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Oh, to be Kayla!

Everyone’s life is interesting.

Kayla’s is just “awesome.”  As a 2011 senior from Martinsburg High, she has a whole world to look forward to. 🙂

Be grateful for what you have

I have a weekly meeting in a local restaurant’s conference room with several other area business owners.  When it was over, and before getting into my car to drive to another errand and then back to the studio, I stopped off at the restroom to get rid of some of the Diet Pepsi I’d had with lunch.  Keep reading…

When I entered the restroom, a middle-aged gentleman was standing in the middle of the room holding a white cane with a red tip.  My presumption was that he was blind.  He was waving the can to and fro in an attempt to find his way.  I asked if I could help in any way, and he told me he just needed to find the toilet.  I gave him direction and distance, and he was able to get there without further delay.

Then he dropped his cane.  Given the tight space he was in, and knowing he would hit his head if he bent over (not knowing there was a wall there), I offered to pick up the cane and did so.  When he had finished, he turned around and I handed him the cane and directed him to the sink (he wanted to wash his hands).  I washed mine as well, and handed him a paper towel (the upper towel dispenser was empty, and I’m not sure he would have easily found the lower dispenser).  He explained that he became blind after an accident in 2005, so most of his life has been with sight.  He also thanked me several times.  So did the woman he was with, who waited outside the bathroom for him.

This post is not about helping those in need.  I know that most of you would do that anyway.  It’s not unkind to help without being asked, even for someone who wants to do it themselves.

No, this post is about being grateful for the things we take for granted sometimes.  As a photographer, I take for granted that I will be able to see the light, my subject, the surroundings, and the beauty that is my world.  I can’t begin to imagine how devastating it might be to lose my sight.  I’m daily grateful for my health, and my ability to help others see the beauty around them.

I’m hoping you all take a few minutes to look at the beauty around you… even if it means stepping outside for a few minutes.  And rejoice in your health.

Pam and Brian’s Wedding

It never matters your age when you wed.  What matters is that you’re in love.  And these two showed it throughout the day.  Their guests were primarily derived from family and close friends, children and grandchildren.  One image below is a fun attempt at getting three boys to mimic “See, Hear & Speak No Evil.”  While it didn’t go quite as planned, the picture is fun.

Married at the Purple Iris in Martinsburg, everything was held indoors, in case weather was too cold, everything was great (as it usually is at the Purple Iris).

What’s in a game?

Today it was great pleasure to accompany my wife to the 13th annual Brain Games, held at Shepherd University.

She got involved after I saw a pleading by Tim Procita, the CEO of MVB Bank, on Facebook asking for some knowledgeable people to be a part of his Brain Games team.  I suggested it to Diana, and she agreed to talk with Tim about it.  The set everything up, and Diana was one of six members of the MVB Bank team.  Another member of the team was Lauren Epperly, another member of the RNE group to which I belong.

The way it works is that the teams are sitting at tables… in this case, in the Ram’s Den (a kind of dining hall for the college students).  Four times during the afternoon, the teams are given a sheet of 25 questions, and have 15 minutes in which to answer the questions.  The questions are essentially trivia-type questions from a variety of subjects, from history and economics to movies, TV, and music.  The questions are, for the most part, really hard for most of us commoners.  But the Brain Games players are just a notch above the rest of us.

At the end of 15 minutes, the answer sheets are collected and sent to the judging chambers, where they are scored.  A listing is updated on a projected computer display after each round has been judged.  I went as an observer/supporter, but since pom-poms and cheers would not have been appropriate, I sat quietly at an empty table and busied myself with editing and a few emails.

Diana did very well in her contribution to the team.  The MVB Bank team finished tied for eighth place… a respectable showing indeed.

The real reason I’m writing about this, though, is to bring a little awareness to the purpose of the event.  The Brain Games project benefits the Literacy Volunteers of the Eastern Panhandle, which I strongly urge you to learn more about.  Each team pays to be a part of the games… this is the biggest element of raising funds from this event.  There are also books for sale (Diana donated several books from her library), cookies and water (all donated) available for donations, as well as door prizes, and silent auction raffles ($1 per ticket, 6/$5).  In all, the day is about volunteering time, a little money, and some of your brain power for a very good cause.

I’m proud of Diana for getting involved.  She and the MVB team really did well.

I hope that the LVEP raised a lot of much-needed funds.  By the way, there is a DONATE button on their website (hint, hint).


