Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Vegas Baby!

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! We've all seen the television commercial and it gets our imagination going every time. I on the other hand want everything that happens to me in Vegas to come home with me. Let me explain. I recently joined NAPP otherwise known as the National Association of Photoshop Professionals and the Western Conference known as Photoshop World is happening later this week at the gorgeous Mandalay Bay Hotel in Vegas. I'm going and I can hardly wait!

Photoshop. We've all heard about it (at least in my world we have) and a lot of us have used it in one form or another. Students use it at school, most photographers I know use it, and designers of all varieties use it. "That's what Photoshop is for," or "I'll just Photoshop that," have become standard phrases in our every day language. And why not? It's a fantastic tool that can not only enhance a photograph but save it too.

There has been a debate over the years about leaning too much on Photoshop instead of working hard on technique and getting the photo right in the camera. Yes, there will always be those that take the easy road, but today I'm not talking about those people. I'm talking about people like me who work really hard on technique so that the photos we shoot will be fantastic. But sometimes I need a little help and that's where Photoshop comes in.

There are times when a lighting situation or shoot location puts us in a place where we have less control than we'd like and at those times Photoshop can be a life saver. It's also nice to be able to touch up portraits and finely tune photographs giving us the best possible image for our clients.

The three day conference will be packed, not only with eager photographers and designers, but with some of the biggest names in the world of photography. It will be hard to choose from the myriad of workshops available, but I think I'm going to concentrate on the ones that deal with skin tones, lighting, and taking great portraits.

Scott Kelby is among the names listed along with other great teachers like Joe McNally, David Ziser, and Moose Peterson (I sincerely hope that is a nickname. I would never name my kid Moose!). Scott Kelby created NAPP and is the editor and publisher of Photoshop Magazine, which I read every month. I am so excited about meeting him. I own three of his books and have literally sat with a book open in my lap following his directions step-by-step. He is an excellent writer and I have learned SO much from his books.

So tomorrow I'll be winging my way to Vegas, thanks to a great deal on tickets from Southwest Airlines, and putting my eager little brain into overload. My plan is to come home with lots of techniques and information that will enhance my work as a photographer. My ultimate goal is to give my clients the best possible image I can, and I believe it's only possible if I continue to improve my skills both behind the camera and at my computer. I won't be blogging again until after I return next Monday, October 5th, so I'll see you then.

Now go forth and do something to improve your technique!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Here Comes the Cavalry!

It was a beastly hot day as I drove up to Old Poway Park, but the idea of watching the Cavalry save the day was more appealing that staying in out of the heat. I've never actually been in Poway, so I was pleasantly surprised by how pretty the city is. The old western style of buildings in the center of the old part of town really helped set the scene for what was about to happen.

I parked outside Old Poway Park and walked past a fabulous farmer's market. That will definitely be on my list of things to do another day, because the fruit and vegetables looked so yummy. But I had to keep going if I wanted to see the Cavalry save the day. On I walked past a beautiful fountain next to the Hamburger Factory, (hmmm. . . lunch!) over the wooden footbridge, until I finally reached the encampment. Canvas tents were held up by wooden poles, rifles were pitched like a tepee, and I suddenly felt I had slipped back into history.

The old steam engine train was making its way round and round the park with excited children, old and young, thoroughly enjoying themselves. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! I just about jumped out of my skin. The Gatling Gun was being fired with smoke filling the air and gun enthusiasts smiling at the sight of it.

Off in the distance the Old Poway Train was chugging along its way when all of a sudden pistols could be heard - the train was being robbed! The money was brought off the train while the passengers waited hoping to be on their way without anymore shots being fired. What's that I hear? It's a bugle announcing the Cavalry's coming.

The face off began. The train robbers were face to face with the Cavalry and there were only two choices they could make - leave peacefully or take their chances with the Cavalry. They decided to fight and the shots rang out piercing the air. Children cried and smoke choked the air. One by one the robbers fell until they had been defeated. The Cavalry had saved the day. And because this was pretend or reenactment of events that happened in history, the robbers got to their feet and bowed for their appreciative audience.

I decided to wander among the tents to see all the historical guns, medical equipment, clothing, and daily items used by the Cavalry, fur traders, the sheriff, and others who had come out to give us all a little taste of history.

Off to the Hamburger Factory for lunch and relaxing in the cool before going back to enjoy more of my day at Old Poway Park. By the way, my hamburger was delicious.

This November the Civil War Reenactment will take place in Moorpark. It will have many more groups like the ones I saw at Old Poway Park and they will reenact actual civil war battles. I can't wait. Maybe I'll see you there. In the mean time check out all my photos from Old Poway Park on my website

Now go forth and make it an exciting day and maybe stay inside where it's cool!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Legal Pirates and a Roman God

My day at the Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point Harbor was filled with fond memories of the brig Pilgrim, fabulous tall ships, and scallywag pirates, which I wrote about in my last two blogs. But there was more to see and enjoy that day, including some privateers and a Roman god.

