Saturday, October 24, 2009

Yet Another New Chapter In My Life

Aduro_G4_0003 My life has, so far, been a simple one from my perspective. I pretty much fly along whatever path life takes while making minor course corrections as I go and think it is necessary. It’s kind of funny because I often go through life like I am having one long 39-year out-of-body experience. I see things happening as though I am watching them happen to someone else. I have always lead my life as honest and kind to others as I could be. Not because I am religious, I am far from that, but because it just feels right.

Unfortunately I get taken advantage of a lot and that is too bad. I don’t lie to people because, first of all it’s not fair, and also because I have a crappy memory and I don’t want to waste my brain cells trying to remember what I said to whom. It is much easier just to tell the truth all the time and not worry about it. That said, I am not going to say things that will hurt other people. Sometimes you can leave out details and let people jump to their own conclusions without actually having to say anything.

That is another thing, I listen a lot. Some people talk WAY too much. It’s like they just want to hear themselves talk. I can’t even count the number of times I almost said something and decided not to and it turned out that I was very glad I kept my mouth shut.

In business I have found that being a good listener is one of the most valuable traits you could ever have. I sit in meetings all the time where two people are talking and they are both saying the exact same thing but arguing right and left about it because they don’t listen to what each other is saying.

Anyways, I’m rambling on but the point is that things just happen to me. It’s like the laws of attraction operate in my favor because I generally always have positive energy. Take work, which is basically the main topic of this post. When I was going to college I was working with my dad in construction during the summer and with a computer store during the winter. I put myself through college, books, tuition, everything. It was hard, and it took a long time to pay back the student loans, but I did it. When I got out of college and started the other half of my university transfer program at U of C, I was literally out of money and starving. I was only able to get about a year and a half into my two year program before I had to get a “real job” and neglect to finish my degree.

My first IT job was at a computer store as a technician. It came naturally to me and I enjoyed working with computers and dealing with the public. After a few months I was promoted to “Saturday Manager” which didn’t sit will with some of the other people that were there for a lot longer than me. Still, I took on the responsibility with gusto and did a very good job of it. When I had any spare time I was cleaning up the place and organizing things so we could be more efficient. Well all good things must come to an end and we found out that we were going to be bought out by a big US company.

As that boat started shaking I got a call from a college buddy that was working for a small software company downtown. They needed a new system administrator and thought I might be interested. Naturally I took the job right away and moved on to the next chapter of my life while the computer store went out of business (the buyout never happened). The new job was not too bad and they had a pretty relaxed environment. Although the pay wasn’t that great there was a lot of room for advancement. Within a year I was talking to my boss letting him know that being a sysadmin was not my main goal in life and that I wanted to take advantage of my education and get into programming. I got the speech about how they don’t pigeon hole people and that as long as I could find someone to fill my position they would be glad to have another good developer on staff.

As my eight and a half year career with the company went on, I quickly grew. People above me left and I climbed up the ranks to where I was doing project management, business analysis and technical sales support with my good friend and co-worker, Bill, who just so happened to be the guy that originally hired me at the computer store when I was going to college. I ended up suggesting to my boss that we hire him when the computer store went under.

My best friend since grade three, Chris, also joined our company after some nagging from me for a couple years. The three of us were an awesome team and we got a lot of work into the company. Again, things don’t last forever and one of the partners that owned the company got cancer and passed away. The remaining partner in the company, my boss, had a lot of legal crap to deal with and the boat started shaking pretty good. Work began to dry up too and we had to let a lot of good people go. That is when I got this crazy idea to start my own software company.

After a lot more nagging I convinced Chris to join me and we started our own software company. It was awesome, we worked hard, treated our clients with respect and did a good job. The company grew over 6 years to 17 people including Chris and I. We were getting a lot of work, but we were not charging enough and our capital and operational costs were way too high. With a tearful goodbye we were forced to close the office, sell off everything and let all our employees go. We were originally going to file for bankruptcy but found out that is more expensive than just paying the debt ourselves. That and I also believe that when you make your bed you need to sleep in it. We got into this mess ourselves and it is our responsibility to get out of it ourselves.

