Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to Take Great Car Photos

Car guys and gals have always liked to photograph their cars, and cool ones we find along the way. It’s part of car culture. The proliferation of smart phones and inexpensive digital cameras has revolutionized the world of the amateur photographer as well. Social media makes it easier than ever to show off your ride, or one you spotted to your friends, and the rest of your followers. Taking those pictures in a creative and high quality way though could get you a lot more +’s, shares, and thumbs up.
I’m not saying that photography is an easy art, however car photography does not have to be difficult in order to get high quality shots.
FAIL: This photo has a lot of problems. First the trunk is open, second the big bag next to the car is distracting, last the wheel is cut the wrong way. The angle and zoom are also not great.
The first tip I can give you is to look at the internet, web or E-magazines, as well as those in print. Yes their photographs were taken by professionals, with no doubt years of experience, likely with some expensive equipment, and edited on an office computer, using expensive software. That does not mean that anyone who is willing to take some time to compose a photo, using the equipment they have in hand, can’t turn out a few a high quality photos for their own use.
I’ve been photographing cars since I was a teenager, and doing so for magazines and publications for the last fourteen years. I’m going to share with you some of the basic tips, tricks, and guidelines that I use to get great photos. This is not meant to be the end all guide to automotive photography, and I don’t claim by any means to be the best in the business. I have learned from many of the best though, and while I’m still always picking up tips from those photographers, I can hold my own these days fairly well.
FAIL: This photo also has several problems. The first is the front wheels are cut facing the camera. This is a big mistake. No one cars about the car's tire tread and what it looks like, show me the face of the wheel, it makes the photo much more attractive. The second issue is also the composition or zoom of this photo. There's too much of everything else and not enough of the car. This is distracting, after all the purpose is to show off the car, not the pavement, grass and trees around it.
 How the Door was Opened
For me the door was opened into automotive photography years ago by an article similar to the one you’re reading now. Then editor of 5.0 Mustang Magazine, Rob Kinnan ran a one page editorial on how to take quality pictures, for the “Reader’s Rides” section of the magazine. Kinnan would later become my mentor while editor of ProMedia’s Race Pages magazine. I owe a lot to his guidance through the years, and he remains someone whom I seek advice from to this day. Those tips got me practicing more with my camera, and eventually I honed my craft into a career. So without further delay let’s get down to the basics of photographing cars.
Time of Day
This is perhaps the most critical tip I can give you. Unless it’s simply unavoidable do not photograph a car when the sun is high in the sky. The best photos are always the ones taken at sunrise, or sunset. Typically I prefer sunrise, during the dawn hours, before the sun is over the horizon. There is ample light at this time for good pictures, you can go outside and comfortably set things up ahead of time, and depending on the time of year and your location have anywhere from about 30 minutes to an hour of useable life.
I shot this photo of my '98 GT just before sunset. Notice how I got a little low, tilted the camera to add some "drama" and got close to the car. Also the wheels are cut to the right, allowing the face of the wheel to be seen, much more interesting than tire tread. There are fewer distractions to take your eyes away from the detail of the car.
I also like late day shoots for many cars. Depending on time of year, this is late in the afternoon (winter) or late evening (summer). Typically I start my shoot when the sun is starting to make everything gold and yellow outside. As it continues to set I adjust my camera, and will keep shooting until I have no more useable light. Some of the best photos I’ve ever shot of a feature car were under these conditions.
These conditions give you more even lighting, they reduce the glare, and they may also add interest to your background by having the effect of the sunrise or sun set add visually to the picture.
Mid day pictures often have significant glare, and can throw off the camera, the color, and the shoot. What could be an awesome car photo, is ruined often by too much light.
Set it Up
This is possibly the second biggest area that I see cause poor photo outcomes when it comes to car photos. Sometimes in our excitement to get the shots rolling, we forget some basic rules, only to find our mistakes when reviewing the shoot later. This has happened to me on more than one occasion, its an easy mistake to make. Take a few minutes to set up your photo area and then take a little extra time thinking about each shot before you snap it.
Remove distraction:
Get the trash out of the picture. Old cups, bags, boxes, etc. These all detract from the photo and distract the eye of those looking at it later. There does not need to be an old fast food bag under the tire, or the car, or beside it. When I can, I actually take my leaf blower with me, or a broom to a shoot, and clean the pavement off in the area I’m using before I bring in the subject car. Leaves, sticks, big rocks, these are all in the way.
Think about bright colored cones, signs or parking lot stripes as well, avoid these things if at all possible. You want the photo to draw your eyes to the car, not staring at objects around it and thinking to yourself “what’s that.”
Light at your back
If the sun is up, you’ll want it at your back. This avoids your subject being washed out by the sun (also called backlighting). You can have the light as much as about 60-70 degrees to one side of you, after that you may start to get sun spots. If the sun is below the horizon this is less of a worry, and not a big deal, just pay attention if it’s sunrise that you may need to move.

