DC Aftermath

That sounds like some sort of CBS post-apocalyptic drama doesn’t it? Well, I’m back home now. I would have posted sooner but it took nearly the entire weekend to simply recover. The last two days of my trip were especially brutal. I won’t bore you with the minute by minute details, but the highlights include shooting all day, not eating lunch, shooting an insane VIP party, not eating dinner, having my hotel threaten to kick me out of my room (corporate booked my room… and didn’t give them a working credit card), throwing out my back, breaking a shoe, not sleeping and finally a rough return flight coming out of Chicago. Normally most of that would be minor background noise in an otherwise mundane business trip, but when all that happens in the span of 8 hours, it gets a little more insane. Either way, I did my job and got the shots I needed.

Let it never be said that artists don’t work hard. I even have proof.

Those are were my work shoes. Shoes I’ve had for a couple years now and that I’ve worn to nearly every wedding, corporate gig, VIP event, party, and photo shoot I’ve ever had. Photographers and videographers are exceptionally hard on their footwear and it’s incredibly hard to find a pair nice enough to fit in at a black tie event and sturdy enough at the same time to take the inevitable beating that they’ll have to endure.

So, the next time you hear anyone say that running around with a camera is a “fun” job that anyone could do, you can tell them to kindly go fuck themselves.

What really amazes me, even more than the fact that people think my job is easy, is that they expect me to ignore common sense and hunger and focus solely on whatever it is they’re asking me to do. At about 90% of the wedding I’ve done, not a single consideration is made for letting the poor photographers eat. Especially at seated dinners. You all have SEATS, and waiters bringing you food, so, given that I don’t even have a seat, how do you expect me to eat? Oh, what’s that? I don’t need to eat? No, you’re right, I’ve only been on my feet, photographing Bridezilla since 11am, why should I eat before midnight, that’s just silly. Corporate parties are the same. Just because YOU ate, asked me to photograph X while you did, and then finished eating, don’t assume that somewhere in there I actually ate, because I didn’t. I was doing what I was told, and getting my shot. So, when you say something like “(fake laugh), oh, why don’t you grab a bite” after the catering company has cleaned everything up, it makes me want to punch you in the throat.

The point is that it’s what I do, and I’m ok with it, I just enjoy bitching about it every now and again. I’m also home now, so I really can’t complain. A constant stream of Advil is helping my back and I’ve already ordered new shoes. Back to the grind.

Matt out.


Well, we’re back after our long and restful vacation to Savannah. We mostly went back for ourselves, just to see what had changed in seven years, but we were able to meet up with some good friends and have a great time while we were at it.

We started driving early last Saturday morning. With the wife being pregnant, and at the doctors recommendation, we stopped every hour or two for a stretch. That left us with plenty of time, but a two day drive. We decided to have some fun with it and stop at each state line for cheesy tourist pictures. I’ll spare you from seeing those. Our half way point was Mobile, AL, which isn’t really half way but does have something worth stopping for. The Brick Pit BBQ is located in Mobile and is on my (and others) lists of “Holy Grails of BBQ”. It’s a simple shack along side a back road in Mobile, about 20 minutes out of the way of anything in perticular. The sign on the road reads “This is the real deal. The Brick Pit, the best damn barbecue in the great state of Alabama”. That pretty much sums it up. The dining room is large enough for about 12 tables. You order through a small window at the back by the kitchen. Our first stop was all about the ribs. Perfect, succulent, fall off the bone pork spareribs. They were legendary. It was so good that we vowed to stop again on our way back in a week. We did, the 2nd time opting for the pulled pork. It simply dissolved in your mouth, it was even better than the ribs.

Fueled by tasty pork products the next day we hit the road by 5am and finished our drive into Savannah around 4pm. Just in time to check into the hotel. We found a great deal on staying at The Mansion at Forsyth. A cool boutique hotel, our room was huge and had a great view of the park. It had a massive soaking tub which Lauren enjoyed and one of those “rainfall” showers that I liked. As soon as we had dropped off our bags and changed we made a B-line strait to the historic district for some Pizza. We had always loved Vinny Van Go-go’s pizza while we were in school and it was still alive and kicking. We were able to meet up with two of Lauren’s old roommates, Brittney and Hallie and my old roommate Jason. It was awesome getting to catch up with everyone.

