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The Behinder I Get…

I had hoped to post at least every other day or so, but sometimes you just can’t do what you want and have to to what you’re supposed to. But enough of the whining and on to the posting.

Softball season has begun, as well as baseball. Softball is a particular favorite because I am the announcer at all home games for the Jefferson High Lady Cougars. Mind you, I took the job because a wonderful lady by the name of Debbie Vickers wanted more than just a game for her daughters when they played softball. She wanted someone to announce games, play the national anthem, and keep things going. Well, it started out with a PA (public address) system they had purchased, which included a microphone and two good-sized outdoor speakers. When I started, my oldest daughter was still in high school. Six years later, I run hundreds of songs, special effects and voice clips off my laptop through the same P.A. And for the second year in a row, I’ve done the same for the school’s home varsity football games. It’s been great fun! Both teams play at the school. Check the school website for game times.

Heather Renaud brought her two children in last Friday. Some of you may remember young Cameron as one of our Most Beautiful Baby contestants and winner… he placed second. The other child is Cameron’s older sister, Kara. While we had to do a bit of waiting for Cameron to take off his explorer hat, we think the end result was worth the wait.

The intended end result was one of those fabulous cotton throw blankets we have been making. The blanket also contained the words “We Love You Grammy,” chosen by the kids.

There was only one more softball game this week, for which I was glad. But the good thing is that it wasn’t c-o-l-d outside and I was able to enjoy the game and announcing instead of shivering.

As the weather turns warmer, I’m going to be going out and taking pictures of nature. I hope to be able to share them with everyone. I love where we live and the access we have to beautiful wildlife and nearby river.

I’ll be in touch shortly. You do the same.

Digital versus Film

This is NOT a technical post. With that out of the way, I’ll get to the real reason I’m writing this.

Some of our customers ask us about the difference between film and digital. Mind you, this is only SOME of our customers. Most only care that the pictures look good (especially that THEY look good) and that they are getting a good value. 😉

Over the many years since the original film was developed, there have been tremendous innovations in film. Like anything else that evolves through technology, it comes to the point where it has to evolve beyond one medium and into another. I’m sure we can all cite examples of this in other areas of life and technology.

Film always did a great job of recording the images. The different films gave us the ability to record better greens, or to work better in daylight, or take advantage of higher contrast. It was then up to the printer (your local lab or drugstore) to print the film on to paper with the same concept in mind as when you took the photo. Until a few years ago, only professional labs could do that consistently. But more recently, even the Wal-Mart photo centers do an excellent job of matching what you expected with what you receive.

With digital processing, the camera merely captures the image. The effects that we used to have from the different films can now be applied AFTER the image is taken on the computer. We call it post-processing.

Now… why did OUR studio decide to switch from film to digital? Basically, the timing was right. In 2004, we upgraded many of our computer systems to be able to more easily handle images we were getting from film that was scanned at our lab. Prior to 2004, we were already using Photoshop and other digital image handling programs to make images look better.

In 2005, we upgraded most of our studio and wedding equipment to digital because everything else was already in place. Our labs were digital, so we didn’t have to switch professional processing labs. We already had a computer geek (ME!) on board to handle computer problems, and we had a great workflow in place to handle how digital images were processed versus how film was handled.

Since then, we have made continual strides to upgrade the way we work and present our images to our clients. Most weddings are now ready to be viewed online in 48 hours (it takes time to review all the images and get rid of the bad ones, make minor modifications to others and do my own version of post-processing to some). But in our all-digital portrait studio, most people can see their portrait images only a few minutes after the session has ended. This has made a huge difference in how we hold portrait sittings.

So, it was a gradual process. Two other things we had in place to make it all work well was the computer technology and a Photoshop specialist to handle those images. Now, we can take the pictures, show them to you, clean them up and send them to our lab within a couple of days. And if there is any retouching to be done, we can do it exactly to your specifications right in our studio. You get your pictures faster, and out to your family and friends faster!

So is digital better than film? Many photographers still use film. For many types of photographers, it still has tremendous advantages over digital. But for our studio, digital is the better choice. We still use film in some of our sports work, but that will be changed over to digital this year.

Eagles anyone?

A friend of Diana’s sent us a link to a site at NCTC (a local training center) where they have a video camera mounted to watch a pair of nesting eagles. Presently there are three eggs, and this afternoon we have watched at least one of them hatching. You can view them as well.