Remember the cute rat pirate I wrote about in my last blog? Well, as I was talking to his "daddy," I learned that he wasn't really a pirate, but rather a privateer. "There's a difference," he told me. Pirates plundered for their own gain, but a privateer plundered for the queen or king depending on the country he was working for.

If the privateer was a "sea dog," which meant he was working for Queen Elizabeth I of England, it meant that he had a legal right to attack enemy ships and plunder their gold for the crown. The ship would be licensed and carry a letter with the queen's seal permitting attacks without fear of punishment. In exchange, the queen received a share of all plunder and increased the size of her navy without having to pay the crew, maintain, or supply them.The best known privateer is Sir Francis Drake who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. What a fascinating bit of history!

I have a question for you: How often have you gone out to enjoy the day and you just happened to run into a Roman god? Well, I did and he was amazing! His name in real life is Lou, but for that day he was the Roman god Neptune, god of the sea in Roman mythology. He was 8 feet tall (okay, not really, but it sure felt that way standing next to him) and he had put together a frothy green costume that really looked like he had just walked out of the sea with sea shells growing out of his head.

The kids looked up at him as if he touched the sky and had magic spilling out of his trident! And, of course, they all had to have their pictures taken with him. Can you imagine what their friends and teachers said when they went back to school and told them they had met Neptune!

Well, I can't finish my blogging about the Tall Ships Festival without sharing a photo of a gorgeous exotic bird. There were several on display just outside the Institute. This one was my favorite, because he had such spunk. Every time I tried to take his picture, he would try to eat my camera lens! What a guy. There are more photos of the other birds I saw as well as all the splendid things I saw that day. Please stop by my website and enjoy looking at them, and while you're there, please sign my guestbook.

Next time train robbers and the cavalry. It's a another fun step back into history. Until then. . .

Go forth and make it a day to learn something fascinating!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pirates Arrrrrrrr!

Arrrrrrr! I heard it again and again at the Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point. Young and old alike. Kids with plastic swords and eye patches. Dad's acting like kids Arrrrrrring with their children. Unsuspecting demure ladies blushing when caught Arrrrrrring by a stranger who returned their Arrrrrrr with a grin (that stranger would be me!). But that was part of what made the day so much fun in Dana Point - Pirates! They were everywhere delighting kids and adults alike, including me. Their costumes were so intricate and the makeup (for those who wore it) was incredible. One would have thought he had just walked onto the set of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. With the tall ships as a back drop, the pirates fit in perfectly.

Some pirates had come from Pirate's Dinner Adventure in Buena Park while others simply enjoyed being at the festival in costume. There's something about putting on a costume that brings out the kid in everyone. We do and say things we would never do and say otherwise. It's license for adults to play legitimately without being thought of as being silly. And it's fun for those who get to hang out with them and partake in a bit of silliness that takes us back to our childhoods.

Most of the pirates had their acts down perfectly. On cue they would put on the pirate face - lift the chin, squint one eye almost shut, and look like a scallywag. And every other person moving along an impossibly crowded walkway wanted to stop and have a picture taken with each pirate. I can't blame them, of course, but I was more concerned with taking photos than being in the photos. The cutest photos, of course, were the children who had dressed up in their own pirate costumes and stood with twinkling eyes with their grown up counterparts.

So I saved the best for last. I think it's possibly the cutest little pirate I've ever seen. I was walking through the tent area when I saw a great looking pirate. After snapping a photo, he said, "Look down." I looked down, and inside a leather pouch tied to his waist sash was a beautiful blond rat with a tiny pink nose and beady black eyes. I'm used to handling pet rats, since I know several teachers who keep them as classroom pets. They have wonderful personalities and are quite wonderful to hold. Their little noses and wiskers tickle when they nuzzle into your hand.

I asked the pirate if he would take him out of the pouch so I could take a photo of the cute little guy. "Would you like to see him in his pirate hat?" Of course I would!!! "YES!" I said almost too enthusiatically and he proceded to pull out the tiniest little pirate hat you've ever seen. On it went and I snapped away. Here's a photo of the littlest pirate. Too cute!

Come back again and read about about the privateers and Neptune - yes, he was there too - in my next blog entry. In the meantime you can check out all my pirate photos on my website elizabethheathphotography. Don't forget to sign my guestbook while you're there.

Now go forth and make it a day to have some fun and be a kid again!

Elizabeth - Arrrrrrr!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Remembering A Good Time!

Last weekend Dana Point's Marine Institute played host to the Tall Ships Festival and I was there! There was no way I was going to miss that shindig. It only took an hour to reach the harbor on an overcast Sunday morning, but I had high hopes that the sky would clear and bring a glorious blue to replace the morning gray.

