Architecture, ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Music, Performing Arts, Real Estate Photographry, Shopping, TRAVEL

Rewind to River Bend

River Bend in the Dallas Design district
The new River Bend development in the Dallas Design District. Image from Cultural Counsel

TRAVEL HERE: NEW DESIGN DISTRICT DESTINATION

So, on Friday, I begged you to go to the Dallas Art Fair.  I hope you did.  It certainly loomed large in our weekend.  However, the Fair’s Opening Press Conference was actually Chapter Two. Chapter One played out on Wednesday evening.  Come along and I’ll tell you all about it.

Out of the Loop

The Dallas Art Fair just had its 11th event and somehow I was completely out of the loop for the first 10. I’ve been busy, but I thought I was paying better attention than that.

However, I love me some Dallas and I take the drive over the I-30 Bridge quite frequently, usually headed down to the Dallas Arts District.  My membership in the Dallas Museum of Art has never wavered.  I keep my eye out for Nasher events.  So, I’m not sure how I became so disconnected with an event like the Dallas Art Fair.

Back in the Loop

While I may not be as plugged in as I used to be, as a regional blogger, some organizations do keep me in the loop.  The DMA, the Perot, Preservation Dallas and the Arboretum all have me on speed dial, figuratively speaking.  So, when I got an email from the Cultural Counsel inviting me to an artsy thing in the Design District, it wasn’t exactly a surprise.  I checked my calendar and then invited the hubby along.

Happy on All Counts

As principals  of a real estate photography company, we are always interested in new construction and new developments.  We arrived at River Bend eager to find out exactly what was going on in this new addition to the Dallas Design District.  At first glance it was comparable to other business/retail spaces all over the Metroplex.  The invitation had mentioned “Late Night Gallery Openings, Clare Woods Book Signing, and SOLUNA Performance.”  Galleries we understood, but the rest had to be discovered.

The invitation had not mentioned comestibles at all, but a happy Art Fair associate greeted us and pointed us towards the serving lines.  Gladly the choices were not limited to cheese cubes and bad chardonnay.  Bill tried a local brewery offering from a series of kegs (I’m dieting again, so I was going to wait for the promised mineral water) and then we headed to the buffet line.  Caterers were whipping out chicken and pork street tacos, shrimp tostadas and corn-on-the-cob.  I loved it all, but that probably had a lot to do with the avocado crema.  Bill wasn’t as crazy about the entrees.  He doesn’t do avocado and I’m guessing the other offerings were a poor substitute, but he loved the corn.  I’d recommend the caterers, but I never found out who they were.

Next stop was a door with a large sign advertising Soluna, the musical portion of Dallas’s Art Month, sponsored by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  I was there to get a bottle of Topo Chico Mineral Water.  The space was devoted to the evening’s audio entertainment, an “Icelandic musician” with “signature trolls”.  The music wafted out of the performance space and I could tell it was a little out there for me.  Bill ducked his head in and his main complaint was the overuse of volume.

Continuing down the way we visited a couple of gallery spaces. One only had a few pieces and the other seemed more actively devoted to the consumption of Modelo than the presentation of art.  It was time to head back in the other direction and see what we could find.

On our way back to the center of things, we focused on the ceramic murals of the exterior walls.  A book signing by the murals’ artist was part of the evening’s offerings.  Bill wasn’t fond of the mosaics, but I was more pleasantly effected by the thematic river vistas.  Returning past the trolls, we happened upon some more gallery space and these spaces seemed to be more serious about the art portion of the event.

Our final stop was the 214 space, which serves as a gallery and as the offices for the Dallas Art Fair.  Well-fed and having consumed as much as we could understand concerning the art offerings, we headed home.  The next morning, I’d learn more about what I’d been looking at.

A Few Observations

I would be the first to admit that my taste in art leans toward the figurative and peters out some time shortly after the Impressionists. I find many things to like about contemporary artists who continue the figurative and classical traditions in art, however I have not given up completely on the non-figurative and alternate genres.  I’m still trying, even if I don’t find myself enchanted. So, I’m not a good person to critique the art we saw that evening.

