Bill's Bountiful Blog

May I keep you posted on my thoughts, ideas, observations, and silliness?. Am I serious? Is it relevant?. Does anyone care? Probably not much.

But in today's age of everyone has something to say, why not me? And who can blame me for jumping into to the pool? For speaking up For laying it out?

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." - Thomas Wiley, Journalist

Vacation Rental Restoration

By William May
Published: 12/28/15 Topics: Insurance, Lodging Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Vacation rental homes are susceptible to the same problems as full-time residences. Sometimes pipes break, basements flood and even smoke or fire damage can happen.

It may be possible to have maintenance firms handle such problems but for larger problems it is necessary to hire a company that specializes in restoring homes to their original condition.

Such companies are referred to as Restoration Specialists and having the name of one or more firms on hand is just good preparation. Odds are high that they will never been needed.

Because damages may result in cancellation of bookings, the loss to owners may exceed even the cost of repairs. So here are some steps to be prepared for what you can hope will never happen:

(1) Property Insurance - When insuring your home for vacation rentaling, that use must be clearly communicated to your insurance agent who should provide a policy specifically allowing short-term rental use.

Most basic second home policies are not sufficient for offering a home as a vacation rental. Take care before you have a claim to properly protect you in the unlikely hood a claim becomes necessary.

(2) Business Loss - Second home insurance can cost more than your primary resident. And vacation rental policies cost more than basic second home polices. However, such policies should also cover the owner for loss of income should the home become unrentable for a period of time.

(3) Restoration Specialist - To find a company that specialize in quick and through restoration use Google Maps for your location searing for "Fire Restoration" because that is the most common keyword on which these firms advertise.

(4) Remote - If your home is remote or in a sparsely populated area, it may be necessary to question restoration firms closely to insure that they would be willing to come to your address should you later need their services. Keep good notes.

(5) Records - Be sure to record the name of several restoration companies because, in the case of local flooding or severe weather, any one firm may not be able to handle your needs quickly.

(6) Property Managers - If you use a local property manager, good firms will already know of restoration providers and be able to quickly get help on site.

Lodging managers are not in the restoration business and claims are so unusual that the manager may never have had to use a restoration company. But do not hesitate to ask the manager if they can recommend anyone.

(7) Schedule - Restoration firms can not guarantee that any given property will be restored over night. In fact, time may be required to allow a house to dry.

Even when repairs will take a longer period, restoration firms can often arrive quickly to stabilize the situation and then return later to complete repairs.

(8) Fire - Should your home become partially damaged due to fire, your local fire department will often board over a home to make it is weather tight or to protect it from intruders. Do not hesitate to ask their help when they are on site.

(9) Franchises - Here are the names of several franchises that brand and endorse local partners to do restoration. This does no guarantee the quality of the work. Even local non-franchises are often skilled and dependable.



(10) Action - Try to secure your insurance company's approval before completing restoration. By calling their claim number you should be able to secure approve to start the restoration with full approval secured once the restoration firm can provide a more detailed estimate.

Not long after its founding in 1907, the Boy Scouts organization adopted the motto "Be Prepared." When it comes to unexpected events for your vacation rental home, being prepared is great advice.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0473 – 12/28/15

The Genius Truck Mechanic

By William May
Published: 11/11/15 Topics: Boats, Self Improvement Comments: 0

At the age of 15, I was very sure that Mr. Stearns - a mechanic in the log truck shop my father managed - was a genius.

Although his first name was Jim, I would never have called him that because he was my father's age, he had a regale bearing and he was a legend in the industry. It's not disrespectful to say he was the only genius in the shop, because everyone who worked there knew it.

Repairing big rigs is not a simple job. Diagnosing such a large machine with so many parts and systems requires comprehension of physics, hydraulics, engineering, pneumatics, electronics, and internal combustion.

Before the advent of computers I marveled at the incredible precision which engineers and part manufacturers made things. How did they do it?

Mechanical Arts.

Many people are able to master basic mechanic skills with school training, on the job experience, and mentoring. (In those days, use of the word "mentoring" would have made everyone chuckle.)

