Field of Dreams…

Field of Dreams Movie Set

Near Dyersville, Iowa

I left Manitowoc, Wisconsin this morning and headed for Dyersville, Iowa. Shooting in my hometown, for an extended period of time, was something I wanted to do for a long time. Two of the highlights for me were these; the people I met and the horses! There was a lady who let me photograph her horses, it made for an incredible experience. I learned a little bit about horses, and she actually knew who I was from the local Facebook page where I post. There was also the guy fishing at sunrise and the lady doing yoga also at sunrise, who graciously allowed me to photograph them. Even an elderly lady let me photograph her front yard while she worked. I had so many conversations, with so many people, they all made my day(s)!

But then there were the horses… I really got interested in horses a few years ago while living in Virginia. Photographing horses is especially a kick when they’re curious or affectionate. When these animals give out their trust it’s a pretty amazing experience. When I get back to El Paso I’m going to actively search out horses again.

After leaving Wisconsin today, I went to Dyersville, Iowa to shoot the movie set from the 1989 film Field of Dreams. Why? Because I’ve always liked the film and it’s a great baseball movie. It was cool, very cool. Tomorrow I will be on the road all day followed by an entire day shooting in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Below are a few iPhone shots from today in Iowa, hope you enjoy!

Just another day…

Today I’m shooting the USS Ronald Reagan departing Yokosuka, Japan on a Tiger Cruise this morning. A Tiger Cruise is a one day trip where family and friends come along, very cool. ¬†Living on a naval base has its perks! ¬†Look for pics in the future, meanwhile check out my photos at BillChizekPhotography.com.

 

Waterfalls today

Well, today was spent mostly on buses with a tour, other than my wife not being able to go because of work, it was pretty awesome. First up was the Yudaki Waterfall (below) and second was the 320 foot Kegon Falls (above). Lastly, we ended up at the Toshogu Shrine dating back to the 17th century! While it was amazing, it was hot, we got rained on, and was humid the entire day but I think I got some good shots, we’ll see. It was the first test of my Mindshift Messenger Bag, I’ve had for about four months but this was the first time I lugged it around all day. It worked great! These photos were all taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Loving Japan, looking forward to blogging more when out shooting but for now I just need to get off the bus and in bed. Do I sound whiny? Yup! Oh, please check out BillChizekPhotography.com!

Tokyo Disneyland!

Upfront, I had a great time at Tokyo Disneyland, this paragraph might not start like that, but it was very cool. ¬†This week we had a family trip to our local TŇćkyŇć Dizunńęrando and as someone who has been to Disneyland or Disneyworld no less than a half-dozen times or so, I’d honestly love to go somewhere else sometimes. ¬†The first couple of visits were cool, but the ever-increasing ticket prices, paying top dollar for cafeteria food, and long lines, seemed to wear me down. ¬†Fortunately for me, my wife is like-minded in that if there’s a long line she’s not likely to stand in it either, there’s lot of other things you can do in that hour besides wear down your iPhone battery. ¬†Two years ago we did a three-day park hopper pass at Disneyland and it was about 2 days too much, she handled it better than me. ¬†This¬†photo at the right shows me on day three and after 72 hours of all things Disney and Mickey the Rat, I was done. ¬†This is the only photo from that fun fulled excursion, the others on this post are from Tokyo Disneyland. ¬†19756701_10155732733276494_7057349512680706714_n¬†I’d like to say that the heat, the crowds, and long lines weren’t so bad and that I wouldn’t mind doing it again, but that’s what I’d like to say… ¬†However, given all these complaints about theme parks, and Disney in general, I have to say Tokyo Disneyland was pretty darn cool! ¬†I don’t know if it was just because we caught a bus there, spent the day, and took the bus home or that it was just different enough to keep me engaged. ¬†I am an oddity when it comes to Disney parks, I actually prefer Disneyland over Disneyworld. ¬†Huh? ¬†Yup, because I love history; Disneyland was historic and the first of the mega theme parks. ¬†I really don’t care about Disney’s new tribute park to Star Wars and Luke SkyVader, it’s the old stuff that I love. ¬†America had nothing like this until Walt Disney came along, sure there was Coney Island and world fairs, but nothing on a scale like what Disney proposed. ¬†By the time Disneyland opened in 1955 the entire world was already in love with the famous Disney cartoon characters! ¬†I also love that Walt Disney actually lived over Disneyland’s firehouse and that they’ve preserved his apartment. ¬†While the park was being built, Disney would often stay above the firehouse with his wife, click [ HERE ] for a video and more info about the apartment. ¬†At Disneyland, I love sitting in the back of a boat on “It’s a Small World” with my young daughters. ¬†Yes, it’s corny but I love it.