Food Review: Bombay Peacock Indian Restaurant

Seems that whenever I go to a restaurant we’ve never tried, and report it on Facebook, everyone asks “how was that?”  Well, I’m not one to just say “it was good,” or “it was awful.”  No, you need to have a real report about every aspect I thought made up the bigger picture… according to me. 🙂

I’ve also been told I need to write more about stuff other than studio and photography.  So… here goes.

Bombay Peacock has three locations according to their website.  We went to the one in Kearneysville, which is right behind the DMV.  If you remember that the Taj Mahal was there for awhile, it’s the same suite.  Since those suites are set up like business suites, you have to park about two suites away and take a central stairway, then walk down the narrow sidewalk to get to their entrance.  But this is truly no big deal once you get inside.

Part of the experience for any non-American cuisine is indeed the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, the atmosphere here stops with the name.  Okay, that’s not quite fair.  The walls were painted in shades of blue and green, mimicking those you’d find in the feathers of a peacock.  The ceiling was standard office ceiling tiles (not painted), and the carpet was gray.  The tables were standard square/rectangle and circular restaurant tables.  However, the napkins were all cloth, and large.  The flatware was rather basic… but they worked. 🙂

The menu is colorful, easy to read and segmented by appetizers, chicken, vegetarian, etc.  In addition to the dish’s name, there’s also a brief American-ese description of the dish.  We selected a combination appetizer platter which included about two portions of four different appetizers with three tasty sauces (a mild peanut sauce, a spicy mint sauce and a sweet tamarind sauce) to start… it was really tasty and set our appetite just right.

For dinner Diana had Tandoori Chicken, a favorite every time she goes to an Indian restaurant.  I ordered the Mingh Ka Tikka, which is essentially boneless white meat chicken in Tandoori style.  Both were served with a plated side salad and cucumber-based yogurt dressing called Raita.  And this was truly the best part of our meal.  Tender doesn’t begin to define how succulent the chicken was.  The coating was cooked to perfection and every morsel was a treat.  We also got a side order of garlic Naan, which is a flatbread.  They also served a basket of non-garlic Naan, which later served us well to “clean our plates.”

The portions were generous, the server very attentive (if not a bit too chatty until another large party arrived), and the food was all around excellent.  And we were satisfied with our meal, even believing if dessert was free we couldn’t eat it.

Until our server offered a complementary dessert.  We both selected the rice pudding with pistachio topping, and it was excellent… and quickly consumed.

In all, I would give this experience a B+, and simply because I felt the atmosphere could use a little sprucing up, and the service could do with a little more emphasis on just the food service.  We definitely plan to return.  They have a buffet on Saturdays, for your information.

The other two locations are in Martinsburg (which I haven’t seen yet, but it’s supposedly on Foxcroft near the mall) and Hagerstown.

Engagement: Stefanie & Albert

Oddly, I had not yet met Albert.  He was much taller than I had gotten the impression he was.  But everything worked out.  Stefanie and Albert are getting married this October.  Fun back story on this one is that we photographed her mother’s marriage vow renewal just a few years ago.  She definitely has her mother’s smile.

Who’s the “Best”?

So I’m watching a television show and one of those “we’re the best” commercials comes on… I don’t recall what it was for, but that they were claiming to be the best.  I kept thinking, “certainly your competition would like to have a say on that.”  And then I starting thinking that you see “the best” everywhere.

Who determines that?  And are they right?

Photographic coverage of your wedding or family events is a personal decision.  Often what truly drives your decision to hire a specific professional photographer is based on three simple things: 1) whether or not you like their work, 2) how well you get along with them, and 3) that they are a professional (there are a myriad of factors involve in this one, which is another entire post).  Whether or not they claim to be the “best,” as you’ll notice, is not a factor.

Claiming to be the “best” in anything is typically a hype word for marketing purposes.  The implication is by claiming you are the best is that you are better than everyone else.  That’s a pretty mighty claim, and one that should not be taken lightly.  So, if you really want to find out if someone is the best, ask them to show you how they are better than everyone else.  If they can’t, well… they aren’t really the best then are they?

I can honestly say that we try hard to DO our very best.  And we sometimes stumble.  Yes, we’re humans (though I have been accused of being from another planet at times).  And while we do try to give you the very best we have to offer, we are by no means the “best” at anything.  If we are qualifying based on the “three simple things” list above, however, we have literally thousands of clients who like our work, have a great disposition and approach to customer service and try to maintain a professional demeanor at all times.  As a result, we get lots of new clients, repeat clients and have maintained a studio in this area for over 15 years.  That has to count for something.

