Friday, May 9, 2014

Ruff Times for the Summer

Summer means long days and long weekends - and traveling. We propose that you pack up your best friend for those trips this year. And now, with the Ruff Guide to the United States, there is no reason not to take your canine companion with you. 

It's no secret that we take our greyhound, Lochrima, every possible place we travel to.  She's been in 14 states and toured mountains, beaches and cities with us. Yea, we even walked her through a shopping mall in D.C. once - no one said anything. Maybe because she's so good-looking and well-behaved?

Anyhow, with this cool new Ruff Guide, there are features and vacation spots in EVERY state that welcome houndie guests.

A few of the really cool ones: Surfing lessons in California, camping in Yellowstone Park, treehouses on the Appalachian Trail, B&Bs on Gettysburg battlefield and Gondola Skyrides. Oh - there are high end locales too - try taking your pooch to Palm Springs for some spa luxury or a tour of sophisticated Santa Barbara. How about touring a garden in Georgia?

Pretty much, there's something in the Ruff Guide for every dog and his/her person. Which brings me to the avenue by which we discovered this book: Grapehounds.  Grapehounds is an annual event - with weekends in both Virginia and the New York Fingerlakes. Basically, wineries open up their tasting rooms to hounds, and the organizer, Larry, also arranges for pooch-friendly hotels, B&Bs and camping, we as well as vendors selling collars, coats, crafts and more - oh and free concerts. The event is always a great time and we're proud to say, we've been involved as the official event photographers since the very first event.

Grapehounds is listed in the Ruff Guide - and we hope that means that even more attendees will arrive this year in both Virginia and New York to enjoy this fun weekend. Even better- all the proceeds from both events are donated to charities that work to save racing greyhounds.

Want to learn more? Here's a little taste of what Grapehounds is all about... shopping, drinking, eating and of course... hounding out!

Small businesses sell doggie wares. 

Naptime at the winery!

Strikingly handsome fellow...

Vineyards are great for long walks.

Winetasting for people. Naps for hounds.

Where are my treats?

We love North Gate - a vegan-friendly and entirely green winery in VA!

Resting after a long day touring wineries in Virgnia.

If you'd like to learn more about Grapehounds, visit their website. If you want to check out the Ruff Guide, buy a copy on Amazon or at your local bookseller. Be sure to look for our pictures in there!

Happy Summer trips - with your doggies!
~ Rissa

Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting Back to the Future

Frequently we are asked by clients, friends and associates if we are using the "latest/hottest/newest" technology. We always laugh a little, at least to ourselves, because in the world of digital photography and computers in general, the freshest thing is nearly impossible to keep up with, professionally or even financially.

Consider for a moment that more than many other art forms, photography is entirely driven by the tools used to create it. Pencils and charcoal have changed very little for artists; many chefs use fancy gadgets, but others still cook over primal, open fire; ballerinas still perform to classic scores written by composers putting pen to paper. But photographers… well, that's not the same. Of the arts, a photographer must always straddle between creator and technician.

Less than 200 years ago, photographers were creating images on plates of glass and tin; shortly after that came large and medium format film, then 35mm film. Most recently, digital photography entered the scene.  But in comparison to other art forms, save perhaps web design and other digital media, photography is among the newer means of creative expression.

While we obviously take time to learn new techniques and programs for our craft, we're strongly of the opinion that lasting media in photography is always superior to fleeting products. For example, consider the current standard, a CD or DVD. Many clients want that disc, feel more secure with it. But I invite you to look at this image and think about how much security your disc really holds…

Yes, that's right. Let's go back to the future, as they say in the movie. Many people will remember this brand name: Texas Instruments. There was a time when TI was *THE* modern, forward-thinking person's choice in technology. You know, about 20-ish years ago. But my how things have changed.

When I was in high school, Memorex floppy discs were high tech. When I carried these around in my backpack, I felt like a NASA engineer. Of course, those same computer classes consisted of learning how to log into MS-DOS and type in a paper for English class.

