Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's Happening In Your Neighborhood?

Back on February 2, 2006, I wrote on this blog about the police scanner that got me involved in law enforcement. Ultimately, I went back to school and got degrees in Evidence Technology and Pre Law / Court Management.

Having worked with The San Diego Police Department, The Chula Vista Police Department and The District Attorney's Office of San Diego County, I have seen and heard a lot! But it is always interesting to listen in on what is happening in my neighborhood today.

While crimes happen during the day, without question, a lot more seem to happen at night! I recall going on a ride-along with one of the Chula Vista officiers and witnessing everything from kids hanging out in parks drinking, traffic stops where the driver's license had been suspended and calls of "man with a gun" (which turned out to be a BB gun.)

Things like that still seem to happen today at night. Two nights ago, I heard a call about a 19 year old girl threatening suicide because her parents would not allow her to move in with her boyfriend. Another call was about vandalism on street signs. Still more calls focused on domestic violence.

Even though we all think our own neighborhoods are relatively safe... they really are not. If you get yourself a scanner and tune it to your local police department's frequencies, you'll hear for yourself. A lot of things happen throughout the day, but a lot more things seem to happen at night.

Another reason I like listening to the scanner at night is because it has a lot less noise. Besides police frequencies, I also have the scanner programmed to other frequencies like ambulance companies, fire dispatchers, hospitals, etc. All of these get calls. And because the scanner will react to any call, it always sounds like a lot is happening during the day. But at night, it seems most calls are only police calls. And these calls have less static noise as well.

Newer scanners are available which allow you to program them to play certain types of calls only. For instance, perhaps you only want to hear police frequencies. Just make a "playlist" of those frequencies and that's all you'll hear. Or perhaps you want to hear just calls from the fire departments in the area. No problem.

Get yourself a scanner and keep track of what's really happening in your neighborhood. While you can read the "police blotter" section of your local newspaper to see which homes have been burglarized or which cars got vandalized, you'll get to hear all a lot more than are reported in those newspaper columns.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Balanced Exposure Is Getting Busier

My other company, Balanced Exposure is getting busier. As the wedding season marches on, more photographers are looking for a way to deal with all the images they shot at their weddings. While they are fine taking the photos on a Saturday, sometimes their time is limited during the week itself, so they need help.

Balanced Exposure allows them to free up their work week to concentrate on shooting and leave the post production issues to someone else. Makes sense to me! It is cost effective and time effective too. Depending on current workload, I typically turn around entire weddings in 3-4 days (sometimes faster) depending on what is required. The last wedding I worked on for another photographer took me just 1-1/2 days and it had over 1200 images!

With the advent of better software and of course more experience, I seem to be able to really work quickly today.

Recently I worked on about 5000 images, designed a wedding album and shot two events! Being a full-time photographer allows me the time to do all this. But I realize not all photographers are full-timers and some, while good at things like composition and grabbing a shot, just need someone to help them in post production. That's where Balanced Exposure comes in.

Spread the word! :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Makes A Photographer Professional?

Here is an interesting composition from wedding photographer Howard Kier of Magical Moments Photography. Howard nails it on the head with this one. Posted here with his permission...

What Makes a Photographer a Professional?
By Howard Kier, Certified Professional Wedding Photographer

When times are tough, those with pickup trucks start a landscaping business and those with cameras become wedding photographers. Yet when the first drought hits, those new landscapers quickly realize landscaping is not just about mowing lawns and just as quickly leave the business. There is so much more to consider. The same is true with wedding photography but, we don’t have droughts to weed out the unqualified photographers. Unfortunately, it is the consumer who ends up paying the price. What you first thought was a great deal, turns out to be tremendous heartbreak.

Sure all of us can play miniature golf and occasionally get a hole-in-one. But very few can play golf well enough to earn a living at the game. Photography is much the same way. Anybody can take a good picture once in a while. Some people become better than average. Fewer people are able to make a living as a Professional Photographer. What separates the true Professional Photographer from the Amateur?

