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The argument of Mac vs PC is as old as the two computer systems themselves, but I’ve always ended up on the Mac side of things. As a teacher, I proselytized the virtues of Macs. I helped convert and influence whole generations of students into the cult of Mac, and many of my friends have fallen as well. And I don’t feel guilty about it – I really do believe they were better machines, with better software. But I’m not so sure anymore.

I’ve been using Macs since they first showed up in my classroom in 5th grade (that would be around 1985). I’ve always loved them. Now, don’t get me wrong – I also used and loved PCs. In fact, I have many memories of being an elementary-aged kid and working in DOS, Basic, and the like. I would use any excuse I could to play on my friend’s Commodore 64. So I’m not a straight-up Mac snob. But there was something about them – the software was special, the whole computer was just different. Even when I was 10.

Mac8500Fast forward to college in 1994 when I bought my first Mac. I dropped an insane amount of money on a PowerMac 8500. 120Mhz, 16 Megabytes of RAM, and the humongous 17″ AV CRT monitor (with speakers on the bottom). That monitor weighed about 50 pounds or maybe even more, and I thought it was the coolest thing. I had the computer that everyone wanted to borrow (and many did). And then, after many years, I started buying the Mac Pros. And iMacs and Mac Minis for the wife and kids. We were a Mac household to the max. But before you think I’m some rich guy, I’ll tell you that many of those computers were always bought used, and I always took full advantage of the educators’ discounts for my Mac Pros.

But why Apple in the first place? Well, it was simple – they were the computer for the graphics professional. The OS was far more robust when compared to Windows when I started, even though when XP came around it was pretty good. Also, their software was amazing, especially in the early 2000’s. From Shake to Final Cut Pro, Apple was bringing truly professional software to the masses. Anyone with a great desktop could do what the pros were doing in movies like The Lord of the Rings (which used Shake) or No Country for Old Men (edited on Final Cut Pro 7). So all of that, or so I argued, justified spending the extra money on a Mac.

My classroom full of the very best 27" iMacs in 2014

My classroom in 2014 – Full of the very best 27″ iMacs.  But not anymore.

Once Apple’s Aperture came around, I was truly hooked. Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Aperture were my mainstay applications. Firewire in the 90’s brought digital video to the masses by offering a cheap and high-quality way of getting digital video footage from your camera to your computer without expensive capture boards. So, as a teacher, I was able to teach students in Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Aperture, with Photoshop right beside it. My school district spent tons of money getting me the best iMacs, loaded with the best Apple software. I’ve had plenty of students graduate and go on into the professional graphics and film/video world. It’s been money well spent, as has the money I’ve spent on my own Macs for the photography work that I’ve been doing. Just ask any of my former students. Most of them will be shocked if they ever read this blog post…

But now, Apple is not really an option for me personally anymore, and I’ve also worked with my district to switch over all 56 computers that we have in the 2 Art Department labs to Windows machines. So, if you’re interested, I’ve outlined my reasons for switching below, and I wonder how many of you will agree with me, and how many will think I’m the devil incarnate?

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New Video: Selling Coffee to Save Lives

I haven’t been on my personal blog in a long time. I’ve been very busy working on several videos and many photographs from this summer and fall, as well as just the general work of being a teacher, father, husband, home-car-mechanic, etc!

Water_Well_Drilling_01Last spring (the last time I posted), I wrote that I was preparing to head off to Africa to film for a non-profit ministry called Ugandan Gold Coffee. UGC owns a coffee farm in the western rural area of Uganda outside of the city of Hoima. They use the profits from the sale of this coffee primarily to drill and repair water wells in the area, giving the people in some of the poorest areas access to clean water. It’s a great organization, and one that I have really come to appreciate and believe in. Their coffee is excellent (you should buy some!), and the people who run this organization are amazing; giving so much of their time and effort to help the people of Uganda like they do.

So, the short of it is that I was sent to Africa to shoot stills and video so that I could help them come up with more promotional material. I honestly wasn’t sure that I wanted to go. I know that sounds a bit crazy – who wouldn’t want to go to Africa, right? But I kinda didn’t. And yet I did. Let’s just say I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t afraid to go – it was just really inconvenient to go. But I did go, and I’m very glad I did. It wasn’t always easy, and I had travel problems, luggage problems, equipment problems, that sort of thing. But I met a very special group of people, and came home with a portfolio of images that I’m proud of having, and video that I hope will help Ugandan Gold Coffee sell their coffee and drill more wells so that more people in Uganda can have the basic need of clean water taken care of. It’s good, important work, and I’m blessed to be a small part of it.

