Friday, May 30, 2008

Operation Transformation Update

Well, I finally did it! I began training again in Hapkido and I love it! I've been back to class now for two weeks after a 7 year departure. When I left I was half-way to my black belt and now the time has come to finish what I started.

Friday nights are special as Mr. Eric teaches and he's known for his cardio-from-hell workouts. I kept hearing from my training buddies stuff like, "have you been to Eric's class yet" and "'s so hard..." Well, since I've returned after such a long layoff I've found ALL of the classes hard. And, tonight was my first class with Mr. Eric and I could really use some aspirin and a hot tub.

But, it's all good and after the first few months my body should be used to being hit again, my wrists/shoulders being twisted every "which-a-way," and my legs being stretched like Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four.

For those of you not familiar with the Hapkido here's a brief sample of what we go through during class:

I'm getting to old for this. Pray for me, please? :-0


If you'd like to learn more about the Hapkido System I train under checkout KidoDojo Martial Arts.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do you believe dreams do come true?

I know that sounds like a cliche' but do you really believe dreams can come true? To be perfectly honest, sometimes I have my doubts. And whenever I feel like giving up I "run" across a story like Anna's.

They told her that she couldn't sing and that the best she could hope for was the chorus. Her own voice teacher told her that her voice was just average. But, she didn't let that stop her and at the young age of 16 she moved from her small town in Russia to St. Petersburg to become a singer.

She enrolled in the Conservatory of Music and took a job washing floors at the legendary Mariinsky Theater so that she could enjoy the music at night. And as fate would have it one day she had an opportunity to audition for the Musical Director and as the saying goes, "the rest is history." As we used to say down south, "this girl doesn't sing, she sangs!"

But, she didn't stop there. Being true to who she really was she decided to create music videos for Opera (something never done before) and pose for fashion magazines. I can hear opera fans all over the world screaming blasphemy. Right? Wrong.

Her CDs are some of the most popular and best-selling classical CDs in the world. She even takes the number one spot on several pop charts in Europe over Beyonce' and Brittany Spears. And guess who's one of her favorite musical artist? Luciano Pavarotti or Placido Domingo? Try Justin Timberlake.

But her Diva-ness doesn't stop at fashion magazines and music videos. Being the rebel that she is she doesn't have an entourage' or a limo and frequently just walks around both San Francisco and Russia like a regular person.

Because I was classically-trained as a Baritone back in High School I have a "soft" spot for classical music. And the fact that Anna is drop-dead gorgeous has absolutely nothing to do with my admiration of her work ;-)

So, do you believe dreams do come true? God is no respecter of person and if He did it for Anna, He will do it for you and me! If you need a little motivational boost check out the short videos below. Remember, nothing can stop you but you.

Have a great day and never stop dreaming!

Anna Netrebko on CBS's 60 Minutes - Part 1

Anna Netrebko on CBS's 60 Minutes - Part 2

As an added bonus here's Anna singing Puccini's Quando Me'n Vo La Boheme.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lookin' Good

Happy Wednesday! Just wanted to share a few pics from a little "Spring Cleaning" project I've been working on. Being a highly visual person I like art and have several pieces throughout my home. Well, I've decided to replace the current artwork with my own creations. It's been a slow process but loads of fun. Gotta run, have a great day and never stop dreaming!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Sunset Tribute

Wow, I almost forgot to post an image of Ole' Glory in honor of Memorial Day. Please charge it to my head and not my heart. Here's a sunset tribute to all of the brave men and women who have, and are currently serving, in the Armed Forces of the United States. From one soldier to another - stay strong and come home soon!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Meet Mr. Donnie Yen!

Over the weekend I met up with some of my old training buddies and it was really cool to see everyone again after all of these years. I'll share more in another post but since I'm training again (more to come) I wanted to introduce you to one of the most gifted martial artists to come along in a long time. For some strange reason he is just now beginning to make a name for himself in the US but has been an International superstar for years. Ladies and gentlemen meet Donnie Yen!

Warning: this video clip is a compilation of Donnie's movie fight scenes. Please do not view if you find this type of material offensive.

