Saturday, November 29, 2008

Seattle to Whistler

Well, The weather has been rainy.. go figure. We have been making the most of it though. Not a lot of photos that were all that cool, but I am hoping to find some gem when I go through everything we shot.
Here is a fun one of the Pike Place Market sign. It is not a great shot, but I kinda like it anyway.

Public Market


We are now in the magical village of Whistler.
There are thousands of people walking around everywhere, and everyone you talk to is friendly and you have something in common with all of them... Skiing!

We went for a drink at the Longhorn and watched the skiers come down off the mountain. The energy was great and everyone seemed to be having a blast.
Then we went to the hotel and hit the outdoor hot tub. There is not much better than sitting outside in 34 degree weather in a 108 degree hot tub and meeting new people.

We are relaxing now and going to get some dinner next. I am thinking it will be Mongolian BBQ.
Tomorrow morning, I am going to hit the slopes and take some photos from the top of the mountain. I just can't wait. It may be really foggy up there, but I am still going to try.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving in Seattle

Villa West Motel

We left Florence Oregon this morning around 8:00 am and headed East from the coast on highway 126. It was about 50 miles from the coast to I-5 and the ride was just absolutely beautiful! There was patches of fog trapped in the trees and the mountains, and the roads were smooth and twisty. We took our time and finally got to I-5 and headed north. We stopped around noon for a quick bite to eat and gas up, and then drove into Seattle around 2:30 pm.

It was very exciting to arrive here for me. I have only been back once since I left here almost two and a half years ago, and it still feels the same.
We checked into the Westin and went to our room on the 39th floor. We have a view of Lake Union, and the hotel had given us a cheese and fruit tray.
We chilled in the room for a while and then went to one of my old friends house for thanksgiving dinner. It was really great to see my friend and after a couple hours there, we left and went to a park up on Queen Anne to take a look at the cityscape and shoot a couple of photos.

Seattle Skyline at night LR

Space Needle at Night 1

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Crescent City to Florence... Right through Coos Bay!

We got up this morning and did a little Geocaching. Right across the street from the hotel there were two caches in a pretty cool Marina. After we checked out the first cache, we strolled down the docks and took some photos of fishing boats.

Linda Ellen

Fishing Boats

Sea Grit LR



After the marina, we got on the road and headed north up US Highway 101. We stopped once and shot some photos of the ocean and some rocks out there that were as big as office buildings. I still have to process those photos.

We continued on and finally stopped in Coos Bay Oregon for lunch. We had a couple of sandwiches at City Subs, and then found a couple of more Geocaches. Then we got back on the road and realized that we were going to land in Florence around 4:30 pm. This was a little later than we had wanted to get there, but the sunset happened around 5:30 pm in Crescent City so, we thought we would be ok.
Boy were we wrong... By the time we got close, the sun was dropping like the stock market. I hopped on the internet and found a tide chart that showed the sunset time, and it said 4:41 pm. Allen started driving like Mario Andretti and we landed at the parking lot for the lighthouse at 4:34. We jumped out of the car and saw a sign that had an arrow pointing to a path and had a lighthouse symbol on it. And then.... we saw the worst thing.... under the sign was another little sign that said.... 1/2 mile!
We started jogging... the path was a half mile long, and it was twisty and uphill. I also knew that once we got to the lighthouse, we were going to have to climb up the hill in back of the lighthouse to get the angle for the photograph with the ocean and sunset in the background. We were losing light by the second! We finally got up to the lighthouse, and I spotted the path that led up around the backside of the lighthouse. I started up the path and then cut across a whole bunch of brush and finally after tripping a couple of times and getting filthy, I made it to the spot. I set up the tripod, and started clicking off frames. After I finally stopped gasping for air, I realized that my camera settings were all jacked up, and I hadn't checked anything because I was so happy just to get there.
So, I reset a few things, and started clicking off more shots. I haven't worked on all the shots yet, but here are a few.

