Friday, February 26, 2010

If you photograph motorcycles, then why aren't you in Daytona Beach?

If your passions include travel, photography and motorcycles, then you should be in Daytona Beach, FL....right now. Today marks the opening of Bike Week 2010. With a crowd of 500,000 motorcycle enthusiasts, chances are pretty good you'll find some kindred photographers shooting all the action.

The Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce bills it as the largest motorcycle event in the world. It runs from February 26 - March 7 this year. With temperatures in the 60's and 70's forecast for the coming week, that sounds like a better choice than Cleveland

To see the rest of the article and a slide show, click here.

An inexpensive product shot setup you can do

Ray Dobbins enjoys shooting photos of his bikes and does a great job of it as you can see in this photo. He shares his setup in this article, using items you may already have laying around your garage. No reason you can't duplicate hisjavascript:void(0) work after reading his article.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Travel reminder…always pack your camera for unexpected, but great photos at the airport

Snow can produce some wonderful photo opportunities, but only if your camera is at the ready. Having your camera available while you travel is rule number one. Great photo opportunities disappear so quickly if your camera is packed in your checked travel bag. If you don’t have room for your DSLR, at least always carry a quality point and shoot in your carry-on.

If you are one of the thousands of travelers at Cleveland Hopkins Airport this morning, you are probably looking out at the falling snow and wondering how long or if you might be stuck. The typical traveler will go into a funk and curse the circumstances they find themselves in. The photographers in the concourse can take a different and loftier viewpoint, by considering “What photographic opportunities does this snowfall present?”

Look around, photo opportunities probably abound.

How about the schedule board? Nothing says “Won’t be home soon” like a picture of the schedule board with all flights canceled. If you are a people person, how about some shots of those long lines of kindred spirits waiting to have their flights rebooked or buying out the magazine stand. Photo tip….keep your distance as some of them might be a little grumpy.

Be aware of your surroundings. I was sitting in an airport restaurant, when I began to notice flashing red lights revolving around the walls. Looking over my shoulder I could see the commotion was beginning to unfold right outside my window. There below me, an obviously distracted refueling truck driver had come a little too close to his intended target, and crushed his truck’s roof as he drove into an awaiting airplane.

Look also for travel photo opportunities shooting photographs of the deicing experience. With the long-armed, monsterish looking machinery and the rising mist from their hoses, again, you can bring back some interesting photos.

For a slideshow of more photos, see my article on

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Travel to Las Vegas to add to your Elvis photo collection

Looking for another reason to travel to Las Vegas? Need more photos of Elvis? If you answered in the affirmative, your Evening Prayer has been answered.

Friday night, Cirque du Soleil, partnering with Elvis Presley Enterprises, presented the world premiere of Viva Elvis at the Aria Resort and Casino. The premiere was attended by Priscilla Presley and by Guy Laliberte, founder of Cirque du Soleil. Other top celebs in attendance were Criss Angel, Regis Philbin, Carrot Top, Gene Simmons, Wynonna Judd and Ryan Seacrest.

The show, in typical Cirque fashion, is an exciting blend of dance, music and acrobatics. 30 of Elvis’ songs are performed along with live female singers and a live band. Elvis’ voice is the only male singing voice to be heard during the performance. For a video preview of the show, visit the Cirque du Soleil Web site.

Photo ops…not so much. Leave your cameras in the room. No cameras are allowed in the theater – either still or video. You’ll have to content yourself with photo ops outside the theater, which consist of the theater entrance and a large bust of Elvis.

If you want to see the King, tickets range from $99 to $175 plus 10% tax and $5 service fee. No children under 5 may attend and all children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Aria, where the show is performed, is the new 4,004 room hotel located in the new CityCenter development in Las Vegas, NV. An 1,800 seat theatre was built just for the Viva ELVIS show.

[Photo courtesy of Julie Aucoin]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another location for a scenic skyline shot of Cleveland

Looking for a close-up photographic view of Cleveland’s skyline? Want someplace where you can zoom in on individual buildings? Today we answer the question asked by a couple readers who wanted another location where they could get even closer to the downtown skyline.