Shortly after came the smaller floppies. They were still "floppy" on the inside, but we had upgraded to hard cases. Gosh did I fill boatloads of these things in college and at the time, these were considered the latest, greatest technology.

Next, as a photographer, was the upgrade to ZIP discs. Many folks didn't get to use ZIP discs, as they were only around for one second.We had to buy special external ZIP drives to plug into our computers for these. ZIPs were the THING to photographers at that moment in time - about 15 years ago. We both used them in college and early in our professional careers. 100m of memory was supremely impressive.

After ZIPs came the writeable compact discs and DVDs. These are shiny, flashy and chic. They remind us of music and movie discs we purchase. But their moment is passing…  Jump drives, the Cloud and DropBox are now having their moment. It's still all information on media. You have to look at a device to enjoy your photographic artwork.

So we wonder… with the constant flow in photography of changing media, why not stick to something more classic for your images, especially for important memories, like portraits of loved ones or wedding pictures? I mean, around here, we see enough discs go bad that we use them for coasters. Discs get CD Rot; computers crash and are replaced. That's certainly not the lasting memory you want for your family portraits, wedding or even vacation snapshots.

Framed snapshot from a family gathering of Nathaniel's grandparents.
Nothing will ever replace the true elegance and timelessness of a framed print on the wall or a well made album of your favorite images.  These are the things that become part of your family, these are heirlooms.

As we all move forward in the brave new world of fast-changing technology, I hope this will inspire you to think a little more about you how store, display and value your photographs. Storage devices will come and go.  If you have a photo worth keeping, it's worth getting a tangible print of that will go into a frame or album, something you can experience for years to come in analog, with no updated gadget that needs electric, batteries or other "juice" to make it work. 

~ Rissa

Friday, February 21, 2014

Snowy Beasts

There's been a lot of complaining these days about the weather in Maryland. Snow and ice. Rain, thunder. More snow. Cancelled work and school. Everyone has been effected in some way and - as far as I can tell - everyone has had something to say about. 

We'd like to invite you to stop for a moment and consider that there ARE those who have it tougher than you…. Imagine you not only have to shovel your car out, or your swath of sidewalk. Imagine you also have to care for 30 or so large, rescued animals. You need to trek out into the snow and make sure they have food and water - and the water hasn't frozen. They need fresh air in the pasture, then they need brushed off and put back into the barn. They need love and attention. Welcome to the world of Burleigh.

Take a look at our friends at Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary. Above, that's Moose and his buddy Cash. Both are mules, retired from Amish farms and rescued from a slaughterhouse in PA. Just below, blind pony, Pagan, is hanging outing his cozy plaid coat. He's got some snow on him, but enjoys the fresh, chilly air in his pasture.

 Mabel is the pink piggie below. She stepped out to explore a recent snow, but her companion, Hamlet, wisely chose to stay in the barn. If there are belly rubs involved, even snow cannot stop Mabel!

Edgar Allan Pony is a new resident at BurleighSeveral years back, Edgar served as one of Baltimore's Arabbers. Arabber ponies usually work by pulling a food cart through Baltimore neighborhoodsEdgar's job was to provide pony rides at Inner Harbor. In addition to working long days on hard cement and street surfaces, Arabbers are often be found living in inappropriate housing situations such as the basements of city homes. Edgar doesn't mind braving the snow, especially for an apple!

Jack the donkey is watching over shy L'il, the cow. Jack is a 15+ year-old, miniature Sicilian donkey that stands no more than 3 feet tall. He is approximately the size of a large dog. He's gray-dun in color with a darker dorsal stripe and cross. This is the most common color pattern for this type of donkey. Lore tells us that the cross shape design over his back was put there to symbolize the Christ child being carried upon the donkey’s back. Lil' Cow is a brown-colored Hereford. She was surrendered by her former owner, who was closing down the family’s cow farm after the death of her husband. The rest of the cows had been sent to slaughter, but not L’il Cow, who was beloved as a family friend.

Still think you have it tough, scraping the ice from your car window or sitting inside on the couch to watch bad TV all day? Try farm life for a day!

