A Swell Day to be Outdoors

Fred Ritter from SWELL taking the opportunity of a cooler day to work outdoors.

Fred Ritter taking an opportunity to work outdoors.

Right now in Philadelphia we are “enjoying” an Excessive Heat Warning, but a few weeks ago the weather was much more comfortable and I was able to meet Fred Ritter, of SWELL, for a short portrait shoot outdoors in University City.

We wanted to match the feel of photographs I had done earlier of SWELL’s Principal, Greg O’Loughlin.

Greg O'Loughlin, SWELL.

Greg O’Loughlin, SWELL.

The images needed to feel relaxed and speak to the fact that both Greg and Fred spend much of their time out of the office meeting and working with their clients. In the interest of keeping with that theme but not being too strictly tied to it, we decided to avoid coffee shops and shoot outdoors.

A relaxed outdoor portrait is a great choice for a website's bio page.

A relaxed outdoor portrait is a great choice for a website’s bio page.

Taking advantage of open shade to control the light falling on Fred, I was able to find three distinct locations within one block of each other and work efficiently with a minimal amount of equipment.

Props can give a photograph a feeling of purpose.

Props can give a photograph a feeling of purpose.

SWELL is working on a new website slated to launch later this summer. I am looking forward to seeing the new site’s design and their use of my images.

Dinner and a Show

Alfio and his Caesar salad.

Alfio and his Caesar salad.

Is it common for most people to think their Dad as a rock star? Mine definitely has earned that status in his industry.

My father’s restaurant career spans five decades and two separate countries. When he first set foot in a Philadelphia dining room he didn’t speak the language and was starting again at the very bottom, as a bus boy. By the time he officially retired and closed the doors of the restaurant in Glenside that bore his name, there were a lot of regulars and friends that knew they would miss his table-side showmanship.

But my father is part of a generation that doesn’t seem to know the meaning of retirement.

I can’t be sure whose idea it was. Maybe it was my sister who asked, maybe it was my father who offered, but I can be very sure that he signed on more than willingly to appear at my sister’s shop twice a month and bring his Caesar salad show.

The Caesar salad experience includes Alfio's show.

The Caesar salad experience includes Alfio’s show.

Alfio’s Caesar salad was the winner of the Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly award for years not just because my father was one of a few that continued making the salad following the original recipe, but because of his table-side showmanship. His routine always included lots of playful banter, a bit of pepper mill juggling, sleight of hand, jokes, lots of charm. . . and an exceedingly large custom made wooden salad bowl.

I brought Dad into the studio to make some promotional photographs for my sister’s store, and had him make his salad while I photographed some of the steps. There are lots of image options she can use for social media.

It’s definitely worth short ride for anyone living in the Philadelphia area to come get some Caesar salad, meet the man, and taste what a Caesar salad should be.

Alfio is at Ana’s Corner Shop on the last Friday and Saturday of every month from 11AM to 7PM.
3310 North Wales Road , East Norriton, Pennsylvania 19403

Google Glass, Another Vision

My alternate vision of smart eyewear before Google Glass.

My alternate vision of smart eyewear before Google Glass.

A few weeks ago The Verge got a hands on preview of what the first shipping version of Google Glass actually looks like – the shocking bit is that it doesn’t really look like a pair of eye glasses.

(I really recommend checking out the video that’s part of The Verge’s website, Glass seems to work just like promised.)

Another shocker is that this first version does not support corrective lenses. If you wear glasses already, you can’t use Google’s eyeglasses at the moment.

Wearable computers and eyeglasses that enhance your perception of the world around you are not Google’s invention, nor are they a new idea. Wearable devices have been the next thing for years, but it looks like finally the idea and technology will converge with the present. There are a few smart watches in the market right now, and the rumor mill is going being stirred up into a frenzy about Apple having a pseudo wristwatch device in the works. Between Apple’s probably entry (whatever it might be) and Google Glass, 2013 is for sure when wearable devices go mainstream.

A few years ago I was inspired by Wired Magazine’s excellent feature, FOUND: Artifacts from the Future, that at the back of each issue prints a photoillustration of a futurist product in an every day setting. The very first idea I wanted to tackle was (of course) smart eye glasses. Apparently the Google’s designers were not as bound by the convention of traditional eyewear.

If Your Camera Falls, You’re Going to Have a Bad Time. . .

Years ago I found some advice online about attaching a strap to a camera that makes it virtually impossible for the strap to come off, I have been attaching my camera straps this way for at least six years and I wouldn’t dream of doing it any different. I had to reattach a strap to one of my cameras because Canon repair prefers if you remove any accessories when you send gear in for repair, and I figured it was a good time to share this technique.

I prefer the Domke Gripper strap because they are small, grippy, don’t get tangled, and have a simple design. This technique should work with any strap that has an adjustable plastic buckle.

Domke strap attached with the "never fail" technique.

Domke strap attached with the “never fail” technique.

First unravel the end of the strap. The Domke straps have two rubbery keeper loops and an adjustable plastic buckle.

Pass the end of the strap through your camera’s eyelet, then through the keeper loop.

Then pass the end of the strap through the buckle as normal.

Next the end of the strap can (optionally) go through the keeper loop on the inside of the strap.

In the next step we thread the strap end back through both parts of the buckle. This is what secures the strap and keeps it from working itself loose.

Next is what I consider to be double insurance. It’s a bit tricky, but if you hold down the end of the strap with your thumb, you should be able to force the rubber keeper loop toward the buckle and over the strap end.

Et voilà! This strap will not work itself loose.

Fun With Photography in the Summer

This Summer has brought me many unexpected opportunities and I have not been writing in this space as often as I wanted. Just like it is not really possible to catch up on sleep, I will not be able to really catch up on blogging but the entry below was worth sharing.

During the last two weeks of June I lead a small class for teens on digital photography for The Mainline Art Center in Haverford. The Art Center runs Summer programs aimed at different ages with classes targeting a specific medium and they were looking for someone to teach digital photography for their first Teen Studio session for this Summer.

The first session started on June 20 and unfortunately some of the local schools had not yet let out for the Summer. Because we had a smaller class I was able to spend more time individually with each of the students and our group got close and had a lot of fun.

Check out the class’ Flickr Group.

Digital Photography Class Portrait

Digital Photography Class Portrait

This was their first photography class so we concentrated on having fun finding interesting photographs and using photoshop to manipulate the images afterwards in the computer.

Manipulated Photograph of Traffic Cones

Aged Photograph Effect - Shot with Nexus One Android Phone

Aged Photograph Effect – Shot with Nexus One Android Phone

The saying goes “the best camera is the one you have with you.” I showed the class many images I had made using my cellphone. I wanted them to see that good photographs are not made by the camera, they are made by the photographer.



I shot all the assignments along with the class. It was a lot of fun to allow myself to play with my compact digital camera without over-thinking technique or gear.

Looks Like: A Sugar Wafer!

Looks Like: A Sugar Wafer!

Photographic Scavenger Hunt: ____ Flies

Photographic Scavenger Hunt: ____ Flies

Geometric Shapes

Geometric Shapes

Sometimes we can drown in the deep end of the technical pool of photography. I hope my students had as much fun as I did, and that they never forget the joy of making images.

There will be another session of Digital Photography for The Mainline Art Center’s Teen Studio. It starts August 1st and it will be taught by Ed Marco.