The next couple days we did the tourist thing as a group and met up with everybody for dinners and lunches. We went to our favorite Italian place where Lauren and I had dozens and dozens of dates. We visited all our old favorite SCAD buildings, various shops downtown, the school bookstore and most importantly, our old coffee shop, Gallery Espresso. It was great to all at once be excited to be back and at the same time, be in such familiar surroundings that it felt like we had just left. The SCAD kids hadn’t started classes yet, so we pretty much had the run of the town without huge crowds, which was nice. We even got in at Mrs Wilks, a crazy little B&B that serves the best lunch in the city.

Tuesday night we all headed out to the bar above our hotel for a little more catching up. I introduced Jason to Scotch and Lauren and the girls had milk and cake. We talked and caught up for hours and I had a great time talking shop with Jason. I really missed being able to have real artistic conversations with people and Jason and I are on the same wavelength on a lot of things so it was great to catch up. We even swapped some music by the end of the week and now I’m working my way through the great stuff he gave me to listen to (Teenage Bottlerocket is epic btw).

Friday we had to say goodbye once again to the city where my wife and I fell in love, where we met our best friends, and where we spent four years doing more crazy artsy things than I have in all my other years combined.

We packed up early in the morning and hit the road, stopping for breakfast along i95 before turning westward onto the i10 corridor. Thankfully traffic was light and we made good time back to Mobile where, as I mentioned before, we stopped once again for some BBQ. Saturday was more leasurely. We knew it was the shorter of the two sections so we were able to take our time. We stopped once again at each state line, getting photos at the ones we had missed the first time. Around lunch time we were in the middle of the Louisiana swamp. Stopping at a rest area, we asked some locals where we could find something to eat. The first things they mentioned were all generic and chain restaurants a couple exits away. We asked them for some more local flavor instead. It had turned into quite a “road food” trip. We were led to the Boudin Store, which from all outward appearances was just a convenience store (complete with gas pumps). Inside however, was a really nice guy with a thick cajun accent wanting to know what we’d like to eat. Lauren got the fried chicken and I opted for the shrimp and crawfish. Both were awesome. Just goes to show that there are some great experiences to be had at small local holes-in-the-wall.

Saturday night we pulled into the driveway finishing what was a truly great roadtrip. We had so much fun in Savannah and it was great to see everyone and catch up. It was a long drive, but totally worth it.

Post Holiday Fun

Well gang, another year come and gone and now we’re into the double digits. “2k10” doesn’t sound right quite yet, but “10” doesn’t make sense either, and “20-10” just sounds weird. Oh well, at least it’s here. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that 2009 wasn’t exactly the best year on record. We had quite a few crazy moments family wise and the country/world had quite a few crazy moments all on their own. Hopefully 2010 will be a little better for everyone all around.

Personal update wise, we just got back from visiting my parents in New Hampshire. My dad is doing better and is 75% of the way through his chemo treatments. Eight down, four to go. We had a nice trip and actually had a breeze through the airports with short lines and little waiting. I was quite surprised. I got a couple nice presents, a few t-shirts from Think Geek, a nice paintball mask, a bottle of Crystal Skull vodka, all kinds of nice stuff.

For those of you who might be confused by my receiving a paintball mask, worry not. It’s actually something I’ve been enjoying playing lately. I went with a small group about a month ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. In fact, my “big” present is actually a paintball gun that I’ve yet to purchase. I did my research very thoroughly and decided on the Tippman A-5 as my first gun. Tippman is apparently known for it’s very rugged and durable guns and the A-5 suites my needs in the “awesome” category. They designed that gun in such a way that it’s completely modular and customizable. You can add things like barrels and handles and stocks and change it from a normal paintball gun into a replica of anything from an AK-47, to a M16 or MP5 to a full on Barrett .50cal. Check out some of the options here. Of course, those mods are a little pricey. I wanted to start out a little more reasonable. The way I figured it, I would need two things to get the most bang for my buck: a nice barrel and an electronic trigger. After reading review after review, I decided on a “Flatline Barrel” and the WAS E-grip. The barrel is actually kinda funky, it’s not strait. It has a slightly raised slope that actually adds backspin to the paintballs. Backspin, as you probably know, makes round objects travel further and straighter. If everything I’ve read is correct, this thing is nasty. It’ll add nearly 100 feet of range and keep it laser accurate. The grip, well, that’s just as awesome. The electronic trigger allows for single shots, 3 round bursts, semi auto and full auto firing. The upward rates of fire are over 25 balls a second. I found both of these in at Ultimate Paintball for about $400 in total. I normally would never spend that on myself, but I got $350 in total over the holidays and my birthday, so I just about break even.

