Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Takin' a trip without going anywhere

A mere penny a night at 343 hotels nationwide - sale starts now

Husband, "Hey Honey, let's get away for a couple days."

Wife, "I wish. Too bad you don't have a gazillion American Express points like the dude on TV."
 
Husband, "No problem, I've got 2 cents, let's go."

Crazy as it sounds, you too can get away if you plan your strategy right. Going on right now is the sale of a lifetime at Red Roof Inns. 

From April 1 thru April 15, one room at each Red Roof location (with minor exceptions) is available each day for one cent. There are no add on taxes or fees, so all you pay is one shiny Lincoln.

Here's how to pull it off.  Reservations must be made through their corporate Web site: www.redroof.com.  Starting at noon EDT each day, you can place your reservation for one of the following two days. If you are the first to select that particular date at that particular hotel, you get the room for one cent.

Once the room is gone, you can try again the following day. According to Jessica at the Cleveland East Willoughby Red Roof, you can only reserve one room per reservation, but if you are lucky enough, you could reserve both nights on the same day, using two separate reservations. 

Lisa at the reservation desk in Westlake, OH said she expects a great response to the sale, so you should probably be dialing right at 12:00:01 p.m. EDT each day.

Feeling lucky? Check my article yesterday for a chance to win three nights for four in a private room in New York City.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two ways to win travel prizes - above and below the border

There are two travel contests going on right now with some nice prizes. One is a three night stay in a private room for you and three friends in New York City. The other is a chance on a Canon EOS Rebel camera, an i-Pod Touch or $250 worth of other promotional prizes.

Hostel.com is sponsoring a "Win 3 nights in New York" contest at this Web site. Grand prize is a private room for four at North America's largest hostel - Hostelling International New York

Located on the upper west side of Manhattan, it's conveniently located to Central Park and Columbia University.  In a beautiful historic Victorian Gothic building, it offers a great alternative to the $200/night rooms typically found in New York City.

I stayed there three nights last fall and really enjoyed the experience. By now, their remodeling program should be complete, as they were starting to redo all the bathrooms while we were there.  Be sure to ask at the desk for restaurant recommendations…there are some awesome bargain restaurants very nearby.

Bonjour Quebec  is also running a contest for photographers and videographers. Submit your favorite shots of Quebec to win one of their prizes - a Canon Rebel camera, a 32GB i-Pod Touch, etc.

You need to be quick however, the contest closes tomorrow night, March 31. By sharing your photos or your videos on their Web site , you are automatically entered in the "Zoom on Quebec" contest  and will be eligible for one of three prizes.

For more info: To stay at the Hostelling International hostel in NYC, you do not necessarily need to be a member of HI-USA although the memberships are very inexpensive. Also, all ages are welcome and everyone from teens to octogenarians do make use of the facilities. From Cleveland, it's an eight hour drive, almost 475 miles. If you drive, ask at the desk for suggested inexpensive parking options.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pritzker architectural award recognizes addition to Toledo museum

You don’t need to travel far from Cleveland to experience architecturally significant spaces.  Just yesterday, the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize was awarded to SANAA Ltd., the Japanese team of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, for their work on theToledo Museum of Art's transparent Glass Pavilion. This is the first male-female team to ever win the prestigious award.

The addition they created for the Toledo Museum is actually the latest expansion. The original museum was founded in 1901 by Edward Libbey of Libbey Glass and was designed by Toledo architects Edward Green and Harry Wachter. In 1990, the legendary Frank Gehry added The Center for the Visual Arts addition.

When asked about how they related this addition to the existing structures, the SANNA team explained “Responding to the site and its surroundings is one of our main tasks as architects. The impressive main building and Gehry’s very skillful addition set the tone, and we wanted to fit into that lovely atmosphere with a quiet pavilion in a grove of old trees.”

Regarding the elimination of all 90 degree corners they said “Very unusual shapes of spaces and sequences of spaces are created this way. The convention of the wall, having two surfaces that are always depending on each other, is also altered in this design, where forms of adjacent rooms can be independent of each other.”

Visiting the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion is a dual treat. You can come for the architecture and stay for the art, or vice-versa. In either case, it makes for a photographic feast.  Art pieces owned by the museum may be photographed but those loaned by contemporary artists may not. You can check with the guards in each of the galleries for specifics.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday each week and is closed New Years, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Hours are available on the museum’s Web site.  Admission is free but parking is $5.00 unless you are a museum member.

From Cleveland, it’s an under two hour drive from downtown. Take I-90 west and then I-75 north into Toldeo. 
Photo above by Michael Pecirno

Friday, March 26, 2010

When it comes to traveling – is your family normal?


Photo credit  (PRNewsFoto/TripAdvisor)

TripAdvisor released a survey today that indicates more families will be planning family trips this year than in years past. According to the survey, 92% of families with children are planning either a domestic or international trip in 2010. 

With over 1,100 families surveyed, indications are that 33 percent of them will be taking both domestic and international vacations this year. This is a 5% increase over 2009.

