Friday, August 29, 2008

Six Blocks

For several years my wife and I lived near 47th and Oak in Kansas City, Missouri. I would often go out for walks. If I walked three blocks to the west I would pass Mercedes and Porches along the curb. If I walked three blocks east, I would pass old sofas and refrigerators along the curb.

The contrast could not be more startling. Without leaving my zip code, I could see people in the highest social-economic and the lowest social-economic situations. Within in a few blocks there were people who appeared to be completely oblivious to the other group’s situation; and they certainly didn’t understand each other.

To the impartial observer like me, who cannot really relate to either group, it is clearly not a matter of opportunity in the geographical sense, but possibly lack of opportunity in the culture sense.

If your culture says that talking to the police makes you a snitch, you will live in a high crime neighborhood. If your culture tells you that excelling in school makes you uncool, you will have no education. If your culture tells you that having to be at work at 8:00 takes away your freedom, you will not have job.

If your culture tells you that dropping 100 grand on a car makes you important, you will do whatever it takes to get the wheels. If your culture tells you that a 10,000 square foot house is the definition of success, you will sacrifice your friends to get it.

Jesus came to free the captives from this culture of poverty and also from the culture of more is better. As Christians we need to find ways to point people to the truth that there is a better way to live.

To change the culture, don’t write laws – write songs.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Handing off the baton

I enjoyed watching the Olympics this year. One of the tragedies was watching both the men and women’s 4X100 relay teams drop the baton.

Anybody who has ever participated in a track meet in high school knows that handing off the baton is the most basic and fundamental skill in relay running. How could Olympic level runners drop the baton – twice.

The answer is actually pretty simple, they didn’t practice. The relay teams were all-star teams, meaning they were all the best in their category, but had never really worked together. Just because you put the best people together does not mean that you are going to have a smooth-running team. You see this all the time. Top executives that drive the business in the ground, good politicians that do dumb things, and so-called super-groups made up of great musicians that can’t play together.

Team work is very underrated as we saw on the USA relay teams. Working well with others, understanding your role, and letting others do theirs is fundamental. In more ways than one we drop the baton. We fail to communicate, and we fail to see how we fit in.

We are all given different gifts, different personalities, and different opportunities. Understanding how we fit and handing off the baton at the right time without dropping it is a key to successful living.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Architecture Photography

Back in the Golden Age of rock & roll, when gas was cheap and phones were hard-wired, I roomed with a couple of architectural students. We were all photographers too, so naturally our late night bull-sessions centered around architecture and photography. Of course I became interested in architecture as well, as we made road trips to photography historical and significant buildings. I even took some History of Architecture classes and collected books on architecture. I have since seen and photographed even more famous buildings in Europe and the U.S. of A.

My friends went on to have successful careers as architects and designers while I stayed with photography.

Now days, when I am not photographing business people and performers, I am usually out photographing buildings.

The difference between photographing people and buildings is that with people portraiture, you move the people and the lights until you get the picture you want. In building portraiture, neither the buildings nor the sun are easily moveable, so we have to go when the sun and the building are where we want them to be. This is usually the first few hours after sunrise or the last few hours before sunset, depending upon the orientation of the building and the time of year.
The other rule of architectural photography is no converging vertical lines. The edges of the building and all vertical features should be parallel to each other and to the edge of the photo.

Do you need architectural photography? Give me a call. If you want to photograph some buildings yourself, I hope these tips are useful. Jim Mathis 913 269-6709

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dragon Eyes

Everybody has seen the bright red eyes that sometime show up in flash pictures. Red-eye first reared its ugly head with the Kodak Pocket Instamatic of 1973. Poor design put the flash directly over the lens where the flash could reflect directly off the subject’s retina and back to the film.
Red-eye is now more common than ever as camera manufactures keep putting the flash head too close to the lens. Often the size of the camera gives them little choice. The problem can be solved in several ways.

1. Don’t use on-camera flash. Use natural light or off-camera flash.
2. Make sure there is enough room light that the subject’s pupils are not wide open.
3. Pre-fire the flash so that the subject’s pupils close before the actually picture is taken (this is a very-odd but common solution provided by many camera manufactures.)
4. Retouch out the red later. (This is far easier with digital than with film.)

Professional photographers seldom have problem with red-eye because we seldom use on-camera flash except as a fill. And red-eye was not an issue before 1973 because until then it was not possible to get the flash so close to the lens axis that it would cause a problem.

So that’s the story on red-eye. I hope this will help you tame this ugly dragon.