Archive for June, 2013

50 things to celebrate this Independence Day

America is truly the land of the free and the home of the brave. There are many things that make this country special. Here are 50 of them:

    1. Democracy
    2. Norman Rockwell
    3. Our 50 states
    4. Firefighters, rescue personnel, and police
    5. The Grand Canyon
    6. The American dream
    7. Picnics
    8. Freedom of speech
    9. M&M’s
    10. Summer vacation
    11. The Constitution
    12. Niagara Falls
    13. The Greatest Generation, our WWII veterans
    14. The East and West Coasts
    15. Baseball
    16. Blue collar Americans
    17. Disney
    18. Fireworks on the 4th
    19. The Statue of Liberty
    20. Hamburgers and fries
    21. New England
    22. Mount Rushmore
    23. Farmers
    24. The Rocky Mountains
    25. Presumption of innocence
    26. Milk shakes
    27. Teachers
    28. Route 66
    29. Barbeques
    30. Seinfeld
    31. Our military personnel
    32. Redwood trees
    33. The founding fathers
    34. Drive in theaters
    35. Apple
    36. New York City
    37. The Grinch
    38. Facebook
    39. Health care workers
    40. Wrigley Field
    41. County fairs
    42. Bruce Springsteen
    43. High school football
    44. Mark Twain
    45. Cheerios
    46. Lincoln Memorial
    47. Bigfoot sightings
    48. U.S. Olympians
    49. Kids
    50. Fall apple picking

Your turn. What’s on your list of the great things about America?


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9 lessons we can learn from the family dog

Studies have shown a range of health benefits that come with owning a dog, but beyond the stress reduction and increased fitness levels, we can learn much about life from our canine friends:

Value loyalty
Is there any creature on earth more loyal than the family dog? And all they ask in return is to hang out with you.

Make time for play
We burn the candle at both ends, but in a dog’s mind, there’s always time to play. Whether measured in dog or human years, life is too short to miss out on some daily fun.

Be willing to learn
My neighbor’s new dog has a long list of tricks that he happily demonstrates. He jumps, crawls, and rolls over, all with a wagging tail. My neighbor says he loves to learn new things.

Chill out
Dogs know the value of sleep, so as we read reports late at night, they’re counting sheep in front of the fireplace.

Exercise more
Sometimes dogs just want to run. Doubtful that they’ve read the health benefits of exercise, but regardless, dogs prefer to be active.

Be friendly
While people have to earn our trust, dogs generally give a new person the benefit of the doubt.

Show enthusiasm
I think when their owners are away, dogs rehearse how they’ll greet us for maximum impact.

Be sincere
What you see is what you get. No faking, no mixed messages. And if you catch Fido stealing a hamburger off the kitchen counter, you won’t hear excuses.

Think of others
Dogs are natural born greeters. For us humans, a figurative wag of the tail goes a long way. Say hello to coworkers in the hall, smile to strangers on the street, or help an elderly woman who can’t reach an item on the top shelf at the store.

Your turn. What have you learned from a dog?

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Look for good photos away from the action

Shooting an event with lots of action  or activity can be difficult, First baseparticularly if you don’t have good access or the right equipment for the job.

But bring the camera because there are ways to capture some nice images, even if you’re not wearing a press pass. Most of the examples below are from sporting events, but the same concepts work for many situations, from high school plays to concerts.

Take your eye off the ball
The photo above is from a high school softball game. I was too far away to catch much of the action at home plate. Then I noticed the intensity of the first baseman. She had a laser focus on every pitch, and fortunately, was close enough for me to get a nice shot that really showed that intensity as she waited for the next pitch. I shot several images, and this is my favorite.

IMG_9905_600What else is going on?
Sticking with photos from the diamond, this next image (left) came at Hadlock Field, home of our Portland Sea Dogs, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. We had great seats for the game, but far enough away that capturing good action shots was difficult.

As fate would have it, the batters in the on deck circle were well within range, and I was able to snap off a couple of images of several players.