The McDougalls and Michael Patrick

Today we had a little sitting with Michelle’s family. Her husband Matt and daughter Meadow (the same Meadow who placed third in the Most Beautiful Baby contest), plus Michelle’s mom (Tina) and step-dad (Scott), and Scott’s son, Scott Jr.

As we all expected, Meadow stole the show… mostly trying to get her to smile. Everyone seemed to agree that it was just as important to get her to smile as it was to get Scott to smile. But everyone took a good picture and here’s the finished result.

We also learned that Mike Potter’s middle name is Patrick. So, he’s Michael Patrick… a fine Irish name if ever we’ve known one. 🙂

Finding The Beautiful Babies

Searching for a Beautiful Baby

It all started in mid-January. Our annual ritual of taking pictures of lots of babies and letting someone decide who’s the most beautiful of them all. This little contest of ours has grown each year, and this was the best year of them all because we got to meet so many new babies and their parents.

Our first baby was Brooke. At 23 months, she was so self-assured and confident that I didn’t really need to do much more than keep bringing out props for her to use. She quickly wowed the rest of the staff because she was both willing to do just about any pose and was funny to watch. Her parents were delighted at how cooperative she was. Both grandparents were along for the show and also participated in a family sitting held at the same time. Brooke was one of our favorites simply because she was so easy to work with.

Next was Cameron… and not my grandson Cameron, either. Heather’s boy Cameron was also quite the cooperative gentleman once he got past the initial jitters. He was very self-involved and played a lot on the floor before doing any kind of posing. The funniest incident of all our babies occurred with Cameron, when his mom and grandmother donned him in a chicken suit. Now, mind you it was not a regular chicken suit. It is designed to appear as though the child is riding the chicken, with fake legs dangling off the sides and the child’s legs passing through the “chicken” and into leggings that look like chicken legs. As if that wasn’t funny enough, Cameron spent a lot of time sitting or laying on the floor, and gave us a great “chicken butt” pose to round out the sitting. Cameron was voted as the 2nd place winner.

Kai is the grandson of one of Diana’s old high school buddies and we were happy to have him in the contest. He wasted no time getting into just about anything he could carry or bounce on. This made it easy to take pictures of him because he was so busy doing anything he could to keep busy. He seemed fascinated at one point with the padded puzzle pieces we have and was carrying them around, which made for some adorable images. When he started laughing at his own silliness, the camera couldn’t keep up with the picture opportunities.

Shortly after Kai left, we met DJ. DJ is the son of one of Jessica’s (my stepdaughter) best friends. He arrived in a little tie and vest outfit, which he wore most of the way through the sitting. His mom and aunt helped keep him occupied by standing near the mounted camera. But as usual the best of DJ’s images came from the hand-held camera. He was so fascinated with everything around him that it wasn’t hard to get good pictures of him. He did spend some quality time on the cell phone; making a few calls and taking care of business. I’m sure most of the recipients of those calls still wonder who it was. DJ’s mom and aunt also posed for a photo for their mom for a present.

Griffin was next and provided the best sports images with his own golf gear and horse-riding skills. But since Griffin had so many outfits, he was also a carpenter, engineer and Elmo’s best friend. This is something we encourage because it truly demonstrates the many facets of a child’s personality. Griffin was more than ready to explain his prowess on the golf course, or how best to build whatever we needed built. Entertaining was Griffin’s best weapon and we thoroughly enjoyed his sitting.

Noah was just about the youngest of our entrants at eight months of age. As is typical of the age, he spent a lot of time playing with anything that was within his reach. But the pictures of him in the bunny costume were his most adorable. When his mom also brought along plastic eggs and his Easter basket, there was about nothing more precious. The most touching was one of him with his granddaddy’s fire helmet in the background.

Katie was our next little one. 14 months old and the proud baby of young parents, she quickly found her footing and became the baby that laughed the most during her session. It was so fun to see her play without ever having toys to keep her occupied. She had three outfits, all lovely and very seasonal. She had such a great disposition right from the start and was eager to be as happy as possible. Her very helpful mom and dad were wonderful at keeping her from getting bored… and daddy was clearly the reason why Katie laughed so much.

