Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Another Focus Group Session

In December 2008, I participated in a Focus Group that discussed toilets which I wrote about on my blog. Yesterday, I was asked to participate in a group that discussed soft drinks!

A major soft drink manufacturer wanted to know what people thought about their packaging for a new product they hope to introduce to the market. While I don't think I should divulge the product here, I will tell you a little about what we talked about. Maybe after the product is introduced, I'll let you know what the product was at that time.

We were shown various cans of the soft drink and asked what our impressions were of them. They had different colors schemes, different fonts for the name of the product and different designs. We were also asked which cans made the most sense based on the way the product will be marketed.

Surprisingly of the 7 people we had testing the product, we all changed our minds on which can design worked best after we heard about the marketing concept. We did not like the design when we simply had to choose which design looked best to us not having heard the concept. But after hearing the marketing concept, our intitial choices did not seem to match what they were trying to portray with the marketing! Interesting!

We all did not like the color scheme of our final selection initially. It just did not do anything for us. But after considering how the product was going to be marketed and also after taste-testing the product, we all agreed that our "loser" choice made the most sense for the product! It was a 180 degree turnaround!

The product itself was actually very good. It did not taste too sweet nor did it taste like a diet drink. It did not leave as much of an after-taste like a diet drink does. It has more calories than a diet drink, but substantially less than a non-diet drink. Overall, we all thought the product was a winner and we could see ourselves buying the product in the future.

It will be interesting to see the product finally on store shelves to see if what we picked is what the company finally choses to package the product.

I enjoy participating in focus groups. You get to see new products before they hit the market and you get to express your thoughts about it which could change the way a product is presented to the marketplace. And, they pay you for it too! That's always a plus!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Skunked Again At Waukegan Harbor

My friends Dan, AJ and I went out to Waukegan Harbor this morning at 5:30 AM. It was cold and windy and we were freezing! Just the walk from the car to the pier had my fingers totally frozen! I wear gloves that have the fingertips exposed, but I think it might be best to wear full gloves in conditions like this. I also had on athletic running shoes (I like them because they are light in weight) but that was a mistake as well. Wind goes right through that nylon material and my toes were freezing too!

We did our best as the wind was relentlessly battling us. AJ had to leave early because he wasn't feeling all that well from his previous outing there and the cold just added to the miserable feeling. Dan and I stayed on longer, but eventually decided it wasn't going to be productive. So he took me on base at the Naval Station Great Lakes. While I would have liked to catch a fish, getting on base was a nice substitute. I had never been on base before and really wanted to see it from the inside.

In the past, I had been on base at Miramar in San Diego when it was part of the Navy still. I learned from Dan that in the early or mid 1990's the base was given to the Marines. I recall seeing F15 fighter jets constantly circling the I-15 freeway while they practiced their manuevers.

I went to Miramar (where they filmed the movie Top Gun) because I was working for the DA's Office in San Diego at the time and we had a case involving a Naval Officer. I was impressed how large it was. While Naval Station Great Lakes is not quite as large, it was cool to see Navy boats in their harbor and large guns on the lawn in front of some of the buildings. Dan pointed out the new combat uniforms that they now wear and I was surprised at the color of them. I won't give it away here... you'll have to see them for yourself.

We will head out again in the future to fish, but I think I'm going to wait until the weather cooperates more. Taking a beating by the wind and cold temperatures just takes a lot of the fun out of fishing. I think even if it is windy, but not cold, I can handle that. But the combination of the two is a killer!

The two photos of me were taken by Dan. Thanks again Dan! Be sure to click on each photo for a closer look.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is It Thursday Already?!

Time is really flying by it seems.

I've been busy working on business for Balanced Exposure (my photographic post production company) and haven't had a whole lot of time for anything else. But, I am happy to say that I will be going out fishing this Saturday with Dan and AJ (both met on various fishing forums) once again at Waukegan Harbor / Lake Michigan.

Both report huge waves which will drench you due to high winds. Well, I don't own rain gear (only for my cameras!) so it will be interesting to see how wet I get on Saturday. But somehow, I have a feeling this might be the first day of actually catching either a Salmon or Brown Trout. I'm totally ready for this as each time I've gone to fish for these species, I've gotten nothing.

