Sunday, March 15, 2009

What should we teach our kids?

Let me start by saying that I have really great kids. Tracy and I have taught them right from wrong, and we don't allow disrespectful or ungracious behaviour. We are really proud of who they are becoming.

However, I've been wondering if it is enough to make sure they do their homework, be responsible with their school clothes and backpacks, and simply expect them to make the right choices, which we have discussed with them since they were toddlers. I see so many kids in the world today who have no manners, no respect, and no character (no good character, anyway). Now, is this all because I am 43 and I'm not supposed to understand the next generation. I don't think so... I honestly feel there are too many kids and young adults who just don't get it... Our basic culture has gone off the beaten path.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out what to do about it. I felt like there isn't anything that I, as an individual, can do to impact where America is headed. I finally figured out what it is that I have to do. I need to teach my kids about integrity, honesty, responsibility, accountability, humility, graciousness, kindness, charity, forgiveness, motivation, patience, being frugal, to pay cash for everything and use credit for nothing (except a house), and the list goes on and on. Anyone who knows our kids knows that we have done well by them. However, I don't think we have done enough. I am going to start having discussions with them weekly about a different character trait. I need to educate them on how to be an example to follow in this world, how to be a leader, how to be a cultural army of one. Can I change all of America by teaching these things to my three boys? Chances are, no... Can I help my kids to go out into this world, and maybe affect a change in their sphere of influence, throughout their lives. Yes, I can do that. If Tracy and I do it, and our friends who feel the same way do it, and many, many others who are strangers to us do it... then I think there can be real change in this world. It is time to get real, and make values important in our lives. It is much more important than video games, and going to the movies, and trying to make the most money, and who knows what all else...

We are going to do it, and we think our kids will have better lives because of it. It seems like this concept got lost along the way somewhere, when you look at our country as a whole. It's time to get back to basics, back to what is important. Anyone care to join in?

Fake Photography Studio

Tracy sponsored a Stampin Up event at the shop on Saturday. We normally close at 2:00, but the rubber stamping party was going on until 4:00. I had an hour to kill and decided to see what images I could come up with without any special lighting equipment. I took a book, and a couple sheets of white paper to use as a background. I found a few simple objects in the shop to experiment with. I had on camera flash, which I blocked from hitting the subject, but used strategically placed sheets of paper to reflect the light where I wanted it.
Here are the results... Click on the images to see larger (and more detail).

The Egg

The Boylan's Soda Bottle (which I drank in order to be able to do this!)

And a small demitasse (espresso cup)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ethan's new bike...

I'm going to start posting a few photos from the past every now and then.
Here is one from last July, when Ethan got a new bike. It was just before dusk, and he was riding around in front of our house. I shot several images of him with a slow shutter speed, trying to 'pan' or follow him with the camera during the long exposure. This blurs the background, and gives an interesting effect. I also had the flash fire.

And here is one of Josh in 2003 at Mt Vernon, George Washington's estate in Virginia:

And one of Jonah ready to take on the world in July 2004:

What Recession???

Tracy and I prepared ourselves for the worst when we saw what was coming with the economy. We've known for years that things were going to crash. There were too many people in $500,000 houses that work normal middle-class jobs. They were able to get the houses on interest only loans at 2% interest, with a balloon payment in 5 or 10 years. We've been waiting for this bubble to burst for some time...

What we weren't sure about, though, was how bad it could be, and how will it affect Nemo's. Well, so far, we continue to see growth, not a downturn in sales. We decided long ago that it is all up to God. If He wants us doing this, then we'll show up everyday and work hard. If not, then it isn't in our best interest to fight upstream, trying to do something that is not God's will for our lives.

Whether God is bringing us customers, whether we are experiencing normal growth for a business about to enter its third year of operations, whether it is an anomaly in otherwise difficult economical times... who knows. All I know is that we are having solid sales, and if this keeps up, we will be able to weather the storm. I say this now, but things could be completely different in a month, or six months... That is where faith comes in, and we have plenty of that.

It is our job to provide the best possible quality products, the best customer service based on real interactions with our customers, and to provide a clean and comfortable environment. We do that. Our growth could be because the unemployment office is next door, and they are having record increases in patrons. Are unemployed people buying coffee and lunch from us? I don't know. It could be that word is slowly but surely getting out to the market about who we are, and what kind of shop we run (an awesome one!). It could be that people are cutting back on extravagant luxuries, and settling for the simple luxuries in life (like good coffee). It may very well be a huge mix of everything. So be it. God owns the place, and we'll keep showing up for work. Owning a business requires a great deal of humility, and being humble goes a long way. Knowing that our shop's future depends on everyone except us is kind of crazy. Learning that you are not the one in control is a difficult lesson in life, but well worth the trip. We do what we do, and we do it well because we care. That's all I have to say about that...