Anyway, just wanted to wish everyone a good 2010, I hope everyone’s holidays went well and that you got to spend some time with loved ones. It’s tough getting back into the groove of working, especially after having a nice long break. Oh well, that’s what coffee is for, right?

Matt out.

Austin TX – Day 3 and 4

Wow, this week has flown by. It’s been two days since I updated and most of it was a blur. I actually intended to write about my experience yesterday but I was so tired I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Thursday was the first day of intense breakout sessions. There were twice as many as the day before and it was even harder to choose what to attend. I was able to see “Making Ideas Happen in the Creative World” with Scott Belsky, “Good vs. Great Design” with one of my personal favorites Cameron Moll, “Everything I know I learned from Video Games” with Dave Werner and “Variations on a Rectangle” (magazine design) with DJ Stout.

Probably the most helpful, especially in terms of design and inspiration was Cameron. It was a really great session with lots of insight on pushing your ideas to the next level. The video game session with Dave Werner was also interesting from a software standpoint. They’ve developed a great product in Atmosphir that’s essentially a “create your own game” platform. It looks very slick and I hope they succeed with their product.

We also had the chance to visit the exhibitions themselves and pick up some schwag. When I say some, I mean 6 bags full. I actually beat my previous record of “free t-shirts” from a computer conference in high-school with a resounding 9 shirts. A couple hats, toys, books and even a messenger bag are all mixed in there along with all the brochures and info sheets about various products. There was actually quite a number of paper companies, which I found rather odd. I was always under the impression that designers usually found and then used a printer that suited their needs and that the decision for a specific brand of paper was usually up to that printer. I guess a designer could ask for Monadnock paper instead of Mohawk, but I doubt a printer is going to go find, buy and ship in a special paper from some unknown paper company just for a certain job. More likely they’ll just suggest something similar from what stock they have. Who knows.

Paper is something that both facinates me from a strictly product standpoint as well as is a non-issue for me unless we’re talking about photo papers. Regardless, it was interesting to talk to people about their various products.

Thursday I decided to take it easy and just chill at the hotel. These sessions are hours long and we’re walking everywhere so I was pretty tired. My coworkers and I go some food and called it a night early.

Today I got up early and went to the “Early Morning Photoshop Show” presented by Adobe. It was probably the best session from the entire conference. I got more out that hour and a half than most anything so far. There are literally hundreds of little, tiny updates and changes to the CS4 Suite that I hadn’t figured out yet. It was very interesting to see how and why Adobe has updated what they did. By the way, if you have CS4, you’re going to want to check out the Configurator app. Trust me.

After that there were a couple less memorable sessions and a couple pretty good ones, including “Web Strategy that Works” with Mark O’Brian. The main focus of that was web clarity, marketing, search engine strategies and other random tips but the real focus was on creating and maintaining a creative writing schedule, something I’ve struggled with from time to time. There were a few good tips on staying true to your content, how to get over writers block, that sort of thing. Very helpful.

That’s about it for today. Lauren is driving up from Houston to join me for the weekend and I’m really excited about that. We haven’t been able to get away for quite a while and I think we’re way overdue. I’ve got a couple more classes first thing tomorrow, but after lunch we’ll be on our own and we plan on exploring Austin a little bit. I haven’t had a chance to go see the capital yet, so that’s definitely on my to-do list. I’ll try and share some pictures when we get back.

Matt out.

Austin – Day Two

Had a pretty good day of seminars today. Everything kicked off at 8am with the conference opening up the exhibit hall which resulted in the “t-shirt gold rush” that conferences typically turn into. I came away with 4. Not bad. I was a little rusty, but I made out better than the co-workers. Apparently that was only the first part of the exhibitors and the rest will open tomorrow, which will probably result in a repeat of this morning.