AJ reported that the last time he was out at Lake Michigan, he saw others catching fish. Unfortunately like me, he hasn't been lucky yet either. Dan on the otherhand has been lucky in the past. But it seems he has more experience than both AJ and me, so we'll give him that. :)

Should either of us catch a big fish, I'll post it here by late Saturday or sometime on Sunday. I'm ready to catch one and keep it as it seems many of the Lake Michigan anglers bring their catch home for dinner. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same on Saturday. Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fishing Finally Pays Off

Back on March 7 and 9, I posted about my trip to Lake Michigan and how a guy named Dan who was fishing next to me took a photo of me fishing and holding my camera at the same time.

Well, after posting our images on various fishing forums online, Dan found out that I was a wedding photographer and we started emailing each other about the possibilities of me photographing his wedding. While his budget was under what my typical weddings go for, I was interested in talking to Dan and his fiancé Jané to see what could be done. Dan was a fun guy to be fishing next to that morning and I figured he might be a good client as well.

We met at my office today to discuss their wedding and now he and his fiancé Jané are one of my new clients for 2010! So finally, fishing has actually "paid off" for me! I may not have been the luckiest guy catching a fish that day, but I did reel in some business from being out there! I can now say to my wife, "See! Fishing actually MAKES me money... not COSTS me money! :)

I'm happy that we were able to work things out so that Dan and Jané could become one of my clients. They are both serving our nation in the Navy and I've always been happy photographing our service people. I started out photographing weddings in San Diego and we have plenty of military personnel out there. Some of my happiest memories from photographing weddings were from photographing Navy weddings in San Diego.

Welcome aboard Dan and Jané! :)

Roundtable Discussions on March 21

I'll be hosting yet another Roundtable Discussions at my office for area wedding photographers. We'll be meeting tomorrow from 5 PM to 8 PM.

I try to host at least one of these events every year so that we can all get a better idea of what the wedding industry is currently doing. This year, we meet following the WPPI convention which was held in Las Vegas recently. It will be good to hear what people learned at WPPI and what they saw as new trends for the market.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Image Corrections - Before and After

Fellow angler D.J. Allen graciously gave me permission to show some "before and after" work of color and exposure balancing that I did on one of his fishing images. This is one of the largest bass that he's caught while fishing over the years, but the image was plagued by poor color.

I did this correction for him and also cropped the image to a more pleasing vertical orientation.

If you ever need help in fixing images you have taken personally, just contact me at and I can help! Don't waste a perfectly good photo when it can be fixed professionally.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Monster Pike From Sunday's Fishing Outing!!

While I was not lucky to catch anything this past Sunday on my outing to Lake Michigan, angler Chris Morehead caught a very impressive 34", 13 lb. Northern Pike!

I was only able to stay out at Johnson Pier until 9 AM, but Chris and his friend Craig Talley stayed much longer. Chris caught this huge fish at around 3 PM. Talk about toughing it out and sticking with it! Well, it paid off for him. I believe he says this is the largest catch he has had yet and it's a beauty! Craig took the photo and both have given me their permission to post this here on my blog.

So while Lake Michigan was iced over that morning, persistence paid off! The fish was released after the photo was taken. Click on the photo for a closer look.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Fishing and Taking Photos At The Same Time

This image of me while fishing and taking photos was taken at Johnson Pier at Waukegan Harbor on Sunday. While I was busy trying to figure out how to hold my camera and also not lose my fishing rod into Lake Michigan at the same time, Dan Roloff who was fishing next to me took this shot of me.

You can see a couple of photos of Dan on my 3-07-10 post. Dan is the guy with the glasses.

Thanks to Dan for allowing me to post this photo of me. Usually photographers don't have their photo taken often because we are too busy taking photos of other people!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

No Fish! Again...

I went fishing at Waukegan Harbor this morning, but no luck once again! Actually, during the time I was out there, nobody had any luck. Perhaps it was because most of Lake Michigan still had ice!

I went to learn some salmon/trout fishing techniques from a seasoned angler name "Finman" on the various Chicago fishing forums as he was gracious enough to share his secrets for catching fish along the shoreline. A lot of people were there watching intently as he explained the best way to rig up your bait for this type of fishing.

