Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter @ Disneyland

Last Christmas 2007, Kim's cousin Steve presented us with a marvelous (and at the time FREE) gift: a pledge to take us all to Disneyland sometime in the first part of 2008. As I said, awesome gift and of course one with strings - his only caveat was that he gets to come along too. Pshawww... no problemo, amigo! ;-)

After a fair amount of wrangling over dates/times, we finally settled on Easter Sunday and the following Monday. Go figure. Well, my intention is to take it as she comes. So, as I type this the girls are lounging around the pool at the Orangeland RV Park in Anaheim, Ethan is timing how fast ice melts in the 80+ degree heat and the dogs are panting in the air-conditioned RV. We're supposed to meet Steve in about an hour at the entrance to California Adventure Park, so this is definitely the lull before the storm. The plan is to take in the CA Park today and tonight, and then do Disneyland all day tomorrow.

I'll be snapping some pics of our happy joy here shortly, and will update this post as the action unfolds. Stay tuned!

Update #1:
Through the magic of cell phone technology we miraculously hooked up with Steve outside of the California Adventure park. I immediately hustled over to get some Fast Passes for Tower of Terror (an Emily favorite at this point), and then settled in to a glorious Nestle crunch bar in the withering heat of the late afternoon. You're not supposed to bring a camera on to the Tower, but that admonition didn't stop this scofflaw!

After the Tower, we relaxed on the Monster's Inc. ride - amazing characters with my favorite being the Sushi Chef (natch!). The ride brings back the movie, in spades.

Later, we enjoyed a delightful dinner at Ariel's Grotto as the evening kicked into gear. The kids loved being photographed with the Princesses!

Update #2:
Disneyland - accept no substitute! Fantastic day. Emily's first ride on Indiana Jones, made even more special knowing that the movie will be out later this year.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was a hoot, as was Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.

For my own sanity, I was fortunate enough to steal away from the gang a few times, wander a bit and take some "artsy" shots, presented here for your amusement and critique (some from Disney and some from CA Adventure).

Hey, at the end of the day, Cousin Steve is a rock star (not to mention a King in his mind and ours!). Thanks buddy and we'll see ya on the next Disney adventure!

More Disney & CA Adv. pics on my Flickr gallery (soon).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Patty's Day & the Extreme Weirdness of Vegas

So how weird is it to be loose in Las Vegas on St. Patrick's Day? Everyone's wearing green (except those of us that have a "trade show uniform") and on the verge of drunk most of the day. Or maybe that's just how it is at trade shows... In this case, it's the Wedding and Portrait Photographers show, a dandy event.

After 2o years of working trade shows in the computer, Linux and now photographic software industries, one thing is a constant: people want to feel like they are getting the inside scoop. Yep, it all comes down to that. From the myriad seminars, to chance meetings in the hallways with friends, and demos at our exhibit booths, folks come here expecting the "latest and greatest."

To the extent we give it to them, they are satisfied. Don't take this lightly. We are painting the magic of "what is possible." Our new product Viveza is causing some pause. Good news: It's freakin' awesome and will change the way people think about image editing. Bad news: It's more expensive than people want it to be, esp. when they want to buy some of our other products at the same time. Not a bad thing! Helps us to work harder to SELL IT.

We are slammed at the booth. Non-stop people; I'm hustling to pass out literature, answer questions and scan badges so that we can email folks later. I'm serious about this job. Everyone can use this product - , whether they know it or not. I use it on almost every picture. Old or young, new photographer or crusty salt. Many balk at the price, but my job is to intimate that in just a few uses it will pay for itself. If you're paid for your work, this is true.

Tony Corbell is giving presentations in Nikon's booth, and the Albums Inc. booth, and will have a 1,200 person presentation about lighting (what else?) on Tuesday. I wish him well. His CD with Software Cinema ought to sell well and I hope he is ready to buy that Shelby Mustang he keeps talking about (so I can "test drive" it too!).

Did I mention we are slammed at the booth? Janice, Josh, Sean and Victor are doing great jobs with their theatre demos - folks are spilling over into the aisles. I suggested going with one station for our 10' x 20' booth instead of crowding it with 2 stations, and it seems to be working out well.

Tonight we ate at a Moroccan restaurant which featured great and authentic food well prepared, cheap bad-tasting beer and... belly dancers. Hmmm... sounds like a good combination to me!

Two more days of the show. Hopefully a ton more sales and more friendly people to chat with who are into (a) software or (b) making their digital image editing lives easier. i like this photography market - wahoo!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

To the Swift Goes the Race

Last weekend I had the great privilege and pleasure to watch my friend Josh Pitt of Tucson Arizona race at Willow Springs Raceway, the self-proclaimed "Fastest Track in the West." Josh pilots a Formula Ford style racer called a "Swift" and boy is he ever!

The marvelous Swift!

After a busy Saturday morning, Ethan and I left San Diego for points Northward, specifically Rosamond, CA. Rosamond is a small town probably best known for the race track and being the closest civilized town to Edwards Air Force Base. A restaurant owner who runs an Italian joint called Zuma's told me that where once 20,000 airmen were on base and frequented Rosamond, now there are only contractors who "go home every night." The postscript on that conversation is that business is way down.

Getting back on track (pun intended), we checked in to a small cheap hotel near the highway about 3:30pm on Saturday and booked over to Willow Springs. I'd been there several times before, twice to attend Reg Pridmore's CLASS motorcycle school and once to drive my Miata during a "track day" on the Streets of Willow course (note: there are 2-3 different tracks that comprise the racing complex there, with the Streets course being one of them).

