Tuesday, April 26, 2011


With the steadily increasing use of pharmaceuticals over the past 10-15 years, one has to wonder what people are doing with all of their expired or unused medication. 

Back in the day, people were told to simply throw them out in the garbage.  But then everyone wised up and realized that young unknowing kids could go into the garbage pail and grab a whole bunch of medicine that could kill them, so people starting flushing their old medications down the toilet or pouring it down the sink instead.

In fact, when I first saw this link the other day I asked about ten people who I know:  "What do you do with your old medicines when you're ready to throw them out"?  Every single person who I asked said, "I flush them down the toilet".  Every one of them.  Wow!  Now you can see the magnitude of the problem we're creating here.

All of this drug-flushing got us into the mess that's detailed at this link:  dontflushyourdrugs.net

It makes complete sense that this has now contaminated our waterways and it's affecting fish and wildlife, as well as aquatic life.  It doesn't take much imagination to realize that this could also very easily affect humans (and almost certainly already does) because all of these waterways lead to watershed areas, sources of residential wells, recreation water areas, springs, etc. 

If all this junk could feminize a male fish and make it produce eggs, I don't even want to know what it could do to a human!

The web site above outlines how to properly dispose of unused pharmaceuticals.  Please take a few minutes to give it a read and follow the directions the next time you have a batch of pills to throw out. 

If everyone helped, we could cut the course of this completely human-made problem that's affecting everything around us...........including humans!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't forget the atmosphere photos!

A secret team photo from behind, but someone peeked...
Spring has......sprung!  And with spring comes......spring sports!

Now is the season when we run around town heading from soccer to baseball to softball, all the while snapping photos of our young ones as they learn their sports and have their fun.  But as we do this, don't forget one thing:  Take some photos of something other than the game!

Unique view of the first base action under the lights...
Like what, you ask?  Atmosphere photos...

Sports are about a lot more than the action happening out on the field.  They're about the people that come to see the game, the equipment, the weather, etc.  So many things!

Try taking some photos that tell something about what's going on at the games without showing the actual action of the game.  Or perhaps they show the action of the game framed in a unique way, like this photo taken from the dugout of the action at first base during my son's first night game ever.

Take some photos that show the teams and their spirit, the excitement, the camaraderie, the anxiety that comes from a close game, the pep talks from the coach, etc.

All of these things are part of the game, and when you think about creating a holistic memory of these times, I would argue that these types of photos are just as important as the action of the game itself.

So grab your arsenal of lenses, position yourself in unusual locations with unusual views, and create some great atmosphere photos to bring home some memories other than the hits, slides, and tags.  Don't forget to crank up the ISO to ensure hand holdable shutter speeds if you're shooting games that are occurring at night.

I've added a few more samples of what I'm talking about below.  Enjoy!

Pep talk before the big game...

First night game ever, on a field of green under shining lights...

Some day my daughter will say, "I remember that pink helmet Daddy"!

The emotion in the dugout near the end of the game: "Please get a hit"!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is "Camera+" the best camera app for the iPhone? Yes!

I finally got a shiny new iPhone 4.  I love it, but I'll write about how great it is in another post.  :-)

The subject here is photography related, not phone related...

I always try to have a camera with me when I'm out and about so that I can grab serendipitous photos whenever I can.  The native Camera app in iOS on the iPhone is OK for grabbing quick photos, but it has one huge flaw.  You can't control autofocus and exposure metering independently of each other.  Meaning, on the native Camera app, whatever you focus on will determine your exposure.  That's logical for casual photography, but it's bad for more serious/creative photography.....

Most people might think that this setup is OK for casual snapshots on a camera phone, and in good light for a casual shot maybe it is most of the time.  But I saw right away that the photos come out poorly if you're trying to shoot in any kind of questionable lighting situation.  I immediately started looking for a solution.

The answer is "Camera+". Here is a link to Camera+ in the iTunes Store.  You can also read much more information about it on the Tap Tap Tap web site at this link (the creators of Camera+).

This app costs $1, and for that cost you get the problem above corrected but you also get a lot of other handy features as well. Specifically, with Camera+ you get:
  1. Separate control of autofocus and exposure metering.  This is a must for creative photography!!!
  2. A handy and responsive zoom control that's always visible.  On a side note, I would suggest avoiding zooming on the iPhone in general unless you really have to because it uses a digital zoom (not optical) and it deteriorates the photo quality.
  3. The capability to simultaneously save photos to the Camera+ "Lightbox" (for editing) as well as the iOS Photo app.  This is handy because you can edit your photos right in Camera+ without needing to open a separate application.  The capability to save in both locations is handy because then you don't need to move photos around on your iPhone.
  4. A grid to use to level your photos.
  5. Useful "Photo Info" panel with an integrated map of where you took your photo based on geotagging embedded within the image.