In a previous article, we talked about a couple locations where you could get terrific shots of the Cleveland skyline, with a water foreground. Today we’re focusing (no pun intended) on a view from the Hope Memorial Bridge. This is the bridge connecting Carnegie Avenue on the east side and Lorain Road on the west side, formerly known as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge.

Free parking is available on the west bank of the bridge, right behind the West Side Market. With just a couple minute walk eastwards, you’ll be in position to start shooting.

Depending on your position on the bridge, the juxtaposition of the various skyscrapers will change. At the west end of the bridge you’ll notice the Terminal Tower will appear to the right of Key Tower. As you walk further eastward, the two will align and then the Terminal Tower will move further to the left as you move further east.

This photo excursion is ideal for a mini tripod if you have one. The bridge itself has a very wide railing with a flat concrete top that is ideal for steadying your camera. Suggestion: if you see a lot of traffic coming, wait until it passes, as the large trucks can actually vibrate the bridge. Your shots will be sharper if you wait until the vibration dies down.

You may want to visit this location at many different times of day. As the early morning sun rises, this is the first place to see the sun’s light appearing at the top of the Key Tower. Evening, as sunset begins, will also often give you dramatic clouds over the lake in the background.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Photoshop celebrates 20th anniversary

Whether you are a traveling photographer from Cleveland, Calcutta, Cancun or the Canary Islands, chances are you share a similar tool – Adobe Photoshop. It’s been around for twenty years now, celebrating its 20th anniversary February 19.
Over the years, it has become the leader in photo editing and has never had any serious competition from any other program. Literally, it has created an entire industry around digital imaging and millions of people now use it for not just photo editing, but also for 3D animation, architecture and medicine as well.
While many photographers would love to use the entire Photoshop Extended version, it’s still a pricey proposition at $999.00. Luckily Adobe has heard the cries of the photographers with a more limited budget and offers other editions starting at $79 (Photoshop Elements) or even for free.

With the free version online at, you can edit, upload and share your photos and videos with friends. Adobe will give you 2GB of storage for free. There are also apps for your iPhone or Android phones.

In the video below, the founders of Photoshop reminisce about the origins of Photoshop and how it all came to be. If you’ve been using Photoshop for a while, you’ll probably enjoy being reminded of what used to be “cutting edge” effects in some of the earlier editions.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Using the best travel search engines to find the cheapest airfare

Traveling photographers who fly from Cleveland have lots of choices with Continental having a hub here. But even withal those choices, most photographers are still looking for the best price they can get when it comes to flying. Use of the best search engines for travel searches can make sure you get the best rate with the most convenient timing. Great rates are wonderful, but if you have to fly out at 6:00 a.m. and return at 1:00 a.m., you might not consider it a good deal after all. is the site I’ve been using for years. Each year it just seems to get better with additional features for the traveler. does not sell tickets, but rather searches all the other sites out there to find the best results for you.It can even launch separate search windows to check with Hotwire, Priceline, Travelocity and Expedia, saving the effort of typing in your choice over and over. Once you select a fare you like, sends you the appropriate site to place your order.

Some of the most valuable features are the capability to set ranges of departure and arrival times that fit your schedule, how many layovers you will tolerate and how long they can be, and which airlines you will consider or not consider. (Like all other search engines, it doesn’t check Southwest or JetBlue.)

