Level up your Life – Book Review

Over the weekend I told myself, “Self! Time to go through this book!” 5 XP earned!

Steve Kamb has crafted a master piece for anyone who has logged more than 50 hours playing video games as far back as the original NES. With constant references to Star Wars, Goonies, Jason Borne, Zelda, Lord of the Rings I started to think that I might have multiple personalities. One of which is a fantastic author!

“Never stop learning.” Comes out of my mouth a dozen times a week it seems, so I’m a big fan of self-help/growth books. Stroll through the hallways of Amazon.com under self-help and you will be bombarded with rows of great books. Written by gurus, some people just trying to make a buck, a lot of entrepreneurs, and ‘living the best you, you can’ type titles. “Level Up Your Life.” YELLS at me.

The content does not disappoint. Stop living your level 80 paladin’s life and start living YOUR OWN ADVENTURE. Why did we spend days, WEEKS, MONTHS grinding out crafting for our pixel characters instead of spending that time grinding in the gym for OURSELVES?

While this is the creator of nerdfitness.com it’s not just physical health through exercise. In fact, the work out section is maybe a few pages. This is about your life!
Seriously gamers… get this book!

Two good books on Wealth

Those who know me, know I’m fascinated by finances. Going into college as an accounting major I quickly realized that for a few more credit hours I could be a triple major and add economics and finances. *A couple years later I realized that for my happiness, my career had to be in the creative field. Freelancing for 7 years and now about to start year four of my own business, these classes were far from wasted.

Continuing education in your career is important, but continuing your education in personal finance is critical. Well, critical if you want to be financially independent, wealthy, retire early or just NOT live paycheck to paycheck.

Reading articles, listening to TED Talks, financial coaching, and books. These are my favorite ways to broaden my financial education.

The latest two books I went through are: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealth by Stanley Thomas and And 100 Way$ to Create Wealth by Steve Chandler

These two make a great one-two-punch for wealth. I highly recommend getting both of these and starting with Stanley Thomas’ book first. The Millionaire Next Door is fantastic for those who are living paycheck to paycheck and need enlightenment for a mental shift. Keeping up with the Joneses is a guaranteed path to failure. It is easy to see big houses, nice clothes, friends going out all the time, and nice houses. What you don’t see is their credit card debt. Live below your means, frugality, savings are the most common themes among people worth 1-10 million dollars.

Notice that salary or inheritance are not in the most common themes. 80% of these millionaires are first generation millionaires. Following The Millionaire Next Door with 100 Way$ to Create Wealth is a great combo.

My personal favorite is to ask for something ridiculous once a day. I’m going to implement this every day for the next ten days. Then I’m going to flip through the book, find another thing to add and do both of those the next 10 days. I’ll keep you posted!

Oh and in the spirit of being frugal… both of these books are available on Hoopla. A free audio-book app provided by most local libraries!

Memory card strategy on the wedding day

A wedding photographer friend asked me about my strategy with memory cards.

In a perfect world, you have a camera with two memory slots. I’m not sure all the models that do and don’t but my camera of choice does, the 5D Mark III. This might be something to consider when looking at your next camera upgrade.

What I do, is put in a 64GB SD card shooting either full or medium RAW. This has priority over the other slot for deleting/rating (more on that later). Then a backup JPEG going to the 32GB, normally full-JPEG. I prefer SanDisk or Sony. A 64GB Sandisk is only $35 and free shipping on Amazon Prime. Pretty hard to beat that deal.

I have shoot to the SD because they are more affordable. CF cards are still a bit pricier. A 32GB CF card is around $40-70.

If your camera only has one memory card slot, like most cameras. Two choices:

  1. A BIG card; the 64GB is my choice. RISK: If that card fails… you lose EVERYTHING.
  2. Another choice is a handful of 8GB cards. Then I’d say keep them in their original cases. Right pocket “all- RIGHT- to use” Left pocket = “LEFT alone.” If you have tossed the original cases in the trash, get a multi card case. Here is a case that is water resistant and holds both CF and SD cards –http://amzn.to/2aMqMWa, for $20, which is pretty cheap. I prefer the hard cases vs the soft ones.

Another overall strategy I recommend; rating your photographs in camera instead of culling them down. At some point you will accidentally delete a photo while culling and rating them instead protects you from that mistake. I rate the delete photos as 1-star and the signature shots as 5-stars. When I get home I copy everything form the SD card to my computer, then again to an external hard drive. In Adobe Bridge (or Lightroom if you prefer) I then move all 1-star photos to a folder titled, you guessed it, 1-star. This is a very conservative approach but I do not see a down side. Rating photos is just as quick as deleting them, not to mention if you want to do a sneak peak, boom, just use your 5-star rated photos.

