Archive for January 2013

Photography Projects - 365 Project

It was this time last year and I was feeling really confident that I could complete the task.  I am sure many people that are 30 days into their own 365 Project are feeling the same way.

If you are not aware what a 365 Project is, please allow me to explain.  You pick a day to start, most start on the 1st of the year.  Then you take a photograph every day for the entire year and post them.  The motivation for attempting this type of project varies by photographer.  In my case, I wanted to grow creatively and technically and the best way to do this for me was this type of project.  Most people start a blog or post on some social site to share their year long adventure.  I did all of this last year. I did this last year, which meant I had 366 days since it was a leap year.

So back to the folks with an active project this year feeling confident.  First, don’t give up.  It will occur to you that giving up would be okay. The thought crossed my mind at least once a week, sometimes more depending on the week or the month. DON'T! It was an amazing feeling at the end of last year knowing I had just accomplished this task.  It sounds so easy to do but the year is REALLY long.  Here are a few tips I suggest to get you through it that I did, and a few things that I learned from others that had completed their own 365 Project.

1. As hard as it is sometimes, try to plan out your week or month in advance and stick to it the best you can. Pick themes, like colors, abstracts, or single lens week to name a few.

2. Invite a fellow photographer to submit a photo in addition to your photo for a day.  For example, plan a day to stick to a theme (e.g. macro) and you post your photo and the guest photo.

3. Plan an alphabet month.  The first is “A,” so you take a photo that either starts with or looks like an A.  Continue this through the month and you have a month in the books.

4. Look at other photos a lot!  I was inspired by fellow photographer and often relied on this tip when I was in a creative funk.

5. Have fun, learn new techniques, and don’t let anyone else dictate what you photograph!  It is your project and your experience.

I recently reviewed my project from last year and I can still remember each day, what was happening, and why I took the photo I did.  It was an amazing journey for me and has a major impact on my approach to photography.

These were some of my keys to have a successful year.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments and links to your projects (past or present).

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Kids at Work

When we got home from school today the kids begged to go outside.  To make it fun and accomplish a task I usually do, I had them find all the sticks on the deck and throw them over the railing to the yard below.  Jonah found one that he was using as antlers and wanted his picture taken.  They decided to do a funny photo pose.

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It was a perfect day to go outside with the kids and play in the snow.  There is a little hill by our house that Jonah enjoyed twenty or so times.  Harper shared a ride down the hill with Sue and was DONE!  She cried the whole way down and instead opted for playing in the snow at the bottom.  After playing in the snow for about an hour she sat down and stated she was ready to get in the car.

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Parenting Problem: The Escape Artist.

I think every parent fears that their young child will be wandering the streets in the middle of the night because they figured out how to unlock the front door.  What is a parent to do?

It was this very question that my wife and I struggled with as our three year old refused to stay in his bedroom at night.  We were convinced and worried that he would wake during the night and go downstairs and out the door.  BAM!  We are now on the news answering Sally Wiggin's questions and blaming ourselves for not doing more to prevent this scenario.

We thought of several ways to prevent this and tried to implement most of them.  In the end nothing really worked.  Either the idea failed, was too extreme, or did not provide enough of a deterrent to insure that our son would stay in his room.

It was during this frustrating time that we finally found our solution.  For us this solution was the silver bullet we had been searching for all along.  It alerts us when he comes out of his room and because of this alert he has recognized that he can not sneak out or beat the system, thus modifying his behavior to our acceptance.  

What is it you ask?  We call it the doorbell.

I stopped by our local hardware store and spent around $30 for this device.  It took about 5 minutes to install, and about three days for JMC to figure out his days of sneaking out of his room were long gone.

We keep the chime in the kitchen when he goes to bed and then relocate the chime to our bedroom later that night.  The chime is loud enough to alert us when we are sleeping that JMC is out of his room. So loud we have place some gaffers tape on it to quiet it down a little.

