Awesome Dad Stuff: Tonka Trucks


It’s all coming back to me.

This afternoon I took my daughter on a trip to the park. This particular park has a huge sand pit. When I say huge I mean like the size of a football field. It had rained the day before so was kind of icky. I never actually took my daughter out of her stroller. However I did get to take some pictures that reminded me of my childhood.

I think every guy my age grew up with Tonka trucks. The Tonka trucks of my youth were big and metal. They were toys that were meant to be beat upon and still keep rolling. My friends and I spent countless hours out in the back yard playing with three giant yellow Tonka trucks. The trucks stayed in the back yard sand box 24/7. I don’t recall ever bringing them in the house. They with stood snow, rain, and 100 degree days. Sure over time the paint peeled and they rusted, but such was the life of a Tonka truck. Over the years pieces broke off, but the trucks were still great fun.

So today at the park I see these three Tonka trucks and had a flash back to the sand box of my youth. These modern Tonka trucks are plastic. They are still big, and they are still tough. These trucks like the ones in my youth have been left out in the elements, they have been broken. They are still fun though. Kids play with these trucks everyday and have a ball.

Being a father is the most incredible experience I could have ever asked for. I knew that I was going to have a blast raising my daughter. What I did not expect was to relive my childhood. With each new phase of her life I am brought back to my own childhood. I try to see life though her eyes. When I try I go back to that place when I was a child. It brings me such joy to watch my daughter have some of the same experiences that I had.


Cool Dad Stuff: Baseball


Its beginning to look a lot like baseball.

As we march forward into spring I have started to watch preseason baseball. Growing up baseball was my favorite sport. If I was not inside playing my saxophone or piano I was outside with a baseball and a glove. I would play pitch with anyone that could throw the ball.

When I was growing up I lived on a dead end street with just two houses. It just so happened that my best friend lived across the street from me. Him and his little brother also loved baseball. We spent countless hours playing baseball in the street. The three of us would go around and gather up all of the other neighborhood kids for a game.

The games were epic. When I look back on those games I imagine we had 50-60 kids out there playing ball in the street. I’m sure it was really only like 10 of us but we felt like heros. We never had an audience but we had our imaginations. When the pitch came we would swing for the fences or rather the cornfield at the end of the street.

Baseball always brings me back to the dog days of summer in my hometown of Owensboro, Ky. It was a magical time. I can only hope that as my daughter ages that she will get to have similar memories of childhood.

Potty Training: Part 1

Potty Training

It is with great trepidation that I announce that we begin potty training. At Em’s 18 month appointment the Doctor said it was time. We picked a seat, we waited, now it is time.

The day after Em’s appointment my wife and I set out to find the perfect potty chair. We looked at internet reviews, we went to the store and “tested” them setting each one on the floor and having Em sit. After much trial and error we came to a consensus on the potty chair. We took our bright new potty chair home and…

We took it out of the box. We sat it in Em’s bathroom and it has sat. We keep the door to the bathroom closed. So the potty chair has never been sat on since it left the store. I guess the reason is simple we have been lazy. We have not really started teaching Em about the potty chair yet. Also there is something kind of scary about moving from changing your kids diaper to them going on their own. We have to loose a little bit of the control that we had on our kids life.

The time is now. I decided earlier today that it has been over a month we have to start the process. One of our friends has trained their kid on how to go to the potty in this time. Yes they have a 19mo old baby boy that goes on the potty chair like a champ.

We have the chair, it is set up, and the time is now. I’m sure I will have plenty of adventures in potty training to share. I do not wish to receive any tips or advice on this process. I do however welcome awesome stories.

Music: My Experience

My alto saxophone from high school.

My alto saxophone from high school.

Music has played a huge role in my life. I started playing music in third grade. Since that time I have learned how to play the piano, the saxophone, guitar, and ukulele. I can pick up most any instrument and play. These days I spend a lot of time sharing the joy of music with my daughter.

The first instrument that I learned to play was the piano. I practiced 30 min every day no matter what for years. My first piano teacher taught me to play by ear. I can remember those early years when I would put a record on my parents record player in the living room and try to play along. I can remember being sent home with a tape of some basic music and being assigned to be able to play it when I returned. It was awesome training. My first music teacher also taught me to read music. I was only the second kid in my class at school that knew how to read music.

In 5th grade I picked up the saxophone. My teacher was the middle school band teacher Mr. Morton. He took tons of time with me. I may have only practiced the piano for 30 min a day, but I spent hours a day playing the saxophone. I honestly don’t know how my parents were able to take the sounds. My parents only had to put up with the sounds coming out of my saxophone for a short time each day. I practiced at the middle school from the time school let out until my Grandmother picked me up after school.