Another interesting trend uncovered in the survey was the fact that youth of today are far more likely to be well traveled than their parents.
n  75 percent of travelers’ children (those under the age of 18) have visited more than six U.S. states — only 37 percent of these children’s parents had traveled as extensively by the same age.
n  73 percent of travelers’ young children have experienced international travel, compared to 44 percent of their parents by the same age.
n  Travel is very important to a child’s education, according to 52 percent of travelers with children, while 35 percent believe it is somewhat important.
According to the survey, the biggest benefit of family travel is spending quality time together. The survey also revealed the five most likely activities that would be planned by families this year:
1.     Relaxing at the beach — 69 percent
2.     Visiting a historic site — 62 percent
3.     Visiting a museum — 50 percent
4.     Visiting a national park — 46 percent
5.     Visiting an amusement / theme park — 41 percent
How does your budget compare with the survey results?
n  30 percent anticipate spending $1,000 - $3,000.
n  22 percent predict they will spend $3,000 - $5,000.
n  19 percent foresee spending $5,000 - $8,000.
n  10 percent of families expect to spend more than $10,000.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wet, wild and wonderful waterparks in Ohio

Photo courtesy of Kalihari Resort

With the sun and warmer weather in Cleveland, thoughts are quickly turning to “get out of the house” activities for the kids. Being cooped up all winter, it’s time to get out and enjoy some summer type fun.

But what do you do if by the weekend the temperature has crawled back into the lower digits again?   Where can you go to get some great photos of the family and have the kids really enjoy themselves?

Luckily, within a four hour drive from Cleveland, there are numerous water parks just waiting for your family.
Closest is the Kalihari Resort in Sandusky, OH. With over 173,000 square feet of wild water activities, this is America’s largest indoor waterpark. Wax up your board and surf indoors 365 days a year or try one of their other many attractions.

The whole family can fit into a tube on the Victoria Falls raft ride or crawl through the Wild Kingdom, a 3,000 sq. ft. African-themed play feature that includes net crawls, water guns, and slides from six to 20 ft. high.    http://www.kalahariresorts.com/

In Columbus you will find central Ohio’s first waterpark – Fort Rapids. The whole family will find something to love in the 12 water rides,  1,000 gallon tipping bucket, Black Out Pass or racing on the Shoot Out Racer.  http://fortrapids.com/public/waterpark/

Other waterparks in Ohio include:

Coney Island in Cincinnati with its 3 million gallons of water in the Sunlite Pool.  www.coneyislandpark.com

The Beach Waterpark, between Dayton and Cincinnati, with the only tropical beach in the state.  www.thebeachwaterpark.com

Columbus is home for Zoombezi Bay with its 15 waterslides. They open May 22.  www.zoombezibay.com

At CoCo Key Water Resorts in Newark and Sharonville, the year round temperature is 84 degrees.  www.cocokeywaterresort.com

Get out and enjoy some post-winter water fun.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More flower photo fun in Cincinnati, with a side of fries

Photo courtesy of Eden Park

Yesterday we talked about all the flowers and foliage you could photograph at the Cincinnati Zoo and Biological Park. Today, we’ll make a weekend out of this destination with additional activities not to be missed.

If you didn’t see enough flowers at the Cincinnati Zoo, why not try Eden Park this spring?  Eden Park has a beautiful gazebo to a serve as a focal point. Be sure you don’t miss the Hinckle Magnolia Garden with its great fragrance. The Cincinnati Art Museum and the Cincinnati Playhouse are also located in Eden Park.

Eden Park is also home to Krohn Conservatory. This architecturally significant structure houses a variety of eco-systems from rainforest to desert. 

When you’ve worked up an appetite with all that walking, head over to Zip’s Café. The Ohio Official State Trip Planner recommends it as one of ten “best dining on a dime” locations. Try their Zip’s Burger for only $4.50. Winner of ten “Best Burger and Fries” awards from CityBeat, they’ve got it down pat.

Zip’s has been making burgers for 84 years now. Zip’s is located at 1036 Delta Avenue in Mt. Lookout Square. Their Web site is http://www.zipscafe.com/

For other dining recommendations, check out the Examiner’s in-town  reviews on other establishments.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Travel to Cincinnati for a blooming good time this spring

Been to a travel agent and checked prices on a trip to Holland recently? It’s not the cheapest way to see a gazillion tulips. A much more reasonable solution is to travel to Cincinnati, Ohio.

Photographing flowers is one of life’s more satisfying springtime rituals. Flower photography is something anyone in the family can do and the resultant pictures make great wall décor as a memento of the outing.

So why Cincinnati?

Each April, the Cincinnati Zoo comes alive with “Zoo Blooms.”  Over 80,000 tulips color the walkways throughout the park. From April 1 until April 30 the tulips are at their peak and it’s a perfect time for photos.

In addition to the tulips, there are over one million daffodils, hyacinths and flowering trees. The park is on sensory overload at this time with the aroma and the visual beauty. There are over 3,000 species of plants in addition to the 500 animals.

As much as you might want to take photos, the kids are going to love this place as well.  Parent’s Magazine recently named this as one of the top ten best zoos for kids. Zagat Survey also named this as one of the top zoos in the country.

If you go, you need to know:

The zoo is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. except on Christmas Day.  Admission for adults and those over 12 is $14.00. Children from 2 through 12 and seniors are $9.00. For more information check their Website at http://cincinnatizoo.org.

Driving from Cleveland?  It’s an easy 4 hour – approximately 250 mile ride down I-71.  Why not make a weekend of it? Tomorrow’s article will be more things to do in Cincinnati – check back.