As I drove down, I couldn't help but remember my only other visit to the Marine Institute roughly fifteen years ago. I was teaching fifth grade at the time (yes, I teach school when I'm not working as a photographer) and my students were just about bursting with excitement. They were headed to Dana Point Harbor and the brig 'Pilgrim' where they would be spending the night. They would exit the bus and enter the year 1834 as lowly sailors swabbing the decks, polishing brass, hauling water, and cooking (yes, cooking!).
I had read them the book Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana recounting his journey on the Pilgrim. Dana had an attack of the measles which affected his vision. Thinking it might help his sight, Dana left Harvard to enlist as a common sailor on a voyage around Cape Horn. He kept a diary throughout the voyage, and, after returning, he wrote Two Years Before the Mast.

His ship was on a voyage to trade goods from the east for cow hides. Interestingly, the bluffs near Mission San Juan Capistrano presented an obstacle to taking the cow hides to the beach for subsequent loading onto the ship. So, Dana, along with others of the Pilgrim's crew, tossed the hides from the bluffs. Some hides got stuck part way down the cliff and Dana was lowered with ropes to retrieve them. Since that day, that point where the bluffs were located, took on Dana's name, and is today the city of Dana Point.

So here I was again, but for a much different reason - tall ships! It was not hard to imagine life in the mid-1800's looking at the sheer cliffs that enclose the harbor. Today houses sit precariously at the top and the sea wall makes the harbor calm and appealing to visitors in the 21st Century. The visiting tall ships rocked in happy tandem all except the Pilgrim sitting in her place of honor as she welcomed young and old alike to explore a little bit of history.

And explore is exactly what I intended to do. There were the tall ships, of course, but there were also pirates, and exotic birds, and the Ocean Institute, and the ocean, and the art festival, and cute dogs, well, you get the idea. There was a lot to do too much to write about in one blog entry. So in my next few entries, I'll write more about my adventures at the Tall Ships Festival. You can enjoy all my photos from my day at Dana Point Harbor in the gallery on my website, elizabethheathphotography.com. Until next time. . .

Go out and make it a day to enjoy a little bit of history.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How Much are They Worth?

I'm back after a very busy week and I have a question for you. How much are your memories worth? Last week I had dinner with a friend and while we looked through some photos I had done for her, she said, "I wish you had done our wedding." She looked really sad when she said it, so I asked her what had happened at her wedding.

Her husband and then fiance had hired a "photographer" to take photos of their wedding up North in the wine country. My friend had done all the wedding planning, but left her husband to arrange for the photographer. Apparently he knew someone at work who said, "Sure, I'll take photos for you."

Well, you might already have guessed how this is going to go. Every detail of the wedding day was perfect and the wedding was just beautiful. When the newly weds went to the home of the "photographer" to look at the photos, the new bride was devastated. Each photo was worse than the last and the comment from the "photographer" with each photo was, "Well, a professional photographer would have had the equipment to take care of that problem." After the fourth or fifth excuse, steam was billowing from my friend's ears. Her new husband knew better than to say anything to her as they left.

It turns out that the "photographer" wasn't a photographer at all. He was a colleague of her husband who fancied himself as a landscape photographer. What my friend saw of his work did not impress her at all. I guess the first clue that this guy was not a photographer was when he showed up at the wedding, all expenses paid I might add, and he pulled out a little pocket digital camera. Are we all thinking Oh, my gosh!!! at this point?

So back to my original question. What are your memories worth? Are they worth as much as you pay for the liquor or the flowers or the huge limo? So many people choose to splurge on everything but the photography and like my sweet friend, they spend every year after the wedding regretting that decision. It's been five years since the fateful pocket digital camera incident and my friend has not looked at the photos once. It's just too painful.

I've offered to take the couple out to the beach in their wedding attire and have a do over, but even that will not erase the sadness of losing all the memories from that special day. So the next time you have a decision to make about hiring a professional photographer or asking Uncle Harry to take the photos for you instead, consider this - how much are your memories worth?

Go forth and make it a day for great decisions you won't regret!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Time to Update the Family Photo!

Has it been forever since you gathered the family together for a family portrait? Time flies and before you know it the kids will be grown and out on their own. Updating the family portrait on a regular basis is a great idea. When you think about having your portait done, consider picking places you enjoy spending time as a family and places that have special meaning for you. In the years to come, those family photos will provide many wonderful memories.

I looked at the calendar today and couldn't believe that the year is starting to wind down. Christmas will be here before you know it. This year would be a great time to start a family tradition with an annual Christmas portrait. The family will begin to look forward to deciding where the family portrait will be each year. What fun you will have deciding on your outfits and the color scheme you will choose for each sitting. And since you're all dressed up why not add to your tradition by choosing a special place to have a meal together once the photo session is over.

Best of all you will have all your photos to chronical how your family is changing and growing over the years. I've got an idea. Why not start your new tradition today. Give me a call and we'll set a date for your family Christmas portrait. You can reach me at 619-787-4246 or email me through the contact link on my website http://www.elizabethheathphotography.com/.
Make it a day to start building memories!