Monthly Archives: June 2012

Getting a Good Moon Shot with a D-SLR

Super Moon Shot


Many customers have asked how to get a good moon shot. A good moon shot is one thing; one must realize better moon shots are obtained with a camera t-mounted to a celestial tracking telescope. So, as an average consumer, this is a fine example of what is possible without a having to apply for a grant or some sort of federal loan…

First off, you will need at least a 300 mm lens. You won’t get an image like this with less. Ideally, a quality higher focal length lens would be sweet – take Tamron’s 200-500mm f/5-6.3 for example; it’s a great lens and easy on wallet (relatively speaking of course).  This was shot using what we call a standard 300mm zoom lens to prove a low-cost point, it was Sigma’s APO 70-300 f/4-5.6 on a Canon 40D – initially not cheap, but can be found at a reasonable “used” price in today’s market. The aperture was set high to achieve a maximum sharpness at f/13. The ISO was set to the 40D’s native low: ISO100. Finally, the shutter speed was set to 1/25th of a second. It may be tempting to go for a long exposure with the shutter speed in actual seconds, but one has to remember the earth rotates and it’s this movement which will cause blur in the image (we’re not sure where that barrier is off the top-of-our-heads, but we’ve seen it). Back to the celestial tracker for that!

Second, you’ll need a good tripod. Not your average compact pocket camera tripod either – a Sunpack will hardly do - a good quality one like an Induro, Benro or even a Bogen/Manfrotto tripod that can be had for 150.00 or less. It may not sound like less, but there are a lot of higher priced ones out there; carbon-fiber anyone?

Third, you’ll want to trigger the shutter remotely: let’s face it, it’s hard to keep your hands still isn’t it? Much less with an entire camera system in those hands right? Wired or wireless will do, but do note wireless especially works better if you’re the get-all excited type like us (we get highly animated with our hands). We shot this one with a Promaster Sys-Pro Wireless Remote using the Canon 40D’s “mirror up” option . Please note, some cameras label this as a “Quiet Shooting Mode”. This is important for a good moon shot: it eliminates even the slightest vibration caused by the mirror movement. What is mirror movement? It’s the actual “click” we hear in a camera; the sound of the mirror getting up and out of the way - after having done its job of metering and focusing – hitting the upper edge of the body cavity behind the lens. If your camera “clicks” taking this shot, you’re not shooting quiet or “mirror up”. Properly done, you should only hear a slight “ssssshsssss” swish sound as the shutter electronically slides open-and-closed. Someone smart out there may be wondering, “Couldn’t this be done using the camera’s 2-second or 10-second timer instead?” Possibly, but rare. Most cameras don’t combine that feature with the “mirror up” option unless you’ve paid buku bucks for the body in the first place and in that case, please find it within you to give us a grant so we can write about that…

On the first push of the remote, the camera’s mirror goes up and then you wait - we waited five seconds for the “mirror up” movement to work it’s way out of the system – and then press the remote a second time to actually take the shot. Remember you should only hear the swishy sound of the shutter movement at this point. Ah, perfect.

Okay, so you’ve done all this and the image is just a big, bright, blurry blob right? It’s all out of focus you say. I can’t even get that blurry blob picture you say. Here is a detailed method point: you have to manually focus the thing. With something that big, hard to miss, but its reflecting a lot of light (the sun to be exact), and most camera focusing systems are thrown off by it. If left in autofocus, the lens may just move back and forth and jitter a lot before coming to a stop, or if the lens is in manual, it may just sit there and not allow any shot at all bringing us to another detailed method point: both the camera and lens have to be in manual if you haven’t already figured that out in the first half of this blog. For most lenses, there’s a slider switch on the side of the barrel A, A/M (auto with manual focus override) and M. Make certain the slider is in the M position. There are a few cameras out there that have to make this change within the menu system; Olympus being one of them we think.  