This post was created with wedding photography in mind, but honestly I use this method for everything, family photography, senior photos, event photography, etc.

Hope this was helpful!


Who needs a Photographer or Videographer

They don’t need you – They need to want you.

Here’s the deal, no one really ‘needs’ photography or videography. This might explain the huge variance of acceptable prices. Mix that with the massive skill range and you have a bit of a mess.

Marketing videos, commercials, internal video products are things customers want. Wanting these products, not needing them hurts the overall budget. You have your prices and maybe a little wiggle room, but honestly there is always someone out there willing to do a project for pennies (and perhaps they are worth that, but the client doesn’t know). How do we freelancers handle this problem?

Most likely, they already want you, now they must feel like they NEED you!

The best way to accomplish this? ALWAYS produce quality work, stuff you are proud of. The word might spread, might not, but no negative words will. It’s on you to help influence the word getting around.

Perhaps after the client goes a different (cheaper/less experienced) option you politely thank them and a month later, ask how it went and maybe include a link to a product you recently completed suggesting, “Maybe we could work together in the future on something like this…”

Remember the kid coming right out of college is hungry. With all the latest tech wiz and do-dads, and worse for you, they are willing to work for very little to get their real world experience up.

Learn something new today! Polish your products!

Remind customers that they NEED you specifically.

It’s the economy stupid

I can’t stand those who prey off the public using fear tactics! Also can’t stand the flip side of that same coin, “best economy EVER.”

My quest with this post: ECONOMY.

Things aren’t as great as the left say and not nearly as bad as the right say. Here are the best numbers I can find and broken down as easily as my intelligence allows!

The overly happy lovey dovey left wingers: “Unemployment rate: 4.9%” (this is the “U3” and some consider a flawed number because it does not include different employment situations). The economic theory “Phillips Curve” says that 5% unemployed is a perfect balance (if inflation stays at 2%) (if EVERYONE is employed there is no way to create new positions). So, yay U.S.A.  BUT! There are six different measurements of unemployment U-1 through U-6.

Another wakeup call: Ready for some really geeky numbers: Another calculation for consideration is the “U6”. Which is U5 (discouraged works and all other marginally attached workers) + Part-time workers who want to work full-time, but cannot due to economic reasons (i.e. underemployment). The U6 number is 9.6%. This number peaked (like most horrible numbers) after the 2008 disaster at 18% and has steadily decreased year-by-year since then. – Then if we take the U6-U3, we get a measurement to see ‘how easy it is to find a job if you want one’ (lower is better). U6-U3=4.8%… looks low, BUT this is too high in my humble opinion, by about 1%. Booo.

Too see all U-1 through U-6 numbers from 2006 to 2016:http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/03/ They are VERY closely correlated. My conclusion for unemployment is, yeah, go ahead and use the typical ‘U3’ number.

Also, a recent article explains the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is near the 43-year low of 248k. Economist say 300k is a healthy threshold for a labor market. YAY!

62% = Labor force participation rate, which is people employed or unemployed looking for better jobs. This is the lowest it’s been in 38 years. (in those 38 years it ranged from 67% to a high of 62%, in other words a 5% swing). This means 37% of the people in the work force, or 94-million people NOT looking for a job annnnd, not looking anymore. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/labor-force-pticiparation-rate

GDP for the U.S. is 17.9 Trillion (hey! Almost matches our national debt!… almost) This number has followed an EXTREMLY predictable pattern starting in 1960. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?locations=US

Bottom line here: no political party, no event (other than 2008 global collapse), no tax system, has shaken this number. Even the 2008 collapse, next year, boom, it was right back on track. This number is following a 55-year trend. (Also a fun number to look at=GDP per capita… follows the same upward trend, which is a good thing). Yay! Side note, the WORLD, yes WORLD GDP is about 73 trillion (2015) so Merica = whoopin butt! In fact, the U.S. is by far the #1 leader in GDP at 17.9! all of the EU comes close to us (yes ALL of the EU) but China is #2 at 10.9. And Japan is #3 with only 4! So, YAAAAY US! (back to the GDP per capita, we are listed around 10th… DOH! China #84th and Japan #27 for what it’s worth)

Welfare; if you dig into the statistics… it doesn’t take long to see this system is extremely broken. To me personally this number is even more deceiving than the different ways we record unemployment. Percent of the US Population on welfare is around 35%! (you can make $1,000 a month and still be on welfare, so they might be working, just at very low paying jobs or part-time). 100 million recipients on Welfare?! This is an easy doom and gloom thing to yell.