Anyone who claims they are the “best” either has no idea what they are implying, or truly believes their own hype.

Enjoy your week… looks like another week of beautiful days. 🙂

Pet Portrait Day – March 27

Pets are family, too!

And we’re holding an event that will bring out the best in your pet… their portraits!

All you need to do is call and make an appointment.  We have openings from 10am-5pm.  The cost is $35.

But here’s the best parts:

  • A portion of all session fees goes to benefit Briggs Animal Adoption Center in Charles Town, WV.
  • Kim Carter from The Grooming Room in Kearneysville will be on hand to give your clean pet a little touch-up (at no cost) and is offering free bandana to all your little friends.
  • We will have special sets for your pets, and you’re welcome to be in the pictures, too!
  • More fun keeps coming our way as the days go by… so stay tuned!

Call 304-263-3100 to make your appointment now!  Time slots are already filling up, and if you wait you will miss out!

For the birds

I’m going to go out on a limb here (pun intended), and tell you about Diana’s nature photography.  Diana has hoped and prayed for a day (or days) when she can have tons of snow, hundreds of birds, and a long lens.  She got just that in mid-February with feet of snow, an unknown number of birds, and a 400mm (effective length) lens.  The results, quite honestly, are stunning.  Diana’s eye at capturing wildlife has always been spot on.  But the nuance she shows in this gallery is pretty much the eye of a years-experienced professional.

I’m not writing this because Diana is also my wife, but because her pictures are worth taking a look at.  For now, we’ve put up a print gallery for you to peruse and from which you may wish to purchase prints and canvases.  Later, we are planning to add products such as note cards, matted displays and more.

While I also love taking nature shots, there’s something about these that make me think “the birds have expressions.”  I wish I could caption them all, but maybe we’ll do something like that later.  For now, go take a look.  You can either click on the picture above, or click here to go to the gallery.  No password is necessary.  You can see various birds and bird combinations by clicking in the lower right corner.


Buyer Warnings

In the news recently there have been stories about a massive scam in Boston, where hundreds of brides, vendors, and suppliers were duped into paying thousands of dollars to a bridal show that never really existed.  There were a few warning signs, but everything “looked” so good, that people barely gave it a second glance.  Below is a link to an article in the Huffington Post that describes some of what people faced:

The tragedy of it all is that someone took advantage of what is to be a happy occasion, essentially preying on people’s upbeat emotions.  This is NOT something unique, even in our area.  You may remember that there was a wedding photographer in nearby Maryland in recent years who failed to fulfill numerous wedding contracts for albums, prints and more.  In that case the photographer even moved out of the area, leaving many former clients with virtually nothing to show for their thousands of dollars in investment toward their photography.

And recently (this has been going around Facebook, especially among professional photographer friends I have on there), there was a photographer on one of the many “Judge” shows who claimed they were a professional, but who apparently could not produce a reasonable print for their client, from whom they took money to do the wedding.  Here’s a link to that portion of the show (as found on YouTube):

The point I’m making here is that anyone with a camera can claim to do a good job for you, and even claim to be a professional.  But when it comes down to realizing that anyone can say anything, the end result is you didn’t do your homework.  There are a lot of unscrupulous people who have absolutely no problem telling you what you want to hear in order to take your money and disappear.  There are also plenty of “photographer wannabes” that have little to no professional experience, and who are just taking your money to take pictures with no idea or regard for professional ethics, liability, and the requirements of fulfillment and customer service.

Yes, this is a bit self-serving.  I have been a professional photographer since 1984… and a full-time professional since 2001.  I’m proud of the reputation we have built with our excellent customer service, awesome clients, and wonderful photography.  I cringe when I hear someone say that they are going to hire a ‘friend of a friend,’ or someone they knew in college or high school.  And not because it means I don’t get the work (or the income) but because I also genuinely care about our images… which means it pains me to know that someone who has little experience with weddings (which are once in a lifetime events, individually) is doing it without sufficient backup equipment, knowledge of the way certain things work at  a wedding, or even liability insurance should something go horribly wrong.

The point is that you have to be careful what you are spending your hard-earned money on.  Our economy has changed dramatically in the last couple of years, and while many people are being careful with how much they spend, it should not come at the expense of losing everything to a scam or to someone who does not truly know what they are doing.  If you’re planning a wedding or even a family or senior portrait in the coming months, consider what I’ve offered here… great and consistent results come from experienced & professional photographers.