So began another chapter in my life. Down to just the two of us, I raised our rates up to where they should be and we both got a decent amount of work contracting. I was working for the Airport on a contract doing Project Management work and it was really a great job. I got along with everyone and enjoyed all the interesting technology I was involved with. Yet again, it didn’t last. The amount of work they had for me got very slim and due to some major construction projects over the next 10 – 20 years and the recession they were trimming budgets right and left. Turns out I would probably have nothing much to do for the rest of this year and very little if anything next year. With a house and a young family to support, panic was setting in. I had resumes out everywhere and went to a couple interviews, but nothing much came out of it. That is, until one of the vendors that we dealt with at the airport invited me for lunch.

This is getting to be a very long story, but anyway he offered me an incredible opportunity in his company as a Senior Business Analyst. I just finished my first week there and so far I am very impressed. This, I think will be one of the most exciting chapters in my work life. The company produces a Geographic Information System (think Google Maps, but for both outside and inside buildings). Something I am very interested in, and I look forward to learning a lot more about.

For those who are wondering, the software company we started is still fully operational but my time and effort towards the company is much more limited than it was.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Priceless Value of a Photograph

Here is something that we have all heard before in some form or another, but I feel is important to be reminded of on a regular basis.

I was recently reminded by a good friend’s post on Facebook regarding his grandmother, about how priceless a photograph is.  He posted a series of photographs from when his grandmother was younger.  As I looked through the images I thought to myself how many memories would be completely forgotten if people had not taken pictures.

Alan & Elaine on Totem Pole

The first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce titled “View from the Window at Le Gras”. Since then things have changed, technology has advanced and millions and millions of pictures have been taken.  There are many moments in history that were captured in photographs.  Families all over the world clicked away and took pictures of themselves, their children and families as they grew and experienced life.  Photojournalists took pictures of famous events, politicians, wars, celebrities, celebrations, sports, and local news events.  Without those pictures the only historical records we would have are what people wrote.  Obviously you can’t always trust what people write and the visual reference of a photograph makes a big difference… that is until the invention of Adobe Photoshop. 

Alan & ElaineMotivated to write this post, I decided to go through some of my own old photographs.  I was just going to grab one or two old shots to stick in this post and the coolest thing happened.  My two young boys (5 and 6) came in to see what I was doing.  They started looking at the old pictures with me and it was really cute.  My oldest son, Tony, saw a picture of me when I had long hair, glasses and a moustache and he said “who is that?”  I laughed and said it was daddy when I was younger.  He gave me a strange look and said “you look like a bad Elvis!”.  My wife and I laughed so hard we were crying.

I hope you all go out and take lots and lots of pictures.  They don’t necessarily have to be good pictures, but capture those moments, those places, those people.  It is so important for the future, for yourself and for your family and those that follow years and years down the road.

Alan Birthday Cake

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Schools Kill Creativity

I was at work today and none of my usual friends/co-workers were available for lunch so I decided to sit in my office with the headphones on and watch one of the TED talks on my laptop. 

ted_logo If you haven’t heard of TED before you are seriously missing out on some incredible conferences on Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  You can read more about TED on their website, but here is a quick quote from their site…

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

The main reason for this post is the fact that the particular talk that I listened to today was by Sir Ken Robinson who is a creativity expert and led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education.  He was even knighted in 2003 for his achievements.  There is more about him on the TED website, but his talk titled “Schools Kill Creativity” was really amazing.  He is an excellent speaker, very intelligent and an extremely funny man with his dry British sense of humor.

This particular talk by Sir Robinson brings to light some very interesting ideas in that education throughout the years teaches people to focus on only the left side of their brain under the common misconception that you can never get a good job or make any real money unless you get a degree or even better a master’s degree or a PHD.  Think about it, the way it works out is that the “A” students end up teaching the “B” students to work for “C” students.  Your laughing right now aren’t you, because it is so true.  I hope you can spare the time to listen to the entire talk as people really need to open their eyes and change the way they look at education.  Without creativity we can’t solve the world’s most complex problems.  We have all heard the term “Thinking outside of the box”, and really what that means is to use some creativity to solve the problem.

Ring Tones

I just upgraded my Nero software for burning CDs and DVDs and it came with a bonus program called Mediashop RingPlus 3.0. Not a program I would have actually purchased, but since I got it for free I tried it out.