According to http://www.statisticbrain.com 39 states pay more than $8/hr in welfare. And the saddest stat… 8 states pay more than the average salary of a U.S. Teacher.

Of the 100million recipients, of different kinds… the estimate is this; $1 trillion a year in welfare (fed/state/local). Of that, nearly two-thirds goes to Medicare (which provides health coverage to around 55 million people who are over age 65 or have disabilities). That’s A LOT.

My opinion rant: Welfare needs to be reformed with the goal of lifting those (who are able) out of poverty. Medicare cost needs to be addressed. Religious or not, I believe we will be judged on how we take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

The dollar is very strong (which could be good or bad.) Good for world travelers! And cuts the price of imports, but the flip side is true. Strong dollar means our exports take a hit. So, yay, and boo.

Any week now, our national debt will hit 20 trillion. Good news… we can print more money! We literally could print 20 trillion dollars and pay everything off. The 2% inflation would change… probably to 5,000% but hey, debt solved. Sure a loaf of bread will be $300. Anyone want to buy Iraqi Dinaris or Zimbabwean dollars? So, if the current value of the dollar is strong then we must be printing less money.

Historic spikes in the national debt are during war times. Civil War, WWI, WWII and our current war on terror. *Tie it into politics and it’s easy to say “Obama added 10trillion dollars!” (because, … it’s true) and “Bush added 5trillion” truth is they both doubled it while in office. Right-wingers love Reganomics and Left-wingers love the Clinton years. Regardless of which side of the isle, Regan stabilized the deficit (and got screwed due to the central bank jacking up interest rates to nearly 20%) and Clinton eliminated it (having a surplus in the budget (and to be fair, had a republican house/senate during this time)). I cannot stand the current political view of EITHER/OR for reducing spending or raising taxes. It needs to be a reformed by closing insanely large loop holes and include both tax and spending changes.

So, things aren’t as bad as fear-mongers want you to believe and we certainly have a lot of work to do before saying, ‘4.9% unemployment, problem solved!”


Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell.

This book is for any leader out there.

On my second family trip to Orlando we skipped Disney parks, having done the experience a year earlier we aimed at other attractions. That being said, we still swung by Disney Springs (formally Downtown Disney) for an evening. Every single level of staff working, all the way down to the kind gentleman sweeping the walkways were professional, polite, and maintaining the magic that is Disney.

How. How is it possible that EVERY SINGLE employee that we encountered *including the previous year when we stayed at a Disney resort* were so pleasant. I would love to take a guess at how many staff (cast-members) we encountered, and not a skipped beat.

This book lends some insight on the culture of Disney, and it’s not impossible tricks that only work in a multi-billion dollar organization. I plan on using some of this wisdom in my family life.

A lot of leadership books talk about “getting the right people on, and the wrong people off the bus” or ‘hire slow but fire fast.’ If you work for a governmental organization this is nearly impossible, sometimes taking years. In Creating Magic, the strategies apply even to the careers where letting people go is extremely difficult.

I’m not a fan of the podcast by Lee, and am very glad I read the book first and would like to read a book about the dark side of working at Disney (I’m sure one exists) but personally, *I* didn’t experience it.

This book describes how they created the most magical place on Earth.



Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash – Book review

Upon finishing Sketching Light An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash by Joe McNally I felt a range of reactions… rejuvenated, fascinated, curious, and excited.
This is a light book but not a lite read (rim shot). Joe McNally is very wordy but not in an off-topic sort of way, in a ‘sit around the campfire’ sort of way. Many of the books I have recently read have been very point A to point B and then includes a short blurb on theory.

Joe takes you on the photography shoot with him. You will hear why he chose this light package over the other options, where he or the situations might have gone wrong and how he adjusted. There are fantastic doodles/sketches with enough detail to satisfy the tech-minded crowds as well. “What settings are you using?” “What kind of flash is that?” Gets asked of photographers ALL THE TIME. As if those are the magic numbers which make you an artist. That’s only a small piece of the puzzle, however, it is a piece. And these sketches are fantastic.

If you have one strobe or a fleet, this book will work for you.

Even if you are looking for a quick 2-4 page how-to this book can satisfy your needs. Personally it took me a LONG time to get through Sketching Light and flipping through it again now that I’m done… I kind of want to read it all again! Seriously, regarding flash, this is a must have.

The most important emotion I fill now, is excitement. I always strive to have my next project my best. Now, I can’t wait to push my use of flash even further. Thank you for the masterpiece Joe.