Location is a major player. Your location should not be more interesting than the subject. Location should if anything add to the appeal of the photo, and further make the car stand out. 
Don’t get yourself into any trouble for trespassing or breaking laws. However your driveway may not be the best place for your next photo shoot. The local track or drag strip can make a good background. Industrial areas, an old barn, or building, etc. Just make sure that the car is your focal point, background is just that it’s background, not the focus so be careful and don’t let that overwhelm the car.
Be aware of your surfaces. All cars look good on pavement, some look good on gravel or dirt, avoid grass. Shooting car photos on grass used to be the trend in the mid 90’s. I’m guilty of it, but really it just doesn’t look like a natural environment for the car. So be aware of that. Old industrial sites, and buildings with some character or architectural interest make good sites for backgrounds. So do high tension power lines, and power stations. You can also just use a blank wall, or empty road. Avoid backgrounds with people in them, also try to avoid homes or multiple buildings, although sometimes these can look good depending on the setting. Rule of thumb to ask yourself goes back to, would this photo make it in a magazine? If you can answer yes you’re on the right track, no doesn’t mean it’ll be a bad photo, it just means you can do better.
Is the Car Ready?
This is a big one too. It’s especially hard when I go to race tracks where tire rubber, dust, etc all make a car very dirty over the course of a day. Not to mention fingerprints from working on the cars.
If it’s your car, a friends, etc. Take some time to get the car cleaned up. No big bug splatters, no splash from the drive home. I always say make it showroom clean, clean it like you’re going to show it to someone to sell it to them. That should do the trick.
Along these same lines, make sure the windows are up when you shoot the car. Unless you’re shooting a topless car, (convertible, targa or T-top, with the top down or panels removed), make sure the doors are all closed securely (and trunk) and put the windows up! This gives the car a much more even appearance in the photo.
Tire Angle!
This is my biggest peeve in car photos. I see more and more pros doing this these days, and I hate it, simply because it’s a big error. Unless you have some super cool custom tread, or top secret prototype, no one is interested in seeing your car’s tire tread. If I’m looking at pictures of a car, the face of the wheel is what I want to see, not the entire rubber of the tire. So always make sure the front tires are cut in a manner that you’re seeing the face of the wheel, not the treads. It looks better and makes for a more interesting photo. If you’re taking a profile shot, (straight on the side), you can leave the wheels straight. Trust me on this, your photos will look significantly better with the tires cut so the wheel faces you on whatever angle you’re shooting from.
FAIL: The problem with this photo is that the car is dead center, and it looks like the photographer is 40 feet away with no zoom. There's nothing interesting going on around the car, just empty dirty road, and lots of trees. The angles are good, the execution is flawed.
This is another huge area where I see mistakes made. For the most part you want to get the entire car or side of the car in your picture. Don’t cut off the sides, the back or the front. Also don’t move too far away, use a close up framing. If the background is interesting or provides a nice contrast you can highlight some of it, but remember this is a car picture, no one is interested in what’s going on a quarter mile away, or that you stood twenty feet away to get it. If your car is parked in a parking space crammed between two cars, move it. Same goes for cool cars you see at shows. Don’t be shy, ask the owner if he’ll move it out so you can snap a picture. Just don’t make a habit of doing this to every car there.
Partial shots like this are cool as long as they highlight cool detail or are purposeful. In this one I was trying to highlight the curve of the rear quarter panels, a cool body feature on these cars that I've always loved with the SN95 body style.
Move Around
Move around and play with angles for your photos. A straight on front or rear shot, or straight profile is not always as interesting as one with some angle, or a shot at what we call a 3/4 angle. Play with the tilt of the camera, put the nose of the car in the top corner or the frame or near it to add some drama. Zoom in from a little bit of distance and change the depth of field for the background.
You can do some close up shots that don’t show the entire car on an angle. These can be interesting if done right, but don’t make that your only angle.
Moving around and experimenting with angles will often yield incredible results. This is one of my personal favorite angles when shooting both classic and late model Mustangs. The car's long good stands out and the whole thing just takes on a different look. I found this angle simply by experimenting years ago, I use it often, almost on every Mustang I shoot these days. It may also work good on other vehicles, it all depends on the lines, and it's up to you to judge.
Before editing, not a bad photo.
Editing is Important
Do something with your photos after the fact. When I started taking digital photos no one thought they could use them in magazines because of previous failures. I explained it was all about the post processing, and within a few years the magazines I worked for were no longer accepting film, slides or negatives.

After editing, a much more vivid photo,
I had a professional photographer that I follow on Google+ talk about the importance of editing one day. The gist of it was this. A camera is a tool, a device, cold and unfeeling it captures the world in raw detail as information only. We as humans see things not only with our eyes from an analytical perspective but also perceive things when we see them, you feel something, smell something, maybe your heart rate changes, or it makes you think of something else. For many of us cars are an emotional thing, we get excited, nostalgic, or happy when we look at certain cars. The camera can't convey your emotion, you have to add that back when you edit your photos, show the world what you were perceiving and feeling when you took that picture, give the photo life.