I have always wanted to have the closing theme from my favorite podcast TWiT as my ringtone and now I do...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Unbelievable Dining at a Fair Price

Today I had the pleasure of dining at a relatively obscure restaurant in Calgary called “Avocado Restaurant and Lounge” with President & Co-Founder Troy Miller.avocado

This family owned restaurant markets itself as Urban – Mexican and is a very unique concept in Calgary.  Troy told me his story about how he started out at age 24 with a Wendy’s fast food restaurant.  By the time he got tired of the fast food thing he and his brother owned four Wendy’s restaurants.  They wanted to get out of fast food, but they were not interested in moving into the upscale Earls and Joey Tomatoes market.  The way Troy describes his concept is a nice sit-down restaurant with fast food service.  A great place for lunch, you can be in and out in 30 minutes. 

He and his brother came up with all the recipes themselves after traveling around Mexico tasting different Mexican style food.  They were unable to find anything that quite fit in with what they wanted to serve at their new restaurant so they came up with their own unique dishes and incredible flavors.  There is nothing at Avocado that is bland, everything on the menu is a mouth full of flavors that leaves you feeling satisfied.  The portions are generous and the number of items on the menu is just right to provide variety, yet not leave you with too many decisions.  I had the “Ranchero Fajita Burrito” with a tossed salad and the restaurants own avocado dressing.  All the food is made fresh and it was wonderful.  With the first bite my mouth was watering and looking forward to the next.

The decor I would describe as modern with a South American flair.  While I was there they were playing the movie “The Three Amigos” with Steve Martin being projected on the white wall above the bar.

The current location that has been open for four years is just across from IKEA on Heritage Meadows Way S.E.  Troy is very busy right now with the planning and construction for three other locations including the soon to open 17th avenue location.

If your in the mood for something a little different to spice up your life then I highly recommend you dine at Avocado.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Podcasting for a better life

I am so addicted to podcasts!  I have been listening to a few different ones for a while now, mostly to do with technology and photography.  I can't believe the high quality productions that are available, all for free.  I really enjoy several of the shows put out by "the president of the Internet" Leo Laporte:
  • TWiT (This Week in Technology)
  • The Daily Giz Wiz
  • TWig (This Week in Google)
Other shows I really like include:
  • TWiP (This Week in Photography)
  • The Candid Frame
  • Photofocus
  • Cranky Geeks with John C. Dvorak
All of them are available on iTunes, and they all have corresponding websites where you can get show notes and links to things they have discussed. 

Honestly, you won't even believe how many different podcasts are available on pretty much any topic you can think of.  I found one for learning to speak Spanish (SpanishPod), and even some on Project Management (PM Podcast & Controlling Chaos). 

I think the best thing about podcasting is the freedom to publish anything yourself.   All you need is a good microphone and something to talk about.  Look forward to my upcoming podcast.  I can't provide any details yet, but I hope it will be interesting and educational.

Posted via email from The Posterous World According To Al

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pain in the SPAM

I am getting so sick and tired of spam... If you open spam messages to read them or worse, you actually buy stuff that is advertised is spam messages then please punch yourself right in the face for me.  


Posted via email from The Posterous World According To Al

Monday, June 29, 2009

Model shoot at Rat’s Nest Cave in Canmore, Alberta

This past Sunday (June 29th), I had the most amazing experience as a photographer.  My friend Paul Spenard organized a model portfolio shoot inside a real cave called “Rat’s Nest Cave” in Canmore, Alberta.  The brave and talented model that Paul managed to convince was the lovely Tabitha Alice, and she was amazing.

Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenard Just to set the scene, you arrive in Canmore and meet with the folks from Canmore Caverns who are the only group that literally have the keys and the permission to take people inside the cave.  There is a huge steel grate covering the only entrance into the cave and it is locked behind you as you enter to prevent people from coming in behind you.  They are very strict about safety and you feel very comfortable under their care.

You follow the guide in your vehicle as they drive up to the cave site, which is about a 20 minute hike up a mountain.  Some of the most beautiful scenery too which made the long hike carrying all my heavy camera gear a little bit more bearable.

Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul SpenardWhen you arrive at the cave site, you suit up in coveralls, knee pads, safety harness, and a helmet.  Then you are briefed on what you are about to endure.  Apparently many people chicken out at this point, but the three of us were eager to get started.   Once inside the grate, the best way to Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenarddescribe the next few minutes is that you do not want to be there if your claustrophobic!   I had to pass my camera bag down through the passage that was just a bit larger than my body as I made my way down.  There are a lot of animal bones inside the cave that are moved around by the rats (yes, I said rats) as they make their nests (hence the name of the cave).  We did not see any rats while we were there, but there was the odd patch of rat droppings that were actually quite a bit larger than I expected.  I must say, it was cool to have Paul with us as he is an archeologist and was explaining what each bone Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenardwas and from which animal it came from.  