I've spent some time over the last several weeks consolidating digital media from seven or eight different computers, all into one computer. I started by having my film based photos put on a CD. I could then open them in Photoshop and do the most amazing things in a very short period of time. Ansel Adams would have loved Photoshop! I started using digital cameras more than film in about 2000. The consulting firm I worked for bought the first Sony Mavic digital camera. It had a slot for 3.5" floppy disks right in the camera! Olympus then started producing consumer based digital cameras, and I had a couple of those. The quality wasn't there, but the convenience was, and the ability to work with images in Photoshop was life changing! Nikon finally noticed, and began producing their Coolpix line of cameras. I paid more money for a 'prosumer' Coolpix 5700 than I had ever paid for a film camera body (and I have some very nice Nikon film bodies!). That camera was stolen, and I replaced it with a Sony F-717, which was groundbreaking at the time. Through all of these advancements, I knew in the back of my mind that the quality was still lacking. Finally, people started manufacturing DSLR's, interchangeable lens camera bodies, just like our old film bodies, but digital. I bought a Canon 10D and fell in love with photography all over again. The 10D is a great camera, but then the Canon 20D came out, and I had to have one. I started shooting weddings, and knew that you crush peoples dreams if you have any technical difficulties and can't shoot photos (reality for film or digital shooters). So, for redundancy, just in case a camera fails in the middle of a wedding, I bought a second Canon 20D. I shoot weddings with a Canon 24-70 f2.8L lens on one body, and a Canon 70-200 f4.0L lens on the other. Works perfect... short, wide range on one, longer range on the second, both lenses are Canon's professional L series glass. Just last week, I upgraded to a Canon 5D, which is a DSLR with full frame sensor (Google it if you don't know what that means). I also have numerous video clips from those many point and shoot cameras (I also have several Canon Sureshot cameras A80, and the flagship point and shoots Canon G6, and a Canon G9, etc...) that also shoot video, as well as hours and hours of footage with my Panasonic GS-400 3 CCD digital camcorder.

As digital camera sensors improved (more megapixels), so did the amount of space the files took on your hard drive. You can easily turn a 3MB image file into a 60MB, 70MB, 80MB or even larger Photoshop file with a few layers, adjustment layers, styles, etc... Then, you progress as a photographer and finally start shooting RAW instead of JPGS, and each image file takes up 12MB each. If you shoot 800 images at a wedding, batch process them, then create custom edited Photoshop files or TIFs with the 200 best images, you have a project folder approaching 20GB in size. It would take almost no effort to fill up a 200GB hard drive. Knowing that a failed hard drive can lose all of your wedding files for a client, it is imperative to have the project folder duplicated, or backed up to a second hard drive. Now do this, both for personal photos, and for clients for 6, 7, 8, or 9 years, and you can really take up some storage space. Then, buy a pro-level film and slide scanner and begin converting your tens of thousands of film negatives to digital files, and... well, you get the idea. I have an entire array of external hard drives, not to mention five internal hard drives in my Photoshop computer. I also have another seven or eight computers, all housing various personal photos and video.

Well, I have begun the process of consolidating all of this data onto one computer, my main Photoshop and video editing machine. Did you know you can now get Tera-bite hard drives for under $100??? I remember my roommate in the Navy buying 500MB hard drives (1/2000th of a tera-bite) for $1100 when they first came out. Crazy...
Anyway, there is a problem with backing up all of my photos, and all of my clients photos on multiple hard drives, and external hard drives. If our house burns down, you lose everything. Grabbing my computer on the way out of the house is certainly part of my fire drill plan. There is a service called Carbonite that will back up an unlimited amount of data to an offsite backup place. The data is all encrypted before it leaves your computer, so it is safe. Bored Carbonite employees on the night shift are not going to be looking through all of your personal photos, and putting your most embarrassing moments in life on the internet. Anyway, I purchased Carbonite service for our POS computer at Nemo's. All of our financial data, all of our forms, all of our everything is backed up at Carbonite. If anything ever happens to our computer, we get everything back with very little hassle. All this for $49 a year. Well, I'm going to do the same for my Photoshop computer, but first, I have to get everything onto a single computer. The great thing about doing this is that I have looked at images I have not seen in years. I have spent the last couple of weeks watching my kids grow up all over again. It's really been great! If you have entered the digital world, and you don't have a backup plan in place, I suggest you get one pronto. I currently have four hard drives that won't work. I can't help but wonder what amazing photos and memories are locked inside, never to be retrieved (unless data recovery service drops from the current several thousand dollars to a more reasonable several hundred dollars).

Well, I guess you could say I'm rambling. Bottom line... get yourself some digital backup if you don't have any. I'm going to bed.
Good night!