Heceta Head 2 LR

Heceta Head 1 low rez

Heceta Head 3 Low Rez

Then as the sun died a slow death, I clicked off a 30 second exposure of the rocks and the waves.
Ocean Sunset LR

We left the parking lot and were driving back down highway 101 and there was a little turnoff that we dove into so we could see the beam of the light house sweep across the ocean. This was the last shot of the day

Heceta Head at night LR

Chasing the Light

We rocked up I-5 and then took a left turn on to 299 at Redding, CA. At this point, we left all the traffic behind. A beautiful twisting road that lasted for about 150 miles.
Lots of rolling hills and logging happening all along this route.

Allen at the Mill

We stopped in Salyer, CA for a bite to eat at a little market. Salyer is a town of about 250 people, and man did it feel like it.
After a good lunch, we continued on to US Highway 101 and had a little bit of rain.
Allen had loaded all of the lighthouses in California and Oregon into the GPS, so we saw that we were approaching the Lighthouse in Trinidad so, we dove off the highway and realized that we had both been to Trinidad together when we road up the coast about 5 years ago on the motorcycles.
We shot for about a half hour and came up with something... not really special, but it was beautiful.

Trinidad Lighthouse1

Trinidad Lighthouse2.jpg

The sun was setting and we knew we needed to get the last 30 miles under the tires if we were going to get anything cool in Crescent City.
So, we got moving and landed in Crescent City and went straight to the light house at Battery Point.

This lighthouse is on a small island, and you can walk to the island and visit the lighthouse only it is low tide. Otherwise the path is submerged under the ocean. We had checked the tide chart on Monday and knew that we needed to be there around 4:00 pm.
We rolled in right on time and it was truly spectacular! We had a blast running around, and trying to capture every angle and photo we could get. Here are the shots I have processed so far.

As I climbed up the path towards the lighthouse, Allen had already gotten up there, and as I turned the corner, with the sun blinding me, I saw this shot that I now call "Ansel Allen"

Ansel Allen 2

The sun was setting so nicely
Cali Sunset

The Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse 3.jpg

Battery Point Lighthouse 1 Vingette

All in all we took about 400 photos each and it will take some time to process them. When the sun finally set and we trudged back across the ocean floor, we were happy as kids in a candy store. We checked into the hotel and started playing with the pictures we had just shot until we were both starving. So, we went out looking for some place to eat besides the hotel restaurant. We went into a place called shooters that the front desk girl had recommended and it was not a place for food.. just pool tables and really awful Karaoke. Allen asked the bartender to tell him where she would want to go if they were on a first date, and she recommended the North Woods Restaurant and lounge.... This was the hotel restaurant!

So, we gave up and came back to the hotel. We had a good dinner and when the bill came, Allen told me that we were going to compete for it.
So, we connected our iPhones to the WiFi and opened up Air Hockey. The guy who loses has to pay for dinner!
It was so fun.. we were laughing and playing Air Hockey on our iPhones like it was the olympics. I am not going to say who picked up the check, but we had a blast.

After a good nights sleep, we are excited for the day, but just relaxing and not rushing as we process more of the photos we took yesterday. I can't wait for our adventures today!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Road Trip Day 1

The alarm went off at 5:00 am and there was no way I was getting up. It was soooo dark.. and it was so warm.
Snooze.... 9 minutes later... Snooze. Finally got up around 5:30 and got ready. We loaded the car with entirely too much stuff... but hey... there are no airline restrictions on this trip. We have everything two guys need to stay warm and dry as we endeavor on this photography excursion.
Today we should hit Crescent City around 2:30 or so, and there is a lighthouse on an island there that we want to shoot.
You can't get to the island though unless it is low tide. So, we checked the tide chart and it looks like it should be low tide around 4:00 pm.

Rear View
It is about 9:00 am now, and we pulled off I-5 at Corning California. Corning is all about the Olive Trees. They are really cool looking as you fly by them on the highway.
The reason we pulled off was to get some breakfast. After a gourmet breakfast consisting of a chicken biscuit and a hashbrown, we said goodbye to McDonalds and are now back on the road. We are 43 miles from Redding California, and that is where we will get off of I-5 and head West to the coast. It should be about 170 miles from Redding to Crescent City.

