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: 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.

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.

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 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!”


Proud moments of 2014

Took my family to Disney World! A trip that included a few days at the Ocean! Also a trip to Omaha for the weekend. A trip to Branson and a few trips to Caldwell.

My nephew was born and given the middle name Nicholas.

Ran our first 5k as a family.

Coached a couple individuals financially, helping them get back on track.

Exceeded 29 Pixel Studios revenue goals for the year.

Hosted a dinner at the Ronald McDonald House and then later in the year cutting a check for $1,000 to the charity.

Booked twice as many weddings in 2014 than my goal amount. And then hearing the couples say…

“I am driving myself crazy going through them trying to narrow down which ones to print. Soooo many good ones. I almost want to get married again it was so much fun. Will you be our photographer again!?!?!” – C

“THANK YOU! I’ don’t remember having that much fun that day hahahahah” –M

“AMAZING! Thanks again for making our day so special! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE all of our photos and your team was incredible to work with!” – T

“Nick did a fabulous job photographing our wedding. We had a gorgeous day to work with, but it was extremely windy! Nick was able to work with the wind and take some amazing shots. Definitely worth every penny!” – R

“I love the pics, I couldn’t help but already go through them :)! I can’t thank you enough for the work that you did, both on the big day and all of the behind the scenes to make us look great in the final pics. You are awesome!” – L

“Ahhhhh! I love them! Thank you so much!!!” – T

“Omg Nick! Some of these are EPIC”- J

“I blame you for the lost sleep tonight as we went through the photos *smile” –C (I sent a digital copy of their photos late in the night)

“You’ve also successfully brought production at my office to a stop.” –J (they received the photos while at work)

“ahhhhh!! i love it!” – L

“The photos you took of Rachel’s wedding are amazing. And I am an art snob” – L

For all weddings, I hire a professionals as assistants. One, whom who’s work I respect and admire, was available to shoot with me for the first time this year. After sharing the final photographs, I received this note, “…they turned out FANTASTIC!  In fact, I’m blown away… …If it isn’t too daring, I wanted to ask you if you had a special secret…” and later in the email “I’m in love with your B&W processing.  Love all the tonal range.  Well done, sir!”  

Had my first national commercial spot, quickly followed by a second commercial airing in the Midwest. And then getting this in the mail:

“Thanks so much for everything on the commercial! We all agree it is fantastic – and that includes our brand team in the UK who has reviewed it.”

Having photographs in the NY Times. (Then it was used in Renewable Energy Magazine)

Getting this after performing a lightning quick turnaround for LHS:

“I know it was your video that clinched it. We are going to state. The kids are on cloud nine. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have given these kids a major opportunity. You did indeed make magic happen.”

Had 14,000 minutes watched on my YouTube channel… for some reason that makes me smile.

Performance evaluation snippets, for the contract work I do for the Army:

“Extremely difficult customer and very strong performance. Arguably unsurpassed in CADD.”

“Without question, 29 Pixel Studios is the expert in this area.”

“Superlative effort. Well done.”

Hosted 10 KCVideoCore meetings and gave away well over $10,000 worth of door prizes to fellow video and photo professionals. Thank you to our sponsors!

Every year, in addition to all the little improvements and resolutions, I focus on one big target. Overall I believe I achieved 2014’s big focus point of improvement, hiring help and outsourcing. Looking at the 1099s I’ll be filling out feels like an accomplishment. Looking forward to 2015!

C100 Review after six months

My previous set-up fro video & cinema was this: 5D Mark III (and 7D back up) as my ‘artsy’ camera and a Sony EX1 as my ‘real’ camera.

The Sony PMW-EX1 is a fantastic camera that I have loved for a long time. I’ve used it for creative projects and even more so for run-and-gun ENG style. But, for a few reasons it was time to start shopping around: 1. it was getting a bit long in the tooth and more importantly 2. It’s (generous) 3x half-inch sensors, while great in low-light, couldn’t be paired up to the ridiculously awesome performance of the 5D Mark III.

I happen to go to NAB this year and got to get my hands on the two cameras I was considering. In the end I chose the Canon EOS C100.

This camera is NOT for run and gun. The zoom range is extremely limited (to the lenses). While I have a bag full of nice glass, the EX1 is like having a 18mm to … oh dunno 700mm. My longest lens is a 70-200mm… which is very heavy and never ‘wide enough’ and seldom long enough. *I got the kit with the 24-105 f/4 IS and use it 90% of the time as that is the most convenient range. It does leave a lot to be desired for reach though.