Kayak also has a robust i-Phone app that in addition to searching for travel prices, will also allow you to track flights and lookup various airline baggage fees. There is a free version and a $1.99 version which also checks first class and business class seat prices. is a newer search engine that is actually powered by Kayak, but specializes in price changes. They will notify you if a searched price lowers in the future, or help you get refunds after you purchase. Certain airlines will give you refunds for prices drops of any amount, while others will only refund the difference if it exceeds a certain dollar value. The airlines and their trigger amounts are listed on Yapta’s site. does a selection of searches from most airlines but offers a wider variety of dates to choose from if your travel is totally flexible. By picking months instead of individual dates, you can quickly see which days of the week and month will result in the lowest fares. (Kayak has similar flex date searches but only displays recent searches by other users.)
Be careful however, when Travelocity lists a price as USD 438.00+. The little plus sign can mean big dollars. When checking a price from Cleveland to Nassau recently, it showed the price as $438.00 but when drilling down to the actual flight and getting ready to book it, it turns out that there is another $107.00 in taxes and fees that the airline adds, bringing your real cost up to $545.00.
Do you have another favorite search engine? Please share with your fellow readers and leave a comment below. Happy searching.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Camera controls that can improve your travel photography - part three

There are three photographic concepts that can make a considerable difference in your travel photography. We touched on aperture and shutter speed already. Today’s topic is ISO settings.

ISO (or EI – exposure index) settings refer to the sensitivity of your camera to the light being allowed through your lens while taking a photo. In the old days, when we used film, we would buy film with various speeds, depending on the situation we were shooting.

Lower speeds like 100 or 200 were generally accepted as the best film for adequately lit, outdoor scenes. It gave the best photo with virtually no “grain” noticeable. 400 or 800 film was suggested for indoors shooting and more action sports. 1600 or 3200 speed film could be had for shooting under extremely low light – like nighttime high school football games. I don’t know of any high school stadiums around Cleveland that offered anywhere enough light to shoot good pictures at night.

In the photo above, I was able to shoot this nighttime mass outdoors at ISO 1600. The camera was hand held without a tripod. Exposure was f5.6 at 1/30th.

The downside to the higher speed films was more noticeable grain – those little pebbly looking spots that made up the image. Today, the same concept holds true for our digital cameras.

Most digital cameras can be set from 100 to at least 800 ISO. You can think of those speeds just like the old days of film selection. If the lighting is adequate, you will get your best photos if you stick with 100 or 200 speed settings. This will minimize the “noise” which is the digital equivalent to the old film emulsion “grain.”

When lighting gets lower, raise the ISO setting to 400 or 800. While the additional noise is not wanted, there are other advantages. Having a higher ISO speed enables you to shoot with a faster shutter speed or a smaller aperture (which gives additional depth-of-field.) It also allows your flash to illuminate objects further away from your camera.

If you have a more expensive camera, you may have ISO speeds of 1600 to 6400 or higher. These are what sports photographers will use during indoor sporting events to get the fast motion stopped in a 1/250th of a second or faster.

If you’ve shot people in low light situations and they are always blurred, try raising your ISO speed. That enables your camera to take in an equivalent amount of light in less time, hopefully capturing your subject without the annoying blur.

ISO settings, shutter speed and aperture all work together to create your photo. Reread the posts below until you understand all three. Still have questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll get you answers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Taking pictures on a tour bus, be sure to set your shutter speed

Travel photos help tell stories to your friends that weren’t there. Travel photos help you relive the memories of a trip for years to come. Travel photos can also be great home decorations. All these assume however, that you’ve shot an in-focus, properly exposed and interesting photo.

Yesterday we discussed how the aperture setting plays an important part in how your photo will ultimately look. Today we discuss shutter speed, the second of three settings you can make to help capture some quality vacation photos.

Let’s say you’ve got some friends vacationing in Cleveland this summer and you decide to take them on Lollie the Trolley. Shutter speed is probably the number one issue to consider if you will be taking photos from a moving vehicle. “Shutter speed” refers to the amount of time the lens stays open to allow light to reach either your camera’s film or CCD.

In the ideal world, when you take a photo you want the subject to be stationery and the photographer should have his/her feet planted firmly on the ground. Shooting pictures from a bus pits you against all odds. The way to win this war is through shutter speed settings.

Your camera may have a mode marked “S” for shutter speed priority or it may be marked “T” for time priority. They both accomplish the same purpose. In essence, what we are going to do is try to set the shutter speed as high as possible to overcome the movement of the vehicle.

