I am very thankful for my family for introducing me to good music at such an early age. Although I can’t play any instruments, I have always loved all types of music.
When I was a kid my Dad used to play a Bob Dylan cassette (John Wesley Harding) in his truck when he would pick my sister and I up from daycare.
I’m sure to say that my love for Dylan came from my Dad, along with love for many other great bands such as the Clash, the New York Dolls and the Rolling Stones.
I am also pretty sure I can attribute most my redneckness now in life (besides going to Texas State) to him playing Texas Country. For example, as a kid I remember listening to Robert Earl Keen when we’d go to the beach. If not not the redneck part, he is certainly responsible for my smart-assness.
There has always been some what of a heated discussion between my parents when talking about music. Dad would always say, “I’ve been listening to so and so since…” but Mom would have to correct him to let him know that she in fact turned him on to the artist, such as Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Willie and Waylon and Guy Clark.
They both introduced me to bands such as Doug Sahm and the Texas Tornadoes, Steve Earle and Joe Ely.
I’d also credit my sister Briana Purser for introducing me to great bands such as the Black Angel’s, Thee Oh Sees and the Night Beats as well as the classics like Neil Young and Donovan.
Without my family, who knows what I’d be listening too. But thanks to them I have discovered such bands as Reckless Kelly, Hayes Carll, Ryan Bingham, Ghostland Observatory, Battles, Four Tet.. I could go on forever. But for that, I am very thankful for having my family in my life and the music they have shared with me. Love you guys, Happy Thanksgiving!
The presenters each shared stories and tips from their past experiences working on website design projects with clients to an audience of Houston developers, designers, and design students. I gained new insight about how a design project can either go smoothly and stay within budget or go horribly wrong and become very costly solely on the basis of the types of conversations the agency or designer has with their clients throughout the project.
Designing a Website is Complicated
The process of building and designing a website is often more technical and time intensive than most people realize. There is also the added challenge that our clients want a website for marketing their products and services to generate new leads. This adds complex elements to the project to ensure proper branding, communication of the company and what you do, has calls to action and specific content for search engine marketing, plus custom development like a shopping cart for e-commerce, event registration, site login and permissions capabilities, etc.
Designing a complex website requires excellent 2-way communications between the client and the project managers and account executives. As in every industry, this presents a challenge sometimes. Lawyers struggle to explain complicated legal contracts with their clients, real estate agents have to explain the title and loan processes to clients, and doctors find ways to discuss very private, medical issues with their patients.
The Keys to Successful Communication
As each of the presenters shared their tips for improving communication, Education was at the core of each success story.
Tom King on Designing Content Strategy
Tom King explained the complications of explaining to clients the importance of creating a content marketing strategy before the website design project kicks-off and integrating the strategy with the overall project. Many clients want their website to be found in search engines and by new leads, and don’t realize how much time and research is involved in identifying the right keywords and creating the content that will go on the website before it launches and after it launches in an ongoing effort to boost search engine rankings.
To educate clients and prospects, Tom shares videos and resources from Google’s Zero Moment of Truth education series and shows clients these 2 videos that share the Coca Cola Content 2020 strategy:
Tom explained that he shows prospects these videos before the sales meeting because “if they watch these and don’t get it, then we won’t work well together.”
Bo Bothe on Designing Brand Identity
Bo Bothe’s presentation walked the audience through communicating with Marathon Oil’s executives as BrandExtract managed the project to redesign Marathon Oil’s entire brand identity. According to Bo, education about every step of the project down to teaching Marathon Oil the finer aspects of just what a logo is, was critical to the success of the project.
You can see the results of the rebranding in this video:
Aaron Long on Designing Software
Aaron Long’s presentation stresses the importance of educating clients on the differences between software and preferences in order to keep projects within budget and time lines. Aaron communicates to clients that the purpose of software is to lower costs, and content management systems are software that are already built and will lower the cost of the website project if clients use it. Preferences, on the other hand, raise costs and when a client wants to customize software for their project, they need to be aware that custom software development is the most expensive thing in a project.
One tip Aaron shared during his presentation is that it is up to the designers and developers to ask clients more specific questions about what they envision the end result of the website to be. Don’t just accept it when a client says they want a shopping cart feature with their website, dig deeper and find out what products the clients will sell with the shopping cart, what special functions will this cart need to do for selling products, shipping, collecting customer data, etc. Aaron suggests showing clients working sites with examples of what is standard so clients can better understand what they are buying when they are buying the software.