Besides the typical shwag grab, there are of course the classes we all came there for. I started out in “Photoshop CS4 Extended Advanced” with Russell Brown. It was actually pretty interesting. He detailed most of the more advanced features of the new Photoshop CS4 including the 3D features, the ability of make 3-D (as in the red and blue glasses variety) images from layered files, some advanced HDR merging and blending techniques as well as some general “tips and tricks”. I really enjoyed that one. It also didn’t hurt that they had a Versi-laser set up in the corner engraving things. I almost got my cell phone engraved but just settled for metal dog tag they were giving away.

After that we took a break for lunch, had some Mongolian BBQ, then got back to the second session.

That, however, wasn’t that great. We took “A Splash of Flash” which I had hoped would be more of a “these are all the cool things Flash can do these days”. It was, instead, a “here’s Flash 101 followed by every boring action script feature ever”. I really dislike Flash, with a huge passion, and this only cemented the fact that it’s tottally and completely useless. I sincerely hope that Flash, by this time next year, is a DEAD technology. Especially with the HTML 5 specs coming, I really hope Flash dies, hard.

Honestly, I just don’t see the point of it. The instructor gave no real world, actual examples of anything Flash could do to actually make a web experience better or more productive. The example he did give however, was laughable. He created an empty square with a stroke around it and linked it to some action script that would grab a defined JPG and add it to the frame. That was it. He then created an HTML page with dozens of these flash frames embeded. He previewed it in the browser and the called JPGs faded into the frames, then remained static.

…Congrats moron. You just required your sites visitors to install a plugin just to view a couple static images. What the hell was the point of that? You could have just used the actual images in the first place. The flash files just added to the loading time of the page. The plugin is a non-standard. You had to take the time to crop and size the images in the first place, so it’s not like it’s saving any time. A very pointless example. He certainly didn’t win me over with that one.

After that, we headed back to the hotel, relaxed a little bit, then regrouped and headed out for Austin’s historic 6th Street. He started off at R.D.O’Brians, a cool little Irish pub. After some food and drinks we headed down to the Jackalope for some kick butt Blues guitar and a few more drinks.

That’s about it for day one. I decided to leave the MBP here at the hotel, which turned out to be a good move. There weren’t any power outlet anywhere and a 4 hour session with a 3 hour battery just wasn’t going to fly. Oh well.

Anyway, I’m tired as hell, so I’m heading off to bed. Gotta get up early

Austin TX – Day 1

I’m not really sure if simply getting here counts as day one or not, but we’ll just go with it. We’re all checked into the hotel and, as you can see, the wireless is working. It took a little under four hours to get here but the trip was pretty uneventful, as it should be. We did stop at Buc-ee’s, the international rest-stop of awesomeness. Honestly, those stores have everything. I limited myself to a giant piece of homemade jerky, which I’ve already eaten.

After we got here and checked in at the hotel we ran downtown to the Austin Convention Center to get our packets and badges. The conference officially opens tomorrow at 7am, but I had little doubt that the line were going to be crazy, so I wanted to get that stuff out of the way early. The expected turn out for the conference is 4500, not counting exhibitors and lecture guests. They’re also giving away tshirts… so that should be, well, nuts. Something tells me 4500 tshirts are going to go fast.

After that we drove around a bit to try and plan our parking strategy. There isn’t any parking directly for the convention center or in the adjecent buildings, so we’re going to have to get a bit creative. Our thought is to park at the Mariott downtown, which is the “sister hotel” to ours. Hopefully flashing our room keys will be enough. It’s worth a shot. If that doesn’t work, there’s a downtown garage a few blocks away. That will have to do.

I was just flipping through the information packet about the vendors and sponsors and low and behold, SCAD will be here as a “platinum sponsor”. I’ll have to try and get a tshirt off them. I was going to bring my SCAD hat, now I’m regretting having decided to leave it at home. Oh well.

Now we’re just chilling at the hotel, waiting for the third person in our group to arrive at the airport. They’re renting a car and doing their own thing, but we had made plans to get some dinner with him. I hope it’s not much longer, I haven’t eaten since this morning, not counting the jerky.

Anyway, lots of rest tonight, lots of walking tomorrow.

Matt out.