The saxophone got me really involved in music. I was in the middle school band starting in 6th grade. I was the only 6th grader that got to be in the Jazz band which was reserved for 8th graders. Mr. Morton turned me on to Jazz, I started listening to all of the Jazz greats. I also was involved in every solo and ensemble competition that I was able to do.

In 7th grade I was able to get one of my best friends to join the band with me. We used to stay up late at his house on nights before competitions and practice our solos. I’m sure his parents were quite pleased with us, but they never said a word.

The summer before 8th grade I got to trade in my beginner saxophone on the one in the picture. It was a huge improvement. Beginner horns just do not allow you to have the tone that you can get with a professional horn. The action is quicker, and they are just set up to be way more playable. I have played this horn for 15 years. It was one of the best investments that my parents ever made in me.

I played saxophone all the way though high school. I played in marching band for all four years of high school. I was the only freshman that got to play 1st Alto Sax in the marching band. Then I was the only freshman in years that got to sit 1st Alto Sax in concert band. The next year I was lucky enough to move up to symphonic band, where I again made 1st chair Alto Sax. In high school in addition to playing in the marching band, concert band, and symphonic band, I also played in jazz band, and the basketball pep band.

In high school I also picked up playing guitar. My first guitar was a Fender American Strat. I played that thing till my fingers bled. It is an awesome guitar. For high school graduation my parents bought me a Martin HD-28. This is my favorite guitar.

In college I stopped playing the saxophone for the most part. I played saxophone in a ska band for a little while, but really did not click with the guys. I also tried playing saxophone in the basketball pep band, but I had a class when they met for rehersals. So I kind of stopped playing saxophone for awhile. My Martin HD-28 was my instrument of choice though college.

College was an amazing time. I was a political science and history major, but the majority of my time was spent with a few music majors that I met during orientation. I played my guitar in their dorm rooms and really did not study much…

These days I play a lot of saxophone, piano, guitar, and uke for my daughter. She loves listening to me play music. We also listen to a lot of music. As a parent I feel that I have to teach her as much as possible about music. I am trying to expose her to a broad array of music ranging from classical, jazz, blues, rock, country etc. I hope that she will be able to find the joy though music that I have been able to find. I fear that my daughter will never get the formal music education in public schools that I did because of budget cuts. Music is always one of the first things that goes in schools.

Cool Dad Stuff: Canon 50mm f/1.4

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The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is an awesome pice of Dad Gear. If you are looking for a great lens for cheap to compliment your Canon DSLR this is a lens to check out. This lens is fast to focus, and has a fast aperture which will allow you to get fast shutter speeds. This lens has excellent bokeh for the money, however compared to the higher end 50mm lenses it is rather harsh. This lens is extremely sharp. The value for the money for this lens is outstanding.

I purchased my copy of the Canon 50mm f1.4 back in October of 2007. This was my first ever Canon lens. Thus I found it a great place to start on my lens reviews. I purchased my Canon 50mm f1.4 with my Canon 1DMKIII. This is an excellent affordable lens.

I can actually still remember the day that I got this lens from fed-ex. I was excited beyond words to be receiving this lens and the 1DMKIII. I compared this lens to the Nikon 50mm f1.8 AFD that I was using at the time with my Nikon D70s body. When compared to the Nikon 50mm f1.8 AFD I initially flet that the Nikon was the superior lens. The Nikon felt a little nicer in hand. After using the Canon 50mm f1.4 for the last five years my opion has changed and I now prefer the Canon despite some of its flaws which we will get into later.

The Canon 50mm f1.4 is a well built lens for the cost. It has a metal mount, and plastic body. The lens feels good in the hand. It is much lighter than the Canon 50mm f1.2 L. Compared to the 50mm f1.8 the 1.4 is significantly heavier but not that much bigger in size. The lens is similar in construction to the 85mm f1.8.

I have shot a lot with both the 50mmL and with the 50mm f1.4. I personally prefer the 50mm f1.4. The 50mm f1.4 focuses faster than the 1.2. The 1.4 has a lot less glass to move. Also I prefer the way the f1.4 does manual focus with the f1.2 it feels like the focus ring is not attached to anything it uses a fly by wire system to electronically move the elements. The f1.4 is much more dampened. I also find that achieving accurate focus no matter the f stop is much easer with the 1.4. The biggest benefit of the cheaper f1.4 lens is the weight. The 1.4 is a much lighter lens to carry around. Optically the f1.2 does produce a more pleasing bokeh. Otherwise I have found that both lenses are capable of excellent sharpness. When compared to the 50mm f1.8 I think the f1.4 is the all around nicer lens. I have found the bokeh on the f1.8 to be more harsh and found the 1.8 to be more prone to flare. The 50mm f1.5 does have its own set of challenge though.

