Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Life is Good

I have the privilege of meeting and getting to know many interesting and inspiring people through my work. One of the most rewarding assignments I have is when I get to shoot the San Diego Triathlon Challenge to benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation. "Established in 1997, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) is a unique organization that recognizes the athletic greatness inherent in all people with physical challenges and supports their athletic endeavors by providing grants for training, competition and equipment needs."

Among the many stories and personal triumphs I saw, this one struck me the most. I was photographing kids at the expo sliding down an inflatable. I would see a tiny face poke out from the opening and some of the kids sliding down were wearing prosthetics and some were not. It was a blur. The common thread was that they were all having fun together. I remember back when I was a kid, you didn't see kids with disabilities much. They were locked away somewhere. Now, it is different and it was wonderful to see. I looked over and a saw a lady on the park bench who, like me was enjoying the site of kids having fun. I could see she was tearing up. She told me two weeks earlier she'd had a stroke and nearly died. She was doing much better and said she was "happy to be alive". Watching those kids having fun made her heart sing- Mine too! I gave her a hug.

Life IS Good!

Please Donate to CAF at 

Check out more inspiring photos from the SDTC here.
9 year old Cody McCasland prepares for a 1 mile swim.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good Comes from Bad- Remembering Jim MacLaren

Jim's ready for the start of 1991 Ironman
(Written in 2010)

My Mom always used to say "Good comes from bad". If you ever met Jim MacLaren, I think you would agree. I was saddened to hear that triathlon's most inspirational person had passed away August 31, 2010. He was just 47 years old. I hadn't seen him for a number of years, but he was always close to my heart. 

I first met Jim at Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.  I was hanging out by the pool at the King Kam a couple days before Ironman with Scott Tinley, Wendy Ingraham, Russell Moore and others when someone in the group yells out "Hey! No amputees in the pool!". Huh? I look up and there is Jim MacLaren. He flips us the bird, removes his prosthetic leg and "hops" into the pool! He swims up to us and is laughing and smiling ear to ear. That was my introduction to Jim MacLaren back in 1991-always positive and always smiling. He was fun to be around. I began to follow Jim and learned about his accident. The former football star and aspiring actor had his left leg amputated after a motorcycle accident in NYC. Jim was breaking new ground- competing at Ironman with a prosthetic and he inspired us all.

Jim competed at Ironman from 1989-1992. His best performance at Kona included a 3:16 marathon with a finish time of 10:42! Jim's acceptance into the sport of triathlon helped pave the way for others. His charisma made Jim the perfect ambassador for triathlon and challenged athletes everywhere.

I was there that fateful day at the Mission Viejo Triathlon in 1993, but did not hear of the news of Jim's second accident until the next day. My heart sank when I heard Jim had been struck by a car on the bike and was paralyzed. I wondered if and how Jim would survive this second set-back. Everyone Jim touched in the past came to his aid. Bob Babbitt, Scott Tinley and others created what would become the Challenged Athletes Foundation San Diego Triathlon Challenge to raise money for Jim. Doctors said Jim was paralyzed and would never have the use of his arms or legs. He proved them wrong. 
Jim speaks at IM Awards Dinner 1993

Jim continued to inspire and amaze us all. In October of 1993, Jim returned to Ironman in Kona- not as a participant like the year before, but this time as a spectator. I saw him on the pier that morning at the swim start. It broke my heart to see my friend there in a wheelchair watching others do what he no longer could. I walked up to Jim after the swim start and gave him a hug. I didn't know what to say. "I am sorry this happened to you." wasn't going to cut it. I thought for a minute and (being the visual person I am) I said, "Wow, your eyes are really blue!". The sun was hitting them and they shone like nothing I had seen before. He said "thanks". I wished him well, gave him another hug and went on to photograph the rest of the race. It was GOOD to see Jim. The next day, he spoke at the awards ceremony and touched us all deeply with his words and courage.

Many years later, I was photographing the CAF SDTC in La Jolla; I looked up and there was Jim! He had a tricked out chair and a tan. He looked very happy to be there. I walked up to him and gave him a big hug and said "great to see you!". We chatted for a minute; I could see Jim was happy. He told me something I never forgot. He said, "Remember that morning on the pier in Kona when you saw me in my chair? I was feeling sorry for myself, then you came over to me and gave me that big hug. You told me how blue my eyes were and it made me feel better. You inspired me that day. You looked for something positive, something to make me feel better. You looked for the best in me and I will not forget that.". That was the last time I saw Jim.

Watch the ESPN video about Jim

I will miss Jim MacLaren. He will always be in my mind and in my heart. My Mom used to say "Good things come from bad" and Jim was proof of that.  The world is a much better place because he lived. Challenged Athletes Foundation is proof of that. RIP

Please honor Jim's memory by donating to the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
 Donate to CAF here!

Friday, August 27, 2010

To Share or Not to Share...