The night we took this photo, it was the middle of November. The wind was cold wicked crazy and we were standing behind a half-wall next to a high rise apartment complex looking all creepy like from the windows no doubt! It was a lot of fun and a pleasure to get. It’s this kind of crazy that can bring two people together if not make impressionable memories. Oh, one last technical method to use if you’re really up for it, whew, would be to use a dark frame (gasp). What’s a dark frame you ask? A dark frame is where you shoot a totally black image before taking your (night) shot - a shot with the lens cap on. Whhhaaaat?? You take this shot so there would be less film grain or what we call digital noise in the second shot (the moon in this case). It can’t be done with the autofocus on and that’s a method point… your photo will come out smooth-as-silk-righteous, or at least to the best possible shot your camera system will do for a good moon shot!

Price Hill Chili

Cincinnati’s Price Hill Chili

We  are enjoying a fine day off and had a wonderful lunch at Cincinnati’s Famous Price Hill Chili Restaurant earlier this afternoon on Glenway Avenue. Our dining experience was a throwback to the good customer service years that we remember growing up with - and in this day and age is almost non-existent if not hard to find. Our glasses never got much below half before a waitress would swing by to fill it up. When we asked for mustard, which seemed a bit unusual in its request, she brought it out within minutes while making rounds to packed tables beside us. All with a wonderful smile!

Melissa talking with Sam - Owner of Price Hill Chili

We were fortunate enough to talk directly with the Owner, Sam, as he is always around checking to make sure everyone is enjoying their food and time at the restaurant. He is a wonderful man that has indeed founded a Cincinnati favorite. He makes it very clear his restaurant is oriented and devoted to wholesome family values and will promptly address anyone with improper conduct or language in his establishment; “Even if they’re bigger”, he says, “I’ll toss them out by their ear anyway!” Price Hill Chili has successfully been around for 50 years (1962-2012), and besides his vigilant watch, a lot of it is also due to the loyal servers that have been by his side for up to 45 years. It definitely says Sam takes care of business! Even his grandchildren, now helping out in the restaurant, have affectionaly called him, “A mean Papoose; the Greek word for Grandpa”, Sam explained, “as I made them work their way up from the dishes.”

Price Hill Chili Entryway & Kitchen

We also learned a rich deeper history to Sam and how his family’s house was burned during The War. That his father actually made the transition for his family to America and that Sam was a U.S. citizen – a fact that he wouldn’t find out until after his father’s death in The War. We learned how his family endured The Depression and how the restaurant itself used to be a Jewish parlor previously.

Regarding The Taste: The chili is a bit meatier than Cincinnati’s other favorite, Skyline, making it a bit less soupy (as some would say). I noticed it contained a bit deeper spice, a little more sodium and less cocoa. In summary, my order of Chili Cheese Fries was excellent as was the Seasoned Greek Bread served with a scrumptious tomato sauce! Here are a couple of shots we took within the restaurant while getting the tour from Sam “The Man” Himself. We encourage you to make the trip to see why Price Hill Chili is a Cincinnati favorite!

Price Hill Chili Back Entrance


Price Hill Chili’s Bar
Price Hill Chili’s Heated Patio – A Winter Favorite!


VIA Photography, Videography and Adobe Class Fees

A Basic Introduction to Digital Photography class is $180.00 for four 2-hour sessions totalling 8 hours of class time at our studio on 821 York Street, Newport, KY. The class meets once per week for one month. Class times vary as invdividuals are paired to accomodate. Classes can be in groups or private.

Contact us for more information or for specifics and rates on Specialized Classes that can be taken at our studio or in the comfort of your own home. We teach, but are not limited to, Animals, Commercial, Food, Flash, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Landscape, Model, Natural Lighting, Night Time, Macro, Portrait, Product, Studio Lighting, Wedding, Pets, Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and After Effects.

Pet & Animal Photography

Melissa and I have a deep fondness for all types of animals and why not? They exhibit their own characters, quirks and habits. They adapt to various, and sometimes extreme, surroundings and become highly devoted to their owners when treated properly. It is a shame when animals are poorly treated for they are entirely at the mercy of their owners; we support animal rescue groups such as Forgotten Paws, SAAP, The North Shore Animal League, The Animal Rescue Site and the SPCA to mention a few. Pet and animal owners need to reciprocate the love animals show us because when given the chance, they will be your best friend for life! Let us help you capture those moments, be it through digital photography or video, by scheduling an appointment today.