Here's a little insight into this world-renowned martial artists courtesy of the Discovery Channel. What's nice about his most recent films is that he's moved away from the high-wire Kung Fu work and focuses on real self-defense. He doesn't use wires anymore and performs most of his stunts himself. Plus, he's now incorporated Brazilian-style Jujitsu into his fighting. He's a gifted martial artist, actor and director.

Finally, here's a little known fact about Mr. Yen - his Mom taught him Kung Fu. I wouldn't tease him if I were you...

Look what I found

Happy Memorial Day! Just stopped by to share a little something funny. Look what I found? I haven't had these since I left NYC years ago. We used to always have them at Passover - the exact brand. Not earth shattering but a really cool find.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Reunited with an old friend

Happy Saturday! Just popped in to share a few images with you that are personally very special to me. While I was home I cleared out a storage area for my family and "low and behold" I found my first SLR camera - the mighty Olympus OM-10!

I received this camera as a gift back in High School (that's over 20 years ago). It was a bit pricey for those days but my Mom and Dad thought that my interest in photography was cool and brought it for me. And because of the cost I had it for a whole year before I could get a flash - that explains my love for natural light. ;-)

I put it to good use as I shot stuff for my High School's newspaper and yearbook. I didn't have an open space in my schedule to take a photography class so I would ask the photography teacher questions after school.

This camera has been half way around the world, survived the Ramstein Air Base tragedy, been shipped overseas via boat, and spent the last 12 years living inside of an old/damp/dirty camera bag in 100 degree weather in storage. And get this - it's in great shape, just like I left it.

After several moves I thought it was simply lost. But, just like an old friend we were only separated by time and once reunited simply picked up where we left off. You know I couldn't wait to put a roll of film in it to discover if it worked after all it's been through.

It's not very practical for today's demanding photographic environment, but it was a wonderful experience to go back and shoot stuff "old skool" and fully manual.

So, here's to good ole' fashioned photography and the joys of seeing an old friend after years of being apart. Have a great weekend!

Now this is "old skool!"

Although they no longer have the status and prestige that they used to have, Olympus invented the "through the lens" metering that we all use today. And, the OM series was the first line of SLRs to have this feature.

This is how a lens should be built! Rock solid and metal with a big focus ring.

Now I know why they call Olympus lens fans "Zuikofreaks." This camera came with a 50mm 1.8 prime that is simply amazing! Although some could argue that today's sophisticated coatings make modern lenses sharper than older lenses, this lens is unbelievable in every category that lenses are measured. It is well built, sharp even into the far corners, and the bokeh/depth of field is like nothing you will see from today's lenses. Olympus was always known for producing great lenses and this one is no exception.

And now the feast de' resistance!

If you are interested in learning more check out:
Campedia OM-10 page
pBase OM-10 page (camera images and pages of images created by photographers from all over the world using this camera)
eBay listings (if anyone wants one)
Ramstein airshow disaster dedicated OM photo group

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Hate Traffic!

I hate traffic! I try to understand but over the years I have learned that I can't just sit going nowhere any more. This is what I had to go through this morning to get to work. I don't know, is it me? I hate traffic. I know, maybe I need a helicopter?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This is LOVE!

Happy Wednesday! I'm still getting "back into the swing of things" as it seems like I've been running ever since I returned. Just wanted to share that I'm still on the search for a new car and I'm seriously considering a contest called "Help SamTheMan find a new car." Let me think about the prize.

This is one of the automobiles I looked at as it is me all over. As my close friend Dave Mitchell would say "This is love!" Have a great day and never stop believing!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I won! God is good!

Although I'm out of town this week I do check my email and to my surprise discovered that one of my photos was chosen as the "Photo of the Week" on Calumet Photo's website. Yeah!

This is my 2nd entry and I didn't know if it would make it as my 1st entry was one of my best images and it was rejected. So, I'm really pleased that they choose this image for the week of May 13th.

If you'd like to view it along with their super great gallery of work go to Gotta run, be blessed and I look forward to catching up with you upon my return. :-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Life on the BIG screen

I've always wanted to be on the big screen. As part of the growth of Samuel Barr Photography I've been working really hard on all of my "back end" operations and equipment. And moving to a larger monitor for editing has been simply wonderful. Size does matter and if you can go big - go BIG! Have a great day! :-)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

On the Road Again...