Need a bite to eat while you’re there? Check out the Examiner’s in-town experts for some recommendations:

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show

Can Cleveland handle two “outdoors” shows each year? Answer = probably. If you could only go to one, would this be the one? Answer = definitely. The venue is newer and brighter, the show has more exhibitors and the entertainment is, well, more entertaining.

I attended the opening afternoon of the Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show yesterday and enjoyed every minute of my time there.  Located at the IX Center near Cleveland Hopkins Airport, both the venue and the parking lot can adequately handle the show and all the cars of both exhibitors and attendees.  Admission is $10 with children under 10 being free.  (Go online at http://www.outdoorontheweb.com/ for $3.00 off.) Parking is still $8.00 per car.

Entertainment is non-stop.  Pick up a program before you enter and take a moment to select the performances you are interested in. With shows going in all corners of the exhibition center, you need to be organized to avoid missing anything. Here’s my short list of things I enjoyed: (See below for a slide show of the action.)

Randy Oitker, professional archer, puts on demonstrations that have to be seen to be believed. He holds the Guinness World Record for shooting six balloons simultaneously with six arrows from one bow. Amazing! Or would you believe shooting four LifeSavers all 16” apart with four arrows, all at once? Also amazing. His shows are three times daily.

Bwana Jim is a zany character that does a wildlife show with critters from around the world. He’s entertaining and the seating is a great place to relax after walking the show floor.

The Bass Tub
, a semi-length, rolling aquarium with largemouth bass is the site for Keith Johnson giving a talk on Bass Tactics and Dan Armitage talking about ice fishing and Kids Fishing 411. Again, plenty of seating.

Tad Bowen, dog trainer, gives demoes three times daily with his Frisbee catching dogs. These dogs have performed in all the Cleveland sports venues, for the Indians, Cavs and Browns. You’ll stand here – no chairs.

Michael Waddell’s BONE COLLECTORS, Nick Mundt & T-Bone (Travis Turner) of the Outdoor Channel show are in a booth for the entire event to talk with their fans. They also speak on stage daily and share their expertise with the audience.

Jim Beverly, retriever trainer, puts on six shows daily covering a variety of topics of interest to the hunter who works with a retriever.  According to his bio, “Jim has been training dogs since the early 1960's. His ability to evaluate and understand each individual dogs' personality allows him to do what is needed to solve a specific problem, or motivate an animal to behave and perform in a positive manner.” He’s available for one-on-one counseling.

On stage one you’ll find a variety of other speakers talking about fishing and scouting.  On stage two, the topics include all things hunting.

Lastly, kids get a free trip to the trout pond. Drop a line into the big oval, fish tank and pull out one of a hundred trout or so. As I arrived at the tank, James Fannin and Nicholas Villegas of La Grange were both trying their best to entice some close by trout. Within minutes, James had set the hook in a nice size fish.

In addition to the entertainment, expect to find all sorts of vendors for hunting, fishing, camping, RVing, as well as hunting/fishing lodges and vacation destinations. Next week we’ll explore some of the various destinations you might want to consider.

Hours for the event:
Friday, 19th -      10AM to 8PM
Saturday, 20th -  10AM to 8PM
Sunday, 21st -     10AM to 5PM

Times for the attractions can be seen here.  Click here to see a slide show of the attractions at the bottom of my article on Examiner.com.


You can also see my other articles on photographing outdoor activities or wildlife.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Photographing the action during March Madness

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Minnesota v Ohio State
As the basketball season bounces its way to the Final Four, lots of photographers are making their plans to travel to see their favorite team in the playoffs and finals. Are you planning to take your camera to capture some of the action? Not having media credentials will keep you off the floor, but you can still get some great shots if you plan ahead.

First thing to check…what is the camera policy of the arena? Every arena seems to have its own security policy in force, and you need to know what it is. At a recent pro basketball game, I discovered the hard way that their policy had changed, and I hadn't bothered to call ahead. That resulted in a long walk back to my car to leave the camera there.

Turns out that any lens over 6" in length categorizes that camera as a "pro" camera, and those aren't allowed in the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. I was using a 200 mm telephoto; but, had I known, I could just as easily have taken another lens. Any other lens close to that focal length. with a barrel length of 5-1/2," would have gotten in. Same camera, but just a slightly smaller lens.

While you are talking to the arena, ask about photo opportunities before tip-off. Many arenas may allow fan photographers to shoot from closer to the floor during warm-ups. That's your chance for close-ups of your favorite players.

Like so many other situations with photography, a little planning ahead can yield much more satisfactory results.

For more information on March Madness, check out these articles by other Examiner.com writers:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Amazing text art for inspiration

A collection of 30 or so pieces of text art that blew me away. Take a bunch of words and with a ton of creativity, create an all new piece of art. Click here to see the whole batch - you'll be amazed.

Five simple rules for photographing the St. Patrick’s Day parade

Thousands upon thousands of spectators lined the new parade route in Cleveland for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. With the recent public transit renovations on Euclid Avenue, the parade committee decided that Superior Avenue would be most appropriate for the parade.

Photographers and videographers, both amateur and professional, were ecstatic about the sunny weather. “I’ve been coming for twenty years or so now” said Fred Thomasik, an amateur photographer from Akron, “and I could count on one hand the number of times I remember a sunny day like today.”

Typically Cleveland serves up cold and wet weather in the middle of March, so this was a perfect photo opportunity. The tall buildings along Superior cast alternating swaths of shade and sunshine along the length of the street. Finding a location midway down the block seemed to block the soft but steady, cool breeze.