For a look at my photographs, you can go to a blog I started just for my Africa trip, but below is the 2-minute video I recently finished that highlights what this awesome non-profit ministry is doing.

I’d also like to thank a few people for their help with the video, too: First off, the talented Josh Garrels and Marmoset Music for working with us on the rights to the music. Secondly, a big thanks to Paul Tracy of Envision Productions for his voice, and finally, a huge thanks to Brian Moore for allowing us to use his amazing recording equipment at Redbooth Studios!

I have finally finished editing all my photographs from Africa, and this is the last batch!

So, on Sunday, July 20th, I left Uganda and headed over to Nairobi. When I was there, I photographed an orphanage called Rehema Home. While I was there for 2.5 days, I will put all the photographs into a single post. It was an awesome few days. I can’t even really say much because I can’t type all that I remember – but it was a lot different from Uganda, that’s for sure. This orphanage is also so different – and probably the best one I saw the entire time I was in Africa. The children there described it as a huge “family.” They were truly brothers and sisters, and I was so impressed at how they took care of each other. I was truly blessed to witness such a great thing. I won’t say any more – I’ll just let the photos do the talking!

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Saturday, July 19th

On the 19th,after a day and a half in Mweya, we packed up early in the morning and started a long, 8-hour drive back to Entebbe. A few group portraits in front of the elephant statue (it’s actually a real elephant, from what I was told), and then we were on our way. Mweya was awesome, and I hope to return there some day with my children!

After a long drive, we arrived at the airport. I took a few photos while we were unloading everyone’s baggage,and then I went in search of my luggage while they all checked in. I was told it wasn’t in the computer system. It wasn’t in the ledger. But I knew that my bag was there. After going through all the hoops, I finally got permission to get a special security pass that allowed me into the baggage area so I could look for my bag. I looked in one area – not there. Then I looked in another room, and saw it almost instantly. It was hilarious. Not in the system, my butt! When I went to sign for it, I was helped out by the gentleman with whom I had originally filed my “missing baggage” claim with. He remembered me, and told me that he had checked my itinerary that morning, and had remembered that I was flying out the next day. He said that if I had not shown up for my flight, he was going to make sure my bag went back to NY for me. In America, I would probably be very skeptical of the truth of that statement, but not here. I believed him completely.

So I went back to the hotel after all of this, and got ready to fly to Kenya on the 20th!

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Thursday we spent about half the day travelling to Mweya Lodge for a day and a half of safari. I’m going to condense all my photographs from these 3 days into one post, so they’ll be a lot.

After arriving in Mweya, we went on a boat tour that afternoon. It was probably the most awesome thing. Tons and tons of elephants (literally!) were on the shore of the river, but we also got to see water buffalo, crocodiles, hippos, eagles, and many other different kinds of wildlife I’ve only ever ready about. Most of the photos speak for themselves. Then we went for a game drive that evening. Saw lots of wildlife, but there were 2 awesome things that bear mentioning: The first is that I need to say that being charged by and angry momma elephant is awesome. The adrenaline kick is pretty cool. And, being a photographer, I just kept my finger on the trigger and trusted my driver to do his job, which he did fantastically! The second is the most terrifying sight – a Hippo out of the water. You can see the photo below -we stared at each other for some time, and I felt a slow terror as I took it’s pictures. I know that they are the most violent and territorial creatures around, and he looked very unhappy to find us in his way. But he just stood there, so we stopped and watched him for a while. The lighting was horrible, so the photograph is grainy and dark, but that’s okay – it’s just proof of an encounter that I had that I will never forget.

On the 18th we woke up extra early and went out for a 6:00am game drive. We saw lots of bush bucks, water bucks, more elephants,and more birds. Oh,and more elephants! Sunrise was particularly beautiful as well, and I got some very nice photographs. I kinda wish I would have been able to stop some more and spend more time on some landscapes, but I just had to learn how to take pictures from a moving vehicle. We also met a whole troop of baboons; they are hilarious and odd creatures. Then, after a lunch break, we went for another evening game drive – our last. It was very pretty, and we saw a ton more wildlife. One of the trucks in our convoy even saw a Jaguar! We got in around 7:30, and drove right past the sign that stated that they gates would shut at 7:00. Oops. Well,they let us in anyway!