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Overall, Tokyo Disneyland feels very much like Disneyland in Anaheim, with a couple of exceptions. ¬†One of the most visible is that the main street is covered, which I actually liked because you can get out of the sun and if it rains, you’ve got somewhere to go. ¬†I’m IMG_2681sure it doesn’t hurt the Disney bank account when thousands of park visitors are trapped in their stores because of the weather. ¬†Also, Tokyo Disneyland is newer than its American counterparts, this means it lacks the tall trees like the older parks that provide much-needed shade. ¬†The place is somewhat deceiving in size, after driving by Tokyo Disneyland a few times it just didn’t look very big. ¬†My family also thought the same after seeing it from a distance, wondering if there was enough there to fill an entire day. ¬†However, Tokyo Disneyland is actuallyIMG_2690 about 30 acres larger than Disneyland in Anaheim! ¬†Is it done with Disney magic? ¬†Not sure, but once we were on foot in the park we realized it was huge. ¬†Many of the rides are very similar to Disneyland as well, outside of the Japanese language, you’d never think you were sitting in Tokyo. ¬†Disney goes very far to make language a non issue, we had no problem getting around, having fun, or felt like we were missing out on the experience because we don’t speak Japanese. ¬†Some places, like the Tiki Room, even provided electronic devices that translated, something we didn’t expect. ¬†There were no major cultural or linguistic stumbling blocks whatsoever, at one point a Disney employee actually came up to us wanting to help after seeing us stare at our unfolded map. ¬†The classic Disney parades that happen in the American parks were no different, my kids enjoyed them just as much. ¬†The parade featured the same familiar Disney characters and music, almost exactly like Disneyland. ¬†The food was very cool too, a mix between American and Asian could be found all over the park. ¬†Again, Disney is trying to please everyone, nobody starved on this trip, although I wasn’t a fan of the butter and soy sauce flavored pop corn… ¬†We did eat dinner at a buffet that was actually pretty decent. ¬†Yes, I just called Disney food “very cool” and “pretty decent” after complaining about their cafeteria food.

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Anaheim, California is home to Disneyland and another park across the street called California Adventure. ¬†Tokyo Disney also has another park nearby called DisneySea which was the fourth most visited theme park in THE WORLD in 2018! ¬†We haven’t gone there yet but it’s on the list. ¬†I have to say that Tokyo Disney was a pretty cool experience and I’d do it again as a day trip. ¬†One last piece of advice, leave your big camera at home and just use your cellphone, you’ll have more fun. ¬†I used to be that guy carrying my camera to Disneyland, getting on rides, lugging my crap around. ¬†Cellphones do a great job for capturing family fun, the below shot, called Castle Garden, was taken with an iPhone 7 Plus as were all the others taken and shown on this post. ¬†All in all, I’m not a three-day park hoppin’ Star Wars lovin’ theme park guy, but I’d go back to Tokyo Disneyland again and definitely planning on visiting DisneySea. ¬†Regardless of what I think of theme parks, it’s not about me, my kids have fun and that’s the most important part.

 

Castle Garden
A flower in front of the castle at Tokyo Disney (iPhone 7 Plus).