First the professional is able to provide a repeatable, expected result upon demand. The pro golfer will hit the ball 250 yards down the fairway most of the time. They depend on skill and not luck to make the shot. It should be the same with your wedding photographer. The biggest difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional can be told to take a photo and is able to create a good predictable image. An amateur trusts it to luck. After all, you only get one chance to photograph the first kiss! Your photographer must be able to capture all of those special moments from your wedding day without leaving anything to chance.

Next a professional is prepared for the unexpected. When the pro golfer hits a shot into a bunker or sand trap, they know what to do to recover. A professional photographer knows what to do when a piece of equipment fails. They know what to do when the sky suddenly clouds over and then become sunny again. Just like a golfer trains for those difficult situations and makes them look easy, so does the professional photographer. After all, the professional photographer knows “P” on the camera does not stand for “Professional” but rather “Pretend” or “Phony.”

Just as a professional golfer continues to train, so does the true professional photographer. The true professional photographer is not looking for the quick buck. They are passionate about the product they want to deliver and will continue to learn. They attend seminars, conferences and are members of professional associations. This allows the professional photographer to stay abreast of the most current trends in the photography industry.

Sad to say, there are times when serious problems do occur. The professional photographer is prepared by being fully insured. If somebody were to trip over a camera bag, liability insurance is there to help. More importantly, many professional photographers carry Errors and Omissions Insurance to protect against everything from a missed shot to a total loss of all the photos due to a hard drive crash. In the absolute worst case something tragic happens like my car catches on fire as I'm on the way home from a wedding, my Errors and Omissions insurance will provide my client with another wedding day. Dresses will be cleaned, tuxes will be rerented, new flowers purchased.... Errors and Omissions is for more than just restaging that missed shot of the bride and her dad. It lets you and your photographer rest easy should anything completely unexpected occur.

Plumbers, Doctors, Electricians and many other professions are licensed. Unfortunately, professional photographers are not. Anybody can walk into the store, buy a professional looking camera and say they are a professional photographer. Just as there are full-time photographers who pretend to be professional photographers there are also part-time photographers who are truly professional photographers. It is up to you, the consumer, to make sure the photographer you hire for your special day is in fact really a professional photographer and not just pretending to be one. That great price you pay up front could cause you a lot of heartache after your wedding.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AJ's First Steelhead From Government Pier - Waukegan

My fishing buddy AJ went out on Monday night to try fishing off of Government Pier in Waukegan IL and he caught this nice Steelhead!

We have tried fishing from the piers several times and never had any luck. But he did this on his own and had a nice long battle with this fish! Luckily for him, another guy was out there and helped him net the fish.

AJ said it was a half hour fight to land this fish! But he didn't get to weigh it or measure it. It was dinner for him and his family! :)

Be sure to click on the image for a closer look.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Sorry, I Don't Work Here!"

It seems no matter where I go, people always think I work there.

Just yesterday while looking at the computer section at Costco, a lady came up to me to ask, "Excuse me... do these computers come with an antenna?" My first thought was, "Why would a computer come with an antenna?" My second thought was to say, "Sure and if you want, just go and pick out a new 50" TV set too! We are giving those away with every computer you buy." But what I said was, "Sorry, I don't know. I don't work here!"

This has happened to me a lot over the years. It seems no matter where I am, people come up to me and assume I work there. I'm really not sure why.

While I have had this happen at areas other than the electronic section of stores, most often it happens in the electronics section.

Now it just so happens that I do have a Bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering. And I did work at our family's high-end stereo store for many years after graduating college, but how would anyone know that by just looking at me?

I'm usually minding my own business looking at the various products on the shelves at the store when this happens. I'm not fixing a display or stocking the shelves with products. Still, people will come up and start asking me about the equipment or they will ask about the store's policy on returns or something like that. When I tell them I don't know because I don't work there, they always say, "Oh! I'm sorry! I thought you worked here!"

One day, I should just pretend I do work there and start writing up the order. Maybe I'll get a commission if I sell something! :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Small Pike From The Des Plaines River

I went fishing this morning with two of my nephews.

