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Monday, December 10, 2007

The Haugen's Family tradition


By Autumn Hofer
Presentation Director

My family became part of the Haugen’s family fourteen years ago when my sister chose Haugen’s for her senior high school portraits.

For the next four years, the large wall portrait was displayed prominently in our hallway, as part of our family portrait gallery. And fall of 1997 found me packing up my beloved cat, Mattee, along with my entire wardrobe, for my Haugen’s experience. Soon after, my wall portrait joined my sister’s on the wall of honor, where both have graced my family home ever since.

Who could have guessed that the summer of 2007, some ten years later, I would join the Haugen’s family as an employee? And, in addition to my enjoyable work, I have continued the portrait tradition as well… my husband Tim, son Dylan (age 2 ½) and I just sat for our first Haugen’s family portrait. I have a feeling that portrait will soon join those of my sister and me on my mother’s wall, expanding the memories of family love that these special portraits create. This portrait will also have a prominent place in my own home, where we begin the second generation of the Haugen’s tradition.

Here at Haugen’s we are coming the end of our busy high school senior portrait season. I have worked with high school senior families on a daily basis, helping them chose that perfect portrait. I am looking forward to seeing these same young people in the years to come when they return for wedding and family portraits… as they continue their own Haugen’s family tradition.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Growing Up Haugen's

By Eleanor Wershow, Director of Operations

When I was seventeen and a senior in high school, I knew exactly which studio was going to do my senior portraits. It was the same studio who did my siblings’ senior portraits and my uncle’s wedding. Oh! And my siblings in 1979, me and my siblings in 1980, me in 1982, and the list goes on and on and on.

The photographers who took all these photos? Why, Haugen’s of course! I was lucky enough to grow up with an aunt and uncle who are amazing photographers. When my sister got married, and then my brother, there were no questions about who was going to do their wedding photography, even though my sister was married at the Grand Canyon and my brother in St. Paul, MN.

My mom retained Neil and Miriam for both weddings. This included travel & lodging, of course, as it does for all destination wedding photographers. This seemed completely normal to me, to commission the best photographers to commemorate the most important events in our lives.

Then I started working for Neil and Miriam. To my surprise, I discovered there are people who have no idea who to go to for wonderful portraits. They have never experienced fine photography and the joy that comes with having quality art of the most important people in their lives.

Now that I think about it, I was extremely lucky to have Haugen’s in the family. You see, my mom is a pragmatic person, and she is not the sort of person who would have normally thought of commissioning personal photographic art. Yet her most prized possessions are the seven wall portraits Miriam and Neil have taken of my family over the last 28 years.

Awards? What Awards?

By Eleanor Wershow, Director of Operations

Here’s a question for all you trivia lovers out there: How many times have the two Haugen photographers won Best Portrait of a Teenage Boy?

I grew up with Haugen’s (see the article “Growing Up Haugen’s”) but until last week I didn’t have a clue how many awards Neil & Miriam had won. Then I found a box of trophies gathering dust in a corner. A big box. With LOTS of awards. So many, in fact, that we now have a whole display case filled with trophies and a wall covered in plaques.

All of these awards are from the Professional Photographers of Oregon and Profession Photographers of America yearly print competitions. Every winter Miriam and Neil review the images they’ve taken in the previous year and choose eight (four per photographer) to send to competition.

In 2007 alone, Neil took home the trophy for Best Social Candid Wedding Division while Miriam won Best Teenage Boy and the Fuji Masterpiece Award. Since one of them seems to win at least one trophy every year, I guess I’d better start rearranging the trophy case now!

PS: The answer to the trivia question is SIX times.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

But What do you DO?


I (this is Neil talking) get asked every once in a while what is it that I do here at the studio, besides use a camera. Like many other things, my duties changed quite a bit with the switch to digital.

I’ve always been the new information grunt of the studio, meaning that I am the unfortunate soul who is assigned to read about new or changed or re-discovered ideas or equipment that may be of use here in the studio.

In another essay, I noted that we used the same cameras for twenty-plus years. The biggest “workflow” change in one long period of years came when we switched film speed, or sensitivity to light, of our basic film. We had to re-test to establish the best quality exposure at what “speed” or ISO rating, and then adjust our hand-held light meters to that setting. It took about five days, mostly waiting for the film to be developed a couple times as we tested and re-tested.

Ah, the good old days.

Now, our “film” (i.e., camera) needs changing every couple of years or sooner, as the camera/sensor combinations that make a modern digital camera are improved enough that we need to “upgrade”. And the software tools we use are in constant flux (upgrades, improvements) and I have to be up on all of those. Oh, and then … there’s the NEW software ideas and programs that we need to be aware of.