The last time I was in Crescent city was when I bought my Harley from Allen and we were riding up the coast.
I was freezing as I didn't realize back then how cold it was on highway 101 in July. We pulled into Crescent City on a Sunday and found a Harley Davidson Dealer and I bought a Redwoods HD Sweatshirt, Leather Chaps and Leather Winter Riding Gloves.

The Weather is cloudy/foggy, and about 51 degrees. I imagine it will drop about 10 degrees by the time we get to the coast.
This is the best way to see America, and I am loving every minute of it.

Days Inn

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stir Crazy

So, after being home for a couple of weeks, and not having any work on the horizon, I am taking advantage of this freelance life style and Allen and I are going on a road trip!
We are leaving early in the morning and heading to Crescent City California, and are planning on shooting photos of a lighthouse there.
If we time it right, we should land there just before low tide, and be able to get out to the island that the lighthouse is on.

The rest of the trip takes us up through Oregon, then to Seattle and all the way to Whistler, BC.
I will be blogging our adventures and posting photos.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Customer Service

I have a meeting planner friend who is onsite right now at a gig.
The company I work with bid on the job, but the end client chose the company that got it, which will remain nameless, because somebody knew somebody's uncle... blah blah blah.

While there is something to be said for getting business because of relationships, it happens all the time, you have to perform once you get the business.

Since the first day onsite my meeting planner friend has been telling me horror stories of the service the AV company is providing.
The first one starts off with something simple.
They dropped a laser printer in the office and walked away, not setting it up, or helping at all.
In contrast:
The guy I work for general provides an AV technician who specializes in onsite IT for meetings. Most of the time that is me!
The standard minimum level of service that we provide is to be there when the meeting planner arrives, make sure that the hotel has provided a high speed connection that works. So, we test the line, and then install some kind of wireless router in place to ensure that the meeting planner gets connected to the internet and their VPN. Then we tackle the rest of the meeting planner's staff. Not our job really... but we take responsibility for the success of the meeting. After everyone is checking email, Skype, Facebook, and all the other simple pleasures in life, we go to work on printing. Most of the time this is a relatively easy task. Download a driver from the internet, run the tools and print a test page. Sometimes however because of the mother companies group policies or the degraded state of these computers, this process could take hours. The last time it involved two guys jumping in a cab in Shanghai and trying to find a printer cable in a place where no one spoke english. we worked on it for 3 straight hours trying to get the computer to print. We finally took a break so that the planner could get to her email and then one of us came back later and worked for another 3 hours till he finally got the computer to print.
If this is not a value added service... I have no idea what is.

Secondly, During the Setup day of the general session, the AV company set up the audio console behind the drape, backstage.
Now, when you an audio guy backstage, you can't see what is happening on stage. You don't know when the presenter is actually at the podium, or if they have a wireless mic on... when they are not at the podium. You can't see the main guy stand up from his table to make an off the cuff announcement. you won't see the guy on stage getting ready to sneeze or cough and be able to turn his microphone off so that people won't get blasted by a 130 db sneeze, and more importantly, you can't hear what is going on in the space where the attendees are sitting. You won't know if it is too loud, too soft, you won't be able to tell if the microphone is making the presenter sound natural. There are a million reasons why setting up behind the stage is just plain wrong.
About the only right time to do it, is this:
When the client specifically asks you to.
Sure you argue just a little, gently explaining why it is a bad idea, but some times they just don't want to see your gear in the room. I have had clients tell me that the attendees are the board of directors and they are so conscious of the money being spent, that they just wouldn't understand why they needed all that equipment, so they would rather it be hidden backstage.
I get it. You have to make a judgment call, and explain the potential risks, but at the end of the day, they are the client, they are paying the bills, and your job is to give them what they want. Of course there is a line to be drawn... if they wanted you to dump coffee into the all the equipment during the show, or light it on fire, you would say no, and head straight to the bar, walking away from everything, but the get a lot of space to make decisions that affect the quality of the show.

I tell this part of the story, because my meeting planner friend saw them setting up behind stage and asked them to put it out front. Their response was, "we always put it behind the stage we prefer it there" after she asked no less than 3 times they refused her and kept it backstage.

