Memories of Sammy

Sammy hanging out on the kitchen counter.

Sammy hanging out on the kitchen counter.

(NOTE: I wrote this on the day I lost a very special cat on October 22, 2015. Sammy came into my life as a “foster cat” waiting for an opening at a local pet store. As a full grown cat, I felt his chances for being purchased were slim as most people are drawn to the cute little kittens that are bundles of energy.)

Here he comes, dashing across the yard to greet me. The most affectionate cat I’ve ever been blessed with.

He rises up on his hind paws and gently steadies himself against my leg. We make eye contact. I reach down to caress his chin. He purrs softly.

Later, I observe him lying by the patio door, his soft black fur soaking in the late afternoon sun. He looks so peaceful. I think to myself, “Oh, what a cat’s life!”

Sammy vying for my attention as he takes his place on my laptop.

Sammy vying for my attention as he takes his place on my laptop.

It’s now 8:30 in the evening. I settle onto the couch to relax before bed with my bride of 35 years, ready to watch TV and do some web surfing on my laptop. Oh, but Sammy saunters into the room and decides he’ll have nothing of it. He jumps onto the cushion next to me – vying for my attention. Who can resist those beautiful golden eyes as we, again, catch each other’s gaze. Off goes the laptop and on comes Sammy as he warmly curls onto my lap.

Sammy won my heart over on his first night at our home when he followed me to bed and curled up next to me. Most nights he would roll onto his side and lay his paw on my chest.

Sammy won my heart over on his first night at our home when he followed me to bed and curled up next to me. Most nights he would roll onto his side and lay his paw on my chest.

Time for bed and “Mr. Sam” faithfully follows me upstairs. I snuggle under the covers and he cuddles up next to me. He rolls onto his side and lovingly places his paw across my chest. It’s almost like a child saying, “Daddy, I love you.” I caress his head, he purrs, we both fall asleep. All is good with the world.

3:15 a.m. – My alarm clocks wakes us and we head down to the kitchen. Sammy awaits his usual treat as I grab my cereal. He heads to the patio door for his early morning check of the neighborhood. He pauses as I open the door, sniffs the cool, early morning air, and looks up at me before he cautiously heads out. Is that a wink that I see as I close the door behind him?

Then I’m off to work.

I return about 6:15 p.m. No Sammy to greet me. That’s OK; he’s probably enjoying the last of the nice autumn days before the cold, “lake effect” snows of Lake Erie arrive. He’ll be home soon.

It’s now 9:30 p.m. – time to get to bed because of my early morning start. Still no “Samster.” Well, not the first time that he’s been out all night. Probably checking in with a “lady friend.”

2:00 a.m. – Can’t sleep. I just don’t feel right about Sammy being out all night. Just a few weeks earlier, he lost a “battle” with a skunk. He still has a faint odor from that ordeal. I check all the doors he typically comes-and-goes from. I call his name several times. Still no Sammy.

3:30 a.m. – I leave for work, concerned that I may never see my “little buddy” again.

8:45 a.m. – The dreaded phone call comes. It’s my wife, choking back tears, telling me that she may have passed Sammy lying on the side of the road near our house. She couldn’t bring herself to stop and confirm her fears. I jump in my car, worried what I might find as I race home.

9:30 a.m. – Fear confirmed. Sammy’s svelte body and sweet little face show the ravaging effects of being hit by a car. I kneel over my loving friend, tears streaming onto his dirt-covered fur. I scoop him into my arms, walk to the tree line along my back yard, and kneel down over him as tears stream down my face. My hand rests on his lifeless body for the last time.

Sammy and I

Sammy and I

A little while later, I have finished preparing his final resting place among the trees he used to hunt moles and mice. I gently lay him in his earthly grave, say my final farewell and tell him someday we’ll meet again on the other side of the “Rainbow Bridge.”

I find it interesting that while your loved one is alive, every experience you have with that pet or person is “in-the-moment” – you enjoy it as it happens. The instant they’re gone – those experiences suddenly become memories – the only thing you have left to recall the special time you had with your loved one.

So all I have now are the beautiful memories of the sweet, loving kitty that had been my faithful companion about 10 years. He was unlike most cats… more like a dog in his faithfulness.