Social networking sites are popping up all over. Almost all of them are free- at least that is what we are led to believe. I have been around long enough to know Nothing is Free. That is almost always the case. Twitter was created with the idea that it would provide added revenue to cell phone carriers. You see 140 characters is the exact length of a standard text message. Most people had their Twitter accounts set-up so when you got a Tweet, it would be forwarded to your cell phone and you would get charged a fee. Now most people have unlimited text messaging or use Smartphone Twitter apps so that revenue stream has become limited.

Facebook is an entirely different animal and they make money in many different ways. One way is through third party apps that access your personal information and your list of friends. Most people freely give permission for these apps to access their personal info because they believe the product or service is worth it. What they do not know is that these third party companies can and do use this information to market to you and your friends on Facebook. This is most alarming to me.

Facebook is the most valuable source for personal information there is. Where else do you disclose your: relationship status, job, hobbies, education, personal photos and religious and political views? That is why Facebook data is SO valuable to many companies. In my opinion, you should lock down your account so you normally only share with friends. There are also ways to create groups. That way you decide who gets to see what.

If you haven't learned by now, remember this. Anything you post on the internet stays on the internet and can be reposted by others. In other words, don't say anything you do not want repeated or reposted. The same goes for your photos. Think twice before you post photos of friends drinking or doing something that could be embarrassing to them. These images can be taken out of context and can be a liability, especially when looking for a job.

Speaking about images, it is important to read and understand the TOS when you sign up for ANY free service. Facebook has some surprising Terms of Service.
Facebook Terms of Service
You need to read this- seriously. READ ALL OF IT!

From Facebook:

"You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos ("IP content"), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to yourprivacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook ("IP License"). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with "
What does this mean? Well, if you do nothing with your settings and use the Default privacy and ad settings, you will be giving permission for Facebook to repost and essentially sell your photos and video to third parties! What? Why would they do that? The answer is because they can. They have to make money and they know that most people don't read those TOS agreements. 

"What should I do?" you ask. Should you stop posting photos and videos to Facebook? That is what some people would tell you to do, but you don't have to go live in a cave and become a paranoid shut-in. Simply follow the instructions on "how" to set your privacy settings that Facebook provides. You do not have to give Facebook permission to use your photos and video for free in order to use their service. You DO have to Opt Out by customizing your privacy settings. 

If you do not share your photos or video with "Everyone", your content is not going to be given to third parties. If you do share photos/video with "Everyone", you can still eliminate the possibility of them being used in ads by going to Account> Account Settings> Facebook Ads and selecting "No One" for both "Allow ads" and "Show Social Actions in Facebook Ads". Be sure to have a look at your Application Settings to make sure only the apps. you select have access to the information you choose.

If you want to minimize the possibility of someone reposting your photos or videos without permission, add a watermark with your name and web address to your photos and include your name in the credits on your videos. It is a federal crime to remove copyright information from a photo.

Anything you post on the web can be stolen or reposted. I would rather people see my work than keep it on my computer. The images you post on Facebook are low resolution so they cannot be used for publication. I always put my photo credit info on images I want to protect. 

So to share or not to share? I say share- but read the terms of service before you go giving away all your rights. Unfortunately, they don't always inform you of the consequences of the default settings of Facebook. Be smart and take control of your content and your social networking! 

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

iPhone 4 Is it worthy of all the hype- and the wait? Part two

After spending nearly a week with the iPhone 4 and enjoying all its new features, I would be remiss if I did not talk about some problems I have had with the new device. Most of these are minor annoyances while there is one glaring problem that may require a trip to the Apple Store for a replacement.
The old saying Form follows function is usually true. In the case of Apple products, that isn't always the case. While it is undeniable that iPhone 4 may be one of the sexiest mobile phones around, it may not be the most durable. Starting with the first iPhone, Apple chose to use glass for its display cradled by a metal or plastic case. The reasoning is that glass can be just as durable as plastic and it makes for a higher quality display. True, the iPhone's display is beautiful but is still susceptible to shattering- as all glass can be. With the iPhone 4, Apple chose to use an aluminosilicate glass which was created by Apple and is supposed to be 20 to 30 times stiffer and harder than plastic. It is akin to the type of glass in high speed trains and helicopters. They also chose to use the new glass not only for the display, but also for the back of the phone. 
The problem with this is two-fold. Two pieces of glass held together with a single band of steel defies logic and although beautiful to look at, it seems to invite disaster. Indeed an unprotected iPhone 4 has been proven to shatter or crack when dropped on cement from waist high. What was Apple thinking? I have no idea but I am mortified of the thought of ruining my iPhone in a single drop. To compound the problem of having two sides of glass, Apple chose to let the glass extend beyond the metal band, making it vulnerable to chipping, scratching or breakage from almost any drop. 

Enter the Apple Bumper. Maybe sensing that their newest phone might get pretty dinged up or even break with a simple drop, they created this rubber gasket styled sleeve that slips around the edges of your iPhone 4. After seeing the iPhone in person I knew I could not leave the store without some sort of case to protect it from an accidental fall. The Bumper serves at least two purposes- it protects the metal band from dents and scratches and it also covers the edges of the glass display. With the Bumper installed, the glass will not likely hit the ground first, which is not the case with a bare iPhone 4. I highly recommend a Bumper case to start.  A case that covers the entire back of the iPhone 4 and some screen protecting film should give adequate protection for most. The fact that you almost have to buy a case to protect your new iPhone 4 is really annoying to me and I was disappointed that there were no cases for iPhone 4 available at launch!