The people watching was spectacular.  I was happy to observe jeans and yoga pants were not the dominating fashion statement.  In fact, the gentlemen, rather than the ladies, were setting the bar.  Socks were so last century for these guys and  all the pants were tight and short.

Winning the award for tightest and shortest were those who wore cuffed pedal pushers. I have no idea of the proper name for these short trousers.  We ladies used to call them capri pants, back in the day.  But trend-setting short pants weren’t all I noticed. The top halves of these guys were also trendy.  Those with longer pants had a sort of khaki/safari vibe to them.  My favorite item on the men was a white straw trilby with a florescent orange band.

The women just did not measure up. They seemed more interested in volume than style, like a pair of harem pants in a loud plaid.  Other versions of comfort were apparent.  The crispest female fashion icon was a sweet young thing in black leather short shorts.  Her long legs were shod in high-heeled platforms with an interesting collection of straps.  Her other clothing and accessories were black and gold.  Her hair was a slick black bob.  Kudos to her for appearing to care whether anyone looked at her or not.  The rest of the women certainly didn’t indicate whether they cared one way or the other.

Wednesday, we’ll head back to Cancun, then Friday I’ll chat about the press conference.  Come back to visit!

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Real Estate Photographry, TRAVEL, WRITING

In the Biz

TRAVEL HERE: PHOTOGRAPHY AS LIVELIHOOD

I would apologize for failing to post last week, except that it is kind of part of the story.  See, I’ve gotten to the part of our photography story where I tell you how Bill and I morphed into Spot On Images.  These first two months of 2019 have been so busy for us professionally, that some of my personal pursuits fell to the wayside, including the Travel Talk blog.  Today, I’m catching up.

How There Came to be a Spot On Images

Like a tree with deep roots, Spot On Images grew out of fertile ground.  When someone asks how Spot On Images got started, I’m tempted to ask which version they want to hear!  Actually there is only one version, but it has several chapters.

Spot On Images grew out of our real estate experiences in California.  Back then, some brokerages still hadn’t embraced the online version of the MLS.  They still had hard copy MLS books in their offices, but they were the dinosaurs.  Some agents still didn’t know how to input their own listings, but I got it immediately.  At first, we hired professional photographers to shoot our properties, but soon we figured out we had a secret weapon on our team.  Bill could take better pictures than the pros.  Combining his pictures with my prose was a winning ticket.  While many agents settled for a single exterior shot and descriptions that read something like this: 3/2/2 in Grover Beach, partial ocean view, near elementary school; Bill and I were filling every empty slot in the photo carousel (About 11 pictures back then – It’s more like 35 now.) and writing mini-novels as descriptions – and it was working.

The only problem was, neither of us really liked selling real estate.  I was making a killing at it before the bubble, but it didn’t feel as if I was doing what I was made to do.  Long story short, Bill went to Iraq to be an interpreter for the Army and I moved back to Dallas to be near my parents, who were facing health challenges.  In Dallas, I went back to school and the career thing was put on the back burner.  Spot On Images wasn’t even a possibility we had entertained at that point, but whenever we inventoried our skill sets, to see what we might turn into a business, the same things kept coming up:  real estate, marketing, photography, writing, business consulting and the internet. We just couldn’t figure out how that was a business.

Spot On Images also grew out of Bill’s love for photography and real estate.  While somewhat related to the story above, this story begins when Bill was in his twenties and took an interest in photography.  He took lessons, joined photography clubs, read magazines, bought equipment and all that other stuff photobuffs do.  Though he pursued other things professionally, taking photos, learning about taking photos, taking video, learning about taking video and buying equipment was one of his primary preoccupations, along with real estate and making money.

Fast forward to a few years ago.  A friend of ours in the real estate photography business decides to move closer to family for health reasons.  Bill offers to buy the friend’s business, but instead the friend chooses to supplement Bill’s already impressive photography skills with some specific training in the real estate photography business, for free.  Bill buys new photography equipment better suited to real estate and spends several months developing his particular style of real estate photography.  He also buys a drone and gets his commercial drone pilot license.  Along the way, he convinces Jane to quit doing marketing, social media and blogging for someone else and put it to work for the family business.

A Synthesis of Versions.

