showing some love (including a giveaway)

I picked Alex up from her summer program yesterday, and told her I wanted to stop at the grocery store to pick up some flowers.  "I need to practice shooting with my new lens," I said.

"Okay, Mom.  But can I have one of the flowers for my bedroom?"

"Absolutely.  You can even help me pick out the bouquet."

So, in an unprecedented departure from "pink" and "purple," she chose a red bouquet.  I'm still a bit stunned.

And she chose one of the roses for her room. 

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So, about that new lens:  in anticipation of my trip to Kenya, I realized that the time had come to purchase a wide-angle lens.  Since I mostly photograph faces and flowers and other macro shots, I've never really much considered owning a wide-angle; that said, there was no way I was going to go to the land of expansive savannahs without one.  And so, I headed over to my favourite camera store in Houston, Houston Camera Exchange, to do a bit of shopping.  It dawned on me that I've never really talked about my camera store online before, and frankly, it's about high time I showed them some love (for those who might not be interested in what makes a good camera store, feel free to skip to the bottom).

Let me start by saying that if I had to come up with one wish for the world, and "world peace" wasn't allowed, I'm pretty sure that I would wish that every town on the planet have a local camera store like Houston Camera Exchange.  I bought my very first camera there back in 1994, and since then, I don't think I've ever bought a single camera or camera-related accessory anywhere else.  And the reasons don't have anything to do with their vast inventory or their prices (even though, as you can see above, they certainly are big enough to have a huge inventory; in addition, I've never found their prices to be outrageous).  The reasons are the following (and are also why, if you're a photographer, you should look for a really good local camera store in or near your town, as well):

1.  All this store does is sell cameras, and camera-related equipment.  This isn't a camera store that also does photo-processing. Or sell printers and printer-cables. Or TVs.  This means that their expertise runs strong and deep.  There isn't a new product that they don't know about, or an old product they can't tell you about.  They'll buy your old camera and sell you a new one.  And in addition to cameras, lenses and memory cards, they sell bags.  Books.  Portfolios. Camera straps.  Antiques.  This place is like a photography wonderland, and I could spend hours wandering its aisles (and admittedly, often do).

2.  Every employee I've ever dealt with there is an avid photographer.  Trust me, these people know photography.  My salesperson yesterday, Larry, even runs several photo safaris each year, in places like Alaska, Costa Rica, and Botswana, for heaven's sake.  And these guys always teach me something.  In fact, yesterday, after spending, no kidding, an hour and a half with me helping me choose a lens, Larry took me outside and showed me how to use my new polarizing filter.  How awesome is that?

3.  On several occasions, the employees have kept me from spending too much money.  Yesterday was a classic example:  I came in with a specific Nikon lens in mind, and after talking to Larry, with him asking me what I was interested in shooting, why I wanted the lens, that sort of thing, he talked me into a far better Tamron lens for half the price.  The folks at HCS don't get paid on commission, so they are incentivized to make sure that customers actually purchase what they need.  And yesterday wasn't the first time I walked out having saved money.  They're awesome.

The moral of the story:  If you're planning on buying any major camera equipment, I strongly suggest that you find a camera specialty store to help you with your research and purchase.  If you find one, it is worth its weight in gold, and the relationships that you make can help you save tons of money in the long run (because they know you, how you shoot, and what you need).  Also, if you live in Houston, are a photographer, and don't shop at Houston Camera Exchange?  Well, I don't even know what to say.  Except you should change your ways.  They're seriously that amazing, really.  You should check them out.

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And finally, it's time to show you some love:  last week I mentioned I wanted to do some giveaways of The Beauty of Different leading up to my birthday -- and what better day than Love Thursday, I'm thinking?  So please leave a comment below, wherever in the world you are, and I'll pick a winner at random to win a signed copy of the book.

Thanks, friends.  I'll announce the winner in tomorrow's post.

And of course, happy Love Thursday.


(P.S.  Apropos of nothing, my latest post -- on sexiness! -- is up over at Own Your Beauty.  Saucy.)


Images:  Both photographed with my Nikon D300, and my new Tamron 17-50mm wide-angle lens.  Top photo:  aperture 2.8, shutter speed 1/800, ISO 1000.  Bottom photo:  aperture 2.8, shutter speed 1/60, ISO 400.


Song: Summertime, as performed by Scarlett Johansson