So what are the five rules for shooting the parade?
1)    
1) Ideally, you want to shoot from the south side of the street. The sun will be behind you at that point and your automatic exposures will be more accurate. If you find yourself stuck on the north side, you can probably improve your images by shooting 1/3 to 1 stop overexposed to keep some detail in your shadow areas.
2)    
2) Find a position where you will be least likely to be bothered by people running back and forth across the street.  Avoid intersections and deliberate openings in fencing, used to keep crossing to certain areas. By staying as far away from these pesky areas as possible, you’ll greatly increase the chances of getting that great shot you were waiting for.
3)    
3) Also, look for an attractive background directly across the street from where you’ll be shooting. That background is going to be in most of your wide angle shots, so make sure it’s not some boarded up building with all sorts of power wires blossoming forth.
4)    
4) Shoot your fellow spectators, as well as the parade participants. So often, a glance around you will reveal some very photogenic characters. It’s a great diversion between floats or during lulls in the parade.
5)    
5) Zoom in looking for details. Sure, everyone wants that wide view to see the entire float, but after you’ve grabbed that one, zoom in and look for details. Maybe it’s small clusters of flowers on the float, or maybe it’s just the bass drum in the band. By zooming in, you’ll amaze yourself at all the other interesting subjects in front of your camera.

Monday, March 15, 2010

President Obama's caravan through Strongsville


Strongsville, OH -- President Obama came to Strongsville today to try and sell his health plan. Watching all the vehicles it took to get him here was a trip. It only took:
  • 6 motorcycles
  • 4 highway patrol cruisers
  • 3 limousines
  • 6 SWAT team SUV's
  • 5 white vans
  • 2 large trucks

With that large an entourage, I hope he plans to do a lot of shopping at the mall before he heads back to D.C.

In addition to the caravan, all the protestors along the route were fun to watch as well. Watch the slide show for the action. (Click in the lower right to go full screen.)

Buzzard fans flock to Hinckley, Ohio for annual return of the buzzards

 “I’ve been here for two hours already” said Wayne Forsyth of Cuyahoga Falls. “I’m generally the first to arrive and I’ve been coming for 37 years. A couple times someone was here before me, but I’m usually the first.”

It was 7:00 a.m. now, and small but friendly groups of photographers and bird watchers were gathered around two wood fires.  A typically quite morning in the Metroparks was accented by the sound of a small portable generator powering the guest services tent. Outside it was still dark, but inside, park personnel served hot coffee and doughnuts.

The occasion was the annual return of the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio.  Their yearly return has been documented since the early 1800’s. Since 1957, the annual return has been celebrated each March 15th by an official buzzard spotting day.

Bob Hinkle, chief of outdoor education for the Cleveland Metroparks, has been the Official Buzzard Spotter for the past eight years. “We like them to show up early, but last year they didn’t make their first appearance until 9:15 a.m.” said Hinkle. “Today we will see a few scouts, but the big population of buzzards probably won’t be seen until June when temperatures warm up. In the summer we’ve seen as many as 120 in one location.”

Within an hour, the welcoming committee more than tripled in size. At 7:56 a.m. a shout went out…“There they are!”

Gently gliding on air currents, three turkey vultures (affectionately known as buzzards) circled above the tops of the tall pine trees on the north side of The Buzzard Roost. Binoculars and cameras went vertical as the assembled throng leaned backwards to see them sail overhead.

It was a successful trip for Ed and Pat Kubiske who had traveled all the way from Ypsilanti, Michigan for the event. “It’s been a lifelong ambition to come” said Ed. “We finally decided this was the year, and so we came.” In recognition of their trip, Bob Hinkle dedicated the first buzzard spotting to them.

Every 30 minutes or so, the buzzards would once again make an appearance until 10 had been spotted by 9:30 a.m. At that point, the crowd began to disperse, but most would see each other again next year on March 15 when the tradition will repeat itself again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Have playlist - Will travel


You've packed your SUV. You've loaded your tank. Maps are in the glove box (just in case.) GPS is locked on to a signal. Windshield washer reservoir is full. The cooler is packed with ice and your favorite road-legal beverage. The dog is at the pet resort. "Are we ready?"

Ummm....maybe not. What are you going to listen to? That same old 80 gigs of tunes on your IPOD? Hardly. New road trips require new playlists, and real road trips require road worthy songs.

So say Bret and Jackie of "The Jetpacker" blog. They've whipped up the all time top 50 road songs to keep you going. Get their list here. According to them "By the time you’ve played every song on this list, you’ll be 3 hours, 30 minutes and 28 seconds closer to your destination.  Which means you’ll likely play this entire list four or five more times before you get to where you’re going.  But at least these songs aren’t one and done."

With "Free Bird," "Runnin Down a Dream," and "Life is a Highway" blasting from your 200 watt, speaker-in-every-door, pumped-up audio system, you'll enjoy keeping that petal to the metal for miles and miles. Speaking of which, "I Can See for Miles" by The Who should have been on the list, but isn't. Consider that my bonus to you as song 51.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Photo contest for Falkland Island photos

If you’ve had the good fortune to photograph in the Falkland Islands over the last two years, chances are you’ve got some beautiful shots in your library. It would pay you to revisit them and submit them to a photo contest going on through the end of March 2010.

