Friday, September 04, 2015
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   A Mother's Right to Brag


We hear on the news all the time about how a 15 year old boy raped and murdered his 8 year old neighbor. Or how some sixteen year old delinquents were planning on recreating the Columbine events.  Our media almost glorifies their perverted actions by giving them so much attention, by giving them their 15 minutes of fame.  Our society has almost created an atmosphere where it is wrong to excel in sports, academics or in any other endeavor because it might make some other child feel bad or inferior.  We reward our children for just participating and not for excelling.  In school each child will get a gold star just for raising their hand whether they know the answer or not.  Why do we feel it necessary to ignore the great accomplishments that some of our young people are doing just so we won't make others feel less skilled or less intelligent.  Many high schools don't even have the Validictorian give the high school commencement speech anymore.  Why can't we applaud their accomplishments and hard work and place them in front as role models for those less driven to look up to and to emulate. Far too many of our children are satisified now with being just average and we are not asking them to work to a higher standard.  We are not pushing them to succeed and exceed but only to participate.  This blog is a shout out to one family.  All three of their children are well on their way to not only changing their world but improving it.  I asked Sonja (their mom) to give me a list of all of their accomplishments so that I could write about three driven and successful young adults that are doing something positive with their lives and for their world.  After reading mom's bio of each child I can't in my mind think of a better way to say what she has already written.  You can see and feel how proud she is of each child and I don't blame her.  So this is Mom's written bio for each of her children. 

Oldest Son

Our son was born to us as a Christmas baby and was literally brought home in a stocking (all 9 lbs of him).  We chose a name that means "Gift of God".  A very fitting name for numerous reasons, namely because I was told I couldn't carry children due to a severely fractured lower back, but mainly due to the joy he has added to our lives.

He was an extremely bright child, but because he was our first, we weren't aware how bright.  By the time he was 18 months old, he was able to add, subtract and multiply numbers.  He was also able to read several words.  With his blonde hair and blue eyes (from his Finnish Grandmother) he was coddled by all and called the "Gerber Baby" or the "beautiful baby".

By the time he was in 1st grade, his teacher suggested he skip 2nd/3rd grade and work independently on special computer tutorials.  He continued this accelerated learning pace throughout grade school and high school.  At 13 years old, he enrolled in Calculus ll at San Joaquin Delta College because he had exceeded all math classes in high school. All while maintaining straight A's.  He played baseball since the age of 4 and received his Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do at the age of 11.

In addition to sports, my son is a self-taught musician.  He plays drums, bass/electric guitar and piano: hence, the beginning of his "garage band".

My son sailed through high school with straight A's and went to the local community college simultaneiously.  He graduated with 51 UC and Cal State transferreble credits.  He is currently attending CSUED (his mother's Alum) to receive a B.S. Degree in Business (Accounting/Finance).  His post graduate work will involve receiving a Master's Degree and CPA licensure.


Middle Daughter

Our second daughter's name came about in a unique manner.  As my pregnancy progressed, our son knew that was "his" baby to be born.  He was too young to say "baby", therefore he said the new baby was his "Mimi".  They are only 21 months apart and are extremely close to this day.  Mimi's legal name is derived from both her mother and grandmother.

Mimi was also a very bright child - she was able to read by the age of 2.  Both she and our son would put together toys by reading the directions!!  Something they both do to this day.  Mimi also received straight A's all through school while playing softball from the age of 4 to 18!  She also was a cheerleader, volleyball player and did some modeling (it helps being 5'11).  I guess you could say she's the "glue" of the group...and definitely goal oriented.

Upon graduating, Mimi had accumulated 26 UC and CSU transferrable units and was accepted to numerous schools.  She chose UC Santa Barbara where she is a 19 year old Junior and a Chemistry major.  She plans to attend Medical School (preferable Stanford).  She is currently on staff in the UCSB Chemistry Department as a Lab Supervisor.  In addition, Mimi is "House Mother" in an off-campus home over 5 other girls.  Her role is that of Property Manager and leader.  She knows how to manage the logistics, financials of any operation and is extremely neat, orderly and responsible.