The camera fails as a ‘replacement’ to my EX1 for the run/gun ENG shooting… but succeeds for cinema productions.

Things I cannot stand:

  • It’s difficult to pull focus while zooming and panning (more so than the EX1)
  • Lack of zoom. (If considering this camera for cinematic purposes, disregard this)
  • The LCD screen is HORRID. I mean REALLY bad. It’s hard for me to trust peaking. External monitor is highly recommended.
  • No slow motion… I mean ZERO. Highest frame rate is 30. Blah.
  • Lack of a gradual iris. While dialing the ISO up/down is only slightly noticeable while recording, the aperture is VERY noticeable.

Things I LOVE:

  • SD Cards! W00t. I’ve been using the (insanely) overpriced SxS cards for half a decade.
  • Built in ND filters! Using Canon glass and having a up to 9stops! YES.
  • Two slots (just like the EX1) but because they are SD cards, I’ve not had to use the second slot, one SanDisk Extreme 64 GB and I’m good to go. 😀
  • Three memory bit selections; 24 MB/s, 17 MB/s or a slightly smaller resolution (1440 x 1080) at 7MB/s. << I uses this a LOT for straight to web projects.
  • Compact size & weight.
  • With the C100 I have double the reason to invest in good glass.
  • This thing can see in pitch black. It’s low light performance is sort of scary good. While it has a super 35 sensor, you would never know it. (messing around: YouTube example)
  • Battery life is quite good and knock off brand batteries are cheap! (Canons are over priced)
  • Not having to take my laptop to dump footage (ALWAYS had to with the EX1).
  • This isn’t a ‘LOVE’ but the price seems more than fair for this camera.

Things that I expected on this:

  • XLR hook ups! Having it on the EX1 I’ve grown use to having them. *IF* you are primarily a DSLR shooter, you will love this.
  • Being able to run continuously for hours without having start/stop every x minutes.
  • Have not used, but love the idea of shooting to two cards at the same time, and pre-record for 2 seconds.

Recommend picking up the $400ish Ikan VH8-E6 8-Inch HDMI Monitor. This thing is pretty awesome for the price.

If you shoot video purely on a DSLR and are tired of the limited record time, are a Canon fan, need a better audio solution then this is the camera I would recommend. If you already have a video camera and shoot a lot of low light situations multicam pairing up with DSLRs… this is a great camera.

Hope this helps!




Lifestyle design… the first two steps

Someday I’m going to make a visual graphic that depicts my life. Where my time goes, where my income comes from. Where I want to be, where I’ve been. This the analytical side of me yelling out. I’ve been blessed with drive and ability to end up in a decent position. My freelance business has been growing for nearly a decade, my job-job has never been better and my lovely bride is at the job where she wanted to be for years.

I’ve heard the term lifestyle design thrown around in podcasts and it sounds like the gist is this. Design the lifestyle you want to live first. Then find the work that fits that lifestyle and live happily ever after entering the Zen mentality forever. This sounds like pie in the sky to me, however, in the position I have worked so hard to get into… maybe some life design is in my cards.

Why I retired from second shooting.

Nothing is more valuable to a wedding photographer than the experience of second shooting. Personally I did it for years, not because I was unsure of my ability to be the lead photographer, but because I knew of the post processing time I would feel necessary to put in. As a perfectionist, I can’t let photos go to client that ‘could be more’ even if it’s a photo the couple will just flip by in their album.  Second shooting was a way to really get creative, enhance my experience, learn something new every wedding and at the end of the day I made a decent check, handed over the raw files to the lead photographer and was finished!

Then the blessing of twins came along for my wife and me. In no time they started sleeping through the night! Going to bed at 6pm no less. Working my 8-4 job that meant during the week I was seeing my kids only about two, two and a half hours a weekday. Then when the weekend would come, Nick would be off to shoot a wedding. There goes virtually half of the time with my children. While the money was good, I can’t buy time.

By dropping 12-16 second shooting gigs a year, the income can be replaced by 3-4 bookings as the lead photographer (or videography). So if income is a push then the result is 9-12 Saturdays free up. Yes, this should add a few weeks’ worth of post-production, but as I said, the kiddos go to bed at 6pm and my wife a couple hours later.

This went into effect six months ago and it has been fantastic. I spent some time focusing on getting new clients and have exceeded the bookings to replace the income.

Why I am blacking out Memorial Day starting THIS year.