I only wish I could “download” all those special moments from my mind and into an album. As time passes, many of the special memories of my Sammy will fade away. I can only look forward to the day that we are reunited in heaven – both of us as we were in happier times.

Rest in peace my little friend.

I Love You,

“Dad”

 

Amazing USB flash drive is a business card on steroids!

Here I am showing the front and back of my newest marketing product - a USB thumbdrive/business card that I can hand to or mail to my clients and prospects. It has gotten a lot of positive feedback from my recipients. In fact, a couple business owners have asked me to create one to better market THEIR products and services!

Here I am showing the front and back of my newest marketing product – a USB flash drive/business card.

Every so often, an amazing product grabs my attention that I just gotta have!

Recently, I was contacted by USB Memory Direct to try a sample of their USB flash drives. I've seen these at trade shows where exhibitors give them away with their logo and website imprinted on them. I always thought they were a pretty cool way of promoting a company.

When I visited the USB Memory Direct website, I was blown away by all the unique styles, shapes and colors they offered. I was even more impressed that companies like, Yelp, Sunoco, Kodak, Intel, Toyota and many other Fortune 500 companies were using them. Now I could finally join the “big boys” with my own custom flash drive!

USB Thumbdrive Business Card

I customized the front of my USB flash drive/business card with my own photo of Cleveland and my logo. The back of the card has additional space for a custom message.

I chose a business card style flash drive that gave me a TON of room on the front and back to encourage the recipient to plug it into their computer and watch our marketing videos and read a PDF listing the services we offer. I even include clickable links within the PDF that will automatically open any web browser to take the viewer to specific pages on my website for information about each service.

With this “business card,” I have a great way to grab the attention of a potential client at a networking event, Chamber of Commerce meeting, party, etc.

Oh, did I mention that the recipient can also use the card to save THEIR own digital files? With 8 GB of storage, there's still plenty of space to add their own documents and photos. Even if they delete my marketing videos and PDF, they still have my contact info on the front and back of the card! And you can bet anyone who sees my card will be curious about the unusual style flash drive with the scenic photo of Cleveland on it.

My flash drive/business cards have gotten a lot of positive feedback from my recipients. In fact, a couple business owners have asked me to create one to better market THEIR products and services!

I am so impressed with the quality and functionality of these flash drives that I asked to become a reseller for USB Memory Direct. You will pay the same price if you order through me and get the personal attention of a local representative who can also handle your special graphic design and marketing needs.

Want to discover how these USB flash drive/business cards can take your marketing to the next level? Contact me here.

 

CLEveland ROCKS! And we have the building to prove it

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Mark Madere | SpectraLight Photography)

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Cleveland, Ohio (Photo: Mark Madere | SpectraLight Photography)

Probably the most iconic building in Cleveland, Ohio is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As a photographer, I just love the distinct design created by world renowned architect, I. M. Pei. Almost every view of the building offers a unique view of Lake Erie or the downtown skyline.

See more views of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and order art prints here.

 

Lauren and Josh – Dancing with the Stars?

(NOTE: You can spin the video all around by clicking on it and moving your cursor in any direction.)

Lauren and Josh Allen decided to celebrate their one-year anniversary with portraits taken in their wedding attire at Huntington Beach… in DECEMBER! All I could say was BRRRRRRR!

Lauren was a SpectraLight Photography SpokesModel when she was in high school and took AMAZING photos. I was thrilled when she called and asked me to do something unique for their anniversary photos. We created poses that were inspired by the hit TV show, “Dancing With the Stars.” #DWTS

Fashion Photography from my Art Institute of Pittsburgh days

Lynn Agee was an amazing model during my college days at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Lynn Agee at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh – posing for a class photo assignment at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 1978 or 1979.

The route to my degree in Specialized Technology – majoring in Photography/Multi-Media allowed me to explore the field of fashion photography while at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP).

Two main challenges were finding models on a budget (Hey, I was a student paying for most of my education!) and finding unique locations to impress the profs.

I was fortunate to have a roommate who had an attractive girlfriend who was willing to pose for some of my class assignments.

Lynn Agee was an Interior Design student at AIP without formal modeling experience. She also had a car (which I didn't) so we were able to scout out some pretty cool locations around Pittsburgh.