All I will say to this point, is that with in the best of your ability, keep your meeting planner happy and do what she asks. Most especially when it won't cost you or hurt you. We call this storing credit in the good will bank.

3rd thing.
One of the AV crew had to leave because of a family emergency. When the meeting planner asked who would be filling in for him, they instant response was "we can handle it"
Not a smart response because it begs the question.... if you can handle it with out him, then why was I paying an "extra" guy to be around.
After 3 minutes of her asking who are you bring in to replace the dude, you would think that the AV company guy would have realized this was of importance to her and at least said that he would work on finding someone. However, the hotel AV guy that was sitting off to the side, answered for him and said to my friend "we don't need anyone else"


My favorite one that is shocking, but in the context of this AV company not really so shocking, is when the meeting planner asked the Audio guy to make an announcement reminding everyone to turn off their cell phones, and then he was supposed to introduce the main client to the stage, he only made the cell phone announcement and didn't intro the head cheese.
After the meeting had started, She went and asked him why there was no intro made, and his response was, and I quote.... "I wasn't feeling it..."

Wow... talk about a misplaced sense of entitlement.

Then the client had a Breakout session in the General Session room. The AV company told the presenter that she needed to use her own laptop because they were taking a break.

I am sure the list could go on forever, but the rest of the highlights are:

The podium microphone was popping for the entire afternoon.

The AV company never fixed the curtains under the screen that they were using as a backstage entrance, so the show was
running with the curtains out of place.

There was some kind of video glitch.

They hadn't trained the presenter on how to advance the slides using the remote, so the presenter said "next slide please" and the main client had to go up to the podium to show him the remote.

And finally, after the main client contact had left last night, the AV company guy came out, AFTER the General session had started and told the meeting planner that he didn't have all the slides.

I have written this blog in hopes that it will enlighten AV professionals everywhere of what not to do on a show. I would even give the AV company that did all these things, the benefit of the doubt that they may have had good reasons why most of these things happened, however it is important to see it from the planner's perspective and realize that your reasons, even though they may be good ones, do not matter in the slightest, if you are not giving the client a product that they want.

The interesting thing is that the end client paid more for the AV company they chose than my guy bid for the job.
So, you can't even chalk it up to "you get what you pay for"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Home in Folsom

I got home Monday and was stricken by some serious jet lag.
Exhausted, I tried to stay awake during the day, and then it was really tough to sleep at night.
Finally my body started to shift back to West Coast time. 15 Hours is pretty tough to overcome!
Then a little head cold set in, and today is about the best I have felt all week.
Currently there is no work booked for the rest of the year. I am hoping that will change, but not counting on it.
That being said, the blog is going to be a bit slow for a while. I will try to add some stuff if anything exciting happens.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Allen and I just got home a little while ago.
It is so good to be at home after such a long stint on the road.
From October 16th to November 10th I have been home a total of three days, I have traveled 32,338 miles and that about wraps up my year.
First of all I would like to say thank you to Rick Lawall. Rick is the owner of Lawall communications and I have known him for about 18 years. Rick has brought me all over the world and given me the opportunity of a lifetime. To travel the world, doing the work that I love to do, and to do it in a first class style.
Not a lot of people get to show up to work thousands of miles away and greet their co-workers with a hug, and then spend the week exploring with their closest friends.

I do, and I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to love what I do and who I get to do it with.

We went out shooting the last night we were in Shanghai, and then hit the bar at the top of the hotel for a drink with the guys. I snuck out onto the Patio and shot a few photos of the city. What an incredible view!
This morning, I got up and had breakfast with Allen in the hotel restaurant buffet. It was amazing just as it has been all week.
Rick, Evan and I had an 11:00 am car to the airport and had a great time talking as we rolled through downtown Shanghai. As we neared the airport, we saw a streak go screaming by us and realized that we just saw the Mag-Lev Train roar past us doing well over 120-150 miles per hour. We said good bye to Rick at the airport lounge and got settled into the plane. Evan, Allen and I were on the second floor of a Boeing 747. It is kinda fun to ride in the "bubble" The service from the flight attendants was awful. After having been treated like kings for 11 days, it was a "welcome to America" shock.
The flight went really quick, after eating dinner, we all fell asleep for about 4 -5 hours, and woke up as we were flying into San Francisco. Customs was pretty painless, and after a short hop to Sacramento, I am finally home. I have been trying to stay awake till this evening, but I fear I am losing the battle. Maybe I will set an alarm and just give into it for an hour or so.