Unedited, not a bad looking photo, this would be acceptable to publish. Scroll down though to see the post edited version.
Personally I use Adobe Lightroom 4 to get my photos corrected, and add some effects. There are plenty of lower cost apps and programs out there though for someone who’s not going to edit large numbers of photos every week. Do something interesting with your pictures, bring out the colors, add some vignetting, crop to remove distracting items. It will make a big difference in the final product.
Just don’t get too carried away. Unless I’m making an HDR or art project, I like to use software to make things look correct, crop and focus. Too much editing is like too much makeup and plastic surgery, it can go from good looking to ugly and unnatural in a hurry.
Same photo after editing. Which would make you more likely to pick up a magazine, click on an article, or check out an ad?

Taken on my iPhone 4s, edited in Lightroom 4, proof equipment isn't everything
I personally shoot on my Nikon D3200 right now. This is a higher end consumer level DSLR, I recently upgraded to this camera, it’s not the highest end Nikon and it’s also not necessary for you to snap some good pictures of your car. Most smart phones have at least a 5 megapixel camera in them, which is plenty for a decent shot. The same holds true for many small point and shoot digital cameras. As the old adage goes the best camera is the one you have with you.
If you have a tripod or a way to steady your camera that is always helpful. Some cameras have stabilization features, and those can also do wonders for you. A flash for interior and under hood shots also goes a long way, but I haven’t even touched on those in this blog.

I could go on into a technical discussion about camera settings, rule of thirds (which often doesn’t apply to car photos), and editing. This blog though is just intended to give you the basics, just a few things to keep in mind next time you’re snapping some still photos of your ride. Action photos, are an entirely different animal. For now go clean your car, get out to an interesting location, and take some great car pictures.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Billy's Bad Day

This was the shot I had set out to capture for Glidden that weekend
Nearly eleven years ago, I took a stab at running my own race track photo sales business. I was an overly ambitious 23 year old with neither the business sense, nor experience to make the endeavor work. After nearly two years I had to fold the business and go back to working a regular day job. I don’t regret my attempt, or the consequences that come from it, I simply look back at it as a reference point for making better decisions today, and move on.
My business shot everything digital, and printed it from computers in a trailer that I’d customized with the help of some friends. I could produce a print as big as 11x17 inches within about 15 minutes of shooting the photo if needed. Most of the other businesses who did the same line of work had bulky photo processors, the big kind you see at Walmart and the like, crammed into their trailers. Their photos were great, but their technology typically required those companies to either have someone man the trailer constantly, or stay up all night printing orders from Saturday to be delivered on Sunday.
One person who offered support and advice to me during this time in my life was Billy Glidden. Those who follow NHRA racing and even Mustang and outlaw level street car racing know this name. Billy on several occasions worked out deals with me to provide photos for him to use either for his sponsors or other promotional work. It was a good relationship. Billy also provided me with a lot of good advice. He referred a lot of business to me. I haven’t seen or talked to him in a number of years as I’ve spent time away from the race track until recently. Next time I do run into him, I plan to thank him for all that advice, and the experience that came with it.
The World Ford Challenge, was a huge event during this time, drawing some 45,000 racers and fans combined. I ambitiously landed the deal to be World Ford Challenge 5’s official, and only photo vendor. That race was held the second weekend in May, 2002, at Gateway International, in East St. Louis.
Pro-Stock Legend Bob Glidden was also on hand, driving his son's Outlaw 10.5W car that weekend. This is a good wheels up shot that has been retouched recently in Lightroom 4
In addition to all the crazy Mustang and Ford madness of the weekend, NHRA Pro-Stock legend, Bob Glidden (Billy’s father) was going to step out of retirement, and drive Billy’s older outlaw car, while Billy drove the newer Pro 5.0 chassis which met the safety standard at the time to exceed 200MPH.
Prior to the event there was much press, and internet buzz about Bob competing. I headed to Glidden Racing Engines one Friday night, about 2 hours from my home, to take some promotional photos. I no longer have a disc of those photos, although I may have my own printed copy somewhere. Billy and his dad posed beside the cars, near sunset, in front of the shop. We ran on the bottom of the photo “The Legacy Continues...”. I agreed to do a limited print run of the photos, providing Billy with several copies. I would sell the others and give part of the money back to Billy as a commission, since I was essentially making a good deal of money from them.
Unfortunately it rained two of the days of the WFC5 event. Unable to sell as many starting line photos as I would normally have, our top seller was the Glidden father-son photo. Fans came to our trailer throughout the weekend and bought copies of the limited photo, printed in 11x17. I have no idea today how many we did, I think we limited the entire run to 200 pictures, maybe less. Bob and Bill were at their trailers, either between rounds, or during the rainouts, they autographed those prints for fans if requested.
Had it not been for that photo I’d have walked away from WFC5 deeper in the red for the event because of the weather and bad planning on my part. That photo took away some of the financial pain.
Billy had also asked me to get some photos of his Pro 5.0 car which had a special sponsor across the doors. The sponsor, was a St. Louis Ford dealer. I was also sure to get photos of Bob’s car as well.
Bad luck for Billy turned into a bit of good fortune for me. The photo you see of the red car with the fireball over the hood, is of Billy’s car having a rare nitrous backfire. Billy is a nitrous guru, knowing perhaps even more about setting up, and running nitrous than many that design and sell systems. I snapped this photo at just the right moment, with my Nikon D1x, what was considered to be the premiere digital SLR camera at the time. This was a time when nearly everyone else was still shooting film.
My shot  was the only one to grab the extent of the fireball. That D1x shot at an incredible frame rate for the time, and I had photographed Billy enough over the years to know when his car was about to launch. you just get a feel for that when you work the starting line as often as I did. I had hoped to get a good wheels up shot. Instead as soon as the clutch was let go, the car backfired in dramatic fashion.
The photo made the cover of ProMedia and NMRA’s magazine, Race Pages. I also was paid for providing the photography to ProMedia for the event. This was the first and only cover photo I ever snapped.
This is the shot that became famous for the weekend. Experience, timing, equipment and luck made it possible.
I recently came across the picture when I climbed up into the rafters of my garage and pulled down about 30 old archive cd’s I’d made before my original processing system went belly up in 2007. I’ve altered this photo recently, giving it lighting correction with Lightroom 4, and cropping it some to put the focus on the car more and less on the crowd. This is one of those shots that literally is a moment frozen in time. When the shot was taken, no one had yet processed, or reacted to it, the moment was that instantaneous, and surreal. I didn’t even fully realize it. I seldom close both eyes, and all I saw was a flash, and felt some heat. Realizing what had happened I immediately looked at my view screen, hitting the playback button, I found that I did capture the important image.
Sometimes it’s not just about good equipment, or the proper settings. Sometimes even the best timing and reflexes of a young person or a veteran starting line photohrapher aren’t enough either. Sometimes you just get lucky and an ordinary moment turns into something miraculous captured forever.