Of course, neither of those versions cancels out the possibility of the other and there is still another version, which might also have some truth to it.  A neighbor claims Bill was in a conversation where her husband was trying to convince another guy to start a real estate photography business.  Bill says he doesn’t remember being in that conversation, but who knows, maybe he just forgot and it influenced him to offer to buy our friend’s business.

Whatever the case, when Spot On Images started, it was mostly Bill’s thing.  I helped with the website and did some cold-calling for him, but I had other fish to fry.  Then suddenly he got so busy that he needed me to start processing the photos for him and I supplemented our cold calling by attending MLS meetings.  I kept taking on Spot On Images responsibilities and one day I woke up and realized I was working full-time for Spot On Images.  I put in more hours than our photographer does.  How did that happen?

Now Spot On Images is an us thing.  Bill does his things and I do my things.  We’ve got great synergy and amazing clients which make work seem more like fun.  And our skill sets, real estate, marketing, photography, writing, business consulting and the internet – well somehow all of those things play an important role in the work we do for our clients on both the photography side and the marketing side.

So that’s how I got from taking photos with an Instamatic camera and putting the snapshots into adhesive photo albums to being co-owner of a photography and marketing business.  The roads I take never seem to be straight ones, but I seem to like where I end up.  More and more of my work seems to be on social media and it’s a demanding medium, eating up posts almost as fast as I can create them.  So, as has happened in other seasons, I may be a little unreliable over here on my personal travel blog.  For at least for a little while, you can continue to enjoy my trip to Cancun and Chichen Itza, because I have Wednesday posts written through May for that adventure.  And as usual, things will settle down and I’ll find a way to keep the blog going.  so don’t you go anywhere.  Travel talk will continue!

 

ART, Photography, Real Estate Photographry, TRAVEL

Hello to Real Photography

Bill and his camera at Stone Mountain. I took it with my disposable!

TRAVEL HERE: MARRYING INTO BETTER PHOTOS

I rarely run short of reasons to be glad I married Bill.  I may, at the same time, be so mad at him I can barely breathe, but the mad times come less frequently as we near our 25th wedding anniversary and when they do, they are short-lived.  He really is a wonderful man and he’s so darned handsome.  He’s also an amazing photographer, just ask any Spot On Images customer.

The 35mm vs The Disposable

By the time I met Bill, the Instamatic’s days were over and done with.  The digital camera was breaking into the market, but they were pretty expensive, so this working girl couldn’t afford one.  Most people were using some form of a 35mm, but not me.  I had a hard time finding film for my Instamatic, but I had discovered the disposable camera and that worked well enough for me.

Enter Bill with his fancy Canon Rebel.  By then he was already pretty darned good at photography.  He’d had some lessons and was fairly serious about the medium.  My disposable cameras probably made him a little crazy, but he was trying to romance me, so he left me to my point and shoot bliss.

Well he almost left me alone.  He gently began to introduce me to 35mm.  Not only did he think disposable cameras were a waste of money, he rightly pointed out the poor quality of the results and coerced me into giving his camera a try.  I guess here’s as good a place as any to admit he not only introduced me to 35mm photography, he also made me learn how to use a mouse and had me sign up for my first personal email address.  In other words, he brought me into the 20th Century, which was already on it’s way out.

Where’s the Auto Button?

His first attempts at turning me into a real photographer were not so good.  He was all about F-stops and exposure.  All he could get me to do was use the Auto Button.  Twenty-five years later, I’m still all about the Auto Button, but I do appreciate what he is able to do with a camera.

About this time he also decided to get a camcorder.   Video cameras were this huge thing you had to carry around on your shoulder and there was no sound.  Over time the cameras shrank and they figured out how to include sound.  Bill entered the market when Hi8 was all the rage.  If he had thought it was tough getting me to use a 35mm still camera, he quickly realized that was nothing compared to getting me to hold the camcorder.

That sneaky guy bought the camcorder into time capture his proposal – quite a treasure.  His plan was to get me up to speed on the 35mm, so he could be the videographer.  What happened was he ended up being the primary cameraman, regardless of the media, and I filled in when he forced me to.  Thanks to him we have a marvelous record of our early years together – yeah Mr. Bill!

There’s more to tell you about our photographic history together, so come on back next week!