Here’s Aaron’s presentation slides to view his other tips for educating clients on the more technical side of a website design project:
Joe Robbins brought his experience in creating professional photographs and images for advertising in print and on the web to the seminar to share the importance of having quality photographs on your website. He discussed the conversation designers should have with clients and recommended educating clients on the costs associated with photographs along with the pros and cons for hiring a professional photographer compared to stock photos and photographs already owned by the client.
Joe explained that “a well designed website is very important, but if your choice of photography is poor, all that hard work could come to nothing. A visually arresting site can be the difference between a sale/inquiry and the customer leaving your site prematurely.”
Website Design is NOT About the Design
Although you might find this ironic, not one of the speakers for a website designer seminar spoke about graphic design for websites or talking to clients about design for the website projects. They all stressed the importance of creating a website that marketed and sold your company online to obtain new customers.
Tom King’s remark was that content brought new visitors to your website via search engines and not the design or appearance of the site.
Bo Bothe insightfully said “You can’t just make things pretty anymore, you have to make things that work.”
“Funny makes money, not necessarily pretty” was the comment from Aaron Long regarding creating websites that drive revenue.
And Joe Robbins demonstrated how to incorporate quality photography into your website for a more visually appealing site that reflected your brand in the same way companies use glossy print advertisements offline.
The presenters recommend that we steer our focus away from the flash-based, graphic-heavy websites that make it difficult to add and edit content on and also are poorly ranked by search engines. Instead, focus on a strategy that integrates your marketing efforts with your website design.
This seminar explained the importance of talking with and educating clients and hopefully the videos and presentations I’ve included from the seminar will give you a better understanding of the process involved with building a complex website. I encourage you to attend the next Houston Website Designers Seminar coming up in July if you are interested in learning more. The seminars are always free to attend.
If you want to learn more about Schipul’s website design process to build complex websites that generate leads and revenue for companies, contact us and check out our training calendar for upcoming web marketing events and webinars we’re hosting!
I attended a screening of Warhol on TV presented by Aurora Picture Show at the Menil Collection last Friday night. The film was a collection of excerpts of works created by and featuring Andy Warhol. The film was curated by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA.
Andy Warhol’s obsession with celebrity and the lives of the rich in famous is well documented, and very evident in the film. What hit me was his fervent dedication to documenting his life and the world around him in photographs and video. Take this photo I took of a video of Andy being done up in drag.
In today’s pop culture, our obsession with the lives of the rich and famous is at an all time high. The entire Charlie Sheen saga has been a grim reminder of how much we thirst for a good celebrity train wreck. But a democratization of the velvet rope has occurred with the proliferation of camera phones. Whether it is the video of Cyndi Lauper singing Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun in an airport terminal . . .
Or a little girl singing the new Lady GaGa single . . .
There are moments of Warholian fascination being born (this way) every day. It’s had me thinking about what Andy Warhol’s art would have looked like if he was armed with an iPhone. The glut of photography apps on the iPhone, particularly those dedicated to creating a vintage look to your photos, make your iPhone reminiscent of Warhol’s ubiquitous cameras. Here are a couple of my favorites
Instagram is incredibly simple. Take a picture, apply a cool filter, share with other user and over your social networks. They recently added hashtag support allowing users to tag their photos, making them searchable. Instagram is great to get quick snaps of random things going on around you. The in-app feed is great for those moments when you want to just look at something interesting in the middle of the day. You can also like and comment on your friends photos. There is also a Popular button that takes you to a collection of the most liked photos taken by Instagram users.
I’ll warn you now, this app can lead to a serious obession. I LOVE Hipstamatic. While the app comes with a nice set of equipment up front, the real fun is adding the Hipstapaks, expanding your lens, film and camera options. I doubt I’ll ever learn how to use this app to its fullest potential, but I know it’s going to be fun trying. Another great feature of this app is the Hipstamart. You can upload photos from your phone into the Hipstamart, and order high quality prints! They come in a nifty little envelope that folds into a stand-up frame.
Hipstamatic just takes great photos. You can also share them in Instagram, doubling the AWESOME! One more thing, if you’re going to be using Hipstamatic, you might as well invest in SwankoLab as well. It’s like having an entire dark room in your pocket!
I haven’t been able to use 8mm as much as I would like. As you can probably imagine, it turns your iPhone into an 8mm camera. Like Hipstamatic, it comes with a small collection of lenses and films to experiment with. Turn your videos into home movies from yesteryear!
Fortunately, the bad fashion from the 70’s is not included.
With an iPhone and these apps, anyone can lead the life of Andy Warhol. And getting your 15 minutes of fame just got a bit easier. Happy content creating!