  6. A shooting self-timer.
  7. Quality settings.

  8. Innovative "Photo Flashlight" utility.
  9. Stabilizer function that senses when your camera is still before it snaps a photo.
  10. Photo editing effects built into the app.  Each effect has an intensity slider to control how much it affects your photo.  It's handy to have these effects in Camera+ itself instead of having to go to a separate app for editing.  There are also borders and cropping available.
  11. Built-in social network sharing capabilities (Facebook, Flickr, Twitter).
It's easy to see from the comments above that Camera+ is far superior to the built in Camera app.  For $1, it's a total bargain!  The one drawback is that it doesn't shoot video....yet....so if you want to do that then you need to jump into the native Camera app.  But I'm sure the creators of Camera+ will add this capability to their app quickly.  Even without video, it blows away the built in Camera.  Completely blows it away.

Get this app!  You'll love it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Video for perfect pushups and plank exercises

I'm not big on working out (i.e., lifting weights, core exercises, etc).  It bores me.  I prefer to get my exercise from walking on the treadmill, riding my bike, hiking, or playing basketball.  This year I'm taking up tennis and may try golf again.  These types of things are what I call "active exercise".

Doing "active exercise" has kept me in good shape over the years, but a while back I hurt my back and I had to adjust the way that I do some things.  After I was better, the back doctor told me that since I'm a tall and thin guy, I should do some core and chest/shoulder exercises to take some of the load off my back when doing normal activities.  I thought one thing:  Boring....

But today I saw the video at this link that contains time proven methods for doing pushups and planks the proper way for maximum benefit.  In addition, the video recommends minor tweaks to the form of the exercises to target specific muscle groups while still doing the same basic motions.

It's worth a few minutes to check it out to get some more well-rounded exercise into your routine.  I plan to start doing these types of exercises to add a little variety to what I'm doing and see if it helps out my back.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

The U.S. government is run by a bunch of morons! (no surprise)

I've always kept my mouth shut on the topic of politics because quite frankly I'm not overly interested in it.  However, whenever I see blatant government stupidity and disregard for the overall good going on, I'm motivated to speak out.

If the U.S. government shuts down this week because our elected Congress-men/women can't resolve their disagreements, then I fall firmly in the camp of feeling that our leaders are complete idiots.



Additionally, if the government shuts down then the paychecks of our elected people in Congress should stop too.  Better yet, they should all be voted out of office.  Maybe that will get them going!  If I didn't do my job and did nothing but argue, and contributed to my company failing, then I would get fired.  Simple as that.  These guys should get fired too....

I said it before and I'll say it again.  If Donald Trump runs for President (which he's considering doing and I wrote about it at this link), then I bet he would really rattle our traditional government ranks to the core.  He might not win, but he would hopefully scare a lot of people into seeing things straight and make them understand what has to happen to "fix" the U.S. economic situation.   I would vote for him in one second.  Listen to him talk about political topics and you might give him a second look too.  He did a great interview today on CNN.

What do you think?

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Designing Disney" - John Hench

A note to my friends on Facebook...My posts that appear there are automatically coming from my blog over here at http://www.johnolszewski.com, so if you want to see the full picture of what I'm doing online, check out my blog URL above in addition to watching on Facebook.

I'm adding a new section to my blog with the keyword "Disney" in the My Topics navigation on the left side.  You can click that keyword to see everything that I put up here that's related to Disney.  I hope you'll come back often to check it out, or you can also simply subscribe to the RSS feed for my blog to get automatic updates in your RSS reader or email.

Everyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I've always been a total Disney fanatic.  I think I've been there around nine or ten times, and I even got engaged in front of Italy in Epcot.  But my interest in Disney goes far outside of the parks.  It reaches to books, movies, and now the family has even gotten into Disney pin collecting!

Some day I will visit the other Disney parks.  I've never been to DisneyLand but that seems to be the next one for me to try considering it's in the US.  The other parks around the world will need to wait for a while.  I've also been on the Disney Cruise Line, which is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

To me, Disney has always been my ultimate "feel good" place.  As soon as I walk through the front gates to the park I'm instantly converted back to being a kid again and my inner child runs wild.  Memories come flooding back, everyone is smiling and laughing, etc.  It just feels great to be in a place that makes so many people feel so good.  On top of that, the parks have been kept immaculate and innovative over the years....and they just keep getting better!  I would like to go there for a week every year if I could, but the family budget prevents that.  :-(

The official books from the Disney company that I've read about the parks over the years provide much insight into what went into designing, planning, and building them.  It's really fascinating to get this "behind the scenes" look into the parks because it makes you appreciate the care and attention to detail that went into them, and the total mindset of Disney designing virtually everything that they do for their guests.