Don’t forget to visit my site, also follow me on Gogole+, Twitter: @DonaldCreasonJr, and Facebook.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Time for Change

In the past I've struggled to make this blog one about my personal experiences to share with family and friends. That has proved more difficult than I originally imagined.
The new year brings about some change for me and for my blog. Being a freelance writer and photographer these days, I want to make sure that I don't limit the exposure of my work. That being said I'm starting both a web site which will link to this blog, and display my work as a photographer. I will be discussing here the thing I know best which is cars. However, I'm not setting this up as another typical car related web site or blog. My work is sometimes limited for the company that I write for, because for the most part I write assigned stories, and occasionally dig out a few on my onwn.
With that said, I will be using this blog to discuss any number of several things. At times I may discuss a certain picture I've taken. The old cliche is that a picture is worth a thousand words. I may not be able to squeeze that many out about any single image. I have however taken through the years, thousands of photos of cars. I intend to discuss both newer photos, as well as revisit some of my favorites.
I'll also discuss my opinons on things going on within the automotive world. Everything from changes in the industry, new models, classics, etc. I intend to report things here that I may not have the oppurtunity to report elsewhere.
 News stories are abundant in the automotive world on a daily basis. Some of those get published with the company I work for. Others may not meet their criteria but because they interest me I may report on them.
From time to time I may do the same with a particular car. There are thousands of beautiful cars out there that will never make a magazine or web feature otherwise simply because they don't meet the stiffer criteria that many of those publications hold. I'm not saying I'm lowering my standards, in fact it takes a great deal for a car to catch my attention. There are cars out there though that I feel deserve some form of feature. I'll do my best here.
I want to take submissions from my readers, requests, and offer advice. The majority of my work will reflect late and early Muscle Cars, classic cars, street rods and hot rods. I will not object though to talking about four wheel drives, and even imports, though I lack some experience with both.
I'd also like to offer advice here and there on various automotive topics. This will be more of my opinion so you can take it or leave it. It will be based on my years of experience.
Last but not limiting will be my own projects. I may rarely get to publish stories on work with my own vehicles in any other outlet. So I'll occasionally show you what I'm working on and how it's going.
I hope you enjoy this blog, and take the time to come back each week to see what's new. I'll be using Social Media as a way to promote it, and hope to see it grow in it's following over the next year.
Best Wishes, and Happy New Year