You can go meet them and experience winter on the farm during their next open house event, which is Saturday March 8, 1pm to 3pm. There is a $5 donation, and closed-toe boots are recommended. You may bring apples and carrots to feed the animals, if you like. 

We are happy volunteers at Burleigh and love hanging out with the animals, rain or snow or sleet or sunshine. Each one is like a special pal with his and her own unique quirks and personality. Hope winter doesn't keep you in during the next open house! Farm life in the winter has its own beauty and charm and is completely worth the visit!

~ Rissa

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We Knew Them When...

Because we work with actors and actresses all the time, we meet lots of talented individuals. Many of them go on to do great things with their careers - some in theater, some as models, some in films and on television.  Recently, we've had a whole smattering of wild success stories and we wanted to share them. After all, we can say we knew them back when…

Austin is a child-actor based in Maryland, and when we found out he had played the role of a schoolyard bully on USA Network's White Collar, we were so proud! After all, we're huge fans of the show.  I think you'll agree that Austin can do the tough guy look, too.

Tracie came to us for her first headshot quite a few years ago. She has since moved on to work in the New York market, but we were really excited to hear she had a part on the super-cool CBS show, Elementary. It's a modern take on Sherlock Holmes, set in NYC. Way to go, Tracie!

Locally in the DC area, client Kevin had a part on House of Cards, the groundbreaking Netflix series that keeps everyone talking. No doubt that Kevin's great look and professional drive help him land the role! We both remember his confidence and ambition, and knew we'd hear his name again.

Speaking of a great look, this guy had it! Christian also came to us for his first professional head shots. At the time, he didn't know if acting or modeling would be the right fit, but as it turns out, he went to Los Angeles and found his way onto the CW's remake of 90210! Looks and talent are always a winning combination.

Back on the East Coast, Jasmine found work on a Discovery Channel station, the ID Network. She got a role on Deadly Affairs, a show hosted by Susan Lucci that explores cases of true crime involving hot, steamy affairs…

Finally, we are so proud of client Raja. After a move to LA, then criss-crossing the globe - literally - and filming small films, documentaries and more, Raja got a part on the Emmy-award-winning show Homeland on Showtime. We've had the pleasure of photographing Raja several times, with several very different looks and hairstyles! This is one of our favorite shots of him.

It's truly an understatement to say how PROUD we are of all our acting clients and their accomplishments. And when we see results like these, we like to glow a little bit and think we had some, very small, part in their success story by helping them with first, second or more head shots along  the way.

Congratulations to all of you on these fantastic achievements! We can't wait to see where you go next and we look forward to watching each of you accept your own Emmy awards!
~ Rissa

Friday, January 31, 2014

Funds for our Fastest Friends

Some of your best friends have four legs. We know. We feel the same way. Our retired racing greyhound, Lochrima, is a wonderful pal. Life would not be the same without her around. Our clients and guests have enjoyed her gentle company for the past 9 years, as have total strangers who meet her in passing.

Like many greyhounds, she is graceful, kind and affectionate. A truly remarkable companion. But she's a lucky dog. Not all racing greyhound make it to a loving home or comfy retirement.

Which is why we are always happy to support various greyhound rescue and adoption groups that need help fundraising. Recently, Colorado Greyhound Adoption reached out to let us know they were doing and online auction to raise funds for more rescue-hounds. In 2012, Colorado Greyhound Adoption found homes for 154 retired racers. Caring for all these hounds and getting them ready for retirement cost $80,000 in veterinary bills.

Of course we sent an item: one of Nathaniel's 10x10 canvas wraps of an angel greyhound racing among the clouds. And there are loads of other great items available to help with worthy cause. If Colorado Greyhound Adoption is lucky, this auction may raise as much as $8,000, as past auctions have, to help with vet care and other needs for track dogs in 2014.

Please take a moment to log onto the auction, hosted by 2Hounds Designs, and see if there are any items there for a hound or pet-lover in your life. After all, Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and Mother's Day is not too far off, either.

We especially liked the necktie, rake tray, art tile and fancy collar. Lochrima would look just lovely in that…don't you think?