Each time any kind of camera or software change happens, the “workflow” of how we process the images through our system changes, and often in quite-often-unforeseen ways. I’m the person who sorts through all the new cameras and decides which are worth all of the:


* Money
* Time spent learning the new camera

Then, I have to determine its best file (image) handling processing steps. I test the camera out every way we might use it and master all the settings and features of all these complicated new professional units. I teach Miriam (and myself) how to use it, and then when we’ve got it down comfortably and repeatably, plan how to phase the new camera in and the old camera out.

Note, each camera’s images have their own best-practices procedures that are NOT well-stated by the manufacturer. So, I sit down and run images through all our standard workflow patterns, learning where we need to change from our current practices for best quality AND best “through-put”. I make a number of large and small prints from images, and we pore over them to see which techniques and practices worked best.

This takes us into the tools of our processes … the software.

I have other words that I often use in my own head in place of the term “software”. Software sounds … soft. You know, easy-going-gentle-small-brook-water-skipping-over-stones style soft. My other terms are more…realistic. And not repeatable in polite company. Or any company that I’d care to keep.

We use Photoshop, of course, and we use quite a number of other software programs for various purposes. I am the person who scours the web and consults with professional peers, looking for programs to watch. And study. If something looks perhaps useful, I test it on my own computer. Find out its real strengths and weaknesses, and whether it does something worth the interruption to our people and systems. Is it REALLY useful enough to merit the disruption and re-training that will be required? Then I figure out what changes need to occur in how and what we do in OTHER programs because of using the new one.

Then, of course, I train everyone here how to use the new program in (I always hope) a better workflow. This consumes hours and hours of my time every week, and is necessary to keep us where we always have been, at the top of our professional peers.

Since the advent of digital, we make up to six major workflow/software/hardware changes each year. Because for professional photographers, digital doesn’t mean “point and click”. To produce top quality art in the digital age, it takes time. And equipment. And software. There are still no shortcuts to quality.

But it keeps me out of trouble, and out of my staff’s way. Most of the time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Note from Neil - Historical Perspectives on Camera Technology

It is just weird these days ... for the first 25 years we had the studio, a camera was a camera was a camera. And now, it isn't ... at least, it's not the same.

The main "tool" we thought we worked with for all those years was the camera. By my third year, I'd settled on the Mamiya RB67, and we also purchased one for Miriam when she joined the business. We then used our RB's for the next 22 years. (That's the old RB in the image with me. Lotta metal, huh?)

Now we change every cameras every couple years. Why? Well, it has to do with WHAT has changed with the digital revolution, and we’ll talk about that in a moment.

Film cameras are either small format, medium format, or large format. Our old RB’s were medium-format cameras, as they used 120/220 sized roll film. The negatives it produced were 6x7cm, or roughly two and a quarter inch by two and three-quarter inches, with ten on a 120 roll of film, and 20 on a 220 roll of film. "Small" format cameras were 35 mm and smaller, and "large" format was anything bigger than 120/220 roll film. For example, a large format camera might produce a 4x5 or even a 8x10 inch negative.

The RB67 was a big hunk of steel, aluminum, glass, very little plastic, and it came in several main pieces. There was:
· The body, which was just a several-pound cube that held the mirror, the shutter, the control systems for the other parts, and the catches that all the other camera parts attached to.
· The lens, which was mounted to a collar on the front of the body. The RB lenses were huge by 35mm standards. A small RB lens (physically) was four inches in diameter, six inches long, and weighed two or three pounds by itself. The lenses we normally used were longer, and weighed more like four or five pounds.
· The film was wound around an "insert" (quite a trick to train a new assistant to do!) that fit into the film back, and was then attached to the back of the body. It fit onto a rotating collar, so we could take horizontal or vertical images by rotating the film back, not the camera.
· And to see what we were photographing, and to focus this beast, we had a choice of methods – i.e., glass - that attached to the top of the body. The ground glass that we focused on was attached to the camera body, and we had several choices, depending on how bright we wanted the central part of the viewing area or what kind of focusing aids we wanted. There were no auto focusing capabilities in these cameras!
· We had choices in the "hoods" that fit on over the ground glass. There was a pop-up viewer that shielded the sides of the viewing area so you could see the ground glass even in daylight, and folded down when not being used. Note, you looked DOWN through this viewing device.
· There was a "chimney" that was about four inches tall, with a big eyepiece at the top, and with this you also looked straight down at the ground-glass focusing screen. This gave a better quality image than a simple pop-up hood, and of course, weighed in at a pound or two itself.
· There was also a pentaprism, that big sort-of-pyramid-shaped device similar to the viewing system on the tops of 35mm film cameras, and with this, you looked into the camera from behind it. With all the glass of the many mirrors in this device, it was two or three pounds by itself.

These cameras weighed about 15 lbs fully loaded (without the tripod - which added another 10 lbs or so) and were tough enough to throw through a plate-glass window, pick up and use without even thinking about it. They had no electical parts at all, no batteries, no meters, no auto-focusing, nothing. We always bought used, and even then, the bodies and parts would last fifteen years or more of daily, heavy-duty professional use.