I’ve been ranting and raving about it like a crazy woman since the event made its U.S. debut in Houston last Friday. And I’ve been twice since – and I’m planning a third trip this evening. It’s that good.
Red Bull Illume is a worldwide action and adventure sports photography competition. More than 22,000 images were submitted to the contest of which 50 finalists were chosen by a panel of 53 photo experts. The photos from those finalists are the Red Bull Illume exhibit.
The Scene – 50 photos aligned in neat rows on 4-ft tall illuminated displays; a DJ and free Red Bull with beautiful Discovery Green as a back drop. Priceless.
How to do it right –
Make it a date ! The cold weather gives you are reason to get close. The photos give you something to talk about. The music makes great filler for potential awkward silences.
Grab a free copy of the program. It’s pretty and features a print of each photo, the photographer and the story of how they got the shot. (For my photography nerds – the technical details for each photo are included as well (Camera, Lens, ISO, F-stop and Shutter Speed) – I’d faint if the histogram was included.)
Dress warm with cozy shoes – it’s chilly this weekend in Houston and the exhibit is on the lawn.
This post was very hard for me to write, as delegated to me by Katie, for her 30 days of thanks blog theme. Sometimes it takes someone like Katie to push us to put in writing what we know in our heart. And that was why this post was so hard.
I am thankful for many many things. First would have to be Rachel, my wife, in our 20th year of marriage. My 3 kids are a true blessing. I am thankful for the city Houston which I moved to after college with my then young family in hopes of finding a job. I am even thankful for people that hosed me over because I learned from those experiences, and got back up. I am thankful for my extended family and friends who have supported me in my crazy journey starting a company 13 years ago. I am thankful for the US Army, spending a lot of time in my formative years on bases in the US and Germany. And I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am for the people I get to work with. But all of those blessings are more than I can handle writing about right now. Instead I want to write about a camera.
I am thankful for my Dad’s LeicaM3. You see, it wasn’t always this way. For years, the six of us kids were annoyed by my Father’s camera. I come from a family of hard workers and the story I was told was that my father got a fake ID at the age of 14 to take a job as a photographer for the Bridgeport Post. Growing up my Father always had a camera. So like all children, the six of us rebelled and went the other direction. We groaned when called for a family picture at Christmas, and gave him a hard time about it.
In college I didn’t even own a camera (I can hear the Facebook generation groaning) and there were no cell phones to snap pics either (yes, I am old as dirt apparently). We did buy disposable cameras occasionally to get pictures once we had children. But the device was to record an event, and the subject matter was the little people (who I thought then, and still think are AWESOME). I wanted to remember the moment. Running around the tree in the back yard in the middle of a terrible thunder storm just for fun. Laughing uncontrollably soaked to the bone and the dog staring at us like we had finally COMPLETELY lost it. That was what cameras were for, to record the event.
It’s not the most amazing photo. But it was the first time my brain said “hey, this is a cool image so try to capture it.” It was the first time I took an image for the sake of CREATING SOMETHING. And I liked it. It also helped that Flickr was talked about a lot that year at eTech and I found a community of photographers who loved to help.
Flickr, and that photo, made me finally realize why my Father enjoyed photography. Sure his snap shots were just like all the rest of our snap shots. Just that: snap shots. But occasionally he shot to create something beautiful. Then memories came back to me of helping him matt and crop (you did this with a paper cutter) images for a photography contest he had entered when I was a young man.
Because our company had a sizable American Express bill, in 2006 I got a Canon Digital Rebel XT using Amex points at no cost. Then the real photography journey began, and I found I really enjoyed it. I learned that a photographer’s job is to make people look good. Digital photography in particular is very forgiving and lets you take a few shots to be sure your subject is shown in the best possible way.
My Father didn’t talk a lot. I understand that now. When I was a young child he was enlisted and served proudly in Vietnam. We would always stop by the POW/MIA booth in DC. And his photos of the memorial were the source of several award winning photos he took. I don’t have those photos, but I remember them. He went on to get a degree, go to Medical School, reenlist in the Army and eventually retire as an LTC. Then teach at OU and save lives as a Perinatologist. I can’t even begin to say how proud I am of my Father.
Later that year, in 2006, I took our family down to Dickens on the Strand in Galveston. After that we stopped by the beach and I took this photo of my three kids, which now has over 30,000 views on flickr.
Unfortunately I never got a chance to talk to my Father about photography. I started photography in 2006, at a time when he was teaching at a medical school in Dominica. The Islands are a long way away. He passed away suddenly a few days after the above photo was taken. He never saw it.