We continued down through the cave headed for an open cavern called “The Grotto”.  This was supposed to be the most spectacular area of the cave and it did not disappoint.  There were formations nearly everywhere including these crystal looking things on the ceiling that look like soda straws.  Other formations look like pigs ears and bacon, which are apparently their names, so not too hard to remember.

Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenard

This was, by far, the most difficult lighting situation I have ever been in.  Basically we were in the darkest place on earth.  Just for fun our guide, Adam Walker, told to turn off our lights to which we basically saw NOTHING.  He said to go ahead and close our eyes to see if there was a difference, and there wasn’t.  So if you are a photographer and you have experience working in low light situations, I challenge you to get a good shot here!!!  Especially when you are limited to what your allowed to bring in (basically two small bags per group).  Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenard I brought a Nikon SB800 and a Nikon SB900 plus a few LED lights to just give us a bit of ambient to work with.  To make the situation worse, the place had about 100% humidity and a very very very fine dust that gets into everything.  I dared NOT change lenses, so I just went with what was on my camera (Nikon D300 with an 18-70mm DX lens).

Tabitha had a couple different outfits to work with.  The first one was a nice white and pink dress that I think worked well.  The second outfit was a custom made “cave girl” animal skin.  Oh, did I mention the temperature in the damp dark cave was 4 degrees Celsius?  Yes, Tabitha is an amazing girl.  She was determined to get the shots even though she was standing in a very cold, dark cave in freezing cold water with bare feet and a barely there outfit. 

Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenard Regardless I think we got some amazing shots considering what we had to work with in those conditions.  All the LED lights I brought along with the lights on our helmets came in really handy when Tabitha wanted to do a shot that made her look like a ghost.  We lit the place up with every light we had (excluding the flashes) and then with a 15 second shutter I had Tabitha stand perfectly still and then after a few seconds run out of the way to finish the exposure.  I think the shot turned out exactly like she envisioned and it is quite cool.

Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenard After we got to the point where Tabitha was completely freezing and could not take it any longer (what a trooper), we packed up and headed back out.  Half-way out Adam asked if we wanted to attempt “The Test”.  Not wanting to be a chicken and miss an unforgettable experience we all agreed.  This test involved shuffling along through an opening for about 12-15 feet that was barely large enough for our body to fit through.  You had to have one arm ahead of you and one behind you and you couldn’t really lift your head to see where you were going.  Rat's Nest Cave Shoot with Tabitha Worby, Paul Spenard Eventually after a lot of grunting and squeezing it opened up into a vertical fissure that you could stand up in, but not much else.  Of course, that wasn’t bad enough, but now you had to go back out the same way you came in.  We all made it and gave each other high fives, proud of our accomplishment.  By then Tabitha was starting to thaw out a bit, so the hard work was good to get her blood flowing.

By the time we got back up to the mouth of the cave and climbed out we were all completed exhausted and sweating like crazy.  It was a beautiful sunny warm day, and we had to hike all the way back down to the vehicles.  Thankfully I had a cooler with some water on ice in the back of my truck.  That was the best water I have ever had in my entire life.

All in all it was an amazing experience and I would do it again in a second.  I think next time though, I would like to leave most of my gear behind and just enjoy the adventure without having to do a photo shoot.  The cave is extremely large with numerous passages that you can explore if your not hauling a lot of gear with you.  There are areas that you can rappel down and a long tube called “The Laundry Shute” that sound like it would be a challenge.  If your not claustrophobic and you are looking for an incredible adventure I recommend you contact:

Canmore Caverns (403) 678-8819 or 1-877-317-1178

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Kick Butt Personal Video Recorder (PVR)

Well I have been using my own home grown PVR for a number of years now to record TV shows.  You see, I just don’t have time to sit down and watch TV and I have no patience for the frequent repetition of commercials during my favorite shows.  Really, what are they thinking when they have the same commercial play 15 times during an episode of LOST?  I wasn’t considering buying your crap anyways, and now that you pissed me off by showing me your lame commercial over and over a hundred times, the chances of anyone I know buying your product are very slim if I have my way.