By taking charge of your camera, instead of leaving it in program mode or auto mode, we can assign a shutter speed that will help overcome the moving vehicle issue. Try and see if your camera will allow you to set a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second (or more.) At that speed, if your subject is a reasonable distance away from your camera, it will probably appear sharp.

In the accompanying photo today, I was standing in the back of a fast moving pickup truck, but was able to capture this woman carrying firewood in El Salvador because I had preset my camera to a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second and set my ISO speed to 400.
The distance issue is an important concept that works hand-in-hand with shutter speed. Objects that are very close (5 -10 feet) will be almost impossible to shoot without blur. Objects from 20-50 feet away should work fine and those over 50 feet away should look very sharp, assuming you hold your camera as steadily as possible.

Direction is the final part of the equation. Objects moving perpendicular to your direction are the most difficult to capture crisply. People or other vehicles moving towards you or away from you are much easier.

Next time you find yourself as a passenger in a car or on a bus, try capturing some photos using your camera’s auto settings. Then try setting the shutter speed up to 1/500 or faster and shoot some more similar shots. I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the improvement.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss ISO speeds and the part they play in your overall image.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tips for photographing the Mardi Gras parades, or any other parade

Whether you are shooting Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Parade the Circle in Cleveland, your camera’s mode setting can make a real difference in the type of photographs you capture.

Finding suitable subject matter at a parade is usually never a problem. Within an hour or so, dozens of willing subjects move slowly past your position. It’s like dozens of deer walking slowly up to the hunter. What more could a photographer ask for?

But how will you set your camera to record this visual feast? One of the questions you need to ask yourself is….”What is it that I want this picture to show?” Don’t fool yourself by answering “Whatever I’m pointing the camera at.” Think a little more about the choices at hand in the scene before your eyes.

With depth-of-field at your discretion, you can make the same scene into very different images. (Depth-of-field refers to the portions of your photo that are in focus.) A large lens opening (called the aperture) is represented on your camera by numbers like f2.8, f3.5 or f4.0, and will give you a photo with shallow depth-of-field. In essence, this makes your subject stand out from the foreground and the background because they will be slightly out of focus, while your subject (where you focused the camera) should be in sharp focus.

In the picture of the single dancer, she was all that was important to my photo. All those people in the background would have only distracted my viewer’s eye and so I chose to make them blurry. By using an f-stop of 2.8, only the dancer is in focus.

Conversely, in the photo of all the dancers with their flags, I wanted my viewers to see the entire group. In this photo, I changed my f stop to f14, giving me greater depth-of-field and more people in focus. Chances are your camera will allow you to take photos with f-stops like f-11, f-16 or f-22. These are all suitable for greater depth-of-field.
The choice is yours if you take your camera off program mode and use the aperture mode. Only you know what’s important in your photo, so you need to take control of your camera when the opportunity presents itself.

The f-stop numbers and what they represent are counter-intuitive sometimes, so you might want to save the following simple chart:
Small f-stop numbers (f2.8, f3.5, f4.0) = small depth-of-field = large lens openings
Large f-stop numbers (f8, f11, f16, f22) = larger depth-of-field = smaller lens openings

Tomorrow we’ll talk about shutter speed and the role it plays in making or breaking your photo. Questions, comments? Feel free to leave a message below and get answers to your travel photography questions.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ten photo destinations for 2010 – part two

Continuing on from last Friday’s list, here are the next five of 10 photographic destinations to visit in 2010.

Branson, MO
6) Most people know Branson as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World,” with over 50 theaters and nationally recognized acts covering all genres. But for photographers, there are other natural areas that don’t get the same publicity.
Three pristine lakes (Table Rock, Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals) make up part of a larger chain of lakes. Along the shores can be found a wealth of wildlife including geese, deer, wild turkeys, eagles and egrets.
Only four miles from Branson is a large peninsula called Indian Point with two marinas and 27 resorts. Gwen Leman from the Artilla Cove Resort said that their resort offers things to do 12 months of the year and that they are located only 1-1/2 miles from Silver Dollar City, a popular theme park.