 

Hakone

Shouting out to Mrs. Madrids 3rd graders at Hurshel Antwing Elementary in El Paso, TX! ¬†Yesterday we travelled to the Chureito Pagoda, along the way we stopped to shoot this for Mrs. Madrid’s class near Hakone, Japan. ¬†That’s Mount Fuji in the background, the tallest peak in Japan at 12,389 feet hight. ¬†Our girls are on spring break just like Mrs. Madrids kids probably are now and we hope they have are having as much fun us!

 

A Great Day

Today was a great day, I drove about 30 minutes down the road to Hayama and the location of this selfie in Inamuragasaki, Japan to shoot photos of Mount Fuji.  Along the way I stopped at 7-11 for something eat, why 7-11?  Because it rocks in Japan!  I did my thing of grabbing something to eat that I’ve never had before, no idea what it was, but as usual it was awesome!  For practically my entire Navy career, I tried to get to Japan.  However, it wasn’t in the cards, I was fortunate to spend many years in Italy and I’m not complaining because that worked pretty well too.  Everything happens for a reason and I’m thrilled to be in Japan at this point in my life, retired with a camera, living here as a military dependent and all the time in the world to experience this incredible place.  Yup, today was definitely a great day!

JŇćgashima Lighthouse

Today I was shooting at the¬†JŇćgashima Lighthouse at the southern tip of the Miura Peninsula in Japan, pretty cool. ¬†It was built in 1925 and is a reconstruction of the earlier one built in 1870 and destroyed in a 1923 earthquake. ¬†Shoutout to Mrs. Madrid’s 3rd graders at Hurshel Antwine Elementary in El Paso, TX!

iPhone Photography 2

Back in May 2017 I wrote about how much fun it had been shooting with the iPhone. ¬†I still use it, probably more than before and especially while out shooting with a DSLR and posting live about shoots, it is incredibly handy. ¬†There seems to be more of a response to¬†Hakuna Matataposting live on Instagram than posting photos at times. ¬†I have¬†even created an¬†iPhoneography gallery at my website, there are links to most of these photos here as well. ¬†I have two daughters and don’t always carry a camera, but just about always carry an iPhone. ¬†This is similar to that adage for people who carry a concealed weapon; if you ever need it, that small gun you’re carrying will do you more good than the big gun locked in the safe at home, same thing here. ¬†I’ve been fortunate to capture so many of life special moments that would have simply been forgotten. ¬†In the photo at the left, while walking to school one morning my daughter just started belting out the song Hakuna Matata at 8AM, seemed like a good name for the photo too. ¬†Like most things she does, there was no reason for it, she just felt like singing that song while wearing her bunny ear muffs. ¬†My camera was at home but fortunately the iPhone was in my pocket to capture this gem. ¬†Later, after re-look at this photo I realized that although my daughter’s¬†White House Christmassinging was the reason for the photo, there was something else that made it special, it was my other daughter’s reaction! ¬†Another time, Memorial Day 2018, we went to a national cemetery in Virginia, down the road from where our house so I could shoot some stock shots. ¬†Since we were going just a few minute away, I grabbed my camera only, something I rarely do. ¬†When we arrived at the cemetery, it was with a dead battery… ¬†but a fully charged iPhone. ¬† My wife suggested I take some photos with my iPhone, reluctantly, that’s what I did. ¬†Some of those iPhone shots were accepted as stock and have actually sold! ¬†The photo at right, called White House Christmas, was taken on a trip to DC where we unexpectedly took a short cut by 1600 PA Ave, I didn’t bring my camera and White House was decked out for Christmas. ¬†I could have kicked myself for not having my DSLR but at least I got a cool iPhone shot. ¬†The iPhone is perfect for capturing these types of moments and considering it was pitch dark out, this isn’t too bad.