Anyways, enough of my rant.  I have found the PERFECT solution that blows away anything that I have seen out there yet.  It is so simple and relatively inexpensive, it will blow you away.

FusionBlack430_FFirst, you can buy a computer case from Antec that matches your stereo equipment, and doesn’t even look like a computer case. 

Next, make sure you get a decent motherboard.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it should be fairly new so you can support the new fangled video cards on the market.

285specimage One thing that I learned a couple days ago was that if you get a combination TV Tuner Card / Video card then things can get a bit funky when you are trying to watch a recorded show while recording another show.  In all fairness, there might have been something weird with one of my previous incarnations of this system, but now that I have a TV Tuner card and a separate video card everything is working AMAZINGLY well.

One of the most important things to look for in the video card is an HDMI connector with both video and audio output (see the little black slot in the middle of the video card I linked above).  This gives you an incredibly sharp and clean signal to your big screen TV.

Now, the most important part of the system!!!  Don’t even think about going with Microsoft’s media centre operating system.  Just install Windows XP and purchase Snapstream Media’s Beyond TV software.  This product is by far the most amazing TV recording software on the market.  Gone are the days where you try and figure out what channel to record on and for how long.  Then what happens if your favorite show is pushed out because of a baseball game or some news broadcast.  With Beyond TV you can search for a program you want to record by keywords or by title.  Then when you find what you want to record, you can tell it to record:beyondTV4-box-small

  • Just one episode
  • Just NEW episodes
  • All episodes

Even better, you can tell it to record your show on a specific channel, or to record the show from ANY channel.  If your show is pushed off for a sports program, don’t worry, Beyond TV will catch it when it comes on.  It also has the ability to record on a specific channel at a specific time if your into doing it the old fashioned way.

Sounds awesome doesn’t it… well wait… hold onto your hat because it gets better.  You can record shows in many different formats and even auto compress them for download to your iPod.  In addition to that you can burn a DVD directly from Beyond TV if you have a DVD burner in your PC.  That’s not all… one of my favorite features is a sister product called Beyond TV Link which allows you to connect and control Beyond TV from any computer on your home network.  You can even watch recorded shows or Live TV from any computer in your house that has Beyond TV Link installed.  Pretty freakin cool eh?

Well I hope that provides you enough information and inspiration to go out there and set up your own PVR.  I can tell you that once you have tried it, you will never go back to just sitting down in front of the boob tube again.  Now your TV watching has meaning and purpose.  Oh… and did I not mention that Beyond TV has a feature called Smart Skip that automatically finds the commercials so you don’t have to watch them anymore?  Ah yes, this is true paradise!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Very very very very Impressive Technology

Squarespace As a web developer myself, I find it a little awkward to be recommending Square Space to people because it pretty much puts me out of work for basic website development projects.  Luckily if the client needs a web-based application they still have to come to people like me to design from the ground up. 


Square Space is an amazing technology that provides a very intuitive and incredibly flexible user interface for building web sites.  It has templates that are almost infinitely customizable, and easy too, with no coding at all.  It makes full use of CSS so if you want to get your hands dirty, you can really change things around.  If you don’t know CSS that is no problem because there are easy-to-use interfaces to allow you to pick colors and size columns, and change various aspects of the look, layout and feel of the site.


If you want a forum, or a photo gallery, or a blog, you just create a new page and specify the type from the exhaustive list of options.  A few clicks of your mouse and you have a fully functional web form that you can use to request information from your site visitors.  A file storage component lets you easily upload and maintain a file structure that you can share through an authenticated user interface. Detailed analytics allow you to monitor site traffic and other details about your visitors.


The grid-based architecture behind the scenes ensures that your site can handle ANY traffic load from 1 visitor to millions of visitors a day.  All with no headaches for you.

In my humble opinion, this solution is the only solution for people who want to put up a very professional, feature-rich web presence without investing a lot of time or money.  It is powerful, flexible, and very affordable.  Damn, I wish I was getting paid for this, but in reality I am just so impressed I had to tell everyone.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Only Intelligent Life in the Universe? Ya, right…

First off, let me say these images are not mine, I got them in an email from a good friend.  If the images are yours, or you know who created them, please let me know so I can give them credit.

These, as you know, are the planets of our solar system, in perspective of relative size…




Beyond our sun it’s a big universe…


Antares is the 15th brightest star in the sky.  It is more than 1000 light years away.