The only thing that changed in all those twenty-plus years was the film we put in the back of the camera. Kodak, Agfa, and Fuji kept making better films every couple of years, making it sharper, the grain smaller, and the ability to get pretty colors in unusual light better. And so we'd decide to change the film we used occasionally.

Digital changed all that. In the ‘olden days’ we kept the camera and changed the film we used. Now we get new cameras every year or two, because the ‘film’ is the camera’s sensor and its accompanying computer processing chips. As the manufacturers make camera units with more resolution (finer detail sharpness), less noise from higher "film" speeds (noise is electronic garbage that gets into a digital sensor when its signal is amplified by quite a bit to "see" in darker light, so some pixels show strange colors or ligh/dark readings), better capability to give good color in strange or mixed-source lighting, and better dynamic range (how wide a spread from dark to light it can record detail in), we invest in new equipment.

We certainly haven't worn out our "old" digital cameras when we replace them. It's just that the "film" part of the newer camera is enough better that we change.

As I said at the beginning of this, it's just weird these days.
I (Miriam) just got a nice email from a mom that made me feel like it is all worthwhile.

“Thanks again for the wonderful session. You were so thoughtful to take time to get to know Eric, and thus captured the essence of who he is. I have been telling everyone about you, and look forward to doing business with you in the future! Fondly, Annie Nelson”

Here is one of Eric’s portraits - and it was a pleasure to get to know Eric and his mom!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sessions, sessions, sessions!

I had so much fun photographing last week. I thought I would just share a few highlights.

Casey Higgins is a senior at CV. We met his mom, Helen through our work with the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis, a charity we support (she is the director). Like a lot of 17-year-old guys, there were other things he probably would have rather have been doing than portraits. But he was a good sport and great to have in front of the camera.

John Carpenter is pastor at the Oakville Presbyterian Church. Miriam grew up as an active member of this historic country church so finding that some of their parishioners had purchased a gift certificate for his family was very exciting! John, Mary, Hannah and Heidi were all involved in the home consultation. We decided that this portrait needed to say ”Oregon” to everyone viewing it. We chose the Falls City falls for the trees and water.

Megan Miller is a High school senior from Lebanon. She saw our display at the Northwest Horse Expo. No horses in this session but we have plans in the works for doing that next spring.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Labor Day Adventure

From Miriam:

We just got back from Sunriver where we always spend Labor Day weekend with my family. We like to go to Central Oregon because there are so many great places to hike.

Here we are at the top of Mt. Tumalo with the Three Sisters and Broken top in the background.

L to R: Miriam’s dad, Huck (89 years old!); brother Bruce’s family: Linda with little Nora Jane and Willamina due to make an appearance at New Years, Bruce, Gavin and Claudia; brother Greg; sister Janet, family: husband Stewart, Eleanor, Aaron, Brett (Kate’s husband), Kate, Tonya (Aaron’s husband), and Janet; Neil is standing on the far right and Miriam, Lars and Anna are crouching in front. (Nels spent the weekend in Seattle with fiance, Danielle.)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Pomerenke-Trowbridge wedding

Just came back from a wonderful wedding at BeckenRidge Vineyard. Mikki Pomerenke and Brian Trowbridge got married on the hillside overlooking the vineyard and our beautiful Willamette Valley. The weather was perfect, the couple was beautiful, the food was great (thanks to Occasions Catering) and the party was fun. What more could you ask for?

We are always looking for the things that make the day go especially smoothly. Penny Parrot from Forever Yours Florals was actually there to pin the boutonnieres on the men. That was the first time I had ever seen a florist stay to do that! Neil and I so often end up with that chore because the florist dropped off a box of flowers but no one has a clue how to pin them on.

It was delightful to get to meet Becky and Ken, the owners of BeckenRidge. They are taking a very “hands on” approach and were very helpful.

Neil first met Mikki as a young teen when they were both in HMS Pinafore at the Salem library. We did her senior portraits a couple of years later and now her brother, Justin’s senior portraits and a wedding!

We were blown away with how many guests we knew and had done portraits for. We felt like part of the family. Thank you Mikki and Brian!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Jed Lowrie

Way to go Jed!

It is really fun to see when one of our clients does great things. Jed Lowrie (North Salem class of 2001) got drafted by the Boston Red Sox just three years ago. He has been playing single A and double A ball for their organization and we just got word that he has been moved to their AAA Pawtucket team! If you have seen as many great baseball movies as we have, you know he is just one small step from “The Show” (major league).

You can find out more about Jed in the sports section of July 29 Statesman Journal newspaper.