DFW Metroplex, Real Estate Photographry, Rockwall, TRAVEL, WRITING

Spot On Images Hits the Mark

Spot On Images, http://spotonimages.comTRAVEL HERE: DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND IT WON’T FEEL LIKE WORKING

I’ve been telling you about Bill’s gleeful return to the real estate industry and how he dragged me along with him.  To my own surprise,  it didn’t take much dragging.  I’ve discovered that it’s not that I don’t like real estate.  Come to find out, I just didn’t like being a real estate agent.  I’d rather write about a house than sell it, so once I got over my initial resistance to the idea, Spot On Images was born.

Text and Images: A Marriage Made in Heaven

One of the reasons our marriage works so well is that Bill and I have complimentary skill sets.  While neither one of us is particularly fond of cleaning toilets, we’ve parceled out the various duties of our joined lives in a way that suits both of us.  He does his stuff and I do mine.  Thankfully, each of us enjoys most of the items which are on our lists.

It just so happens that his passion for photography and my penchant for words are also a good match professionally.  Each of us has a specialty that works in unison to accomplish something very important in a person’s mind – especially a home-buyer’s mind.

While you can find all kinds of statistics to support the idea that our brains naturally seek images, but we don’t really need scientists to tell us this one, just visit your Facebook feed.  The cat video will get you every time.  As soon as gif’s became available for comments we all forgot how to talk.  People like pictures.

However, our brains also like words with our images, both spoken and written.  There’s a oft-quoted article by 3M that tells us our brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than text, but that article and many others will tell you our brains also like words.  While a picture can anchor a thought in our minds, if there’s no text, there’s no way to know what idea the image may anchor.  There’s also research to support that the processing of these words can help us to better remember the images, because the easier a font is to read the more quickly we forget what it said.

A picture may actually be worth a thousand words, but it’s important for advertisers, educators and many others to be sure their images convey the right message.  Without a little text, the same cat video may say two completely different things, depending on the audience.  While the video may charm one viewer into a trip to the local shelter to adopt another feline, it could convince another viewer to never add a cat to their household.  Without a little text, no viewer will ever figure out the video is actually promoting a new cat toy!  Nor will they know where to get one for their own cat.

The article by 3M discusses how important images and text are in presentations, while a post on Fast Company touts infographics.  The bottom line is that if you have a message to convey, the best way to do it is with both images and text.  That’s exactly what we’re offering to our real estate clients.

Spot On Images:  Images and Text

Bill takes amazing photos and videos, whether he’s using his tripod or his drone.  I’ve been in marketing all of my professional life.  I’m saavy in social media.  My degree is in Creative Writing.  I have the words to go along with his images.

Some real estate agents just need pictures for their listings.  Others just need web copy or the right words for a brochure.  We’re happy to provide either one or both, but when we combine our skills in a narrated video tour or a website – lookout!  The benefits of images with the right text can multiply in geometric proportions and I’m glad to be in the business of helping real estate agents market their lisitings.

Check out our website.  We’d love to help you out with your images and text.

Real Estate Photographry, Rockwall, TRAVEL, WRITING

We’re Back in Real Estate

Brochure from our days in real estate

TRAVEL HERE: HOW SPOT ON IMAGES CAME TO BE

So last week I told you about our days as residential real estate agents in California, but I still haven’t told you how that led to us start Spot On Images.  Here’s the rest of the story.

When the Bubble Burst

We enjoyed the good old days in real estate, but they ended when the bubble burst.  I’ll share a secret with you, I was sort of glad to be out of it.  We made a lot of money, but I really didn’t like most of the tasks that went along with selling homes – with one exception, I loved creating those brochures and writing the descriptions for the MLS.

Bill loved real estate and he never understood why I didn’t.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he did most of his work behind the scenes and I was the one out there showing houses and writing contracts.  Bill loves it so much that even though our licences expired, he’s kept his fingers in it.  We have rent houses and we’ve sold our own homes.  While most folks can’t wait to hire an agent or they begrudgingly put the FSBO sign out in the yard, Bill is totally energized by the whole process.  He’s taking pictures, creating a website for the home and guiding me through every step of the process with alacrity.  OK, so I’ll go ahead and confess, I really do enjoy creating the brochures and writing the web content.