A unique view of "Spaceship Earth" that I captured during our 2006 trip
That concept of "designing for the guests" reminds me of a funny anecdote mentioned in one of the books about Walt Disney talking to one of the groundskeepers in DisneyLand one morning.  Walt was touring the grounds before the park opened, and he stopped to speak to a groundskeeper.  The groundskeeper told Walt that he was frustrated by people cutting across one nice section of grass from one part of the park to the other because it was killing the grass and making it look ugly.  Walt explained to the groundskeeper, "Don't get frustrated by this.  This is feedback from our guests that the path through this part of the park that we built is not right".  Walt told the frustrated groundskeeper to accept feedback from the guests in whatever form it comes, and put in a nice path through that part of the grass and line it with flowers and trees.  The path became one of the busiest walkways in that part of the park.  Moral of the story:  "Listen to the guests", and this concept pervades everything that Disney does.

That level of attention to detail is all over the parks, you just have to know where to look for it other than the obvious views that are all around you.

So, with that in mind, to start off this new Disney section of my blog on the right foot, I'm posting some information about the book above called "Designing Disney" by John Hench that I think true Disney fans will find very interesting.

John was a long time "Imagineer" at Disney and worked hand in hand with Walt and all of the key Disney management and park designers over several decades.  He had a major role in much of what you see at all of the Disney parks, the rides, the stores, attractions, theaters, etc.  The book is a fascinating look into how and why Disney does what it does, how their ideas go from plans to realization, and even discusses details like why certain color schemes and music are chosen for the parks, walkways, rides, etc.

Disney is certainly not what you would call a "relaxing" vacation, per se'.  It's an action-filled and fast-paced vacation during which you buzz from one place to another trying to soak everything in and have as much fun as possible before you have to go home.  Being a fast paced vacation destination, you sometimes lose focus of the little design details of the parks, rides, and overall atmosphere.

After reading this book, I wanted to get on a plane to go to DisneyWorld just to walk around and look at the parks.....really look at them.....and soak in the details that went into them that were mentioned in the book.  In fact, the next time that I go there, my mission is to photograph and capture the nuances of the park, instead of just taking the traditional "stand in front of this ride and I'll take your picture" photos. The photo that I put above of Spaceship Earth is a good example of what I'm talking about....capturing a different view.  It will be a fun photographic challenge!

If you decide to give this book a read, I hope you enjoy it.  I will be posting more information about other interesting Disney books in the future.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Capture those funny little moments that make you laugh forever

I'm not a great candid photographer or people photographer.  Over the years I think I've gotten better at it, but it's still not really my thing.  The nature of my photography is usually to take my time to frame and capture the shot I want and relax in the moment a bit.

That has to change when you have kids though.  This is the one area where I was forced to get better at capturing candid photos because kids are only young once and the time flies by.  These are the memories of a lifetime... 

I've tried to "spy" on the kids with my cameras as best as I can over the years and a lot of photos of them doing their thing and learning about life turn out to be simple snapshots.  And that's OK....not every photo needs to be a work of art.

I guess that's the point of this post.  I think a lot of people who get into photography (including me) occasionally start to take it a little too seriously in their quest to become "better", and then they start missing out on the little candid things in life.

This photo here is one of my all time favorite candid photos of my daughter.  We were in Disney World in the Animal Kingdom section of the park.  They have a nice little petting zoo there where the kids can go into a fenced in area and pet and brush a variety of goats, sheep, etc.

My daughter saw this little black goat and she followed him around the whole time we were in there.  The goat wanted nothing to do with Nicole.  Every time she got close to him, he quickly walked away to another part of the enclosure.  She was persistent though, and she slowly followed him around mumbling something like "Come here goat.  Don't run.  Come here goat".  It was very funny to watch...

Finally the moment hit.  It was almost like the goat said, "OK.  Fine.  If you're going to follow me around all day then let's get this over with".  Nicole saw him standing still and she bent over in front of him with her little butt sticking out....very slowly getting closer step by step until they were almost face to face.  They just stood there staring at each other....I don't think either of them knew what to do next.

SNAP!  Got it.  Every time I see this photo it makes me laugh.  It brings me back to that day like it was yesterday and I think about how much this simple candid photo perfectly expresses my daughter's personality.  She is endlessly curious, fun spirited, persistent, and very humorous.

If I was worried about choosing lenses, the composition of the shot, the lighting, the background, etc, then I would have missed this moment.  Sometimes you just have to snap and you end up with a better and more meaningful photo than you ever could have planned.

Photography can be as simple as that.  Quickly capturing a candid photo that will make you laugh for a lifetime...