There are a couple of apps and features some folks don’t know about, especially with the iPhone 7 Plus and its two lenses. ¬†Within the iPhone’s Camera App are a few cool things that can make your photos much nicer ¬†If you’re in to video, check out the TIME-LAPS and SLO-MO modes for some other neat effects. ¬†However, video isn’t my thing so the two functions here that I use are the PANO and PORTRAIT modes. Ball TimeThe photo at the top of this page, called Winter Pool, was taken using the iPhone’s PANO or panoramic mode. ¬†It’s very easy to use, open PANO mode and you’ll see a mini screen in the middle with a white arrow. ¬†Simply press the white button and move in the direction of the arrow, press the button again when you’re done. ¬†If you want or need to change the direction of the arrow, just click it. ¬†Very easy to get those panoramic shots that won’t fit in to one photo. ¬†The PORTRAIT mode is exceptional in my opinion and I use it often. ¬†Nothing to explain here other than you may need to back up a little from your subject. ¬†The photo at left is our four-legged¬†family member, Casey, in a photo called Ball Time. ¬†Another moment that was just a typical morning, I had taken my girls to school and was walking back with¬†The GirlsCasey and she spotted the baseball. ¬†She was holding it up in to the sun; subject, moment, lighting, check! ¬†Camera? At home, except for the iPhone in my pocket, again the iPhone in my pocket did more good than the DSLR at home in the bag. ¬†The photo of our daughters at right, The Girls, was a deliberate shot as I had been hearing about the portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus. ¬†It was taken at The Wade House in Greenbush, Wisconsin. ¬†This photo was the game changer for me, it proved that the iPhone 7 Plus could be a decent photographic tool if my main camera was not handy. ¬†The edit mode at the bottom is decent as well, you can fix lighting and color issues on the spot and quickly. ¬†Also, cropping is super easy here too! ¬†Again, it’s better than the camera you don’t have with you. ¬†Will it replace your DSLR, not likely, but I really do enjoy shooting with it.

Upfront, I want to state that I do not receive any compensation nor am I affiliated with the below mentioned apps and the opinions below are solely mine, so take that! ¬†First up is¬†FX Photo Studio Pro¬†by MacPhun, a great app for making your photos look more professional while in the field and want to add a little vignette or touch up. ¬†It has color lenses, IMG_2066artistic overlays, vignettes, and many other effects to add to an iPhone shot. ¬†I’ve been using MacPhun software on my Mac for a couple of years now and they make a great product. ¬†The interface, seen at left, is very straightforward and easy to use. ¬†However, the BIG downside is that it’s a pricey app coming in at $7.99 and while it comes with a few of filters, most have to be purchased as add ons. ¬†So even though it’s a great app, if you don’t shoot with an iPhone often there may not be enough here for you to shell out $8… ¬†Next up, to make up for that really pricey last app is one that everyone should have on their phone,¬†Google Photos, and it’s FREE!! ¬†Picture the most simplistic backup of every photo or video on your iPhone, again for FREE!!¬†¬†An extremely simple interface,IMG_2065 you tell it whether or not to back up on cellular data or wifi, and it goes to work whenever you open the app. ¬†This way it won’t be slowing your phone down while you’re doing important stuff like watching cats startled by cucumbers on YouTube. ¬†While the initial backup takes quite a while, after that it only backs up when you open the app. ¬†I’m currently living in Japan where I no long have unlimited data so I just open the app at night when I go to bed and let it upload with wifi. ¬†It chronologically stores ALL your photos and videos, if you need a photo from five years ago you simply pull down the screen and a slider appears (see at right), go to the month and year you believe your photo was taken and, easier than Bill Clinton at an office party, you’re in! ¬†THE BEST PART, you can now safely delete all of your photos and videos from your phone and get the memory back!! ¬†When my iPhone 6 started malfunctioning the first thing I did was make sure my backup was current. ¬†When I got my new phone, I downloaded the Google Photos app and retrieved my photos, it’s unbelievable that this app is still FREE!!¬† That’s right, if you ever retrieve a photo it’s done by the same process you use to save a photo to your iPhone. ¬†It’s the best app on my phone by far! ¬†Get this app now and free up space on your phone! ¬†Get a new phone? ¬†Lose your phone or old phone breaks, just reinstall the app… ¬†Did I mention it was FREE??