Remember the importance of warming-up

One of my favorite photos is of former Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. On this Tim_Thomas_460particular day, our seats were in the balcony of Boston’s TD Garden, about seven stories above the ice, so anything other than a wide shot was unlikely. However, we went down to ice level to watch warm-ups, and I snagged this shot with my trusty point and shoot camera by prefocusing and waiting for Thomas to turn. Tip: to prefocus, point the camera at your subject and hold the shutter release button half-way down.

I have similar photos of other goalies, all captured in the same way. I focus my attention on the goalies because the other players move too quickly for a point and shoot to follow.

Hint: you can shoot hockey and other ice events through the protective glass. Try to find a clean spot, and hold the camera against the glass. The same holds true when shooting through a screen at baseball or softball games.

Look left, and then right
Greek manThe shot on the left came at Boston’s annual Greek Independence Day Parade. I took hundreds of images of the parade, but this one, of a marcher prior to the event, is among my favorites. The shot came shortly after I arrived and was scoping out the parade route. I turned around, and there he was.

Note that the cloudy weather helped this photo, as a bright sun would have cast a shadow on his face, making it darker than the background.

In the world of photography, clouds can be helpful in the right circumstances.

Sounds like a good topic for a future blog.

Be the early bird
Finally, one of the best pieces of advice I picked up over the years is simple: get there early. Several years ago, the late Tim Russert was speaking at a conference I attended. Being a big fan of his, I wanted a good photo, but knew the hall would be packed with thousands.

Tim RussertRussert’s remarks were first thing in the morning, so I arrived early, scouted out the available best seat, and planted myself there. This image, taken with a basic point and shoot camera, served its purpose, and I came away with a photo of Russert that marks the day.

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Times change, but skills remain key

Think about the changes an 80-year-old has seen. Growing up, the family’s primary sources of news and events were likely the daily newspaper and word-of-mouth from family and friends. Then came the telephone, radio, and television. That generation witnessed a shift in the methods and speed of communication greater than any group prior.

Now we have the internet, email, social media, smart phones, tablets, and apps that will do everything from paying bills to creating a talking Santa cartoon.

Staying in touch has never been easier — while being an effective communicator has become increasingly difficult.

The following tips will help increase the odds your audience will pay attention to your message:

Be clear and concise
Regardless of your field or message, your writing (or speaking) should be direct and to-the-point. If your readers have to look for key message, you’ve likely lost them. Make your point without lengthy introductions, then follow-up with details.

This is particularly critical when targeting younger generations that are accustomed to more direct communication.

Consider your audience
A NASA engineer speaking to her peers would likely use very different language than when addressing a group of high school students on the same topic. Ask yourself what you audience knows about the topic, how much detail is appropriate, and if they’ll understand terminology associated with the subject. If’ I’m chatting with another photographer, I might mention shooting an image with my 135mm at f2. However, if speaking my aunt, I’d simply say I adjusted the camera to blur the background out of focus.

Be objective
Passion is a double-edge sword. It’s what makes you good at your job, but also makes effectively communicating about it much more challenging.

I’ll explain. You want to tell people about a project, and assume they’ll share your excitement. You begin to tell them the specifics of your work, and before you can know it, they’ve lost interest, either because they can’t follow the details or the story ran too long.

A programmer friend once told me a story about a project she was working on. As much as I tried to follow along, I was lost within 3 minutes. The story continued, with me struggling to keep up. It’s became jokingly known as the “Flat File Story.”

Be timely and time sensitive
Readers are incredibly busy, so you have to reach them where they want to hear the news, and then present it in a way that they’ll want to read/hear.

In my early years, we often drafted newsletter articles or messages from executives that were fairly long, and people seemed to read them. Now there’s great competition for readers’ attention, and you run the risk of losing them with a message that’s too jam-packed. And given the speed at which news travels, by the time you craft your detailed message, it might be old or outdated.

Follow Twitter’s lead
Twitter, with its 140 character limit, provides a great exercise in good writing. It forces you to be direct, clear, and concise. Give it a try.

Your turn. How do you reach your audience?

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