I have had my copy of the 50f1.4 for close to five years. It has been used in all sorts of conditions. The 50mm f1.4 is not a weather sealed lens. I have never really needed weather sealing. I have taken tens of thousands of images with this lens. Over the years it has started to show some signs of wear. The focus motor makes some noise as it focuses and compared to a new 50f1.4 mine focuses a little slower. Also during manual focus it feels like something is kind of grinding inside the lens. However the optical performance and keeper rate of the lens has not changed. Optically this lens is pretty good I won’t go into depth here though as it has been covered elsewhere.

I plan on posting a video of the focus noise later.

In short the 50mm f1.4 is a great lens for the money. When you buy this lens don’t expect it to have the build quality of a Zeiss or even the build quality of the L. The build quality is excellent for the money though. For the price of the more expensive lenses you can buy this one several times and not worry about it. Honestly I just prefer this lens over the L.

I have been on the search for another 50mm lens. I have re-examined the 50 mm L, the 1.8, the Sigma f1.4, the Zeiss f1.4 and also the Zeiss f2. Out of all the 50mm lenses avalable for the Canon mount the 50mm f1.4 is my second favorite. The Zeiss 50mm f2 is my favorite. Unfortunately the Zeiss 50mm f2. is crazy expensive and way more expensive than I am willing to pay for a 50mm lens.

So if you are on the fence about a 50mm lens for Canon go check out the f1.4 you will not regret it. It is a very good quality lens with great optics. The lens does have its tradeoffs but when you weight them out it is a great lens.

Cool Dad Stuff: White’s Boots


Dads have to be cool too. So I am introducing you guys to some of the coolest boots on the market. White’s Semi Dress boots to be specific. There are some seriously questionable dad style options going on. So here is my contribution to making dads a little cooler.

In December of 2009 I came across White’s boots at my favorite clothing store. From the second I first saw them I was in love. Above is a picture of my White’s Semi Dress boots that I purchased in 2009. They have seen daily wear since that time.

These boots are rugged, and they are cool. They are hand made in Washington state by some amazing craftsmen. They use only the highest grades of materials for their boots. They are fully rebuildable boots. These boots will last you a lifetime.

These boots are as comfortable to wear on the job site, in the office, or to kick around on the weekends as they are cool. They come in both the leather sole option pictured above or with a Vibram rubber sole. They do take awhile to break in. After the break in period they are amazing.

They work well with jeans, and also they go great with other casual attire. They have the classic work wear look and feel.

Anyway dads these are some awesome boots that can kick up your personal style.

Friday Night

It is Friday night at 8:30pm and my wife and I are laying in bed with our computers on, while watching ESPN. This is our lives. We put our daughter to bed an hour ago. It is not the most exciting thing ever, but there is a place and a time for it. Work life balance. This should be the last Friday like this for awhile.

I am constantly struggling with the work and family balance. This week has been particularly bad. I have a few big projects going. I am creating a new portfolio, retouching a huge project, had a huge shoot, and am switching from Nikon to Canon.

I am in the process of creating a new portfolio to show to some advertising agencies that I have not worked with. So in addition to my normal work I am having to edit a new portfolio, and then shoot what I need to add to the portfolio. I get to do this on top of my normal work and my personal work. I have one of the creative directors that I work with laying out my portfolio for printing and creating some new marketing pieces with me. With a little bit of work I think this project is going to win at least a local addy award. A bit part of being in my profession is showing portfolios of your work to agencies. I have slacked off on this for the last five years. Putting a portfolio together to show the best of five years and show where I want to go is a tough thing.

I am working on retouching some files for a doctors office that I photographed two weeks ago. I have about 20 files left and I want to finish them this weekend. So I will be up until at least midnight working. Then I will be up by 6am before my wife and my daughter to try and wrap up and get things going for the morning. Retouching interiors and exteriors is not the worlds hardest work, but it can be time consuming to ensure that everything is straight, and all of the colors and tones are consistent.

I’m also in the process of switching from Canon to Nikon. This is going to be a great move for me. The files from the Nikon D800 are way better than anything coming from Canon. Selling my old gear is actually pretty time consuming. On Monday I have some Nikon gear arriving at the house that I can’t wait for.

We do have some cool stuff going on though. Today we had some amazing weather so my daughter and I were able to go to the park for a few hours this afternoon. This weekend we plan on going to the aquarium and taking a walk.

Anyway it is time for me to get back to work.