South Africa

7) How about a wild animal hunt – photographic style? These photo safaris aren’t in your local zoo, but on the real plains of South Africa. Professional hunter and outfitter Eric Terblanche takes both hunters and photographers out on multi-day safaris to see the real things. Amanita Safaris takes groups of two to eight people on tours which can be completely customized to their liking.

Chautauqua Allegheny Region

Three counties make up this region and they each have their own special attractions. Only a few hours away from Cleveland, they could make excellent weekend destinations.
8) Closest of the three, Chautauqua County encompasses the famous Chautauqua Lake with dozens of museums and historical sites, summer music festivals and art exhibits. If you love wine, stay north along the lakeshore to visit the 30,000 acres of vineyards. 21 Wineries make up the Wine Trail. For unusual fruit flavor wines, my favorite is Blueberry Sky Farm Winery. A good time to go would be August 14-15, when the Wine Festival is held in Dunkirk, with over 30 wineries represented.
9) Cattaraugus County is located in the Enchanted Mountains area of western New York. Its most recognizable city is probably Ellicottville, with big festivals happening almost every month and home to Holiday Valley, the ski area. For more natural beauty, check out the giant rock formations in Rock City Park (admission charge required). For a photographic history tour of the county, drive the Old Chautauqua Road cross county.
10) Just to the west is Allegany County, farthest of the three from Cleveland. Wellsville in the southern part of the county offers architectural photo opportunities with some fine examples of Victorian restorations according to Sherry Grugel, executive director of the Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce. For more history, Angelica offers the live reenactment of Civil War battles in September. Consult the county website for days and times.

Hope these two articles give you some ideas for 2010 you maybe hadn't considered. Happy travels and happy shooting.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ten photo destinations for 2010 – part one

Attending the 73rd Annual Cleveland Sport, Travel & Outdoor Show yesterday, I had the opportunity to discuss potential travel destinations with a number of the exhibitors. I also got some nice photos which you can see in the slideshow below. Read on for the first five destinations today, and the rest will follow Monday.
My question was a simple one. “If a photographer was coming to spend some time in your destination this year, where would you suggest they visit?” Presented in no special order, here are the people I talked with and their suggested destinations.
Fort Myers – Sanibel, Florida
1) J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the six top birding destinations in the country according to Chris White of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau. December through March is best for birding, but plan to find other abundant wildlife species year round.
2) Kayak the Great Calusa Blueway to enjoy 190 miles of protected paddling area. Perfect for the beginner, much of the area is less than a foot deep. No gators (they want fresh water), but you’ll get to experience manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and even river otters.
Seward, Alaska
3) Chuck Reid, guide and operator of the Salmon Catcher Lodge in Kenai, Alaska mentioned the “big” event in their area occurs annually on July 4th in Seward. While Seward is normally a 4,000 inhabitant fishing town, on July 4th weekend, their Mountain Marathon attracts over 40,000 participants and guests. The event is quite the photo opportunity and the town is truly ready to party.
Jamestown, KY
4) Try a houseboat vacation on Lake Cumberland in the southern part of Kentucky. Rentals are available from four bedroom models all the way up through an eight bedroom model. This just has to be the way to enjoy life on the water.
Deborah D. Schumann of State Dock pointed out that the hundreds of miles of shoreline are all protected natural areas, courtesy of the Army Corp of Engineers. That means whichever direction your camera is pointed, you’ll be free of signs, people’s back yards, etc. If the pristine natural beauty isn’t enough for you, Deborah suggested two annual photo ops when they have their big boat races. The Poker Run is always the weekend after Labor Day and this year the Offshore Super Series Powerboat Race takes place June 4-6th.
Santee Cooper Country, SC
5) Swan Lake Iris Gardens is a photo feast with 6 million Dutch and Japanese irises. In addition, all 8 species of swans found in the world have been collected and can be seen here.

Check back on Monday for selections 6-10.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Picking a house instead of a hotel when traveling

When you are planning a trip, one of the most important details to nail down is where you will stay. Selecting a home instead of a hotel can pay big dividends for a photographer.