Youngest Daughter

Where do I begin?  I didn't know I was expecting for 4 months - then thought there was some mistake.  After numerous tests - It was so!  What an amazing surprise...I knew there was something different about this one.  Not only was my mother still alive, but she said, this one she "couldn't see".  Initially, this terrified me, but it was much more spiritual than we can comprehend.  She was born an "old soul".

As an infant, I would catch her and my 99 year old grandfather in these, eye-to-eye conversations.  My grandfather had all of his faculties, but would call her "Mabel" sometimes.  Mabel was his sister that was born in 1892.  Their pictures are eerily similar, same blue eyes and brown hair.

Just like her brother and sister, this little girl wanted to do "homework" at an early age.  I have pictures of her in her walker "reading" a book, wihile her older sister is helping her sound out the words.  I think she was 4 months old!  And like the others, she wanted to play sports so she started recreational softball at 3ish.  She, of course, stated: she wanted to pitch.  So by the age of 6, she was tossing it over the plate.  At the same time, she had mastered the math quizzes in first grade.  She was outscoring the 9 year old boys!

All through school, she enjoys challenges.  In addition to her notable academia and athleticism, she has a true passion for the arts.  She is an accomplished singer, composer and thrives in theater.  She taught herself how to play beautifully on the piano: plays acoustic and electric guitar; writes original music and lyrics.  She sings in the youth choir at church (and performs some of her original songs).  She juggles all of this while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, pitching/leading her team to League Champs, earning "Pitcher of the Year", Defensive Player of the year, Softball Co-Captain, receiving Congressional Honors in Math/Science, playing the lead role of Sandy in GREASE, receiving best Female Musical Award, receiving English Awards and receiving the highest Honors category medal in Academic Decathlon!  All of this while running for office (Presidency) of BSU and won.  The club grew from 5 members to 45 in the first month of her term!  The group has now grown to 85 under her Presidency.

As if that was not enough, our daughter recently applied for the Stanford Institute of Medical Research (SIMR).  There are only 1700 students nationwide chosen and the top 5% of those get in the program.  She got in the program and was at Stanford for 8 weeks and lived with a host family in Los Altos!!

Her course of study involved growing human embryonic stem cells and their differentiations.  She was working side by side with Stanford Physicians and many post grad students.  She acutually trained a few of the post docs during her research.

This is our daughter's last year at her high school and I must say it is very bittersweet.  It seems like I was just dropping her off in 1st grade and now we are here.  But instead of being blue, I am thankful and I know that she will change the world "as she says". Her plans are to apply to Stanford, Harvard, Boston and a host of other institutions that are trying to persuade her.  Whereever she decides; her plans are to major in BioChemistry with a concenration in Neuroscience.  Her ultimate aspirations are to become a Neurosurgeon.


These are the words of a proud mother.  She has every right to boast about the accomplishments of her children and I couldn't have said anything better.  I look forward to working with this family again and I too am so proud of these three extraordinary young people.  May we all strive to do our best wherever life takes us and not settle for mediocrity.

Friday, July 31, 2015
By Connie Barding
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"Does anyone know someone with a good camera who isn't too expensive?"  Those that make this type of inquiry typically are looking for someone who is slightly skilled but who isn't going to cost a lot of money.  What are you really looking for?  As with most service industries, you get what you pay for.  You can always find someone with a nice camera but they don't have a clue as to how to use it except in auto mode.  If you want someone with an average camera who has a little skill you could probably find that person too.  And if you want someone with pro gear and skills you can search the internet for a professional photographer.  What do you really want for your photography needs?  If asked that question directly one may get the answer that they want a cheap price - and they don't care about the quality of the image. They don't care about the quality of the equipment, or if the individual is using the right lens, and they definitely don't care if he/she has the knowledge of how to fully use the equipment.  This seems unfair to all the true professional photographers who have spent years training and learning their craft, investing in the right equipment, building their business and gaining years of experience as a professional photographer.