Check out our extended gallery of Pets & Animals

The Question of Security

From time to time, we have been asked, “Who can I trust with my photos and memories?  Is there a place I can trust that won’t copy it for their use? Will it be shipped to another lab? Will it leave your site?” And those are valid questions, especially concerning the proliferation and ease of the digital environment! Can you trust a young employee who might only be in their position until the school year is finished? Can you trust a bigger chain that has little concern for their employees; not to mention the sheer number of them who are often monitored for internal theft or large turnaround? We have worked at places where employees had to be let go due to a stolen video card, money taken from the till, and deep discounts given to family members and contractors; we wouldn’t have guessed and were surprised to find out who at the time!  There are many small details we often observe that from time-to-time legitimately raises these questions.

Having experience, Vortex InterActive works with its eyes wide-open. We know what security means and we want repeat business – trust is something we will not allow to be violated, but can it be proven? History tells:

Throughout the years, Vortex InterActive has been trusted by many fortune five hundred companies with proprietary work that could not be shown publicly nor discussed due to trademark or the prying eyes of competition, companies such as Procter & Gamble, General Electric and Mitsubishi Motors to name a few.  One that can be discussed is the Health Care Research Center (HCRC) move preparation for P&G from the Sharonville site to its new and current site in Mason. The Sharonville site was massive: the main P&G facility was large enough, but it also included some 18 to 22 separate buildings spread throughout the surrounding area. Workers can only gain keycard-access to their building or in most cases, only the area within the building where they work. We were given access to the entire campus: every building, every space and every piece of equipment for the purpose of generating the first Computer Aided Facilities Management database of its kind. Very few people have ever had that kind of access – only two on site; Bob McDermott, site manager, and his boss who reported from corporate headquarters. After P&G, we moved on to do the same work for The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County downtown which included some design and drafting work under the watch of Tim Timberman, John Siebert, and Marcia Algiers. Companies have performed extensive background checks on the work we provide and they continue to trust what we successfully do. One can rest assured; it is this same trust with which you can place your own precious memories!

Zivan Mendez – Owner/Director Vortex InterActive


Skyline Chili in South Florida

From the Vortex InterActive Circle:

Enjoy Cincinnati Skyline Chili in South Florida!

Read more from Dianna Mendez below:

The Vortex InterActive Circle

There are artists of various kinds within our family and people we work with whose talent stands head-and-shoulders above everyone else. You will find them seasoning our posts throughout the web whether it be facebook, twitter, google+ or our own website; noted as ”The Vortex InterActive Circle”.

For example, our cousin Greg Mendez is a reknowned metal & stone sculptor whose work has been featured across numerous writeups & magazines and has been commissioned by several cities in Northern Indiana and by Sioux Falls South Dakota. You will find his work posted as from The Vortex InterActive Circle. We also share interesting travel, vacation and parenting articles written by Dianna Mendez who is a talented author looking to publish her books within a couple of years.

Our goal with “The Vortex InterActive Circle” is to promote quality crafstmanship where we can while being an encouragement to family and friends – ultimately we hope you will find interest in what they do as well so be sure to check back frequently! ~Zivan & Melissa Mendez

Aquatic & Garden Decor

If you live in the Greater Cincinnati area and are into gardens in any fashion, you will need to put the Aquatic & Garden Decor store on your list to at least visit once. Especially if you live in the Sharonville, Blue-Ash, West-Chester, Fields-Ertel or Landen areas. It’s been awhile since I’ve visited them and I remember their previous location for which I am glad they have moved down the road to a much larger plot. It just speaks volumes for their interest & quality work. Here are just a few photos from our recent visit:

Also, be sure to visit their website: Aquatic & Garden Decor

Galleries and Video

We are pleased to have just a few photos of the thousands we’ve taken displaying in our new website gallery along with a sample of videos we have done for The Great Oaks Career Campuses. We have had a lot of fun in our journey as photographers/videographers and will continue to enjoy our work long after we retire. We hope you will do so as well! On a personal note, Zivan has posted the San Francisco Gallery in tribute to Fior D’Italia, America’s Oldest Italian restaurant, closing on May 22nd, 2012. It comes as a suprise, but the memories of having eaten there at its original location across from St. Peter and Paul remain. The restaurant has served celebrities and famous people world-wide such as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennet. Having been open for 126 years, one can only hope they will find the support to recover and re-open in the days ahead.

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