On a recent photo trip to Las Vegas, I found that I could rent a condo for less than the price of a decent hotel on the strip. This particular condo had two bedrooms, a completely equipped kitchen and an attached garage. The dining room had a table for six and I had the entire place to myself. Cost…only $95.00 per night.

First of all, many traveling photographers carry a plethora of chargers, computers and things that need to be plugged in. Having a whole condo meant more than enough outlets. Conversely, I find hotels cram every conceivable outlet full of lamps, TVs, radios and the like and leave barely one or two open outlets. I’m always packing one or two plug strips.

Having a full dining room table meant having a more than adequate area to set up computers, card readers, battery rechargers, etc. Not having maid service everyday meant I could leave things set up while I went out shooting. When I returned, everything was plugged in and ready to go.

The attached garage was also a great blessing. One of the typical inconveniences of parking in a lot or public garage is that you need to haul all your expensive gear out every time you leave your car. Do I even need to mention the cost savings of not tipping a valet each time you come or go? Parking in my own private garage enabled me to leave whatever I wanted in the car, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Granted, if you crave room service and in-house pools, this might not be for you. But, if you are a working photographer, it offers lots of advantages. I was reminded of this tip as I watched the Super Bowl and saw the amusing commercial for I used to use, but now they’ve merged into, which claims to be the biggest, with over 430,000 listings in 120 countries. Check out the great Griswolds film short at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The perfect Super Bowl photo

Doesn’t matter who you were rooting for in the Super Bowl, you had to feel good about Drew Brees after the game, enjoying the moments with his wife and baby. You can only imagine the emotions of having your first son and then having a Super Bowl victory one year and one month later. As they say, it doesn’t get much better than that.
But the real story here, photographically speaking, was this amazing shot taken by AP photographer, Eric Gay. In a photo editor’s dream, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect shot. Let’s take a look at all the elements that make this work so well.
Cropping. First, we see that the photo has undoubtedly been cropped. Purists would cry foul, but undoubtedly there was more confetti flying overhead or to the sides, and by cropping it to basically a square image, the focus is stronger on Drew and his son Baylen.
Multiple shots. Confetti is flying everywhere, and speaking from experience, all you can do is shoot as many shots as quickly as possible so that the one you want doesn’t have confetti obscuring a person’s face. I don’t know how many Eric shot in that sequence, but chances are there were six or more for the editor to pick from.
Prefocusing, in manual mode, is the only way to go with all that confetti flying. Leave it on autofocus and your lens will die trying to find something steady. And don't forget to wipe off you lens every couple seconds because confetti can land on your lens just as well as anywhere else.
Position is the other major element that makes this work so well. Notice how Eric positioned himself so that whatever Drew Brees did, he would be able to have the big “CHAMPIONS” sign in the background? That comes from preplanning your shot.
Attraction. The eye is attracted to the white in Drew’s jersey. Then you eyes follow the next brightest objects (his arms) up to the top of the frame, where your attention comes to rest on baby Baylen. Couldn’t work any better.
This picture is worth 10,000 words in my estimation. Congratulations Eric, you’ve captured the feeling of the moment in 1/125 of a second.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Strongsville toboggan chutes are great family fun this winter

Hurtling down a 1,000 foot long ice covered chute….wind tearing off your knit ski cap…. trees flying by at 50+ mph. This could only be a good thing if you are in Strongsville, OH at the Chalet toboggan chutes. Come to ride or come to take pictures, you’ll have fun either way. (Click here for the full slide show of my images from this shoot.)

Pulling into the parking lot, off Valley Parkway between Rts. 82 and 42, you’ll find plenty of parking. Walk around to the right of the Chalet and you’ll find the ticket window. Purchase your ticket, walk through the portal, grab a 40# toboggan and start climbing stairs. 124 steps wind you back and forth, up the hill, until you reach the top.