...I feel like singing that old Willy Nelson song. I'm on the road again and I love traveling. I don't know why I like it but I've always enjoyed traveling even as a child so I guess it's in my blood. I'll be away for a "little while" but will still post to my blog as there's been much going on at Samuel Barr Photography.

One of the joys and pains of traveling are the long hours in airports. Recently, I flew through Philadelphia on my way to New York and it was a great time as the Philadelphia airport has changed since the last time I was there. In fact, it reminded me more of a shopping mall than an airport. Given the reputation airports have for high prices I wonder if many people take advantage of this unique shopping experience? Let me ask you - what was the last thing you purchased in an airport and why?

Have a great week and remember - God has blessed us with a big world to live in, try to see as much of it as you can!

The Philadelphia International Airport

I haven't seen one of these since I left the South. They use to have the best Chicken Biscuits. This one only sold their Chicken Biscuits during breakfast. Good thing as Operation Transformation would have been in trouble that day. :-0

Although I enjoy flying I'm not too crazy about these little birdies. This is the plane I flew into NYC. Can you believe that it didn't even have a jet engine?

This was the first time that I've had time to chill at LaGuardia Airport.

I love big images, especially in ads and this is no exception. I found this to be a really cool ad campaign featuring Tiger Woods and just had to share it with you. I can't help it as it is the advertising/marketing guy in me. :-)

It's about that with Marshall

Happy Mother's Day! Every year our local summer tennis tournaments begin with a kick-off mixer on Mother's Day. Since I'm always with my Mom I never get a chance to compete in the first one unless it's rained out. But, when I do get to see all of my friends and get out on the court it's all good. Have a great day and get ready for summer!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It's never too late to start!

While searching for one of my favorite political talk shows I "ran" across this show about young entrepreneurs and this invention. This young man began at 11 years old and is one of the youngest patent holders in history. He didn't start out wanting to create a business, he just wanted to help his friends learn how to play the guitar with ease. What a great idea! And, his story about the very first version of his product is proof that we should never despise humble beginnings. Enjoy and be encouraged as it is never too late to start!

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Perfect Day

Well, the weather cooperated and we had a GREAT time! Surprisingly, Sunday turned out to be one of the most beautiful days I can remember. And, I captured over 900 images. So, I've got my work "cut out" for me and there are some really great shots that I'm looking forward to sharing with you soon. How could Sunday not be a perfect day - great weather, Nikon camera, Nikkor lens and Starbucks. Life is good. Have a great Monday!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Shooting with a few friends...

Happy Saturday! The weather has been yucky so please keep us lifted in prayer as I'm suppose to meet with a group of really gifted nature photographers tomorrow morning to shoot together. I'm really excited about working with these artists so I want to the rain to stop! Rain or not have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Yesterday was a great day! Why? Because our team had a surprise birthday party for our Director at the world-famous Wishbone restaurant. Believe it or not, as long as I've been in Chicago I've never eaten at Wishbones. So, for me this was a much-too-long-coming treat. And, I was not disappointed.

Wishbone is known for it's southern style/Cajun spiced "soul food." Now, I have to admit that having lived in Louisiana and accustomed to real Cajun cooking that I am very hard to please.

Was the food good? Absolutely! Was it like the spicy Cajun food in Louisiana? Not quite. But, to be fair even Wishbone refers to their food as "Southern Reconstruction Cooking" and not Cajun (I was told that it was Cajun cuisine so that's probably why it stuck with me).

I don't recall who shared this with me but I've been told that it is difficult to include the same level of Cajun spices in food outside of Louisiana as it is simply too hot for most people. However, that did not detract from my meal and with the addition of a few spices it was very good. And, I enjoyed our experience so much that I will return soon to sample their world-famous breakfast menu.

So, if you're ever in the Windy City and like soul food with a Southern twist then make it a point to check out Wishbone. Bon Appetite!

In addition to a nice meal you will also enjoy a cozy and contemporary environment. Throughout the restaurant were lots of really colorful and interesting pieces of art.

The lunch menu - life is good!

This is a glass of Wishbone's very own Strawberry Lemonade. And "yes" it was good!!!

This was my lunch/dinner - blackened catfish, collard greens with macaroni and cheese. For all of the Operation Transformation supporters pray for me as I did my best.