First we tried the pond at Oakton Community College... no luck. So we decided to head over to the Des Plaines River (DPR) and there I caught a very small snake! Ok, it was a very small pike, perhaps only 12 inches. Definitely not legal sized, I took a quick photo of him and then released him back to the DPR.

That was all we caught all day. We need bigger fish! This image was taken with the 2.0 MP camera in my cell phone.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Computer Needed Soon

It has been a while since I've gotten another computer, but with the addition of Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Adobe Lightroom 3.0, it may be time to do it soon.

I contacted Dell computers and they recommended I consider a Dell Studio XPS 9000 computer since it has a quad-core Intel processor in it which can be pumped up with lots of RAM. I'm not sure if this is the way to go, but it is a start for research purposes.

Many people wonder why I do not have an Apple MacIntosh computer instead of a PC. Well, considering how much software I would need to get for the Apple as well as the cost of the computer, I will need to stick with the PC. It functions just as well for me when working with Photoshop or Lightroom, but I feel it is more prone to attacks from viruses. It is just a fact of life if you are a PC owner.

So another computer is most likely my next big purchase. But it is necessary to do the work that I do all day long as my business grows for post production work with photographic images.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bob Taylor on GE Capital's New TV Commercial

I had to do a double take when I saw Bob Taylor from Taylor Guitars on GE Capital's new TV commercial last night.

Check it out by clicking here:

Or just watch it here!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chicago Chinatown 5K Race

Once again, I photographed the Chicago Chinatown 5K Race this past Saturday.

This year, there were plenty of runners doing their best to win the race or just to beat their own personal best. Congratulations goes again to this year's winner (who was also last year's winner) Feese Kleinjan (male - age 26) who made it back to the finish line in only 16 mins, 24 seconds!

The kids had two races as well, based on age groups. They always seem to have a good time.

To see all of the photos from the race, click here.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Brown Trout and King Salmon Out On Lake Michigan

Once again, I was out fishing on a boat in Lake Michigan with my new friends Keith and Beau. Last time, we caught three fish... all of which were 3-4 lbs each. Not bad, but they were nothing in comparison to what we caught last night!

We went out around 5:45 PM and started fishing around 6:10 PM in 40 feet of water. Almost immediately, we had our first bite! Beau grabbed the rod and pulled in a huge 12 lb. Brown Trout! From what I'm told, Brown Trout aren't all that common in July, but the water was cold enough to entice this one to come in closer to feed. We were fishing around 40 feet of water... maybe 2 miles from shore.

I pulled in two 7 lb King Salmon and also a small 3 lb King (the smallest of the bunch) and also lost one. I wasn't feeling all that well as we were really bouncing around on the boat this time and the Dramamine I took did not seem to help. Not long after losing one of the fish, I did what all land-lubbers do... tossed my cookies overboard! Luckily for me, I didn't have anything to eat since lunch and had been downing a lot of water on the trip, so at least all that came out was really just water. Keith and Beau had a good laugh as they watched me contribute some water to the water... but we didn't care... we were on the fish!

Beau pulled in a huge King Salmon which we later weighed in on my Boga Grip at 12lbs. And right after he pulled this one in, Keith landed the big fish of the day... a 14 lb King Salmon! This monster was HUGE! He later brought in another 7 lb King Salmon.

After all was done at around 8:50 PM, we felt satisfied that the night was a good one. In all, we landed 7 out of 8 fish. While my two 7 lb King Salmons were nice, they paled in comparison to what the experienced guys had pulled in. No matter, as I was lucky to be given a bunch of the catch to take home once again. After Keith did his amazing "fish autopsies," I brought my share home and weighed the fillets in at 11 lbs worth of fillets. That's not bad for a night's work! Beau brought some of his home as did Keith, but they shared the majority of it with me.

While I am still trying to get my sea legs, I'm determined to go back out again and catch a big one this summer. Maybe next time, I'll have to get another motion-sickness "patch" to go behind my ears, because the dramamine doesn't seem to help much. I'll go more prepared next time! Be sure to click on each photo for a closer look.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Doyle Dykes - Freedom Songs

Here's a video of Doyle Dykes playing some songs appropriate for this Fourth of July weekend. Enjoy!