At the top, climb aboard your toboggan and you’re off on your 15 seconds of windblown adventure. Dual chutes are available in case you’ve got friends who want to race you to the finish. At the end of the ride, hop off, walk back and do it again. Thankfully, the kind Metropark’s people take care of transporting all the toboggans back to the base of the hill for you.

Photo opportunities abound. You can shoot from outside, braving the elements, or shoot through the big glass windows of the chalet. Crank up that shutter speed to 1/250th of a second or better and pan your camera as the sleds fly by. Slowing the shutter speed to 1/60th or so, and panning carefully, will render a shot with great motion blur for a background. (See the slideshow below for examples.) You can shoot at the base of the hill for that dramatic vertical drop look, or move further down the tracks to get the toboggans racing for the finish line.

For 42 years, the Cleveland Metroparks have been providing excitement for winter thrill seekers. From the day after Thanksgiving, through the first weekend in March, weather permitting, the chutes are open Thursday through Sunday. You can call 440-572-9990 to make sure.

According to Melissa Tirpak-Chylik, Chalet Manager, groups come from all over, including one group from Arizona, to enjoy the tobogganing. If you have a group, you can arrange for private hours and days of operation. Check the Cleveland Metroparks Web page for more information.

Hours are as follows:
Thursday 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Friday 6:00 – 10:30 p.m.
Saturday Noon – 10:30 p.m.
Sunday Noon – 5:00 p.m.

You must be 42” or taller to ride and being in good health is strongly advised. Back problems, scared of heights, heart trouble? All those might be good reasons you’d prefer to watch only. But there’s a place for that too.

Inside the Chalet, where a big wood fire keeps things cozy, you can watch from the second floor and get great views as your friends speed by on the chutes. There’s a snack bar as well and they keep the hot chocolate flowing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cleveland Public Library offers photo opportunities during winter weather

When it's snowing and blowing in Cleveland, you won't find many photographers willing to battle the elements. So where do you go to get your daily dose of photography? The main branch of the Cleveland Public Library offers a wealth of choices inside as well as out.

The Cleveland Public Library was originally built in 1925 and retains its marble floors, massive marble staircases, and gracefully shaped balusters. While most patrons take the elevators, the stairways are left to those who choose to stop and appreciate their beauty.

Walking the four floors (plus basement) of the original library building, you will find dozens of potential architectural photo subjects, all fixed in place, just awaiting the snap of your shutter.

Take the tunnel in the basement and walk over to the second building, redone in 1999, for a visually stunning counterpoint to the marbled original building. Modern from top to basement, the Louis Stokes Wing offers another entirely different set of architectural elements to consider.

Before you go, after you've shot all you care to, be sure to take a peek into the collection of 1.3 million photographs archived here in the library. Their collection spans from the 1850's through the 1980's. Included are photos taken during the Great Lakes Exposition (1936-1937) and photos by the renowned photographer Margaret Bourke-White.

Then again, since this is a library, you might expect them to have a good selection of photography books....and you'd be 100% correct. Searching their catalog, it lists 7,764 titles. That ought to be enough to keep you reading until the blue skies return.

How to get there:
The library is located at 325 Superior Ave., N.E.; Cleveland, OH 44114. That's on Superior Ave. between East 3rd and East 6th. Click here for a map. Their phone number is 216.623.2800

Hours of operation:
Monday through Saturdays 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays. Also closed holidays including this President's Day - February 15th.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trendy new Florida food choices and photo opportunities.

Are you one of Cleveland's many snowbirds, heading to Florida in February? If you'll be anywhere near Miami on February 11th through February 13th, you'd probably enjoy the grand opening festivities of Florida's newest life style center, The Village at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.

Immediately adjacent to the exciting Gulfstream horse racing track and casino, Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland, OH is planning a weekend-long list of activities for the entire family. "Carnavalia" is the name given to the festivities, treating your senses to the sights & sounds of Latin American performers in elaborate costumes throughout the street scape.