I still have to process a whole bunch of photos, but I will post them soon.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Good Night Shanghai

I am sooooooo tired... 2 hours of sleep and the show all day. We walked everywhere and shot photos.
I will write more later but here is a post to hold you all over.

I call it... Good night Shanghai, since it was the last Image I took on the memory card before I gave up and went to bed.

Goodnight Shanghai

Saturday, November 8, 2008

On to Shanghai

We finished the show in Singapore and everything was good. There were seven of us heading to Shanghai, and we took a couple of cars to the airport in Singapore. Singapore Changi airport is probably the most beautiful airport in the world. The inside is nicer than the nicest high end shopping mall in North Jersey or anywhere you have been. Everything is clean and sparkly!
Here is a quick shot I took in the entrance.

Changi International Airport

This post is going to be a bit long, as I have been super busy with work and play and haven't had much time to keep up the posts.

We landed in Shanghai and took a bus to the hotel. By the time we checked in, it was probably around 11:30 pm so, the ride to the hotel, which was 60 minutes, was pretty bland, as it was dark and raining.
Once we checked in, we met on the 32nd floor of the hotel which is called "The VUE bar" and it was just an amazing place. I hope to get some photos of it tonight.

The next morning, we met for breakfast, and then worked on our clients computer till about 12:30 pm. This IBM Laptop would not print no matter what we did. GRRRRR! It was pretty frustrating since this was the only day we had to explore the city, and it was eating up tons of time.
Allen and I jumped in a cab and headed off to an electronics center to try and get a printer cable. When the cab driver grunted something in Chinese we figured that we were at the electronics center. Once we started wandering around looking for the place, we realized that the cabbie dropped us off a couple of blocks from the place. We finally found it with the help of some Chinese police officer, and stumbled into about 4 floors of computers, cameras, printers, and other electronics.
We bought a couple of cables after running around there, and got back to the hotel as quickly as we could.

The long version of the computer/printer battle involves a lot of words like VPN, TCPIP, about 5 reboots, 75 error messages and about 12 lock ups. After a while of trying to beat this computer into submission, we reluctantly backed away so, that the client could get to her email and work.
It was a small failure, and none of us liked walking away... but you have to decide when you are getting in the way of the client being productive, or just fixing a problem. It is easy to create a bigger problem and more frustration by working on a stupid issue so long that the client can't get to her email.

So, off we went. Sight seeing around Shanghai.
We arrived at the tailor that the concierge recommended to us and it was a really nice store. Too nice! We must have all been wearing our "Sucker Hats" because when we asked them what a two piece suit would cost, they told us that it would start at 3800 RMB That is almost 5 times what you should pay. So, we immediately walked out of that store and headed down to Tao Bao City which is a shopping area where you buy everything that you could ever want as a knock off.

I picked up an Oakley backpack that I have been wanting for a couple of years, but never wanted to spend $150 dollars on for about $21.00. A pretty cool little mini iPhone which may or may not ever really work, and a pair of Ecco sneakers that I would imagine run about $75, and I bought them for 20 bucks.

It was a lot of fun bargaining with the vendors. Most of them are really nice, and it is a fun little game you play when you bargain with them.

After a quick bit at the noodle shop, Rick, Rob and I jumped in a cab and headed to the fabric market and got fitted for some clothes.
I bought two 3 piece suits made of 150's silk, two pairs of dress pants, and a gorgeous cashmere over coat. They took all our measurements, and we picked the fabrics out from about 100 different bolts of fabric. It was really exciting!
Then we negotiated that they would bring the clothing to our hotel today at 4:00 pm and do the final fitting.
All the clothes I bought cost under $400.00 for the lot. I am pretty sure I got about $1500-$2000 worth of high end clothes made and all in less than 24 hours, and delivered!