The auction ends on Monday February 3rd, so please log on and bid generously! Your contribution may mean all the difference in the world for a retired racer like Lochrima!

~ Rissa

Saturday, January 25, 2014

One Secret to Success...

2014 marks balance photography’s 10th year with the Catonsville Chamber of Commerce and our 14th year in business. We have been doing the Chamber's photography since 2008 and won their President's Award in 2009. And this year, at the Chamber's 1st monthly meeting, Nathaniel was able to stand before the group and share a little bit about why we are so loyal to the organization.

Chamber Director Teal Cary talks to the crowd.

from his speech...
"More of our jobs come from direct person-to-person referrals than any other source. In 2013, 17% of our jobs came from Chamber referrals ~ our largest source of referrals overall!

Back when we first joined the Chamber in 2004, we expected instant results. We thought that joining our local Chamber of Commerce made us more "professional and serious" than other photographers. But oddly, that  membership alone didn’t result in phones ringing off the hook. In fact, we mailed in the check and nothing happened.

It didn’t take us long to discover that real people make decisions based on real contact

We became involved, volunteering for bag-stuffing before the Arts Festival and Frederick Road Fridays, joining committees, and attending networking events. We met wonderful people who have hired and referred us for years. The Chamber has brought us all kinds of jobs – headshots, political events, family portraits, commercial product shoots, food photography, and weddings, parties and galas.

More than any other group of people we networked with in the past 14 years we’ve been in business, Catonsvlle Chamber of Commerce members have provided our company with a steady stream of quality clients and referrals. Even many individuals who move from Catonsville area businesses continue to send us jobs from the new companies they work for within the region."

Nathaniel giving his presentation. Cameras DO make great accessories, by the way...
 In short, balance would not be the vital, successful company that it has become without the Chamber or its members. We are grateful to Director Teal Cary, as well as ALL the good folks at the Catonsville Chamber for their continuing support of our company and the other outstanding small businesses in our town. 

~ Rissa

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We're Judging You

Okay, it's not realllly like that. We were judging a print competition at the Baltimore Camera Club

Photos from this event were shot by our assistant, Jess. :)

2014 marks our sixth year serving as guest judges for the Club, and this time the talent proved to be quite fantastic, as always! Nathaniel & I judged four sets of prints: Novice Monochrome (black & white); Novice Color; Unlimited Monochrome and Unlimited Color. We had favorites, as did the third judge, who is a Service Photo employee in Hampden. There were ties for first, second and third almost every time!

As usual, the judging was done in a darkened room where the only light is from the area displaying the photographs. Judges do not talk to each other; instead, we voted silently using and electronic button attached to a score-keeping box. Images were awarded first through fifth places, and there was one honorable mention. 

Here Nathaniel is awarding someone 1 point. 

After each category, judges were allowed to give feedback to the winners. There were many examples of exceptional creativity, technical skill and innovative composition. In fact, I had to track one of the winners down - his image of a cat in a windowsill was so original, I have to have a print of it! Sorry, we can't share it here, that image doesn't belong to us ~ but here is link of the winners - the 1st place Monochrome Novice - that's the one!!!

That's Nathaniel and I in the middle. 

The Club has been around since 1884 and is the oldest Camera Club in the United States today. They embrace all photographers - from absolute beginner to seasoned expert and offer something for everyone. Meetings are free to attend, however to enter competitions or attend lectures, there is a $50.00 membership fee per year. It's a steal, really! Check out  upcoming programs on their website schedule. Noted landscape photographer Marc Muech will be presenting to their group on March 15th - worth attending for those into landscape subject matter!  

The Baltimore Camera Club meets every Thursday at Mount Washington United Methodist Church, 5800 Cottonworth Ave. Baltimore MD 21209. It's just near the Whole Foods in Mt. Washington and there's plenty of free parking.

We love the Baltimore Camera Club - it's exciting to see the passion other photographers have for our art form and encourage them to grow and keep learning more of their craft.

Thanks for having us back! ~ Rissa