We are praying for you, Jed. Hope you stay “injury free”. It is clear you have the talent!
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(Jed Lowrie, age 10!)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Magical Ages of Childhood Contest 2007

And the winner is . . .
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The results are in for the children’s contest!

The People’s Choice award goes to Lindzee Schaeffer of West Salem. Her mom, Kristina, chose the theme “Rain, rain, go away” and put her in a rain slicker, boots, and umbrella. The forecast that day was for rain but we got sunshine!
Some people have the idea that all the wonderful images we display are of children who are very cooperative and will always do exactly as we say and will sit still for long periods of time. Hah!
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Lindzee, shown here, had a mind of her own and was running all over the place. What she wanted to do and what we had in mind were usually two different things. We discovered that she loved our dog, Katie, so we had Katie running around and found we could get good expressions just by asking, “Where’s Katie?” By getting into the flow of what she wanted to do, I feel we really captured her spirit.

Madison Applebee of Salem was the winner of the Artistic Merit award. When her mom, Nikkie, came in for a consultation she told me that her parents had sheep and she really wanted to do a “Mary had a Little Lamb” portrait, but how did I feel about a live lamb in the studio? No problem. In fact, I had used the idea before in the award winning image “No Lambs at School” from the contest several years ago.

Madison’s grandparents own sheep and were more skeptical. They were sure the lamb was too wild to have in a studio. I, on the other hand, was sure we could make it work. (The secret is to close all the doors to the camera room and keep shooing the lamb back into the set.) Oh, and lots and LOTS of paper towels to clean up the inevitable messes.

The Children's contest was really fun this year and the panel of photographers clearly had a tough time choosing a winner. Our thanks to all who participated.

Successful Interviewing Tips

Having owned our own business for 30 years (can you believe it?), Neil and I have gained lots of experience in interviewing people for jobs. We have also done practice interviews for friends and helped them to get job offers.

Today, I did a practice interview with a friend that is applying for a teaching position. Laura is a single mom and really needs a stable income to support herself and her three boys. She has been looking for over a year, so please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Here are the tips that I wrote for her. These should be applicable to any situation.

Successful Interviewing 101

Prepare ahead of time
· Do research about the business you will be interviewing with. Do you know anyone who works there that can give you insider information? Do they have a mission statement? What are their areas of strength? How can you help them build on their strengths?
· It is also helpful to know something about the personality of the person who will interview you. The only way you can know this ahead of time is to get insider information, but you can still tell some things by watching them. If they are friendly and outgoing, be friendly and outgoing. If they have worked in the same position for a long time, it may be a good indication that they value stability and longevity. With a person like that, you might want to tell them that you could see this position as your ideal place to sink down roots and make a difference.
· Practice in front of a mirror. Practice with other people. Give them a list of questions to ask and practice, practice, practice. Perfect your responses.
· Don’t worry. Be happy. It will help you to be more relaxed and confident. Be certain that you are the best person for the job but also remember that this is not the last job on earth.

The Interview
· Always be a few minutes early. Smile at every opportunity.
· Smile warmly and look the interviewer in the eye when you shake their hand.
· Two common interview questions are, “What is your greatest strength?” and “What is your greatest weakness?” Be prepared with an answer to the “weakness” question with an honest answer but immediately follow it up with something positive. (i.e. My flat demeanor can sometimes come across as cold but I have had to work with some seriously troubled and dangerous kids and developed this manner as a way of dealing with them. No matter what they do or say to “get to” me, I stay cool and calm.)
· State your strengths as positively as possible. Rather than saying, “I feel like I have talents and skills to share," say "I have talents and skills to share." Leave out the “I feel like” part. It weakens your statement.
· Be sure to give specific examples of how you have handled situations well. Have anecdotes prepared to show how you have dealt well with a variety of coworker communication styles, how you ensured customer success, how you worked well in a team, how you have dealt with an unhappy customer. Smile whenever appropriate.
· One of my favorite questions to ask is, “Tell me about a specific time when you had to deal with an unhappy customer.” I am looking for a response that tells me that they know the importance of listening (give them time to vent), empathizing (tell them you understand their frustration) and willingness to go the extra mile to take care of the problem. This is KEY to good customer service and anyone who ever works with the public should know it.
· Do not volunteer any personal information. They certainly do not need to hear about any personal problems.
· When he/she asks if you have any questions, be sure to ask them what the ideal candidate for this position would look like. You may get information that you can use in your follow up. Get their direct email address, if at all possible.

Follow up
· Write a personal follow-up letter. I am not sure if email or postal service would be more effective (it might be o.k. to ask.) In the letter, let them know that this position is exactly where you want to be and why.
· Follow up again in writing in a week with something else positive to say.

Remember
· Stay positive at all times. Smile often. If you don’t feel it, act it! If you act positive all the time, you start to believe it. You will also find that more good things happen to people with a positive attitude than people that are discouraged all the time.