This is a Hubble Telescope ultra deep field infrared view of countless “entire” galaxies that are billions of light-years away.


This is a close-up of one of the darkest regions of the photo above.


Still think that we are the only intelligent life in the universe?

As you can see we are pretty tiny specs in the big picture, so there is not much point in sweating the small stuff.  Be happy and remember, the universe has it all figured out already.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Microsoft Online Services

I was at a Microsoft seminar today titled “EnergizeIT” at Hotel Arts.  What a nice Hotel that is, I need to do a photo shoot there one day. 

Anyways, the seminar was actually pretty good.  I like the concept of Microsoft Online Services, which launched today apparently.  This allows small businesses to have access to Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite for $20/user per month.  That gives you Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting and coming soon, Office Communications Online.

I guess this is Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps that has already been in the market for some time.  I use both GMail and MS Exchange/Outlook for email and I like them both, but I use Exchange for business and I like how my iPhone integrates with it so nicely.

Another technology that will be coming down the pipe from Microsoft is Microsoft Azure.  This is a pretty mind-blowing concept for a software developer like  me.  It is Cloud Computing in the most elegant sense of the words and will really change how businesses host web applications and manage scalability.  Worth some research if you have the time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mac & Rob : The RAW Files

A photographer friend of mine (Rob Caleffi), and coincidentally the guy that got me into shooting artistic nudes, and his friend (Mac Swift) have been working over the past two years on a very creative project called "The RAW Files".

For starters, both Rob and Mac are amazing photographers. Photographers in general are visual artists, and the good ones have a burning inside their souls that forces them to express themselves. It is not good enough to be a great wedding or portrait photographer, the freedom of expression is too confined that way. Sure you can be creative and original, but you can only go so far because you are still working for the client. True artistic expression has no boundaries, and it can lead to some amazing creativity.

Rob and Mac have found a way to express their creativity by taking one model each and shooting their model over a period of one year at all sorts of different locations. The best part of this project is that the photographers and the models all blog about their experiences. It is a fascinating project and you will find yourself captivated by the words and the images that are presented. I encourage you to have an open mind and visit The RAW Files.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The most amazing day

Today was amazing. After taking the kids to their last class of swimming lessons, we decided to go out and have Celina take some pictures of me (a very rare situation indeed). I really don't have any pictures of myself that are all that good.
Anyways we drove out west a bit and down the Old Banff Coach Road. We came across this huge old tree at the edge of a farmer's field just inside the fence and I thought it would make a nice backdrop for the shoot. I never trespass so this was a great location as we could stay outside the fence and still get a great shot. It was kind of windy and a bit cold so Celina took a few shots and then we headed back to the truck.

Just as I was about to get in the truck, Celina started yelling and pointing back towards the tree. I looked over and there were a bunch of horses that had come over to the tree to see what was going on. I didn't see any horses at all while I was over there, so I have no idea where they appeared from. I decided to head back over to the fence myself to take some shots wondering if the horses would run away or not. Turns out they were really curious. They posed nicely for a few pictures then they ran a bit to the right, then over to the left, then back to the tree jumping and bucking here and there to make sure the pictures were good. I couldn't believe how amazing this was, they seemed to be acting up to give me some nice shots. I was shouting out "nice job" and "great work, thank you" and the horses looked like they were having a great time.

A cyclist rode by on the road and a couple of the horses ran over to the fence to have a look. They were like little kids, curious and wondering what was going on. It was really fun for me and I think I got some decent pix. Unfortunately the sun was coming from behind the horses so the lighting is not perfect, but sometimes you take what you can get.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Auto Show

Every year it comes around and every year I somehow manage to get free tickets, so I go. As a photographer I have brought my camera in the past, but today seemed a little different and I don't know why exactly.

I have been doing a lot of studying in Photography lately. Much more than I typically have done in the past and I realized that I need to push myself more. Too often I try and be fully prepared for every situation, and if I am really a good photographer then I should be able to take a great picture regardless of the situation. So I took my camera, removed the battery grip, and with a single 50mm prime lens headed out. No flash, no tripod, no wide angle or zoom, just the body and my 50mm.

It was more difficult than I anticipated because with all the people crowding around the cars, you can't get far enough away to get much of the vehicle in the shot with a 50mm lens. So I decided that I would have to just make myself focus on the detail and forget about the "big picture". I am REALLY glad I put myself through this exercise because I am very happy about the detail I captured. In fact, I can safely say that this is going to be a much more common process for me. It is amazing what you notice when you are forced to point your attention on the little things in life.