Roaming street performers provide their unique entertainment on Thursday and Friday nights starting at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday brings an equestrian treat for the kids from 10:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Meet and greet jockeys and their horses at "Pony Island" in the Walking Ring at Gulfstream Park. Bring your camera and pose with your favorite steed. Photo suggestion: I'd suggest a wide-angle lens, as you may not be able to back up too far. Horses are very big animals and you'll need that wide-angle to get the "big" picture without other people walking in front of you.

Looking for great food and beverages.....The Village at Gulfstream offers some new and exciting choices. Scott Laslo, Vice President/General Manager said, "We wanted to do something unique that not only captures the energy of South Florida, but also brings in new flavors and influences from across the country and around the globe." To that end, you'll find one of the trendiest new nightlife destinations in Greenhouse Nightclub and the US's first Tonino Lamborghini Cafe Corsa. Also, check out Ola Cuba, La Belle Epoque, Texas de Brazil and The Playwright Irish Pub.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Travel Photography 101: Where can I get a classic shot of the Cleveland skyline?

Traveling photographers will often ask, "Where do I go to get a great shot of the Cleveland skyline?" Luckily, in Cleveland, there's an easy answer.

Two similar, but somewhat distinct locations immediately come to mind. Both are easily accessible, and neither involves a long hike from your car.

Cliff Drive
is the first spot, just minutes from downtown via Route 2 (a.k.a. The Cleveland Memorial Shoreway). Heading west, pass the entrance to Edgewater Park on your right and then make a right onto W. 103rd St. Keep to the right as the road makes a Y, and you will find yourself on Cliff Drive, a one-way street sweeping around a steep cliff, overlooking Lake Erie.

Cliff Drive offers your first, panoramic glance at downtown Cleveland, with all its classic skyscrapers plainly in view. This first photo was taken from this location and offers a "tree-top" view of downtown Cleveland.

Winton Place patio deck is another great vantage point. Located at 12700 Lake Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio, this high rise condo has a wonderful restaurant (Pier W) that cantilevers out over a rocky cliff with dramatic views of downtown from its tall glass windows. Just before entering the restaurant, there is a door that accesses the patio deck. The deck actually forms the roof over the restaurant. From this deck, another great vista view of Cleveland reveals itself.

The advantage of this second location is a different perspective on the same scene. Granted, you still get a westerly view of the downtown skyline, but this location gives you the opportunity to have an unbroken expanse of water in your foreground.

For a Google map showing these locations, click here. For more photos taken from each location, see the slideshow below.

Additional Photo Tips:

Arriving about an hour before sunrise allows time to get out your tripod, find a level spot and set up in time for three sets of pictures:

1) While it is still dark, you can get some nice night shots. Then without waiting too long at all...

2) Hopefully, you can also capture some sunrise shots with colorful skies which often occur about 30 minutes prior to actual sunrise.

3) Once the sun is up, a third set of photos might reveal more detail in the buildings with some nice warm light illuminating them from the sun.

Three sets of photos in one trip, now that's a good deal.

Do you have some other favorite locations for taking Cleveland skyline shots? If so, please share in the comment section below.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Win a Trip to One of America's Most Popular National Parks!

You've no doubt been to one of the 392 National Park destinations throughout the US. No doubt you had fun taking photos, exploring, picnicing...whatever. Recall a memory you enjoyed and share it with the world for a chance to win a great getaway vacation. The grand prize winner will get round-trip air fare, lodging and a $300 expense account.

To bring attention to the PBS special "America's Best Idea: The National Parks," the National Park Foundation and ARAMARK Parks and Destinations are working together to sponsor the free trip to one of seven most popular national park destinations.

Shenandoah National Park (Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge)
Mesa Verde National Park (Far View Lodge)
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell Resort and Defiance House Lodge)
Denali National Park (McKinley Village and McKinley Chalet)
Glacier Bay National Park (Glacier Bay Lodge)
Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park (Togwotee Mountain Lodge)
Olympic National Park (Lake Quinault Lodge, Kalaloch Lodge, Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Lake Crescent Lodge)

You can enter once a day during the entire month of February. Merely enter another story, memory or suggestion about any of the almost 400 National Park sites.
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