Real Estate is Back

So back to our real estate photographer friend who was leaving town.  He was entirely too nice to take our money, when we offered to buy his business.  Instead, he showed Bill the ropes and encouraged him to start his own business.  For almost all of our marriage, even when we were selling real estate, Bill’s primary occupation has been investing, so I assumed his interest in real estate photography was just a bit of nostalgia.  Boy, was I ever wrong!

While he’d never completely abandon his investing, he’s automated it to the point that he has time for his other passions.  When the real estate photography bug bit him, he started buying camera equipment of all sorts.  He spent his days getting a feel for his new toys and getting up to speed on all the latest technology.  There was no question of his expertise.  He’d started taking photography lessons in his twenties and it’s been one of his passions ever since.  Most of the great travel photography on this blog comes from him.  As far as his photographic abilities are concerned, he could have hung out his shingle the day he decided to do this, but that’s not how he does things.  He dots his i’s and crosses his t’s.

As he exercised his photography muscle he also started working on me.  He praised my marketing expertise and reminded me of all those people who said they bought my listings because of the words I had written.  In the guise of sharing with me what he’d been learning in his research for his new business, he pointed out how important the internet and social media were to the success of real estate agents.  He was being nice about it, but here’s the bottom line, I was about to be back in real estate, too.

So what did I think about getting back into a business I’d been happy to get out of.  Come back next week and find out!

 

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Real Estate Photographry, TRAVEL, United States

Spot On Images

TRAVEL HERE: WHAT’S NEW WITH US!

I’ve got exciting news to share.  Bill and I have been nurturing a secret for several months, but now we’re ready to spill the beans.  Read all about Spot On Images and spread the news.

A Little of This and That

So what happens when you take a husband with an entrepreneurial streak, an MBA in business and a passion for photography and you match him with a wife with three decades of marketing experience and a degree in Creative Writing, who’s heavily into blogging and social media.  Well, if the two shared a successful real estate business for several years before the bubble, you might end up with Spot On Images.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What am I doing here,” but in the next moment realized you’ve been training for this opportunity all your life, then you know how we feel right now.  If I were to try to tell you where it all started, I have no idea where I’d begin.  It would be sometime after we were born on separate continents, but the story would have to start long before we ran into each other one day at the Dallas Museum of Art.

So, let’s start with the day we learned a real estate photographer friend was moving out of the area.  While most people would discuss the details of departure dates and moving vans, Bill wanted to know if they would be interested in selling their business.

Real Estate in the Days Before Smart Phones

OK, I know my husband is a great real estate photographer, but his question took me by surprise.  Back in the days before the bubble, when all this online real estate shopping was brand new, you were lucky if a listing had a picture on it.  If a For Sale sign had a brochure box, chances are it was a printout from the MLS.  That’s not how we sold houses.  Mr. Bill would go out with our new-fangled digital camera and take pictures.  We’d upload as many as we could to the MLS  (I think you could only post 11), along with descriptions that went far beyond “3/2/2 in desirable neighborhood with ocean view” which seemed to be the norm.

We weren’t the only ones there on California’s Central Coast who appreciated the advantages the internet offered to real estate agents, but we were unique enough for our listings to really stand out and I took it a step further.  I created a unique brochure for every home.  No MLS printouts and no sticking the pictures in a pre-formulated brochure and filling in the blanks.  Each brochure was an individualized masterpiece.  I’d labor over matching the right font with my carefully crafted words and mix the text with Bill’s pictures.  We’d even print the brochures in color on coverstock, an expense most agents thought was a complete waste of money.

Nowadays, that just sounds like business as usual, but back then, we were mavericks.  What’s more, it worked.  People contacted me to show my listings and then as we wrote the offer, they’d say things like, “I knew the minute I read the brochure I wanted to live here,” or “When we saw the pictures and read the description on the internet we knew it was our house.”  Meanwhile, most real estate agents were still doing it the way they always had – working the desk at the broker office, sending out postcards to their “farm”, lowering their commission and then spending most of it on advertising.

Unfortunately for our career, the real estate bubble burst.  Our lives brought us back to Texas and that was a good thing.  However, the real estate bug had gotten into Bill’s bloodstream.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.