The Falklands Exposed” is a photography competition with separate categories for amateurs, youth and professionals. There are six categories to enter, from people to places, and wildlife to island life.

The prizes are certainly worthwhile with a couple of Nikon cameras going to the winners. Full details and entry requirements are listed on their site.

I normally don’t recommend photo contest to my readers, but this one adheres to the Bill of Rights for photography competitions. That means you continue to own copyright to your entry, something which often you lose in many competitions.

Photo opportunities this weekend around Cleveland

Maple Sugaring Weekend (Lake County) Learn all about the art of maple tree tapping and get hands-on experience at Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirkland March 13 - 14.  Learn about the old and new ways to collect maple sap. Sample maple syrup and silver dollar pancakes. Make maple leaf crafts, and maple flavored ice cream. Also see the newborn piglets, calves and lambs,  and the giant quilt collection of over 200 pieces.  Lots of photo opps here.  For more information check the Farmpark’s Web site  http://lakemetroparks.com

Maple syrup activities (Burton, OH) Maple sugar is the theme for all the action in Burton on Sunday, March 14.  The Burton Log Cabin will be making maple syrup and maple candy. There will also be an antique and craft show at the high school from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Three pancake breakfastS will be served during morning and early afternoon hours. Activities repeat each Sunday for the rest of this month.  Consult the Web site for more detail. www.geaugahistorical.org or www.PancakeTown-USA.com

Annual Return of the Buzzards  (Hinckley, OH) Every year, just like the swallows return to Capistrano, so do the buzzards return to Hinckley. Seriously.  Join official buzzard spotter Bob Hinckle, bright and early Monday morning March 15, to scan the skies for the first birds returning. Bring binoculars, cameras and be ready for a fun time. The buzzard roost is at the corner of West Drive and State Road. The following weekend is Buzzard Sunday on March 21. On Buzzard Sunday, naturalists will tell buzzard lore stories and answer questions at the buzzard roost.   For more information consult the Metroparks website. www.clemetparks.com/events/buzzards.asp

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When you travel, do you pack a tripod?

Traveling photographers are always facing decisions. What can we leave behind to maintain the airlines weight and height restrictions? A tripod is generally heavy and large, both enemies of the luggage limits. So when do you pack it, and when do you leave it at home?

Flying out of Cleveland Hopkins Airport on Continental Airlines, it seems that their curb check people are more lenient than many other airports when it comes to allowing slightly oversized camera cases or tripod cases to be checked without penalty. Unfortunately, on any given day, your experiences may vary.

Obviously, the type subject you are shooting may dictate that a tripod is a must (i.e. architectural photographers,) but for all the casual shooters out there, it’s much more of a case by case decision.

If you are doing macro photography of small things like insects and plants, the sharpness of your shots will absolutely benefit from the stability of a tripod. Those small objects accentuate any movement at all at the time of exposure.

If you plan to do any HDR (High Dynamic Range) type shots, a tripod will also improve your chances of capturing that stunning image you saw in your mind’s eye. Without a tripod you can use the “auto-align” feature available in most software, but the best method is always to rely on a tripod.

The other situation that always presents itself is whether or not you will be doing any photography outside after dusk. If so, a tripod will pay for itself time and time again. Those longer than normal exposures always result in unexpected gems that pay for the aggravation of hauling that awkward contraption around with you.

In the photo above, I had just been informed that there were going to be fireworks after the concert so I ran back to the truck to grab my tripod. Getting back just in time, I was able to capture some nice shots of the fireworks over the stage which would have been all shaky if I tried to hand-hold them.

It’s the classic “cost vs benefit” analysis that you wrestle with each time you go out. If possible, having a tripod with you is always the safest bet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Traveling Hispanic journalists continue partnership with Continental Airlines

Hispanic writers, broadcasters and photojournalists who belong to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) were happy to hear that Continental Airlines continues to support their efforts. Continental Airlines announced today that they have renewed their partnership as the office airline for the NAHJ special events.

With a hub located in Cleveland, photojournalists have an easy time catching flights to any of the 71 destinations Continental flies to in Latin America and the Caribbean. With daily flights out of Cleveland Hopkins Airport, destinations in that area are very easy to reach – some with non-stop flights.

According to Continental’s press release today, “Continental Airlines is proud to support the NAHJ's efforts to provide professional and career opportunities to the nation's Hispanic journalists," said John Slater, staff vice president, Latin America and the Caribbean, Continental Airlines. "We applaud the NAHJ's advocacy of fair, accurate and balanced coverage of the Latino population."

The partnership will create special opportunities for the photographers, journalists, broadcasters and online media personnel to reach their three special events this year: a scholarship banquet in New York on March 18, a multimedia convention and career expo on June 23-26 in Denver and the 25th awards gala in Washington, DC during September.

(Photo courtesy of Continental Airlines)

Photographing the runner – some suggestions for lens selection

With the coming of spring, out come the runners. Just a quick ride through the Cleveland Metroparks and it’s easy to see that the number of runners on the trails is growing exponentially.

Taking photographs of runners can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. If the runners are your relatives, they love action shots of themselves. If they are strangers, they can make colorful additions to your nature shots. If they are competitors in a 5k race, they can provide excellent subjects for practicing your sports shooting skills.