Unfortunately, the area we had hoped to fish was totally iced-over and so we could not fish there. Luckily, another area called Johnson Pier had a possibility of having open water, so many of us borrowed some bait from Finman (Gary) and headed over to that area. To our surprise, most of this area also had ice as well. Luckily, one side of the pier had open water, but some of it was just beginning to freeze. We tried anyway.

I only had the opportunity to fish for perhaps 1-1/2 hours at most, but I was not lucky. Neither were the others. Still we all had a good time joking and laughing about the situation. In fact, two of the guys actually slipped on the thin ice on the pier and we worried that they might fall into the Lake! Fortunately, that did not happen.

The weather was cold, but wasn't bad at all. The forecast for the day was rain, but that did not happen as we were out there. In fact, we had overcast sun and no wind. It was great!

Many thanks to Finman for teaching us willing students how to rig up our rods and reels. While I did not catch anything today, I'm positive that by using this new technique (at least new to me), it is just a matter of time before I do catch my first salmon or brown trout! But since I did not bring home any fish from my outing, you can see what I had to resort to on the top photo. Pitiful, huh? Be sure to click on each photo for a closer look.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Nothing New To Report - But I'm Going Fishing On Sunday!

Not much to report this week, but I'm headed out fishing on Sunday!

With any luck, perhaps I'll have a photo of a fish to show by Monday. If there is no luck, then I'll have photos of other anglers trying to catch a fish at least! That's the nature of fishing. Sometimes you get one, sometimes you don't.

I'm headed out Salmon / Trout fishing at Waukegan Harbor on Sunday. Weather reports possible rain and snow. That should make it just that much more challenging, right?

With my luck, I'll probably just catch a cold. :) Image borrowed from the internet.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Is There Still Value In Professional Photography?

A lot of people are asking this question... whether they verbalize it or not. "Is there still value in professional photography?"

Let's face it. Many years ago when we were all still shooting film, if you didn't know what you were doing, you could end up with a really bad photo. Dark exposures, color shifts, poor composition... You just could not see your end result until it was too late. You'd take a picture, hope for the best and then bring your film to the print lab and cross your fingers that you had a good photo. Sometimes you did, sometimes you didn't. You just didn't know until it was too late.

A professional photographer knows about lighting and knows about cameras to get consistently decent photos. He knows how to creatively get good depth of field or to lower the depth of field to get a dramatic shot. The pro photographer also knows how to compose the photo so it looked nice and people's heads are not cut off on the frame. You didn't have to worry because you knew that his/her exposures were going to be technically correct because he knows lighting.

Today? Well, if you take a shot with a digital camera, just look at the back of your camera and check it out. If it is not good, take it again. Keep taking it until it looks right. Trial and error. Make a few control changes here and there. Eventually, it will look like a photo similar to the professional. So who needs a pro?

Well, this can work if you think about it. Do it often enough, and you don't really need a professional. You don't even need to know much about photography. If you keep changing one or two parameters, the photo will continue to change until you finally end up with the right exposure and the right composition. Perfect! No cost to you by hiring a professional! :)

This works sometimes, but not all the time. Think about a situation like weddings. You can hire a professional and pay thousands of dollars, or you can do exactly as I describe above and ask a friend to shoot the wedding with his new digital camera. Eventually, he's going to end up with some good photos and you would have saved a lot of money. But, do you have the time to stand around waiting while he figures out which buttons to push to get that right exposure? Can he capture the "Kiss" shot at the wedding fast enough by trial and error? Will he be able to shoot the bouquet toss fast enough by doing trial and error? Does he know how to pose people so that they look good in the photos? Does he have "people skills" so that he doesn't offend your Aunt Martha by saying or doing something wrong?

Really, if you want things done fast and right... there is still value in professional photography, especially if you don't have the luxury of time, like at a wedding. Besides, what kind of camera is your friend going to use at something like a wedding? A $200 point and shoot camera with a cheap built-in lens and flash? Or is he using a new low priced digital SLR camera with a kit lens? Can he shoot well in low light and not have grainy and noisy looking pictures?

A professional photographer is going to use top of the line equipment that costs thousands of dollars. He's going to be insured for errors and omissions and liability. He's going to bring backup cameras in case something happens to one camera. He's going to know how to take a good picture consistently and quickly and will have the right people skills so as not to offend your guests. And yes, he's going to cost you some money... but it's worth it.

There is still value in professional photography. You just have to think about it to realize it and to appreciate it.