Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The "old days" were the best days for all of us

I had the occasion this week to reminisce again. I guess that when you get to a certain age, one does that more frequently.

Earlier in the week, I was engaged in a discussion regarding a frequent topic in our office. I again made known my intense dislike for all big box-type stores. My frequent target is Walmart. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the people who work there. My disgust is with the very concept of the big box stores.

To me, in spite of the alleged convenience and, yes, the lower prices, they are a perfect example of what America is not about ... or at least, used to be not about.

America used to be about encouraging free-thinking and an entrepreneurial attitude. "Mom & Pop" stores, "family-owned" stores, those were American.

Communal stores with prices dictated by a small group are, to me, a socialist-type establishment found in a Communist country.

A number of the big-box retailers have, in the past, specifically indicated their desire to put small, family-owned-for-decades stores out of business. They wanted to be the only game in town.

I was reminded of what a great loss small businesses are again this week.

I needed to take photos this week in a poorly-lighted courtroom. I decided to use a lens that I purchased at BK Photo, in Troy, many years ago. It was a Nikon 135mm f2.0 lens. It has no auto focus ability. It is just a great lens for low light.

I ended up with that lens because as a younger photographer, I would do like many photographers and photo enthusiasts alike would do on Saturdays. I would head to downtown Troy to BK Photo.

BK Photo manager Sonny Fulks knew that I had been looking for a fast lens for football and basketball. He had just taken the lens in on trade and made a point to let me know that he had a great used lens that would fit my needs.

I purchased the lens and used it for a number of years, until auto-focus technology saw to it that the lens found its way out of my camera bag.

That type of service, someone who works at a small specialty store looking out for a customer, is sadly lacking in today's world.

First of all, if you walk into any place that sells cameras today and even ask them about a specific product that is not on their shelf, they will not know what you are talking about.

Another thing that I see is that many of today's camera enthusiasts are far less capable photographers than they believe themselves to be. Digital technology is partly to blame, for aspiring photographers and even a fair number of so-called "professional" photographers think that using Kentucky windage to zero-in on the proper exposure is acceptable.

In the "old days," we had another advantage that today's shooters do not. When we took our film to a store such as BK Photo, experienced experts were behind the counter. They would never hesitate to go through photos with a customer and offer constructive criticism and advice for making the next roll of pictures better.

You cannot fix something if you don't know that it is broken and you cannot improve your photography without someone who knows what they are talking about giving advice on how to make improvements.

I'm sorry, but you are not going to find that sort of help at a Wal Mart or Meijer. The technicians there know how to operate the equipment they have and their sales staff knows how to repeat the sales pitch they were taught about cameras they have in stock ... and that is just about all.

The other place that people look for advice is on the Internet. Just who are you getting photo tips from? Many of the bloggers and self-proclaimed experts that I see on the Internet have less real experience than those they are offering advice.

I miss the old days. It is true that I could not shop for groceries or household items at BK Photo. I don't ever recall seeing that as a disadvantage.

I do believe that a good part of what I am today as as photographer is due to assistance, advice and even some constructive criticism that I received years ago from Roy Baker and Sonny Fulks at one of those family-owned specialty stores that monster establishments like Wal Mart drive out of business.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Small-town" size, "Big-time" expectations

As your Saturday paper hits your porch this morning, there is a group of local girls getting out of bed, having breakfast and getting ready for the biggest day of their young lives.

Today, at noon, the Lehman Cavaliers volleyball team will take the floor at Wright State University to play for a state title. They are looking to prove to all, that they are the best volleyball team in the state of Ohio.

For most of them, it is also the chance to uphold a tradition of excellence in volleyball at Lehman Catholic High School. Teams led by Coach Greg Snipes have two state championship banners on the wall already, one from 2000 and one from 2005. 

On Friday night, Covington and Lehman squared off against one another in football. By the time you read this, one will have moved on.