If the first sacrifice was for my children, this sacrifice is for my bride. When we were dating I made a promise to show her the world. For our honeymoon we went to Australia, New Zealand and stayed in San Francisco for a few day while on the way home. Anniversaries were spent in Europe, New York, Colorado and the list continues.

Just like a high percentage of Americans, our anniversary falls on Memorial Day weekend. May and June are by far my busiest months, literally a third to half of my business income falls in those sixty days. So it goes without saying those days are precious to my business. And one weekend is even more precious to my marriage. Therefore, unless the gig is a $5,000+ budget, I am closed on Memorial Day… indefinitely.

The art of storytelling starts early.

Last week I was one of the local ‘celebrities’ to read to a Bradley Elementary class. My sister is the teacher and I figured they were hard up for readers since they were asking me. I film all their recitals as a volunteer service and the DVDs are duplicated at no charge so the kids *might* know who I am.

At the beginning of the event, all of the speakers introduced themselves, told what book they were reading and to which class. This was done in front of the entire school. Not a problem for me, until the ex-Kansas City Royal introduced himself. Great, now I’m just the photographer guy. Then the coach at St. Mary’s, then the owner of Play Bounce Jump (the mecca for kids in the area). So, to try and keep the energy going I pulled power from the good ol’ George Lucas.


I was reading a Star Wars book. Throwing in “for all the STAR WARS LOVERS” into my spiel turned out to give me some cred.

The art of storytelling is what drives me in this business. Whether it’s the story of your wedding day, the story of your dance studio or just reading to kids. It’s a passion worth pursuing.


I much prefer listening to podcasts over music over the past handful of years. I’m always searching for input on good podcasts out there. Below are my current favs!


  • TWiT Photo
  • TWiP – This week in photo
  • Pro Photo Show


  • Film Riot
  • Creative Cow (Adobe After Effects Tutorials / Photoshop )


  • TEDTalks (GREAT podcasts. Video/Business/Education)
  • Frame Rate
  • Stuff to make you smarter
  • Diggnation (so sad, no longer)
  • Rooster Teeth
  • The Totally Rad Show


  • TWiT – This Week in Tech
  • Tekzilla

Upgrading gear: from Mark II to the 5D Mark III

Canon is taking preorders for the new EOS camera, the long awaited Mark III…
and I am in line.

I’ve been waiting for the Mark III for nearly a year and will say the specs and price leave me a bit disappointed. So why upgrade when I love my Mark II?

Being a videographer and photographer there are a few cameras that have come out in the past 6 months. The 5D Mark III, 1Dx and the Scarlet were all on my radar. Convinced I was going to either purchase the Scarlet or the Mark III put me in a mental position for a large gear purchase.

The Scarlet would have been a massive upgrade over the EX1, but did not make the cut due to price point and no hot-swapping of cards. **I’ve worked with a Scarlet and it is every bit amazing as dreamed!

There are great specs on the Mark III but fell short on a few things I really wanted to see. No RAW video (the main attraction on the Scarlet). It has the same slow motion capability. No GPS built in.

The things I like are the larger LCD, anyone that has upgraded cameras that were not the same size knows how valuable a quarter of an inch is. Dual card slots are very attractive to me. 61-points of focus is great (note that is an increase of 52!!). Multiple exposures improved but I can’t find how many shots… I’m assuming it’s more than 3, hoping for 7! Silent shutter mode will be nice for weddings! Increased video run time from 12 minutes to 30 minutes, this is actually a pretty big deal to me.  And thank you for keeping the same batteries!

I approach upgrades VERY business minded. From the measurable specs (i.e. dual card slots, 3.2” screen,…) they are worth maybe $500 to me. Having a new camera body, for ME, is another $500ish. The cost is $3,500, minus the $1,000 in upgrades leaves me with a delta of $2,500 to justify. I will sell my 5D Mark II but there will still be a significant price gap to justify for my ‘business mind’!

Without experience with the DIGIC5+, new CMOS, and iFCL Metering I am making this decision… hopefully those three things blow me away!

So, why upgrade? Because I “want” to. Occasionally I need to check my ‘business’ mind at the door and open the “creative” hobbyist and that guy, passed on the 1Dx, passed on the Scarlet, and loves new gear and photography.

Now booking wedding dates! *smile*

New site!

Well, it’s update time. I am finally making the switch to good-old WordPress! I’m going to be toying around with the layout for a short while. Imagine I’ll use the ‘Home’ for a blog format to keep things fresh! Posting fun pictures, videos and some experiments!

Thanks for visiting!