While in Dominica I found these photos on his last camera.
Those are his photos and I think the man had a great eye. He loved his Leica M3. And I had no idea what it was. All of those years.
What am I thankful for? I am thankful for many many wonderful people in my life. And I am very thankful for my amazing parents. And I am thankful my Mom entrusted me with my Dad’s Leica M3. Thank you Mom and Dad!
Anyone that knows me, will tell you I like to tell stories – some make complete sense others are borderline bizarre – but one thing I know for sure, they are best accompanied with a photo. That being said, a lesson I am grateful to have learned was to always carry your camera in your purse, pocket, fanny pack and yes, even that beloved man satchel.
Because let’s be honest, if you don’t carry a camera with you at all times, how can you tell people…
How beautiful your mom is.
That you were there.
That your baby looks brilliant in a Trapper Hat.
That your baby nephew will be the most stylish kid on the block.
How you hugged a giant macaroni.
That you kissed a baby giraffe.
Or that you patted a dolphin on the head.
That you have been a human crayon.
That sometimes, you must forego your Cowboys gear for the one you love.
That it is not a joke how much your family loves miniature schnauzers.
And that you really do have the best friends in the world.
As I mentioned in my recent post Pack Your Sketchbook, I enjoy bringing home personal, visual souvenirs from my travels. I prefer a souvenir that isn’t the cookie cutter tourist-y items that the (insert your destination city here) locals sell you. However, the souvenirs I enjoy aresomething you can create that will last much longer than the standard I Love NY tee.
That being said, bring your CAMERA. Take pictures, shoot video, capture memories and remember the good times because unlike the title of this post, most of us do no have a “Photographic Memory.” I try to capture as many photos as I can without compromising the trip itself. On my recent trip to New York City, New York I brought along two cameras. The first being a Canon 5D (Thanks Ed) and the second was my good ol’ Canon G10. If you want some good pointers about what to pack in your camera bag… read Ed’s post. If you don’t have a fancy DSLR or a high end point and shoot, use what you have. The quality of the photo doesn’t matter as much as actually capturing the memories.
Of all the things I imagined seeing this weekend, a cheetah on a leash taking a leisurely stroll through the Houston Zoo was NOT on the list. But that’s the kind of thing that happens during Photo Day at the Houston Zoo.
Photo Day is a series of 6 outings during which photographers and photography enthusiasts can visit the Houston Zoo and take pictures of the animals. Fellow Schipulite Derek Key (@dereskey) and I had the opportunity to attend Saturday’s photo day…and that’s how we saw the cheetah.
Our Day…in Photos
The animals are likely to be active during the earliest part of the day, especially in the summer…in Houston. So for Photo Day, the zoo opens two hours early (at 7am) and lets photo enthusiasts catch the early risers. I’ve been to the Houston Zoo countless times, but this is the first time I saw so many of the big cats and rare birds.
The lions roamed their pen long enough for photo ops…
As a frequent traveler, I have great respect for the discipline that goes into traveling light. It is truly an art form. Yet on the other hand it really sucks to get to your destination and realize you need some particular item that is not readily available. Particularly if that item is light and it wouldn’t have been any trouble to bring it along. And PARTICULARLY if that item is a camera accessory that you can’t just pick up at the local store!
I’ll leave it to the OneBag site to offer the perfect light travelers packing list. But what about your camera bag when you travel? My criteria for making the traveling camera bag list is:
The camera bag must:
have easy access to grab the camera out with one hand
travel easily through airport security
fit under the seat in front of me on an airplane
have some extra room for books/magazines/iPad storage to keep them handy on a flight
be slender enough that I can make my way through a crowd without bumping into people (this rule eliminates more bag options than any other, btw)
have flexible pouches that if I must overpack it, at least that is an option
close securely to prevent pickpockets in crowded subways
What goes in the traveling camera bag? Assuming you have a DSLR and lenses, my ideal camera travel bag selection is fairly small. Here goes:
Camera body – I’m a Canon guy, but Nikon’s are pretty awesome too. (And just don’t even tell me if you have a Hasselblad. I don’t want to hear it.)
Fixed 50 lens – Light and fast for low light situations. The thrifty fifty rules.
Wide angle lens. (When I used the Rebel I *loved* the 10-22 which took this shot. Now I have the 16-35.)
Zoom lens. I bring one, but not both, of these depending on where I am traveling.
24-105/f4 – doesn’t sound like the best lens, but I consistently get the best results with this glass. I LOVE this lens. My all time favorite. But sometimes I leave it behind b/c of weight. It is truly a brick.