There was an added bonus with the small lens and no battery grip. The camera was much smaller and lighter so my 6-year old, Tony, could use it much easier. In fact he managed to catch the "shutter bug" and kept taking the camera from me and shooting everything. He got a few really cool shots and I am quite impressed with his eye for composition. I guess the apple does not fall that far from the tree.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Digital Life

I only have a couple episodes left of the TWiP podcast and then I will have listened to every single one. One of the things that I have learned on TWiP is that Scott Bourne is a very experienced photographer who is quite technical for an old fella!

Recently Scott has created yet another blog called My Digital Life (found at MYDL.ME). This is, in my humble opinion, an excellent resource for... well lets use Scotts words: "The My Digital Life Podcast & Blog is your destination for information on how to deal with all the electronic stuff you accumulate during your daily life."

Check it out, and be sure to subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Online backup? What an amazing deal!

Ok, so I have been skeptical in the past of online backup solutions because on the front they appear to be a great deal, but when you get down to it... yuck!

Today I was listening to a TWiP podcast and the guys mentioned a solution that they used called BackBlaze I checked it out and ended up signing up right away. Some sites charge by the amount of disk space you use, and others charge by the amount of data transfer. BackBlaze simply charges $5 / month for each computer you want to back up. You get unlimited disk space, which is VERY handy for a photographer like me.

The key point that pushed me over the edge to looking at an online backup solution was Alex Lindsay mentioned his biggest issue would be if someone broke into his studio and stole his Drobo or the place burned down, all his photos would be gone forever. I got to thinking, I do have other backups of some of the older images, but nothing "real time" so that I would be sure not to lose anything. I was previously backing up my Drobo onto external hard drives, but if something happened to cause my Drobo to go bye bye, then it is very likely my external hard drives would be gone too.

Now with my Drobo and my online backup solution, I am very confident that my data is safe... that is... once the 216 hours it will take to copy all my data into "the cloud" has passed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Copyright Information

It is interesting to note that if you live in the United States, you must formally register your copyright with the government if you intend to pursue litigation against anyone for copyright infringement. In Canada, and everywhere else in the world, this is not applicable.

In photography, the second you press the shutter button you own the copyright for the image that is taken. It is an international right that has been in place since 1886. For more information feel free to visit the Wikipedia entry on copyright.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thanks to you can create a high quality book for dirt cheap!

Ever wanted to be a writer, or maybe to create a coffee table book of your photography? Check out Blurb Book Smart. You won't believe how easy it is to create very high quality hard-cover or soft-cover books with full color photography and creative layouts.

I plan to put together a portfolio book with some of my photography mixed in with my ever abundant verbiage and wit. Let me know if you would like to buy a signed copy :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

No time for depression

A number of years ago someone sent me a very cool video Planet Earth and it really moved me. I was curious about this thing called "The Secret" and looked into it further. I ended up ordering the DVD and I didn't mention it to my wife because I was not sure if it was a sham or not. When it arrived I watched it on my computer when my wife was not around. To my amazement, it really was an incredible secret that changed my life from that moment on. When I was part way through the DVD, my wife walked in and did not say a word. She stayed behind me and watched over my shoulder. When it was over I realized that I had been crying most of the way through it. When I turned to my wife, she just said "Wow, where did you get that?". I have seen The Secret a number of times since then and each time I am emotionally moved by it. For my life has always followed the law of attraction even though I did not know it.

Someone very close to me spent many years of her life suffering from depression. I always offered positive influence, but it didn't seem to be enough to break through. She was on medication and tried self help groups, but they showed little improvement. One day I decided to order her a DVD and when it arrived, she called me after watching it. She said that it was "unbelievable" and asked if it was real. I said it has to be, or I wouldn't have sent it to her in the first place. She watched it again and then again and her transformation was what I would call unbelievable. Today she is a very happy and positive person. She inspires others and lives a charmed life.

I don't write this post because I am getting kick-backs from The Secret. They don't even know I exist except for the two transactions I made purchasing DVDs. Its just that I feel so helpless when I hear other people down and out, complaining about someone or something, arguing just for the sake of arguing. I want people, especially those I care about, to know that life is amazing. I want them to know that they can do ANYTHING they want to, and that it all begins with a positive thought.