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Wednesday, July 16th

On the 16th, we packed up all our stuff and left Hoima for good. It was a strange feeling – because I had been late in getting to Uganda, I really felt like it was too soon; I felt like I had so much more to do! But even if I had gotten there on time, I know I would have felt the same. But today held what would end up being one of the most awesome and emotional experiences for me: The dedication of a well for an orphanage and school. So we drove off to this small school and orphanage about 35 minutes outside of Hoima.

They were ready for us, and had quite a celebration for us. It was quite a treat! Then the pastor and headmaster told us how the school had been started, and how they found that there were many orphans in the area with no one to take care of them. So they started an orphanage, too! It was actually really hard to see – the school and the orphanage had mud floors. The conditions were not what I would have ever expected before I got to Uganda. In fact, as an American, I would be horrified to see children living like this. But after a short while in rural Uganda, I realized how blessed these children were – it wasn’t glitzy,and it didn’t even have concrete floors, but they had someone who loved them and was doing their best to take care of them. And now they had a well that would give them clean water. Those blessing make the things I have here in America pale in comparison. It made me feel very mixed up inside – sad and depressed and yet also happy for them. It’s really hard to even describe it, so I guess I’ll just leave it at that.

After that we headed off to Kyenjojo to visit another orphanage, run by a young American woman, Alyssa, and her Ugandan husband. It was like the complete opposite of what we had seen in the morning. We spent most of the afternoon putting together a swingset/jungle gym for the kids. I actually put my camera down and started building for the first time – it was rather refreshing.

After that, we said our goodbyes and headed out for the last portion of our journey.

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Tuesday, July 15th

On July 15th,we went back to the farm and ran a free medical clinic for the workers of the farm. One very large part of this was the distribution of reading glasses. We had a very large number of reading glasses that had been donated to us, and had traveled across the ocean in several suitcases! We also brought a kit that used TIG welding wire and a jig to let someone make reading glasses right there. It was pretty cool to watch that process, and watch how Matt and Graham taught themselves, and then taught others how to use the jig.

Azure Medical Clinic also brought some people up, and with members of our team and theirs, we did some basic medical screen, immunizations, and other medical care. The line was long – people don’t have access to much medical help there, and something like this was extremely special. (It’s amazing how blessed I am in America, and I don’t think about it at all.)

It was an awesome and hot day, and it was great to see another example of how CEED and Ugandan Gold are working to raise the standard of living and bless the people in this area.

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Monday, July 14th

On Monday, July 14th, I spent the day at a water well drilling site. It was a very hot and very long day, but was great to see the work that is being done to help people have access to clean water through the work of Ugandan Gold Coffee and CEED. I had a ton of equipment troubles, as my camera began acting up about halfway through the day. It would stop recording video on its own, then start again, then stop again, then start again, over and over. I let the camera rest for a while towards the end of the day and used my secondary camera, and it seemed to do a little better after a bit of a rest. But I still got some great photographs, and a lot of great video, too.

It’s very stressful trying to be a videographer AND still photographer at the same time. I feel like both my goals suffered because I was trying to do too much. It also kept me from using my shoulder rig for video, because that’s not helpful for shooting stills – it keeps me from being able to do vertical shots. So I loaded up my camera with all the microphones and everything and shot hand-held the whole time, which is exhausting. The camera weighs a ton with the audio recorder AND the shotgun microphone AND the rear microphones all attached to it. But I think I did ok- I guess we’ll see once I get the videos processed – but I’m pretty happy with the stills from the day. I know I could have done better if I had just been focused on just still photography, but that’s not what Ugandan Gold needs! Well, it’s good to always keep learning and keep staying flexible!

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Adding New Photographs!

I’ve been editing photos all week- and have added some new photographs to the already existing posts. So go ahead back to those old posts if you want to see some new pictures. And I’ll have some new posts pretty soon!

I’m Home!!!

And I have been for several days! I’m so sorry that I haven’t posted since then – it’s been a whirl-wind since I got home. So much editing to do! Anyway, I will be posting more photos – hopefully today I’ll get a lot more photos up on the site. I’ve been editing a lot the last few days, so I’ve got a good set of pictures ready to go.

So, thanks for following along. I wish I had more time while I was there to keep updating things – but lack of regular internet access and lack of time (and sleep) kept me from being consistent…

Anyway, more posts to follow!