What makes running the ideal sport to start shooting? All action sports are challenging to shoot well because the competitors are always moving – challenging your focusing skills. What makes running so good is that the action tends to be both steady and predictable. The athletes are usually always moving in the same direction and their pace tends to be the same mile after mile.

The other advantages are that racing goes on about every weekend somewhere in Cleveland and you can attend any or all with no admission fee. Click here for the Hermes calendar of upcoming events.

So let’s say you’ve decided to try your hand at race photography. The next question you might ask is “what gear will I take to the event” which brings us to today’s technique suggestion on LENS SELECTION.

If you have a zoom lense with a wide range from wide angle to telephoto, you’ll be able to use all the focal lengths. If you have multiple lenses, there’s probably a place for all of them during a race. Let’s consider the opportunities.

A wide angle lens (18-35 mm) is great for the start of the race as sometimes hundreds of competitors are all bunched together and starting simultaneously. Shots of the whole width of the starting line can be quite dramatic. A wide angle can capture this whole scene where a normal lense would only work if you backed way up from the start.

A normal lense (50-80 mm) is ideal at the end of the race as competitors come into the chute. Assuming you’ve positioned yourself appropriately in the finish area, you should be able to get some great emotions as they give it that last burst (or not) before crossing the finish line.

Telephoto lenses (150 – 300 mm) are ideal during the race. Try positioning yourself along a straightaway and “reaching out” with your telephoto to capture the action as they come directly towards you. Watch your background – look for something plain to avoid competing with your main subject – the runners.

With a good selection of lenses you should be able to come home with a great selection of photos.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vastly improve your travel photos by getting up or getting down

Spring finally seems to be coming to Cleveland, and traveling photographers everywhere are chomping at the bit to get back outside in the sun and get some good pictures. With spring comes the inevitable supply of parades. The photos here are from last year’s Parade the Circle in University Circle – Cleveland, OH.

We talked about the importance of depth-of-field during parades in an article last month, but today our topic is CAMERA HEIGHT. Most people think camera height is the distance from the ground to their eye and take all their photos from that one position. To do so is to miss many of the most dramatic shots available to you.

Typical eye-height photography should probably make up only 1/3 of your photographs. Your pictures will be so much more dramatic if you get up or get down when taking your shots. Let’s explore the possibilities.

Whenever you are taking pictures of something small (think children, pets, bugs, etc.), you just about always want to crouch down to take the photo. Having your camera lens at the same eye-level as your subject makes for a much more personal picture. It makes your subject more important if your camera is looking eye-to-eye with them.

In the same way, at a parade, you can make tall subjects appear even more striking if you lower yourself more than normal. Look at the photo above of the stilt walker. By sitting on the street when I took this photo, she seems even taller than real life, making for a more striking photo. In addition, I was able to place her against an unobstructed background, placing more emphasis on her.

Conversely, look at this photo. For this shot, I placed my camera on a slender monopod which enabled me to put it way up and still be “eye height” with the tall performer. The added benefit here was that I was then able with a wide angle lense to show the depth of the crowds on both sides of the street.

Gear suggestion: I personally have been carrying the Manfrotto 790B monopod (with a tripod bushing and a 3229 quick-release head.) When folded and hanging from my belt, this monopod is a mere 17” long and weighs next near to nothing. When extended, however, its five sections spread out to about 60” long, enabling me to shoot from a height of almost 12 feet in the air.

To make this work, you’ll need one of the following: a timed release on your camera, a remote release cord or a radio remote. Most cameras have a timed release and before I bought my radio release, that’s what I used for years. I set it to a five second delay, which always gave me time to hoist the gear up in the air and point it toward my subject. As with anything, it takes some practice to get the feel of how to aim the camera. Before long, you’ll be amazed how impressive your shots look, and they won’t be like everyone else’s.

To see more photos (and see them full screen) from the Parade the Circle event, see my slide show here.



To review other camera techniques, you might find it worthwhile to read some of my other past articles:

Here's the gear mentioned in this article which I use all the time:


Great photos = chance to win $170,000 in prizes!

You've returned from a trip to a wonderful destination. You sit down to review your digital photos and you discover a really beautiful shot. What do you do next?

If you're really clever, you'll skip GO and proceed right over to Lonely Planet's Web site and enter their photo contest. It's as easy as uploading your photo and writing an appropriate caption.

According to the Lonely Planet site, "We just sent our 100 millionth guidebook out into the world, and we want to thank you – it wouldn't be out there if you hadn't shared our belief in the importance of travel. To celebrate, we've created a place for you to share your favourite travel moments. There are some amazing prizes for contributors, so show us your view of the world!"

Accepted photos may be used to create a giant mosaic of travel pics from around the world. Type in a search term and see what photos have already been uploaded.

The grand prize consists of round the world air tickets for two to the total value of AU$10,000 (including airfare, taxes and any other charges). The winner will liaise with Lonely Planet who will facilitate the round the world trip booking.

200 finalists will each receive one of 200 Nokia handsets valued at up to AUD$800 each. The 200 handsets are a selection of Nokia’s N97 and N97 Mini models.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Photographing statues at the Cleveland Art Museum – different angles yield vastly different images


The Cleveland Art Museum is located in the University Circle area on the east side of Cleveland. Photographers and art lovers from all over the world enjoy viewing the museum’s 40,000+ pieces of art, covering photography, painting, sculpture, jewelry, ceramics, furniture, architecture and more.