Back to the hotel and off to my room to relax for a couple of hours before we started the 10:00 pm load in and setup.
There was a wedding in the room, so we had to wait till they were out before we could start.
Everything went pretty well. I took my USB drive that I had in Singapore and plugged it into the audio console, and about 1 minute later, all the settings and configuration that I had spent about 2 hours tweaking in Singapore, were right in front of me.
That was a huge success!
The crew worked hard and I finally got to bed around 2:00 am and wearily set my alarms for 5:30 am.
Here are a few photos of the room as we set it up, and then a couple I took just before I left my room to go to work, as the sun was rising over the Bund River and lighting up Shanghai.

Right after the wedding as we loaded in


About 12:30 pm


Finished product at about 4:00 am



These two from my hotel room this morning around 6:00 am

Good Morning Shanghai

Good Morning Shanghai2.jpg

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A night in Singapore

We took a cab last night down to the harbor area, and shot some fun photos of the city skyline, a HUGE Ferris Wheel, and a weird statue that spits water called the Merlion. The Merlion is half Mermaid, and half Lion. Kinda weird, and very disney/epcot.
It was so humid, we were exhausted and drenched with sweat, but we got some really fun photos. Check em out!




Monday, November 3, 2008

Learning the Yamaha LS9

This morning I woke up, wide awake at 3:42 am. I got on the computer a little, and then fell asleep again from 6:00 am to 7:00 am. I went down around 7:30 am and met the client who had just arrived from the airport. I got some breakfast and then went to the ballroom to tackle my challenge for the day. The Yamaha LS9.

This console is really cool. It is the baby brother to the Yamaha M7CL which thanks to a guy named Mike Apple, I got pretty comfortable on while I was in North Carolina.
I have never used this console, so I didn't know really how the menu structures were set up, and it was a little daunting.
When someone flies you half way around the world, and you know full well, that you have never used the equipment you are supposed to run, well... one might say that it is a recipe for disaster.

When I entered the ballroom, our AV company was already hard at work. I met a guy named Kaev (I am sure that spelling is completely wrong) and he spoke English pretty well, but not like talking to an American. So, we started conversing about the way I wanted things setup, and so far so good. I was able to give him answers to all his questions, and I was hoping he was going to be able to give me the answers I was going to need.

We got the Sound Board powered up and I dove in head first, Asked a few questions, and Kaev answered them and showed me a few little tricks that made my life a lot easier. I settled into the Digital Console mindset and after about an hour, realized that I was having a great time. Learning, playing, tweaking, learning some more. Next thing I knew it was about 1:30 and I was HUNGRY!

So, we went to lunch, and after I wolfed down some food, I scooted out early to get back to the ballroom so I could play some more. It was a relatively quiet time in the ballroom because the lighting guys were at lunch too, so they weren't rolling around in the lift making a ton of noise.

After tweaking the EQ's, I got to crank up some of my favorite music, and it sounds pretty good!

Now that everything is hooked up, routed properly, and tested, there is a big weight off my shoulders.
Life is good in the Corporate Theater.

So tired

We did some sightseeing today... just had dinner.. So, tired now that I have to go to sleep.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Finally landed in Japan

Wow.. that flight felt really long. We got up at 3:00 am this morning and headed to the airport at 3:30 am.
Checked into our flight which was on time, and left for Chicago at 6:25 am. I don't remember the take off as I fell asleep before we got going. We landed in Chicago and had just enough time to change some US dollars into Singapore Dollars, Grab a sandwich and hop onto the plane. 13 long hours later, we got off the plane at Narita Airport outside Tokyo and now we are having something to drink in the United Lounge. Our next flight leaves in about an hour so we are on schedule to get to Singapore just after Midnight on the 3rd of November.
Long trip this one....

My friend, Mike Steighner is coming on this show, so I am pretty excited about getting out and shooting some photos with him.
I have no idea really what to expect in Singapore, except maybe a good beating from a cane if I litter and get caught.
Should be interesting.