What is the difference between a professional photographer and an amateur?  One of my teachers once said that the only difference between a professional and an amateur is that the professional corrects his mistakes and the amateur never even knew they made one.  An amateur is not going to charge professional rates but may actually produce some decent "snapshots", even a great image or two.  Are you willing to live with only decent snapshots and maybe one or two great ones.  Great images, when captured and created masterfully, can bring tears of joy and elicit lifetime memories each time they are viewed. Each photo tells a story and captures a moment, one that becomes more important as each year passes. Memories and special moments are like that.  You never know when a magical moment is happening for the very last time.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to recognize we are experiencing a unique and memorable moment.  Other times, time has to pass before we realize how precious a photograph becomes.  The significance of a masterful image intensives with time.


The difference between a snapshot and a professional image isn't only related to it's quality.  Both amateurs and pros alike can produce a great photo.  The difference is more in the percentages and reproduction.  A non-pro can get a lucky shot - along with the rest of their typically average shots. Pros too can produce some average looking photos in the quest to get "the perfect image" worthy of competition.  The difference is in the frequency and the capabilities of the person behind the camera.  Is that image exactly what you saw in your mind before capture?  Can you reproduce that image on request, or was that just a lucky shot.  And is the photographer able to catch "the perfect moment" even at the risk of  an initially poor quality capture knowing that they can enhance the image through software.


Welcome to my world!!  I want a nice car but I dont want to have to pay for it.  I want a nice house but I'm on a strict budget.  I know someone who has scissors so I'm going to let them cut my hair. She's cheap! 


This ranting is not directed to those individuals who simply do not have the funds for good photography.  This is solely directed at those who are looking for "someone with a good camera" and who will work for next to nothing but can afford to invest in craftmanship.  You really do get what you pay for in photography.  If you truly don't care much about your images, there is no need to invest in a pro.  Get your i-phone out and start doing selfies. 


So what is the solution?  Ask anyone if they will work for four hours for free or next to nothing and give you everything that they have produced?  If you are a non-pro charging a minimal amount but consistently get great images, charge what you are worth (your skills matter) and become a professional.  Join a professional association, become more educated, hone your skills, get your business license, get your tax id number, get yourself some business insurance and become a business owner whose happens to have a good saleable skill in photography.

I go to my hairdresser because I know she is good and I pay her fee without complaint.  She has the right to charge for her expertise, education and talent.  I have the right to choose to have my hair cut by her or not.  If my looks didn't matter I would go to my aunt. She has a pair of scissors but dropped out of beauty school the first semester, but hey - she's cheap.  Some people may believe that there is little difference between a pro photographer and an amateur.  I know that there is a huge difference.  I have spent years studying my craft, obtaining and investing in my equipment, and building my business.  The more I learn, the more there is to learn and the greater respect I have for the master photographers I have been lucky enough to study under.  Photography is anything but aiming a camera and moving you index finger.  A great image first begins in the creativity of the photographer's mind and then is captured by their expertise and skill.


What is good photography?  In today's world of smart phones where snapshots are prevalent it is more important than ever to discern the difference between a good photograph and a great one. The Professional Photographers of America Association, of which I am a member in good standing, have a "See the Difference" campaign out now.  They show a professional image and "Uncle Joe's" snapshot taken of the same subjects at a wedding.  Shown side by side it is obvious which is the better image capture.  If you want to know more about this campaign please visit this website.


Once a marketing guru told me that you can't please everyone.  Not only in your imagery but also in your prices.  There are plenty of people who like the 99 cent store chocolate and there are others that will invest in and enjoy a european truffle.  To each his own.  But know and respect the value of what you are getting.  Personally I will save up my money and instead of having one chocolate a day I will wait until I can afford that european truffle so that I can savor and cherish the memory of that luscious silky delight for a long time...that is how special it is.

I have a photograph that I took of my father and my two year old son up on my studio wall.  Not long after that photograph was taken my dad suddenly died of a heart attack. My son, then two, is now 18 years old, and everytime I walk past that image, that I proudly display in my studio, I remember my father and the special bond that he had with his little buddy.  Can you put a price tag on an image?  I certainly can't, to me it's priceless. 

Thank you for letting me rant.