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Next Step

My job for the past six years, serving customers at Pro-Tech in Buckner, KY
This entry is being published on October 31, 2012, Halloween, and many of you may not read it until a day or two after it hits. I'm writing this one for both my friends, followers of my blog and my customers of the last six years at Pro-Tech.
For over six years now I have been the Service Manager, Office Manager, whatever you want to call it at Pro-Tech Auto Repair in Buckner, KY. John and Marty the business owners, gave me this opportunity on referral from a former co-worker of mine. Coming into Pro-Tech I was leaving a job where I had been less than satisfied with my former employer's tactics, honesty and integrity. I was also paid on commission and having to use high pressure sales tactics to earn a living was not something I was typically comfortable with. Often it involved coercive and exploitative sales tactics that my former boss insisted on, they were designed to take advantage of a customer's lack of knowledge about their car and maximize the dollar totals on each ticket. This type of selling did not fit my personality or my moral values.
Pro-Tech offered something different. I was paid on salary, I was expected to perform and do my job, but instead of hard, high pressure, and deceptive sales tactics they simply took the recommendation approach to repairs and maintenance. The atmosphere in the shop, while geared toward working hard and maximizing our usage of time is almost always a lighter mood than most places I have worked. Employees are treated more like family and friends, especially when they are sick or need to care for family.
John and Marty as well are smart businessmen. In spite of the economic downturn the shop remains in a very stable and positive position. Blessed with better planning and sense than most, this is a shop that will last when many others will fail.
Their commitment to their customers and to doing the right thing will always keep business coming through the doors. I can not say enough good things about Pro-Tech. I've been treated well, and while all jobs have their burnout factor, and not all days are sunshine and doughnuts, overall this has been the best job I ever had to wake up and go to Monday-Friday.
I've said in the past, this would be the last shop I'd ever work for unless I started my own. I grew up in and around the car business. I now have just shy of nine years experience first hand working in service advising and management on the repair side. I know a good shop operation when I see one. I would put  Pro-Tech above anyone out there in terms of honesty, integrity, skill, expertise, customer service and commitment. They are number one, without a doubt. If I'm not working there, this is who will be fixing my cars when I can't do it myself.
With all that in mind, you've probably guessed by now that I'm saying goodbye to this job. Why would I do such a thing now, at this time in my life? It is not to leave and go to another shop, even though the turnover rate in the repair business, especially for service advisors and front counter is often very high. It's also not to start my own shop or purchase one. There's a much deeper explanation that all of you should read on to find.
I've been presented with an opportunity, a carrot dangled in front of me that I simply can not resist. An offer that tantalizes the teenage kid inside of me. This offer is too good for me to pass up. It bares more explanation as to why I find it so intriguing.
Rod Authority is one of many of the E-mags I've been writing for
Many of you who are my friends on FaceBook no doubt have seen me post numerous car related articles and teasers from photoshoots. Most of the articles I have posted have been written by me. I love cars, that's no secret, but I also love to write, as this blog should be evidence of.
Last winter I wrote a blog entry titled "Almost Famous", you can find it among my archives. I laid out some of my past in automotive writing. I've loved to write since I was ten years old, and I've loved cars since I was a little kid. As a pre-teen I'd discovered car magazines, and the world they opened up of new, and modified cars, trucks and hot rods. I spent countless hours with magazines sprawled out on the living room floor, my bed or the kitchen table pouring them over the way some kids read fantasy novels. My world revolved around when the next issue hit the door. At the same time cable networks like TNN (now Spike) were just starting to run the do it yourself shows that compose a large part of their weekend lineup today. I even read the car review in the local paper each week and looked through the autos section to see what news there was of the business. I was obsessed.
As a teenager in my high school English Lit class I had to do an assignment. I can't remember now which year I was in, but I want to say it was either Sophmore or Senior. Either Mrs. Dye or Mrs. Lucas was my teacher depending on the year. The assignment was a presentation on things about you and your life. You had to make it all fit in a paperbag and part of it could be what you aspired to do after high school, whether college or career, etc. I couldn't make a car magazine fit in the bag, but I photocopied the cover to an issue of Car and Driver, folded it twice and set it inside. As part of my presentation I revealed that I wanted to write about cars for a career.
Car's like Mike Webb's Mustang GT are just some of what I've been writing about.
I've come close to that goal in the past, as I talked about in my "Almost Famous" entry. I had until this past year resigned myself to believing that those days were long gone, simply a young mans pursuit and that I would probably never again be back in the magazine business. Certainly never full time as I had dreamed of doing in my childhood.
Not long after I posted "Almost Famous" to my blog, I saw a FaceBook post from the man I used to write for, James Lawrence. James is now president and owner of PowerTVMedia. A California based company specializing in automotive performance industry E-magazines as well as advertising and web development. I jokingly commented in the FaceBook thread about the job openings that it was too bad you had to live in California to do them. James offered me a job if I'd move to California within hours of that comment, a move that at this time in my life I can not make. He then followed that up with an offer for me work freelance on the side, as much as I thought I could handle.
I'll be covering events like the Street Rod Nationals which is close to home.
So almost as quickly as I had given up on a dream that I thought was lost forever, I was off again, freelance writing about cars. I'm not traveling like I used to but writing all the same. Technical articles, car features, and news stories. I scrubbed out the rust and cobwebs from my writing skills, cleaned up my camera and have been back at it on the side ever since.
Some months I've cranked out a huge body of work, amounting almost in some cases to a full time income. Others I've not been able to produce as much due to time and family constraints.
Towards the end of September my managing editors came to me with a job offer, asking what would it take to get me to leave Pro-Tech and work for them full time from home. We went back and forth, there were a lot of questions of how much work, what my status would be with the company, etc. In the end this is an offer that I can not pass up. PowerTVMedia is growing and thriving. In my opinion they really do have lightning in a bottle with respect to the direction of automotive publishing. All publishing is moving in the direction of electronic, and I've said for years that by the time I'm in my forties print publications like magazines and newspapers if not fully extinct will be so few in number that they'll be the exception and not the rule.
With this offer to write full time, I get the opportunity again to make that childhood dream a reality. I'll be compensated apporpirately. I'l have some flexibility, do a small amount of traveling and get to meet more new and interesting people along the way.
Perhaps most importantly I get to work from home or on the go, wherever I can setup my laptop and get a wifi connection.
In my PowerTV shirt at my home office.
November first is The Next Step, the day I start writing for a living. The day I get to start doing what I've always dreamed of. I'll be sad walking out of Pro-Tech and locking up the shop for my final time on October 31, an appropriate scare for Halloween, as change is always scary. Still not many people can say they had the opportunity to work at what they always dreamed of. If I can follow that dream even for a short while, even if for some reason it doesn't work out, I can always say that I took a shot at it, gave it my best. That in the end is more than what most of us can say about entire careers and sometimes sadly our lives.
I wish all of you who have made my years at Pro-Tech so good, the very best, I'll see you around the community, at festivals, 5k's, and the store. You can follow me here on my blog, you can also friend me on FaceBook, Google+ and follow me on Twitter @DonaldCreasonJr. You might even see me on the other side of the counter at Pro-Tech getting my own car worked on. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Being Dad