I wonder if many of us realize how blessed we are in our little corner of Ohio to have such fine schools and athletic programs. 

Piqua, Miami East, Lehman, Russia and Versailles are just a few schools that come to mind when one mentions state champions in any number of sports.

Many of these schools are perennial contenders for best of the best in our state.

This obviously means that we have some fine young athletes in our area. It also means that we have many fine young men and women living among us. 

Very few of our young athletes end up on the top step of the OHSAA state podium because they were born with athletic skills so far superior to others that they could breeze to a championship. 

Most of they were born with good genes and maybe a God-given talent for running, jumping and hand-eye coordination. 

The defining difference is that our state champions, and those who continually contend for state championships, have a work ethic and desire to excel that drives them to be the best they can be. 

That work ethic and drive is what defines our area kids off the floor as well. Many of these young men and women who wear championship medals are also honor students. The drive for excellence that burns inside them is not reserved for athletics. 

To be fair, we are also blessed with coaches who are skilled, understanding and willing to put in the extra time necessary to take a kid or a team to a state championship. Please understand that the road to a state championship is not one that ends up at home with dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. Coaches put in even more hours than their athletes in many cases.

We don't know just how lucky we are to have these types of students among us. Today's state champion high school athlete is tomorrow's teacher, coach, businessman or businesswoman.

As parents living in semi-rural southwest Ohio, we could be worrying if our kids are being prepared for a life  of competing with "big city" types as our world becomes ever-smaller.

Nearly every sports season around our area, one or more athletes or teams make a run at a state championship. Our student athletes routinely knock off "Goliath" from Cincinnati and Columbus schools.

The parents in our "neck of the woods" aren't raising kids who even see themselves as "David" in these state showdowns. I see teams and athletes who are confident in themselves, their parents and their schools to have the support they need to bring home that state championship trophy.

I am proud to live in a community where a commitment to excellence and drive to win is so strong ... on, and off, the field.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Organization...a never-ending job

I used to think that the advent of digital photography would mean a huge savings in time and effort in keeping images safe and organized.

There are times, now, when I think that cataloging and storing negatives was not as much of an issue as keeping up with digital files.

In the "old days," one had to cut negs into manageable strips of five or six frames, label a negative sleeve, slip in the strips, put it in a binder and that was that. It took time and binders or boxes of negatives did begin to take a considerable amount of storage space.

Digital files ought to be simple, right? Remember that rule number one of digital photography is to save your images in a safe place and then make a back-up file. Back-up files on CD or DVD don't take up that much room but I am still dubious as to the long-term expectations of CD and DVD discs.

Many of us learned the hard way years back that the adhesive labels just don't work. We also know that Sharpie markers aren't the way to go, either. It seems to me that spending the extra dollars on LiteScribe discs is the way to go.

I use Photoshelter, (,) as both an off-site storage facility for important images and also as a great way to display photo galleries and offer images for sale.

As my daughter and I become more involved in our studio work to augment our photojournalism jobs, I am once again looking to get our Web sites cleaned up and make it easier for customers to locate and purchase images.

Hard drives are a great thing but I am quickly becoming a believer in off-site archiving. Not only are your images safe, they are available to you no matter where you are. As cell phones such as the Droid and iPhone become more popular along with iPads and similar devices, the ability to access your images from any computer-type device anywhere and any time will become more necessary for serious photographers.

No matter what your method of saving and storing images, I cannot begin to stress the importance of getting your precious photographs off your computer and backed up. If you have not, yet, learned that lesson the hard, you will.

Remember, the question will all hard drives is not if they will fail, but when.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Welcome to "Open Mike", my new blog page. My hope, here, is to share with anyone who is interested tips and opinions on photography and photo equipment. I will also publish my weekly column which is published on Saturday's in the Piqua Daily Call.

This is a test

We are conducting a test of the Emergency Blogcast System. If this had been an actual Blogcast, you would have been instructed what station to tune in to. Thank you for watching this test.