Outside the museum, a number of sculptures can be photographed with a tripod, giving photographers their best chance to get a great, detailed print. Inside the museum, tripods and monopods are not allowed.

Today’s photo suggestion is however, PLACEMENT, or in other words plan your shot and get up close. All too often, people will walk up close to inspect a sculpture and then walk back quite a distance to get the “whole” scene. In doing so, the sculpture becomes a speck in the photo that surely no one will recognize. For an example, see photo number one in the slide show below. (This photo is the one illustrating the Cleveland Art Museum in Wikipedia by photographer Stu Spivak.)

Obviously, it all depends on “what” it is that you want to portray. Are you looking to show the The Thinker’s muscles in the sculpture as shown in slide 5? If so, you better be up close to make sure those details really pop.

If you want to have a portrait of the statue only, then you need to position yourself down low, allowing the sky to fill the majority of the background instead of a competing element like the museum building itself. (See slide four.)

Maybe you were initially impressed with the scene due to the statue’s placement in from of the museum’s entrance. In that case you would want to feature the statue but still show enough of the building to give it context as in slide three.

Or perhaps, you really do want an overall view of the museum and the statue, showing detail in both. In that case you want to get as close as you can to still get detail in the sculpture and settle for as little of the building as you can to capture the overall scene you desire. In that case I would opt for the view shown in slide two. I think this is an improvement over Stu’s photo in that half the photo is not of the featureless sidewalk in the foreground.

Obviously all five photos show Rodin’s statue, but each will probably deliver a different message to the viewer. It’s your job as a photographer to decide what message it is that you want to convey, and then put yourself in the proper place to capture that image.


For the slide show, click here and scroll to the bottom of my article on Examiner.com.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Plan your trip now for cherry blossom time in Washington, DC


With yesterday’s press release, the peak of the cherry blossom blooming has been announced to be from April 3 until April 8. Travel photographers, not only from Cleveland, but from around the world converge on Washington, DC each year for this photographic treat.

Only 430 miles from Cleveland, Washington, D.C. is an easy drive and makes a great long-weekend trip. Plan ahead for your hotel as they can fill up early around Cherry Blossom time. Many hotels are offering specials still at this point, but don’t wait too long or they’ll be gone.

According to the release: “The National Cherry Blossom Festival is Washington, DC's and the nation's greatest springtime celebration. The 2010 Festival, March 27 – April 11, includes three spectacular weekends and daily events featuring diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit. The 2010 Festival commemorates the 98th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between United States and Japan.”

For schedules and information visit www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org
or call the Festival hotline at (877) 44BLOOM.

If you plan to arrive during the peak of the season, you’ll have a chance to catch the fireworks show from the Southwest Waterfront. A musical prelude starts at 5 p.m. and the fireworks light up the sky at 8:30 p.m. on April 3.

Special photo opp: Guided lantern walks are held every day of the festival at 8 p.m. Park Service rangers lead walkers through the five mile perimeter of the Tidal Basin with lantern-lighting illuminating their path. Take a tripod for some special shots during this time.

Beginners photo opp: David Luria, a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, has been hosting almost daily photo walks and instructions which he calls Photo Safaris. Aimed primarily at beginners, he puts you in the right spot at the right time and makes sure you understand the settings on your camera, so you can come back with first-rate travel photos.

His ‘safaris’ receive considerable praise and press attention. including the Washington Post’s and WHERE Magazine’s lists of the “Top 10 Things To Do in Washington.”and Washingtonian Magazine’s list of “50 Fun Things To Do in Washington DC.” During cherry blossom time, he runs two walks per day. Check out his website at washingtonphotosafaris.com.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wireless Internet is now free on Amtrak.


Thanks to a new service, debuted Monday by Amtrak, you can now surf the Internet while on Amtrak – for free. Traveling photographers can now upload their favorite photos to Flickr or Facebook. With a little luck, traveling photojournalists could now complete their stories and file them with their bureau before they ever get off the train.

Right now, the service is only available on the Acela Express trains, traveling between Boston and Washington. It’s also available in six stations along that corridor. Stations offering the free service include:

- Washington Union Station
- Baltimore Penn Station
- Philadelphia 30th Street Station
- New York Penn Station
- Providence Station
- Boston’s Route 128 Station

“AmtrakConnect” is available to every passenger on board Acela Express, both in Business and First class seating.

Listening to Lenetta McCampbell, senior director for on-board systems, it sounds like it will expand to other lines in other states as well. “This is only the first step for our AmtrakConnect program,” says McCampbell. “Amtrak will continually improve the service as Wi-Fi technology evolves, and we are evaluating opportunities to expand AmtrakConnect to additional routes and stations throughout the country.” AmtrakConnect was deployed on Acela Express by Virginia Beach-based GBS Group and its partner Nomad Digital.

This promises to be a welcome service for anyone who ever tried to stay connected using the likes of Verizon’s mobile broadband card – which as this writer can attest, was a hit-or-miss proposition most of the time. “AmtrakConnect delivers the fast, reliable and consistent connectivity that our customers have been asking for,” said Matt Hardison, chief, sales distribution and customer service.