It's interesting being a father now. Of course I'd say that, I'm a father now. While I was able to prepare certain aspects of my life for being a parent there were certain things I was totally unprepared for.
For instance the way my daughter's eyes, even at just 5 weeks old follow me and look for me when she hears my voice.  How sometimes when my wife can't seem to calm her down, she really does just want daddy.
When Cora was born via C-Section I was given the chance to hold her first. After she'd been cleaned up some and examined by the doctors, weighed, etc. I sat back down and they handed her to me, swaddled in clean blankets. I'll never forget the moment the assisting physician showed her to us the first time, or that moment holding her for the first time in the hospital. She began to whimper and cry, and Sydney said, "Sing to her, sing her song." So I began, "Cora Sue, won't you come out tonight,, won't you come out tonight..." just a little bit, just as we had been jokingly singing to her for weeks while she was still in the womb. She immediately stopped crying and looked up at me.
Now at home, I love to lay on the floor next to her, and watch her as she looks at toys suspended above her, or seems to make an attempt to reach out for me or Sydney when we lay beside her. Tummy time is also a priority, and I have to say I'm a proud father when I see those little arms do a mini pushup or that head successfully turn from one side to the other.
I know that this is just the beginning, we're only creeping up on six weeks at home, and I can already see how much she's changed from the pictures we took in the hospital. It makes me wonder how much more she'll change in the next year, the next five years, and on. I look forward to every minute of it. I know there are times when it's not fun, it's challenging, we've already run into those with some crying and gas pains in the evenings. Still though, she's a well behaved baby, and I hope for our sake she stays that way throughout her young life.
I woke up early one morning a few weeks ago, raised my head and looked at Cora asleep in her bed, Sydney lying beside me and just looked around the room. I thought to myself, what else is there, really? I have never been more content or happy in my life, I don't know how we lived without this child for so long, or how life could be any better. We've endured much in the past year, but we now know it all lead us to this place, and this is better than we ever could have imagined.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Groundhog Day, the Countdown til Cora Sue's Arrival

Groundhog Day

The Countdown til Cora Sue

Lately I find that I feel like a combination of a kid on Christmas Eve and Bill Murray's character in the movie Groundhog Day. Or maybe I'm stuck in that old Tom Petty song... The waaaaiiiting is the hardest part, everyday... something something something, I can't remember the lyrics without hearing the song but you get the point.

Let me clarify this analogy a bit for the uninitiated. In the movie Groundhog Day, Murray plays a weatherman who's stuck with the unenviable assignment of covering the weather and emergence of Punxsutawney Phil and the festivities that turn the Nation's attention on this small Pennsylvania town one day each year. The trouble is that everyday Murray wakes up only to find that it's still Groundhog day. He finds he's repeating the same day over and over again. To get out of this he must fix what's wrong in his life.

I don't feel like I need to fix anything so wrong in my life that God or the universe is punishing me in some way but allowing me the opportunity to get things right. Each morning when I wake up, I'm starting to feel like it's the same routine again and again, will she arrive today, or maybe tonight, or most likely not at all.

So each night I head to bed giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve, hoping that tonight's the night. That tonight my wife will wake me up, or at least give me a good wack across the chest and proclaim that now's the time!

Now if this all sounds unreasonable and that I'm crazy for wanting to jump right into sleepless nights, etc, well maybe I am.

Let's look at some facts for just a moment. My wife, Sydney has had a remarkable pregnancy. No morning sickness, zero, none. No strange cravings for odd foods or strange combinations. No close calls, no emergency runs to the doctor's office or hospital. No indigestion, no heartburn, none of the maladies that plague so many pregnancy's. In fact up until two weeks ago she's had no swelling, we believe a round
of three or four days in one week of meals out may have caused a rise in her blood pressure and an increase in swelling, only to see her BP go back to normal after a day and the swelling all but completely disappear after two or three days. We truly have been blessed with a total lack of drama throughout this pregnancy.