Side note: I’m a Canon shooter, Joe is Nikon. This book will still apply 🙂

If you are looking for a photographer, please feel free to contact me today!

You can skip the Power of Habit

Book review for: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
If you generally have good habits and understand that habits can indeed change (be reprogrammed) you can skip this book. The first couple chapters are decent and the appendix is really good but there is a TON of fluff here, in my humble opinion. A large portion of the book is used to discuss how Target predicts who is shopping for what. Got it. So there are buying habits when a lady becomes pregnant. Nothing revolutionary here.

If you are struggling with habits it’s not going to tell you how to break them other than replace the reward. Example: drink too much? Your reward is feeling good, well… try a bell-pepper. Play too many video games, try a bell-pepper. A lot of stories about people relearning habits in situations where doctors thought impossible.

I’m certainly in the minority, given that I’ve heard a ton about this book and it’s fantastic Amazon rating.

Sorry 2 stars.

2015 SEA LIFE Arizona – I love my job.

If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

That’s a fun quote to toss around for entrepreneurs and there is some truth to it. Running your own business is a lot of work. Work hard, work smart, and strive to be the best then you will be lucky enough to land some amazing clients.

In 2013 I was asked to create an adoption video for a family looking to grow. In 2014, I aimed to give back, and out of those ‘give back projects’ my favorite was the Planet Comicon Free Cosplay Photography project. Last year I was honored to work with the fantastic crew at SEA LIFE Arizona to document the rescue of a young Green Sea Turtle named Cora. Kansas City Photographer Videographer creates Video Project for SEA Life ArizonaKansas City Photographer Videographer creates Video Project for SEA Life ArizonaCora was hit by a boat and rescued by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. It was determined that this youngster was unreleasable to the wild. SEA LIFE Arizona stepped in to give her a permanent home where she will be cared for and serve as an ambassador for the endangered species.

The adventure started with a speedbump as United pulled us out of our boarding line to inform us that we cannot bring a Sea Turtle onboard for our return flight. The SEA LIFE employees had the federal documents and spent over an hour confirming and re-confirming that this was ok. Yet, here we were at hour one problem solving. I suggested, we could drive Cora back to Phoenix. I HAD THE MIX TAPES READY FOR A 27 HOUR ROUDTRIP! That being said, it was a last resort and we would search for better options.

Upon landing in Jacksonville, FL we immediately went to the Southwest booth and tried to get a week’s worth of approval in 12 hours. The next morning, we had the greenlight to fly with Southwest. While reviewing and editing the footage I will say there are at LEAST half a dozen high ranking Southwest employees shaking our hands with smiles. An amazing staff, an accommodating airline, and wherever I fly from now on, if Southwest has a route, they have my business. After we got the go ahead from Southwest, it was smooth sailing and Cora got home without a hitch!Kansas City Photographer Videographer creates Video Project for SEA Life ArizonaIf you are in the Phoenix area, you can visit Cora in person. Swing into the theater room and I believe the video I produced is playing in a longer form story of her journey, but for now you can see the highlights here:

SEA LIFE Arizona Turtle Journey 2015We are so excited about our new sea turtle here at SEA LIFE Arizona Aquarium! Not only can you now watch her journey, but you can also help name her through the following link goo.gl/forms/b9dJXIBwwZ

Posted by SEA LIFE Arizona on Wednesday, 25 November 2015

If you are looking for videography services to get your company’s message out there, contact me today! Visit my company’s webpage at www.29pixelstudios.com to see more work. 2015 SEA LIFE Arizona – I love my job.

Jonny Hackett

I would like to take some time to acknowledge my favorite photographer of 2015. Jonny Hackett’s work is so much fun to admire. Jonny Hackett is the man behind No. 9 Photography and I strongly recommend visiting/liking his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/no9photography/ (his ‘official’ website can be found here http://number9.photography/).

I met Jonny when doing my ‘giving back’ project (http://29pixelstudios.com/free-cosplay-photography-from-planet-comicon-link/) at the 2014 Planet Comicon and at that time his stuff was good, really good. But following him throughout 2015, you see his work go from really good to flat out awe-inspiring. His work keeps my jaw on the ground and continues to inspire. If I could use two words which describe Jonny, they would be talented and humble.

Great work in 2015 Jonny, seeing where you came from and the path you have taken has me pumped for what you will accomplish in 2016. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better photographer!

Of all the photographs I have seen and studied, from ALL photographers… this is my Favorite Photograph of 2015:

I’ve been looking forward to doing a shoot with a fire performer for such a long time now and it was well worth the…

Posted by No. 9 Photography on Saturday, 30 May 2015