistently. So I wonder, if VRii is capable to 1/15, can I really then do maybe 1/8 second at 200mm??? That would be awesome!

The new lens also improves on edge to edge sharpness and minimizes vignetting issues. A new nano coating on the lens should help make things clearer too when dealing with ghosting and flare. The new lens is slightly heavier than the old one (1540 grams vs 1470 grams) and it is slightly shorter too (8.2 inches vs. 8.5 inches.)

At a suggested retail price of $2399.95, is this lens worth it? The older version of this lens sells around $1899.95 (depending on where you shop.) We shall see. The new lens is expected to be released around November 2009.