I attribute much of her good condition to the following. Sydney was in excellent physical shape when we conceived this baby. She swam on a regular basis, stuck to a very healthy diet, her weight and blood pressure were both right on target. Throughout her pregnancy she has continued this regiment of exercise and healthy diet. She even added walking to her routine to augment her lack of being able to swim as many laps as she had been.

Next there's rest. Since around the twenty eight week mark, the start of the dreaded third trimester, she's been off work. This is in part due to her being a teacher and in part due to her specialized teaching. She won't have any students until this December, so she is simply using some of her personal days so she can prepare for the baby's arrival and also to rest.

Last but not least for us is prayer. Say what you will but we have prayed daily. We have prayed for her health and safety and for the safety of our unborn child. I firmly believe that God has blessed this pregnancy and the child my wife carries.

Still though, the due date is this week, and I have to be honest I fully expected our baby girl to be born sometime sooner rather than later. After all, Sydney is 35, she has a mother who had toxemia and preeclampsia while carrying her. Syd herself was born sometime around the thirty week mark. I have spent most of this pregnancy on eggshells waiting for something to happen, similar to what happened with her and her mother all those years ago. It hasn't and for that I thank God everyday.

Cora's later arrival too has helped in that we have the house ready. Sydney spent much of the early summer cleaning out rooms. Last fall I remodeled our bathroom which means it's now ready for our new addition as well. This spring and early summer we completed work on what is to be Cora's bedroom. This bright and colorful room received new paint, new carpet, new or refinished furniture, and all kinds of colorful and friendly decorations. Last weekend I purchased a carpet cleaner, a big heavy duty model that
heats it's own water and scrubs deep. I spent several hours running that machine all over the house (except Cora's room with the new carpet). What a difference it made on our floors.

Our bags are packed, Sydney thought of everything, in fact there's so much stuff that you'd think we were going out of town for two weeks, not to the hospital for a couple of nights. The bags are even loaded into her car already. All we need to do on the way out the door is feed the cat, grab the phones and iPad, and remember to lock the doors.

The car seat is loaded in the car, strapped in securely, I check it once a week and adjust as needed. I have tinted the window's on Sydney's new car to keep the sun off our new arrival as she rides along. I had the oil changed a month ago, expecting something to happen any day.

Baby clothes are sorted, washed and put in the appropriate places. Baby toys that were given to us have been unpacked and cleaned, batteries purchased and tested in each one.

Early this spring I was given the opportunity to start freelance writing again, perhaps part of the reason why I haven't blogged in so long. This extra income has helped buy things for Cora's room, and will help offset the cost of her childcare and needs once she arrives. I don't believe in coincidence, and as such I once again give credit to the Lord above for showing me an opportunity when our family needed it the most.

Now we're down to crunch time. There was a blue moon just days before labor day. I don't believe in such, but it was fun to imagine that Cora might be born under such circumstances. Well that myth is out the window for us because it had no affect on said baby. Nor did my birthday, the labor day holiday, or a hurricane the remnants of which supposedly passed through our area.

I'm anxious to see our baby girl for the first time. To hold her, to hear her cry, to kiss her little face, even to change her diapers. This may sound odd for a lot of men, but all I have hoped and prayed for is a healthy child, it never mattered to me whether we had a girl or a boy. I look forward to spending time with this new life, to watching her grow. I realize that not everyday will be perfect, but life never is. It's an old cliche that patience is a virtue. That may be true, but it's a virtue because it's so darn difficult to maintain.

One of the things I do for both my own entertainment and to make Sydney laugh is make up alternate lyrics for familiar songs (or make up a song of my own) and walk around the house singing it. Lately it's been a variation of Buffalo Bill from It's a Wonderful Life. The original goes something like Buffalo Bill won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight. I've been replacing Buffalo Bill with "lil Cora
Sue".Sydney laughs every time.

I should be happy and relieved that everything has gone so well, so far. For me this is like being at the end of a big project, in fact for Sydney and I this is our greatest undertaking ever, both individually and as a married couple. So I'm anxious for this part of the project to be over and the next chapter to begin.

Some have suggested that Sydney eat spicy food to get things going, swearing that it sent them into labor. We already eat a lot of spicy stuff, so this won't work either. She already exercises regularly so strenuous activity is also out.

Maybe I should start a project, something involved, I've been talking about a kitchen remodel since I finished the bathroom last year. That would probably do it, as soon as I started ripping up the floor, or working on the plumbing, Sydney would probably walk in to tell me it's time to go. Elbow deep in dirt and dust and I'd have to go to the hospital a filthy mess.