The race track at sunset

Trouble immediately reared its ugly head - I had NO idea what Josh's motorhome or car even looked like. Pit Row was filled with expensive coaches, trailers and all manner of race cars. So, we parked and started walking... ultimately hanging out near the closest garages to the Pits. It was very windy that afternoon and while rescuing a blown-away ballcap, who did I run into but Josh! Great to see him again.

He and the Swift had already practiced and run the qualifying race, winning his group and picking up a bunch of points in the racing series.

The chase is on!

Dang! If only we'd gotten out of San Diego earlier. Still, there were a few cars on the track making their last runs of the day so we got a little show. As the sun went down, we made plans to meet Josh and Curtis, his pit crewman, the next morning. He would be qualifying again for the finals, and then of course God willing would be racing for the whole enchilada!

Cooling heels in the Pits

The "road trip" with my son was REALLY fun - Ethan is always a busy-body (like I was as a kid), with his heart in the right place and looking for adventures. Besides doing a little 4-wheeling up in the hills above the race track, we had dinner at the aforementioned Zuma's (which was founded by the ex-tag team wrestling partner of Andre the Giant of all people!), watched James Bond in "Tomorrow Never Dies", and had a MONSTER of a pillow fight before going to sleep. A total blast...

The next morning, we were up a tad bit later than I wanted due to the time change, ate fast at a cool local haunt called "The Skillet" and got to the track just as Josh was suiting up for qualifying at 8:30am. Having checked out a Nikon D2H camera (the fast one) and borrowed a 300mm lens from Tony Corbell, I fancied myself the team's personal photographer and quickly scurried to Pit Row to begin chronicling the action.

The cars begin the competition with a lap behind a pace car, which then scurries off the track while everyone else whizzes by. There were a number of Groups racing at the same time, with Groups generally designated by engine size or car configuration. As they raced, Etho and I drove to various good photo spots around the track to snap shots. He was bored, but I was giddy with excitement. I knew how much fun Josh was having as he diced through traffic and kept his cool. I used this race to scout out the best places to shoot, confident I could get some dandy shots during the final race later in the day.

2nd lap action

Josh was quick, and though it was hard for the uninitiated (me) to know how he was running, ultimately he won his Class by the comfortable margin of a couple of seconds! He qualified 8th overall, so that meant in the final race he would start mid-pack (but again ahead of the other 3-4 cars in his Group).

At full chat!

We congratulated him for a fine drive and then relaxed in his RV for awhile while he and Curtis cooked breakfast and ate donuts - good racer food! Ethan and I split to give them some time to rest and "strategize," and we took in the racing action of the Porsche club that was there too. The 911's were wickedly fast and fun to watch - I probably snapped 300+ shots of them alone! But the shining star of that open Group was an honest-to-gosh Stock Car that SMOKED the field. This guy was markedly faster than anyone else. So sweet to watch!

Check out the lift on the right front wheel!

Finally, after about 2 1/2 hours, it was time for the Formula Ford finals. Curtis put the really super sticky tires on, and helped Josh cinch into the car like a hand in glove. The motor started with a satisfying "rap-rap-rap" and every stab of the throttle was music. The Swift moved out once again to Pit Row, taking up the 8th position.

Cinching in tight

I had scouted out a sweet spot looking down the front straightaway hoping to get all the cars 2 abreast after the Pace car exited, but alas I rushed it and the shot came out wicked blurry. The next lap I did a better job. Ethan was going nuts with me moving around the perimeter of the track every lap or two, me not wanting to leave any angle undocumented. What a blast! The racing was fierce, yet incident-free. Several cars in another group raced darned near single file within 5-10 feet of each other the entire race. Very exciting!

Sticky tires!

The great news was that the hard work and skills of Driver and Crew were rewarded with another #1 podium finish, this one by at least 5 seconds. The Swift ran beautifully, the tires were sticky, and the driver was aggressive and smooth. What more can you ask for?

We spent just a short time after the race congratulating the team, then left them as they prepared for a long drive back home, first to Phoenix to drop off Curtis and then onward to Tucson. Etho and I took off to explore the curio store in Pearblossom which advertised Indian Blankets 40 minutes from the track, and then of course the snow-capped mountains above Wrightwood which proved insanely magnetic to the two of us boys. We were in no hurry at all to get home, and wound our leisurely way back to San Diego.

Ooohhh - the "artsy" shot!

Footnote: While I took hundreds of pictures at the races, the best ones are in a Set on Flickr at Enjoy!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Perfect Zombie

As I have so many, many times before, I mysteriously transformed in the "perfect zombie" this afternoon at the park with my kids. I chased Ethan and Emily around the park and up and down the playground equipment.

Grabbing and tickling at Ethan's ankles as he desperately tried to escape up the climbing wall was a singular highlight for me and a self-claimed "blast" for him. Did I ever really catch him? YES!! And I CONSUMED flesh and limbs... (see, told ya I was the perfect zombie!).

Then, I turned my attention to Emily, who was a tastier sweeter snack than the rough-hewn little boy meat. Pure unadulterated chasing was her favorite activity, up the slide, down the stairs, around the playground gear she taunted. Taunting even as I held her upside down, never letting up this one...

2 rolling kids, just prior to being "eaten alive"

What causes a child to love being chased? The thrill of escape? A quick-beating heart and pumping lungs reminding them they are kids with cares thrown to the wind? Or knowing that however scary Dad might be as a zombie every capture ends with a kiss?