70-300/f4-5.6 – again, doesn’t sound like the best lens with f4, but very flexible and light.
Lens doubler – also called a 2X teleconverter – also called “flexibility!” (I don’t use the Canon one, I bought a cheaper one at a shop in nyc). The bad news is teleconverters KILL your lens speed. 2X but I’d guess you lose 4 or 5 f stops. So these are for daylight use only almost. Some exceptions, but TEST before you need. You will be shooting on Manual with the doubler. Oh, and on mine, auto-focus doesn’t work either. So maybe splurge for the Canon doubler.
External Flash – I use the 580EX and I hated the 430EX. If you can’t budget the 580, buy off brand until you can. The 430 is lame – you get more light from a flashlight.
Extra camera battery – battery’s are lighter than chargers and I never fully drain 2 batteries on biz trips. Skip the charger and carry an extra battery.
Extra memory card – mainly in case the other one goes corrupt.
Items I now specifically do NOT bring.
No extra AA batteries. I used to carry these. Again, rechargables in the external flash will last just fine. And you can purchase batteries if you need them. Skip carrying them. This also eliminates the AA battery charger.
No charger. If I shoot through two fully charged batteries I need to stop anyway. If it is a long trip I’ll put the charger in my carry-on, but I rarely use it.
No Tripod – yup, no tripod. I am all about balancing the camera on a rock or holding it against a tree. I no longer lug around tripods and with the new faster ISO speeds on cameras they aren’t as necessary IMHO.
No Lens Filters – hate them. What is the point of buying a nice lens and then putting a crappy piece of plastic in front of it? Just doesn’t make sense. If you are that worried about your lens, use a point and shoot. Filters are a scam IMHO. The exceptions are polarized filters for daylight long-exposure shots, or artistic colored filters. But the clear ones? Just a way for the camera store to get your 50 bucks. Gone.
No Rubberized Camera Exoskeleton – if you drop the camera this probably won’t save it. And it makes it impossible to get in and out of most camera bags. And it looks dorky. Skip it. Shoot with a naked camera body.
No Laptop (OK, sometimes no laptop) – for day trips, the CF cards are large enough that you can sometimes just skip the laptop and download when you get back. Not the end of the world.
Other tips for traveling with your camera:
BUY A NEW CAMERA STRAP! Really, both Canon and Nikon put the MODEL NUMBER on the camera strap which tells would be thieves exactly the value of your camera from 100 yards away. Sheesh. So yes, buy a generic looking camera strap.
Shoot RAW only – using JPG and RAW both fills up the card and wastes time. Install the drivers and shoot only RAW.
Shoot a lot – without a tripod you will have occasional camera shake. Odds are if you take three shots at 1/30 that one of those will work out. Delete the other two and move on down the road.
Lightroom – get lightroom to handle the large number of shots. Unfortunately it is $300. I used Aperture and loved it, but Adobe is going to win this battle so move on over. Plus Lightroom handles referenced files, the ones saved directly to external drives, much faster. And it handles multiple catalogs. You can research it or trust me – just go with Lightroom.
External Drive – save directly to external drives. Moving files around on and off a laptop sucks. Just import directly to an external drive. I use the Lacie ruggedized 500GB drives. I realize they have 1TB drives now, but I don’t recommend them since they require another power supply. The 500GB is powered by USB only, which cuts down on space/weight. Carrying two 500GB drives if needed (I don’t, but hypothetically) is still lighter than another power supply. Plus you can never find enough plugs in a hotel. Another note on the drives – I just use the USB as it is the same cable for the Canon and to recharge the blackberry. Flexibility and the speed difference with Firewire isn’t that huge a deal for me on downloads.
Photoshop Elements (if you must) – Elements is about $80. I rarely even launch photoshop and you definitely do NOT need CS. Either skip photoshop entirely or just use the cheaper Photoshop Elements. And I still don’t “get” Bridge. Any organization I might do in Bridge I can do with Folders and Collections in Lightroom. Just use Lightroom and give as little money to Adobe as possible.
Laptop – you don’t actually NEED a MacBook Pro to run lightroom. With the external drive you can use any laptop or even the Macbook Air. Yes it won’t be as fast, but it isn’t the end of the world and this allows you to use a smaller laptop. That said, I use the 13inch Macbook pro. I wish they had a 10inch version.
Clean your lens a lot. – much easier than removing dust spots using software. Basically do as much in-camera as possible and as little on-laptop as possible.
A few photos from my travels below. Enjoy your own vacation!