Time will tell if it lives up to the promise and time will tell if it remains free. According to Amtrak’s press release, the service will continue to be free during this introductory period and they will reassess the situation after they’ve had a chance to analyze its performance and acceptance by the traveling public.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Travel photography destination: Philadelphia


Today is National Anthem Day, and a patriotic destination seemed appropriate for any travel photographer thinking about a trip. Photo opportunities abound for the history buff and there are things to shoot both inside and out, so it’s an appropriate photo destination whatever the weather.

Did you know that Philadelphia was where the national anthem song was first sung at a season opener baseball game? That was back in 1897, 34 years before “The Star-Spangled Banner” was adopted as the official national anthem.

A simple one-day drive from Cleveland, Philadelphia is just less than 450 miles via either I-76 or I-80. Many Clevelander’s aren’t used to the narrowness of the PA Turnpike (I-76) and some even complain of it being claustrophobic in the tunnels, so I-80 is a better bet for them. It only adds about 15 miles to the trip, the roads are usually in better shape, and it’s free – no tolls.

When you arrive in Philadelphia, there’s one more thing that typically freaks out Clevelanders. Parking in the center of the street is common and totally lawful. In addition to parallel parking along the curbs, people park parallel with the center dividing line, smack-dab in the middle of the road. With typically wide avenues in a number of places, it created a new supply of parking spaces for Philadelphia’s growing population.

Philadelphia offers an amazing blend of architectural textures, from some of this country’s most historic landmarks to the sleek, shiny skyscraper. As in the photo above, look any direction and you’ll find the wonderful juxtaposition of old versus new, and ornate versus austere.

Some of the more historical sites that offer good photo opportunities would include:
- Independence Hall
- The Franklin Institute
- Elfreth’s Alley
- The Liberty Bell
- Congress Hall
- Boathouse Row

Information and photos of all these locations are available on Wikipedia. Watch this short video to give you more ideas of what Philadelphia offers photographers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This week's photo opps in Cleveland and surrounding area


If you’re prepared for venturing out into the elements, there are a number of photo opportunities you might want visit this week, all within a very short travel distance. A couple of these events start with a pancake breakfast and authentic Ohio maple syrup.

Photo tip: Take a fast lens or a flash as these maple shacks tend to be very dark inside.

History of Maple Sugaring (Cuyahoga County) March 6th and 7th walk along the Sugarbush Trail from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. to observe sap-collection and syrup-making processes that are century’s old. History hikes will end at the Sugarhouse where you can get photos of the sap being boiled down into genuine 100% pure maple syrup. Guided hikes leave the Sugarhouse every 20 minutes with the last one leaving at 3:40 p.m.

Maple Grove Picnic Area is located off Valley Parkway in Rocky River Reservation, between Cedar Point Road and Spafford Road in Brook Park, south of Rocky River Nature Center. GPS- Lon -81.88265 Lat 41.40501 Phone: 440.734.6660 For more info, consult their Web site.

Maple Sugaring at the Carlisle Visitor Center (Lorain County) March 6th and 7th walk the sugar trail with a Naturalist or ride the train, weather permitting. The Sugar Shack is open from noon til 4 p.m. There are also talks and videos about maple sugaring. There is an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast on March 7th from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. organized by the Friends of the Metro Parks. See their Web site more information. Carlisle Visitor Center is located at 12882 Diagonal Road, LaGrange, Ohio 44050.

Great Blue Heron Day (Summit County) March 6th celebrate Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s great blue herons at the Bath Road heronry with hikes led by a ranger or hop on the free shuttle. Start the morning with a pancake breakfast at Old Trail School, 2315 Ira Road, Bath, OH. From 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Breakfast, crafts and the heron hike are all available for one price: $8 for adults, $6 for children 6-12, 5 and under are free. There is an optional sunrise hike at 8 a.m. For more info call 800.642.3297, ext, 100 or see their Web site.

Next week we’ll be looking at the annual return of the buzzards, and more maple events on the east side.

(You can read this article and other articles I've published at Examiner.com.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Travel to Goodyear, AZ to photograph the Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians are gearing up for the 2010 season at their Goodyear, AZ training camp. Travel photographers can get some nice close-up photographs before the season even begins.

Games are played at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona. It’s located at 1933 S Ballpark Way. Goodyear is located about 30 minutes due west of the Phoenix Airport via I-10. Click here for a Google map showing the stadium’s location.

Photographing spring training games gets you closer to the action in smaller venues. This enables you to fill the frame with all the action and less of the field.

Typically all spring training locations are in warm and sunshiny states making for better photo conditions than Cleveland in the spring. Photo suggestion…pack your UV filter, a polarizer if you have one and that sun shade that came with your lense. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat for yourself.

You can get the Indians schedule on their special spring training Web page. Prices for tickets will save you considerably as well. Infield box seats can be had for $23.00 or get premium field boxes for $27.00. Lawn seats go for only $5.00 or $8.00; but bring your telephoto lense as you are far out in left and center field.

Parking is plentiful and you can arrive 90 minutes before game time to get some close-up shots during warm-ups. Autographs are available as well, before and after the games.

See some of this year’s action at the spring training camp through the lense of Mark Duncan, Cleveland area AP photographer in the slide show at the bottom of my article on Examiner.com.

In addition to the baseball, Arizona offers all sorts of other photo opportunities nearby. Think hot air balloons, parachuting, helicopter tours, river runs, Hummer adventures, and lots of golf. Contact names, addresses and phone numbers are also available at the Indians Spring Training local attractions Web page.
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