If I could come up with an analogy as to how it works, I would just tell you to watch Star Wars Episode I. I think George Lucas knew The Secret a very long time ago and those movies were his way of letting people know. "...the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." Understanding the Secret is similar to becoming a Jedi. Think about that, then go get your DVD

May the force will be with you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

TWIP (This Week In Photography)

Well, they say nothing in life is free. I will suggest that this is one of the exceptions to that rule.

A while ago a close friend of mine and fellow photographer asked me if I had been following the TWIP podcast. I was like "TWHAT"? He said that if I went to iTunes and did a search under the podcasts I would find it, and it is FREE!

Well I downloaded a few of the TWIP podcasts and started listening to them on the way to work and back (my iPhone can play through my car stereo). I can't believe what an excellent show these guys produce. The information is golden, and the presentation is light-hearted and impactful. You can really tell that these gear heads enjoy talking about photography, and they definitely know what the heck they are talking about. All of them are high-end professionals including Fred Johnson from Adobe and Scott Bourne the author of four photo books.

If you even have a slight interest in photography I highly recommend that you get hooked on TWIP podcasts. Also, their blog is a mecca of information on anything from the latest Nikon and Canon, as well as other manufacturer product news to general photography tips and tricks, information on new products and advice for photographers new and old.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The atrocities of man... When will we open our eyes?

I received an email from a good friend regarding Pilot Whale slaughters in the Faoroe Islands near Denmark.

In my humble opinion there are too many things like this going on in our fragile world. Atrocities against man are one thing, but pointless and barbaric destruction of life on our planet for the sake of tradition is so completely unacceptable, I can't even fathom what could possibly be going through the minds of these people. They claim the animals are killed for food, yet they have an abundance of food in their country.

After reading the article linked above, I realized that these people are completely out-of-touch with what is going on around our world. They are brought up by their parents to accept this "tradition" as a great event that they can one day participate in when they are old enough. It becomes something for them to look forward to each year, and a right of passage for them to make the transition from a boy to a man.

How is it possible to change the attitude and beliefs of a people so set into their tradition? This reminds me of a show I saw on the National Geographic Channel where a journalist interviewed a bunch of children in Afghanistan. These kids were 8 years old and carrying loaded, fully automatic rifles and they were chanting statements of hatred towards the United States. The journalist asked the kids if they knew what the US was and where it was and they said no. They said their parents taught them about how they must hate these evil people from this country called the US and they must learn how to kill them.

No government action or force of any kind is going to change the way these people think and their beliefs. Ultimately it will take a small group of open-minded individuals within these people to slowly turn things around. It will take a very long time, and as we have seen with prejudice and bigotry in North America it will never be completely gone because there will always be someones parent or grandparent that still holds onto those beliefs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An ObamaNation

Well, although I was unable to watch the inaguration speech on TV, I did get to read it on the web.

I must say, I am very impressed with his words and I have now a renewed hope for mankind. Really only because the US is such a world superpower. That said, I know there are still a lot of racist, single-minded people out there who go through life with their heads up their asses thinking they know something that no body else does. I just hope there are way more intelligent people out there that know the country is in desperate need of a major home makover.

Good luck Obama, I think you are going to need some, but I hope I am wrong about that point.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, January 17, 2009

STOMPIN Good Times

I am sitting here with my family at the Jubilee Auditorium waiting for STOMP to begin. I have seen the show before and it is one of the most entertaining presentations I have ever seen/heard... Experienced. We have the boys with us and this is there first time at anything this exciting...

...Well, the show is over and it was fantastic. My littlest one liked the part with the tubes best. Also the loud parts, which is cool because the loud parts are my favorite too.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Well, ain't that fancy.

So, driving home from work I was thinking about all the web-based technologies available to us today, and how reliant we have become on them. One thing that really stood out in my mind was Blogging.

So many people have taken to blogging to express their opinions, tell stories, and generally babble to anyone who would listen. From my perspective, it is a great repository for my thoughts so that I can look back one day when I am much older and remember the things that happened in my life.

I will en devour to update this as frequently as I can, although the new application I downloaded for $9.95 for my iPhone called "BlogPress" appears to SUCK BADLY! I may be using it wrong, and I will reserve further judgment until I have at least attempted to work out the kinks.

Cheers world!

-- Post From My iPhone