The location for this particular assignment was Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts – a performing arts center and concert hall located in the Cultural District in downtown Pittsburgh. After all these years, I can't recall how I was able to finagle time at this prestigious location!

Lynn chose her outfit, I lugged in some tungsten lights to match the illumination on Lynn with the color temperature of the lighting in the hall and the result were some stunning photos of a beautiful subject – both the model and the building.

Not only did I get an “A” for this assignment, but I grew to love the challenge of fashion photography created on-location – one of many experiences that continues to serve me well as a portrait photographer creating glamour photos, high school senior portraits and family portraits throughout the U.S. today.

Here are some videos of high school senior girls that show how my portrait style has evolved since Lynn's photo shoot.

High school senior SpokesModel photos created in the Cleveland area.

High school senior SpokesModel photos created in the Cleveland area.

Do you like this article? Please comment here and share on your favorite social media sites!

Cleveland Arctic Plunge – Another one for the “bucket list”

Call it “midlife crisis” or just a little insanity. Last Saturday was my latest “bucket list” moment as I joined dozens of Northeast Ohioans for the 2015 Arctic Plunge at Edgewater Park near downtown Cleveland.

After jumping out of a perfectly good airplane two years ago, I thought it would be fun to dive into the frigid waters of an icy Lake Erie to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Team Fox (Parkinson's Disease), University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and Westshore Critical Incident Response Services.

Before taking the plunge, I videotaped my fellow “plungees” (plungers?) as they entered the water like sheep being lead to their slaughter. There were plenty of whoops and laughter as they proceeded in single file down the narrow channel that had just been carved out of the frozen lake by an excavator.

Then it was my turn. I peeled of my winter coat and pants, removed my socks and shoes, turned on my chest-mounted GoPro camera and ran into the lake in my t-shirt and shorts. Good times!

Surprisingly, while the water was cold, it really was quite bearable. The biggest issue I encountered were the chunks of ice floating on and below the water surface. I had a number of cuts and bruises on my lower legs when I finished.

When I got back to the registration tent, someone called a paramedic to attend to my bloodied legs. While he doused the cuts with hydrogen peroxide (which I couldn't feel due to the numbness of my legs), I asked him how many people his crew had treated. Almost apologetically he said, “Well, you're about the only one.” Proud moment for me – NOT!

Have you ever jumped in a frigid lake for a good cause? What was YOUR experience like? Please comment here.

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Low camera angles can add visual interest to portraits

Senior-Pictures-Cleveland-Ridgeville-Olmsted-Tori-Pishkula

Sometimes, you just gotta “take one for the team” to get an interesting portrait. Click the photo to see it bigger. (Photo of me lying on the ground by Colleen Pishkula)

Over the years, I've found some of the best portraits require climbing a ladder or laying on the floor or ground.

Olmsted Falls High School class of 2015 student, Tori Pishkula, her mom, Colleen, and I set out for a “photo safari” in The Flats near downtown Cleveland this summer to create something a little different for Tori's senior portraits.

When we came across this lift bridge, I fell in love with it's massive structure and metal girders criss-crossing at 90 degree angles. When I viewed Tori and the bridge at Tori's level, the size and “power” of the bridge just wasn't obvious. Laying on the ground and shooting up at Tori with the bridge rising up behind her solved the problem.

Notice that I positioned Tori slightly left of the center of the photo so as not to block the view of the entrance to the bridge. I also posed her close to the camera so she stands out beautifully against the background. Most amateur photographers would typically place the person at the entrance of the bridge where they become lost in the photo.

Do you have any photo-related questions that you would like to have answered? It can be about composition, exposure, Photoshop techniques, cameras… the sky's the limit! I will answer them here and sometimes create a video to give a better visual explanation.

Just post your questions in “Comments” under the title of this post.

Fireworks photos with a unique twist – these aren’t your mamma’s snapshots

 

Fourth of July fireworks get a new look with simple-to-use software that almost anyone can master in minutes! This photo was taken by North Ridgeville photographer, Mark Madere - a portrait and commercial photographer covering Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

Fourth of July fireworks get a new look with simple-to-use software that almost anyone can master in minutes! This photo was taken by North Ridgeville photographer, Mark Madere – a portrait and commercial photographer covering Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

For years I've been bored with photographing fireworks. Fighting the crowds to get a good spot, dealing with hot and humid July weather, bugs, crying children… the list goes on. I'd much rather stay home and chill-out with the Mrs. – UNTIL NOW!