I have not been plagued by the widely reported signal issue that some have complained about. The story goes that if you hold the bare iPhone 4 while covering the bottom half, the signal strength/reception is reduced. I have not experienced this yet, but I have experienced another issue that may require exchanging my iPhone. 

One of the iPhone's features is a proximity sensor that detects when you are holding the iPhone next to your face or not. When you bring the phone to your ear, the display turns off-eliminating the possibility of accidentally hitting an on-screen button with your face and potentially disconnecting your call. Well, this appears to be malfunctioning in some iPhone 4s - including mine. I lost three calls because the proximity sensor didn't not detect the iPhone as being next to my face. I hung up accidentally a couple times and hit numerous numbers as well. It could be a software issue or a hardware issue. I have already restored the software, but it did not fix the problem. For now, using the headset is the best way to avoid this unfortunate problem. I am sure it will be squared away soon- this is a brand new product so there will be some growing pains. (Update) I believe the proximity sensor problem may have more to do with the headphone jack than the sensor itself. The connection for the headset is very snug and it is possible the iPhone is not sensing that the plug has been removed from the jack and leaves the screen on by mistake. (Update 2) It appears that Apple has changed the distance from 2" to 1" from the iPhone before shutting off the screen. This could be addressed by a software update. The reception issues have been explained by Apple as another software issue and the actual reception of the iPhone 4 is better than its predecessor. Update 3, Apple has addressed this issue with the proximity sensor with a software update and it is no longer a problem.

As a phone and paired with AT&T, the iPhone 4 is not the greatest way to make a call. Using the included headset with microphone is the best way to make calls with the iPhone 4. Holding an iPhone 4 (or almost any smart phone) is like holding a deck of cards next to your ear. Not the ideal set-up for talking on the phone to be sure.  AT&T is very good or very bad, depending on where you live. I have good reception where I live but hit dead spots from time to time. Check coverage in your area before committing to AT&T. The 3G service is VERY fast. I downloaded an entire 3.5 meg song from iTunes in less than 20 seconds!

In conclusion, the iPhone 4 is a fast and sexy device that does many things very well. The HD video, high quality 5 megapixel camera with flash, hi res display and iPod music make this a compelling choice in the crowded smart phone market. The overall durability of the device is still in question. Apple could improve iPhone 4 durability by replacing the glass panel on the rear with a plastic or metal one and making the metal band wider. Worth a look. If you get one, buy a case!

Read my first impressions by clicking on Older Post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

iPhone 4 Is it worthy of all the hype- and the wait?

It has been awhile since my last blog post. I found that I prefer the immediacy of Twitter and the ability to post galleries on FaceBook. This post is about the new iPhone 4 from Apple. I am an admitted Apple Kool-Aid drinker in the sense that I tend to like almost everything they create. That doesn't mean I don't have criticism of some of the products they make (Including the iPhone 4), but often these minor issues prove to be nothing compared to PCs and other smartphones.

Let me start by saying that I bought the very first iPhone for $599 and I never regretted paying the premium as an early adopter. As a photographer who depends almost completely on the internet for my business, having what amounts to a hand held computer has been a godsend. Being able to read emails and access the web almost anywhere has been great. Add a camera to the mix and you can appreciate why I would love such a device. I used to have to carry my phone and my iPod when on my walks. Now I have my iPhone. It has simplified my life to be sure. Being able to listen to music, check email, and make calls with one device has been great! I rarely have to turn on my MacBook Pro to check email when traveling now that I have my iPhone.

I have owned the original iPhone and the 3G iPhone. I skipped the 3Gs iPhone because I would have had to pay a lot more to upgrade and I heard rumors of the iPhone 4 in January.

What I like about the iPhone 4 -

  • The sleek glass and metal design is unlike anything else on the market. It is almost like jewelry.
  •  The front and rear facing cameras and FaceTime video chat is great for keeping up with friends and family when on the road. The built in led flash also stays on when shooting video in low light. 
  • The 5 megapixel camera that focusses very close and the 720P 30 frames per second HD video is bright and crisp. 
  • Video editing and posting to YouTube directly from the iPhone.
  •  Multi-tasking suspends apps when not in use and lets them spring to life instantly. 
  • Folders allow you to organize your apps any way you want so you don't have to go through screens of single apps. 
  • The hi resolution Retina display is 326 dpi and a major improvement. It is razor sharp. 
  • The biggest improvement for me is the SPEED! This iPhone is so fast! It uses a chip like the one in the iPad so I no longer have a lag like I did with the previous iPhone.

Having a 5 megapixel camera in your phone is awesome. The full sized file will be nearly 15 megs and could conceivably be good enough for a full page in a magazine. Here is a shot I took with the iPhone 4.

Check out the quality by clicking on the photo.

I am happy I waited for iPhone 4. It's the best yet!

Learn more about the many new features of Apple iPhone 4 on their web site.