We have had this “doorbell” in place for several years now and couldn’t be more pleased.  Anytime we have had company (usually parents themselves) and they hear the chime for the first time, they ask “What was that sound?”  After we explain, and in some case how we finally came to this solution, they fall in love with the idea and go buy their own.

The other day my wife and I were joking that we will use the doorbell until JMC has graduated high school.  I know if my parents had done something like this to me, I would have not been sneaking out of the house during my teenage years.

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Pittsburgh Photographer - Engagement Session

I read over the weekend that more couples get engaged in January than any other month.  That is actually quite surprising to me.  I thought for sure it would have been February or December.  Then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that stated there will be 2 million weddings in the United States this year, with an average cost of $26,000 each.  I thought about all the money my wife and I spent on our wedding and the one thing I am grateful we splurged on was the photographer.

The reason...  It is the only good or service from that day, outside of our wedding bands, that we can still enjoy and recall all the fun we had.  The photographs and the memories they conjure up will last forever.

That made me think about Engagement Sessions and here are a few photographs from my favorite Engagement Session with Matt and Monica.  I enjoy working with all my clients but this is my favorite because Matt is my cousin, pretty much my brother.  The three of us had a blast walking around Oakmont finding locations and taking these photos that they will be able to enjoy forever.

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Pittsburgh. A Sports Town.

There is something special about Pittsburgh and it is hard to narrow down into just one aspect.  So I won't.  What I will say is that this city is crazy in love with their sports teams. This one reason Pittsburgh is great.

After the Steelers failed to make the playoffs, the town seemed to be in a depression of sorts.  Just before loyal sports fans were going to start lining up on the West End Bridge to jump the NHL owners and players got their act together.

Today is long overdue and Pittsburghers are gearing up for the start of the shortened hockey season.  Earlier this week there was a scrimmage called the "Black and Gold Game," similar to what many college football teams do in the spring.  To say this town is starving for sport, let alone hockey, is an understatement.  The game was on a weekday, was a scrimmage, and there were over 18,000 people in attendance.


Because of the short season tickets will be like gold and very hard or expensive to come by and I will most likely be watching the games from my living room.

Not to be lost in all this excitement of hockey starting today is that opening day for the Pirates is in 72 days and spring training is right around the corner.  Just last week Andrew McCutchen was voted to be on the cover of the "MLB 13 The Show" video game and AJ Burnett (@wudeydo34) has finally joined the Twitterverse.

As much as I am excited for hockey and Pittsburgh's chances to win the Stanley Cup, I am equally excited for baseball and the warm weather that comes along with it.  I can't wait to take the kids back to PNC Park for a game.

Let's Go Pens!!!!

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The Hulton Bridge

Yesterday I read an article about the Greenfield Bridge and the upcoming replacement project.  The piece states "PennDOT records show the bridge has a sufficiency rating of 47.4 out of a best possible 100, ranking it 88th worst among almost 400 locally owned bridges in Allegheny County."

Okay, so the Greenfield Bridge is in the top 25% of shittiest bridges in Allegheny County.  I will agree to that and I am sure that anyone that has traveled under it would probably say it should have an even higher rating on the shitty meter.  I don't really travel over or under it on a regular basis, with the exception of a weekly bicycle ride that I participate in throughout the summer.  The ride routinely crosses the Greenfield Bridge and I enjoy how it connects Greenfield to Schenley Park.

As I was reading this and thinking about the Greenfield Bridge and my travels over it, I started to think about the bridge I cross on a daily basis and most days I cross it twice.  The bridge I speak of is the Hulton Bridge, which crosses the Allegheny River connecting Oakmont and Harmar, and is part of the Yellow Belt.

As a resident of Oakmont I have heard that a new bridge is going to be constructed and that construction is scheduled to begin this summer and wrap up sometime in 2015.  The method of construction that will be utilized will enable the current traffic to continue to cross the Hulton Bridge until the new structure is ready to open.  This means I will be crossing this bridge for another two years.