The last app that I find absolutely incredible is Focos by Xiaodong Wang. ¬†It’s only for use with photos taken in the iPhone’s Portrait Mode. ¬†In the below middle photo you’ll see the original photo of my daughter holding our new puppy last year. ¬†On the left, the focus has been changed to my daughter’s eyes. ¬†On the right, the puppy is in focus and everything else is blurred! ¬†That’s right, Focos allows you to re-focus you photos after they’ve been taken, how cool is that? ¬†It gets better, this little gem is also FREE, as in total cost to you: NADA! ¬†While I know there are tons of other apps out there for getting the most out of your iPhone when taking photos, these are my go-to apps that I love to use almost daily. ¬†I use them because they work, they’re simple, and with the exception of FX Photo Studio Pro, they’re free. ¬†I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour in to my geeky world.

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iPhone Photography

Surfer GuyWhile living in Europe, I purchased a very nice Sony DSC-TX20 pocket camera for the nights I didn’t want to carry my camera bag going out to dinner.  I worked out well, it took great photos and had an excellent wide angle view.  However, I didn’t own an iPhone then.  When I came back to the US and got my first iPhone I was kind of excited by the prospect of instantly sharing photos but hadn’t truly realized its potential.  The process of getting to my photos and actually using them was now much simpler.  Whether I was using my Canon DSLR or my Sony pocket camera, the process was the same;  get back from my trip and take the card out of the camera, place it in the computer to download the images, erase or reformat the card, put the camera away and recharge batteries.  Then I’d email or post the photos…  The iPhone changed all that, now I could take a photo of decent quality and instantly send it where I wanted or post it to social media, all the other steps were gone.  My Sony pocket camera instantly became a dinosaurer.  The photo at left was taken at Imperial Beach, California as I was setting my tripod up to do some sunset photography.  It was this photo that made me realize the potential of the iPhones 6’s camera.  While it’s not DSLR quality, it’s not that bad either!

iphone3Many times, while setting up for a photo or just out shooting, I’ll take a photo and post to social media and this has been the best thing.  I can actually post real time photos of the little photo trips I make.  For instance, while I was shooting at the marina in Coronado, California, I decided to shoot a photo with the iPhone.  That photo is at the top of this page and was taken using the iPhone 6’s Pano setting for panoramic photos (click HERE to view original).  Many times when I’m on foot to another location, I’ll shoot iPhone photos along the way and later some of those photos will make me go back later and shoot with my DSLR.  One of the best things about the iPhone’s camera is that it’s usually with you.  There have been times with my kids that I’ve captured a cool moments where there was no simply no time to grab my camera.  Bear ClawIn the above right photo, my daughters were playing and I was throwing a ball with the dog.  I looked and saw my girls and thought, this is one of those really cool moments in life.  I knew if I went in the house my girls would either stop and follow me, or move on to something else while I went inside.  I pulled out my iPhone and got the shot!  The same goes for this photo taken at the San Diego Zoo at left.  We were at the zoo early, when the polar bears play, the first thing in the morning.  The bear put his paw on the glass, my daughter said, “look daddy, he’s giving me a high-five.”  I quickly got my iPhone and got the shot.  This certainly would have been a better shot with my DSLR, but I had no idea how long that bear would stay put.  Fortunately, he stayed just long enough.  That’s the point here, while I would have loved to capture better versions of these photos with my DSLR, it just wasn’t goign to happen!  Better to capture these precious moments with my iPone than to not have them at all.

Lastly, there are some pretty cool effects packages available now at Apple’s App Store.  The effects app I really like is Macphun’s FX PhotoStudio.  Not only can you make some pretty cool effects, it’s incredibly simple to use.  The above photo of my daughter on the trampoline had the sun rings added with FX PhotoStudio and the water drops were added to the below photo as well.  As far as apps go, it’s expensive at $7.99, but it’s worth every penny because it works as advertised and has a ton of features.  Below is the pier at Imperial Beach, California and this is another example of the iPhone saving the day because I wasn’t even out shooting photos this day, I was just driving by and thought it looked like it could make a nice photo!

Iphone in IB