Destinee was easily the most affectionate of the children, spending lots of time kissing her mommy, her grandma and our big stuffed Pooh Bear. With lots of smiles and a great personality, Destinee’s session was quick and easy and she seemed to have a great time. Our rocking horse has never been kissed so many times. We deemed her the kissing bandit just before she left.

Ellie was the shiest initially. She slowly warmed up, but not before we took some hand-held photos while she was clinging to and around her mom. She couldn’t resist the big crayons and spent a lot of time moving them around and unwittingly being cute all on her own. One thing that most of the kids do eventually is warm up enough to start talking and telling us things… Ellie was no exception and was full of chatter by the time she left, even though she absolutely hated the pretty pink dress. Ellie placed fourth in the voting by our judges, and was awarded an honorable mention.

Little Joshua won all our hearts pretty quickly, despite having very few smiles and seeming much older than his youngest of the contest age of seven months. His parents are new residents in our area, but you wouldn’t know it by how easily Joshua made friends. His favorite pose was lying on his belly, which apparently was hilarious since it was one of the only times he smiled big and broad. This cutie also was the first place winner.

The last entrant was a repeat entry from the previous year, Meadow. We were tentative at first because Meadow started crying before she came into the studio last year, and cried several times during and after her session. This year, it was a complete turnabout. She was our best friend right up front and wasted no time getting right into the studio and starting to take pictures. Her mom has been a repeat client since high school and was very helpful, assuring Meadow that there were no doggies, of which Meadow is apparently afraid. Meadow came in third this year, and placed second in last year’s contest.

Overall, we had a great time. And we think the kids did, too. Every one of the entrants deserved to win in our opinion. But the judges were the final say and we stood by their decisions. For those who are interested, there were four judges. All judges saw the photos independent of one another and made their own decisions on 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. First place was given three value points, 2nd place was given two value points and 3rd place was given one value point. The total combined points determined the winners in each place.

We were glad to see everyone and meet a bunch of new faces. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year and making even more new friends.

See What We’re Doing?

See What We’re Doing?

I’ve long been quite the explainer.  Sometimes more than you wanted to know, frequently topical, but always conversational.  In an effort to expound upon many of the things that we do at the studio, the blog form seems to be the most popular medium to do that without having to update the website each time a new event transpires.

As many of you know, we’ve been taking pictures in West Virginia since 1995.  The time has flown by for us, and we have met some incredible people.  We’ve gone from a two-room studio in the basement of our home (with impossibly low ceilings) to a 2,000 square foot facility on the western edge of Shepherdstown.  It’s not just the space that’s grown, either.  We’ve also added services and products, and tried to stay on the cutting edge.

Our sports division shot through the roof a few years ago, and we were actually busting at the seams for more room to process all the pictures.  Since that time, we’ve come up with new and exciting ways to distribute pictures and turn them around quicker.  Sports team and action photos continue to be a specialty division (via TLCSports.Net) in our company.  It gives us the opportunity to see over 15,000 players each year from several states and in just about every sport imaginable.

But, let’s get back to portraits and weddings.  We started in wedding photography in 1982.  Photographing some 40-50 weddings a year at one point, we’ve now photographed somewhere around 500 weddings (lost count around 425).  In addition, we’ve done literally thousands of portraits.  From babies and children, to dancers of all ages, to business executives, families, high school seniors and much more.  By including schools, professional associations and university Greek associations, we feel we’ve come to the point where we can and do photography just about anything involving people.  Oh… one more thing.  Yes, we photograph pets.  We’ve photographed cats, dogs, horses (NOT in the studio) and most other domestic pets.

Weddings are a passion.  Despite having photographed hundreds of weddings, we see each one as a unique part of two people’s lives.  It touches so many more than that, and we approach each one uniquely with the skill and experience of over 20 years in the wedding industry.

Portraits aren’t really a new offering.  We were doing portraits of people as far back as 1975.  But in the last ten years we have concentrated a considerable amount of effort into learning a lot more about people, portraits and what people like.  We think we’ve built quite a repertoire of portrait photography and can do just about any size group as well as the individuals.

I’ll close this out with a thank you to those who come back and review our blog.  It’s been a great pleasure meeting the communities we serve, and we hope this gives everyone an opportunity to keep up with what we are doing – hopefully at least weekly. (