Seriously though, I just can't wait, everyday right now feels like Christmas eve. Anxiously I await, sometimes waking in the middle of the night and finding it difficult to fall back asleep because I'm so excited. There are times when I can't wipe the smile off my face thinking about what it'll be like to see her for the first time. What it will be like to hear her laugh, and watch her play.  I can't wait to get my present. lil, Cora Sue won't you come out tonight, won't you come out tonight, lil Cora Sue won't you come out tonight, and plaaaaaaay by the light of the mooooon!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

She's Your Wife... Not Your Maid!

I might be going on a bit of rant here, but there’s something I need to address with a few husbands out there. Recently my wife recounted a conversation with a friend, this friend shared that her husband seldom helps around the house. He tends to sleep in on Saturdays while she gets up and begins cooking and cleaning. Her husband doesn’t understand on Saturday night when he wants to go out but she’s wiped out and ready for bed. This friend of my wife’s is also pregnant (as is my wife).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this guy is a bad guy or that their marriage is in trouble. I don’t even know him (or her) personally. I hear these kinds of stories from my wife and others from time to time and I have to say it bothers me. So let’s begin with some background on why it bothers me.
When I was a kid my mother who is a nurse would often have to work weekends. This left at least three if not four or five kids at the house with dad many times. Dad often enlisted us to help with age appropriate chores, but regardless of how we helped the chores got done, they weren’t left for my mother to do when she got home after being at work all day. Dad worked hard too, he put a lot of hours in at his job as well, but my parents viewed taking care of the kids and the house as tasks that they must address equally.
I can recall on many occasions as a kid helping fold laundry with my siblings, running the vacuum, mowing the yard, pulling weeds, helping make dinner or helping my dad with various maintenance or improvements to the house or the yard. As a teenager I’m sure that I displayed the typical teenage laziness and occasional laze fare attitude of many teenagers, by then my mom seldom had to do any weekend shifts, still I had to do chores or whatever task was asked of me or face the consequences. I can recall many weekends when I had stayed up too late, only to be awakened bright and early usually by my dad alerting me to get my tail out of bed and ready to do some work.
Fast forward to today. I’m married now. I’ve found that throughout my life I find joy in doing things that make others happy. I’ve also found that when you’re married sometimes even the smallest things can mean the most to your wife. I don’t do it to score points or earn my allowance as I might have as a child. I do it because I love my wife and because I view our marriage as one of equals, especially in terms of the roles we play in taking care of our home. We both work full time jobs, we both must deal with family issues and we both have other things on many occasions we’d rather be doing than cleaning, cooking and laundry. However these things must get done and if we share the workload they get done faster. Since we enjoy doing many of the same things together it only makes sense that if we help one another out we both get what we want faster.
So husbands I have to ask, if you’re not helping your wife out, why not? Are you lazy? Do you not know what to do? Are you worried you might miss the big game this weekend? Never mind that the big game is probably on for several hours at a time, there’ll be a big recap in the half hour to hour long postgame show that follows with all the important highlights you missed and again that night online and on sportscenter. None of these are an acceptable excuse. You can turn on the TV and run it in the background while you clean if there’s a game on that you want to watch. The vacuum cleaner won’t suck the life out of you while it’s sucking the dirt out of the carpet. Laundry is easy, (what did you do when you were single anyway?). Cleaning the bathroom can be disgusting but as a husband are you not supposed to want to protect your wife? So protect her from the germs and filth in the bathroom and get in there and scrub, it just takes a few minutes anyway. If you have questions about where a certain cleaner is, what to use or what should go in what cycle in the laundry, just ask her. Better yet figure it out yourself! (just don’t’ experiment with laundry cycles and her clothes).  The dishwasher is also another device that was made to be convenient, not frightening, I promise that loading and unloading it will not break your back, and running it is a task of pouring out some soap, flipping a knob or just pushing a few buttons. We’re men, we pride ourselves on being able to do complicated manly tasks, why can’t we do the seemingly complicated buy terribly simple household ones as well.
Then there’s cooking. I go back to, what did you do when you were single? You didn’t live off carry out and going out all the time, or at least I hope not. You don’t have to cook every night, or even every week but once in a while it would be nice for you to contribute to that too. While we’re talking about dinner let’s talk about what’s for dinner. My wife and I decided long ago that since we both work full time jobs that cooking something different and new every night is not always feasible. So what happens most weeks is that we fix something to last the whole week. We might fix a large pot of soup or chili, a big batch of barbecue. Lasagna, spaghetti, there are lots of things you can fix that will last all week. This makes getting a healthy meal by a reasonable time easy to do and neither of us feel as though we waited the whole evening to eat dinner.  I promise this won’t kill you, it won’t upset your stomach or send your taste buds into some kind of funk. You can even make two things and alternate them between different nights. We usually make dinner on Saturday or Sunday afternoon and it’s ready for the week. I will admit that my wife cooks more often than I do, but many times while she’s in the kitchen I’m tending to something else.
So I’ll close this entry out by saying husbands if you really want to show your wife how much you care it’s not always about buying flowers or taking her out to dinner (though that doesn’t hurt either). Sometimes just pitching in and doing your share of the housework is enough to let her know how much you really love her, and I promise she will really appreciate it. After all she’s your wife not your maid.