I recently read an article by a photographer who captured some great fireworks photos. He gave the technical settings that he used for beautiful shots that were taken over a scenic lake. His photos inspired me to see if I could create images unlike any I've made before.

So I set out for the annual fireworks display in my town – North Ridgeville, Ohio. The weather was cool and comfortable for a July evening. I was able to stake out a spot by the lake where the fireworks would be launched. The bugs weren't annoying either (I think they preferred the taste of those around me.) And the crying children? It's amazing what ear plugs can mask out!

For 20+ minutes I shot photos with my Nikon D90 camera mounted to a tripod with exposures ranging from one to four seconds at f/11 at ISO 100. If you don't have a clue about the settings I just covered – have no fear! It seems that anyone can get decent photos with just about any camera – even with smart phones. If you already have photos you wish to add some excitement to – read on!

When I loaded the photos onto my computer – I was UNDERwhelmed by what I had captured. They looked similar to the old, boring photos I'd taken in the past.

I played with some Photoshop filters to see if I could add some pizazz to the images but nothing really excited me. I then opened a photo in an inexpensive software program (Star Effects by Topaz Labs) that I've used to spice up some photos from previous travels.  The two photos in this article were created with just a couple mouse clicks using Star Effects.

Topaz Labs is a company that has created several easy-to-use photo effects programs that can be used without even reading the instruction manual – well, at least after the initial install. It has a simple user interface that will have you creating photo masterpieces in minutes.

I found myself immersed for hours in the software as I created countless variations of each image.

To see how easy Star Effects is to use, I created this short video. Let me know what you think with a comment on this article.

By-the-way, Topaz Labs has a 15% discount available if you purchase through this link: http://www.topazlabs.com/515.html. Just enter 15topaz at checkout.

Have fun!

Mark’s embarrassing moment with John Lanigan on Majic 105.7

 

Now that John Lanigan, the popular and sometimes controversial radio host/DJ has retired, I thought I'd share an awkward moment I had with him during an on-air visit to Cleveland radio station WMJI.

I was invited to appear on a COSE sponsored segment where member businesses try to stump the DJs with the type of business they own. After guessing that I owned a portrait studio, John Lanigan then asked if I did nude photos. To be clear – I DON’T do nude photos although I have done several glamour sessions over the years – all done in a tasteful fashion. Any way, my mind began to race as I began to sweat while I quickly formulated my response. How do you think I did? What would YOU have said? Please comment below!

Click here for the two minute interview on WMJI

Fix grainy photos with amazingly affordable software

Topaz DeNoise - easily fix grainy photos

Topaz DeNoise – easily fix grainy photos

Shooting pictures under low light has always been a choice between getting a photo that looks too dark (underexposed) or using a fast camera ISO so the photo exposure looks just right. The only problem with either choice is the photo looks “grainy” compared to one taken with adequate light.

Fortunately, there is a company that has created a solution to those grainy images. Topaz Labs offers a software called DeNoise that will allow you to:

  •  Raise your ISO without any fear

    Recover up to the equivalent of 4 stops of light. DeNoise can make ISO 1600 look like ISO 100. Use that extra light to get shots you otherwise couldn't.

  •  Recover image detail hidden in noise

    Unlike other tools, DeNoise uses information from the whole image to remove noise and recover detail. This is far more effective than other methods.

  •  Shoot faster and clearer in less light

    It's like buying a new lens or camera. You can now freeze action better (with a faster shutter speed) or get a wider depth of field (with a narrower aperture).

  •  Gain peace of mind about image quality

    Make sure your image quality is as good as it can possibly be in all areas. Handle edge cases like debanding, shadow tone restoration, and color casts.

  •  Use it wherever you edit photos

    Topaz DeNoise plugs into your existing workflow. Get it as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, and many more existing products.

  •  Get answers to questions at any time

    We're as dedicated to you as you are to your photography. Get dedicated support and free product upgrades for life.

Save 50% off DeNoise if you get it by March 31, 2014 when you click this link.

Do you have photos that look grainy from underexposure or from using a high ISO when you took the picture? Please comment on your experience with Topaz Labs DeNoise.