So you ask....what's the big deal.  Well, there wasn't a big deal until I started digging into the safety of this bridge.  The figures I found for the Hulton Bridge is that is has a sufficiency rating of 6.3 out of 100.  Yep, that's not a typo!!!  If a 47.4 has a ranking of 88th worst, I can only imagine what the ranking for the Hulton Bridge would be.  I am guessing it is in the top 10 or at least the top 20.

Now I understand why there are regular inspections on this bridge.  It seems like once a month, maybe more often a bridge inspection occurs.  It looks like they are making sure it won't fall into the Allegheny River with me on it.  Either way, that doesn't give me much comfort knowing that a new structure won't be ready for another two years.  A little quick math tells me I have somewhere around 1400 crossings left to make.  Hopefully it will hold up or maybe I will start avoiding this bridge when possible.

Enough about the safety of the bridge.  If you would like to learn more history or facts about the Hulton Bridge I have listed some links below.  Enjoy.

The National Bridge Inventory Database entry for Hulton Bridge
Hulton Bridge from Wikipedia
Pittsburgh Bridges entry for Hulton Bridge
Historic Bridges entry for Hulton Bridge

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So over the last few weeks I have been reminding Sue that she needs to figure out when and what we are doing for vacation.  Specifically, coordinate with her sister on when we are going to the beach.  Over the weekend Sue and her sister talked and finally decided we are headed to Kiawah Island, SC.

This pleases me for several reasons.  First, I have been to several beaches on the east coast for family vacations, but never Kiawah Island.  I love traveling and exploring new places.  This means I will get to research and plan all the places I want to photograph while we are there.  Second, I love the beach, not so much the sand but everything else that goes with the beach.  Lastly, I know that the vacation is booked and there won't be any last minute conversations about when or where we should go on vacation.

With all this in mind I started going through some of the photographs from our beach trip last year to find one for editing.  We went to Ilse of Palms, SC which is located a few miles north of Charleston.
One of the mornings we were there I woke up before sunrise to take a bunch of shots with the plan of editing at a later time.  Well, this was one of the photographs of the sun rising that morning and editing this photo brought back the memory of standing there with some locals enjoying the sunrise.  As I was taking my photos one gentleman turned to me and said "You know, this happens every day here."

Maybe one day I will have a beach house somewhere that I can watch the sunrise every day.

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It's All Fun and Games....

You know the saying "It's fun and games until someone get hurt!"  Well, in this case it is hurt feelings.  Due to the extremely nice weather we have spent the last two days outside with the kids.  Unfortunately, the kids, more specifically Harper was not ready to be told to come inside.

I knew I would be getting a great reaction from her, so when I told the kids to clean up the toys and go inside, I was ready to take a photo.  She didn't disappoint.  This lasted a good five minutes or longer as she pouted around the driveway, cleaning up chalk, her bike, and a baby doll.

Luckily for all of us she has a very short memory (sometimes) and she moved quickly onto the next activity....dinner!

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Awesome Chalk

I am not sure if I should be concerned or not about global warming because I love this weather.  We spent most of the afternoon outside trying out some of the new Christmas presents.  First, was a new remote control car.  Second, was some new roller blades, trip to Children's Hospital pending.  Lastly, was my personal favorite gift, an attachment for your bike that lets you draw with chalk as you ride.

I snapped a quick photo with my phone of Jonah checking it out.  He loved it and subsequently blew through two pieces of giant chalk in no time.  The resulting pattern on our driveway looked like a giant spiral from some psychedelic poster.  We purchased this attachment from Uncommon Goods if you would like to get one yourself.  I highly recommend it.

I am excited that we will have this same weather tomorrow too.  My only wish is that we didn't have all this snow that is melting making everything muddy.  Don't get me wrong.  I love snow, but if we are going to have these warm temps, then I don't like it.

Oh well.  Let's enjoy it while it lasts.

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Getting Started

Ah, the yellow belt.  If you live in Allegheny County you have seen the signs for the belt system.  Starting in the center and working towards the border of Allegheny County, Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red.  Most believe that the signs litter our roadways for some unknown purpose.

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