Among mechanics there are echelons of knowledge. No one knows it all, and everyone must consult manuals and colleagues occasionally. Everyone except Mr. Stearns.

If you have ever visited a repair shop you would have noticed something odd about Mr. Stearns space. Unlike other mechanics, his area was immaculately organized. It was the only space that was never dirty, and every tool and part was just as it should be.

While other mechanics hustled about, Mr. Stearns seemed to move slowly. While others became dirty and grimy crawling in, around and under trucks Mr. Stearns coveralls remained neat and pressed just as if they had came off an ironing board.

Financial Model

Truck shops make money by charging a standard hourly shop rate for each of the mechanics. Today that fee often exceeds $100 per hour.

There are manuals that specify the numbers of hours that should be required to undertake many common repairs. Even major engine overhauls have a specific set of hours assigned. Jobs can take an hour, many days or even weeks.

Mr. Stearns never looked at those budgets and did not want to know what they were. Although there was a kind of hierarchy, he was left to his own devices - but the time he took for jobs was consistently half of the allocated time. The shop made lots of money allowing him to his own devices.

Focus Solves Problems

When my water-ski boat sunk (don’t ask) he volunteered to take apart the submerged motor that everyone knew would never run again. The engine was so antiquated that to put the boat in reverse required stopping the motor, and restarting it in reverse so that the crank shaft actually went in the opposite direction.

It was a morass of double electronics that would have perplexed Nikola Tesla. Mr. Stearns said he knew very little about boat motors but, one night after work he carefully took it apart piece by piece.

After removing the convoluted electronics he unbolted the cylinder head, carefully extracted the pistons, bearings, and valves, taking time to carefully clean and place every piece on clean white rags atop his tool chest. The pistons and valves were arranged together in order. Each piece was lined up perfectly with the other. It was like a work of art.

Just as carefully, he put all the pieces back into the motor block. Then, just as carefully, cleaned and put every tool back into the chest high tool chest. It was almost midnight now.

"Do you think it will ever run again?" I asked.

"Of course it will run. I put it back together perfectly, didn't I?" he murmured.

He turned the switch and the 75 horsepower behemoth roared to life.

Let Professionals Perform

As he turned off the motor, he turned and faced me square. "Because you are young and interested, I am violating the secret to my success. I have allowed you to help."

I was perplexed, so he continued. "See that sign?"

I looked above his work bench.

  • Shop Labor $30 per hour
  • If you watch $40 per hour
  • If you help $50 per hour

"You see young William (he always called me young William) talk can be a good thing. But customers need to allow experts to work, and to get the hell out of the way."

Old Fashioned Smarts

Today's concepts of co-working, team-building and the sharing economy can help people achieve and succeed. But there is much to be said for personal focus, study and concentration.

Over the years, I have seen similar signs and I follow their wisdom. I remind myself to not watch, not help and to allow that person to go about doing their best work for me.

I can only wish that clients would follow the same advice. Some feel that they can become experts overnight. Some have nothing better to do. Others just cant help but stir the soup.

Wise clients allow experts they hire to do their magic, to spend their time serving them instead of justifying their work. Wise clients judge only the outcome, not the methods.

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Author: William May, MayPartners
Blog #: 0460 – 11/11/15

Sponsor: MayPartners – Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, Sales and Other Stuff. Call today. Make your Sales go up today. Not tomorrow. –

Best Halloween Advertising. Cheapest too.

By William May
Published: 10/31/15 Topics: Advertising, Marketing Comments: 0

For many years the Philadelphia Cheese Steak shop occupied a triangle corner on busy Madison Avenue on Seattle's Capitol Hill. It seemed to do well but changed hands a few times and gradually did the restaurant slow decline dance.

Meantime, just up the street the Bottle Neck bar opened and soon became a favorite hang out. When Philly closed, the proprietors - Erin Nestor and Rebecca Denk - grabbed the additional space and opened a nice neighbor burger joint. They called it "Two Doors Down" because, of course that is where it was.

Sometimes naming businesses and products is easy but often it is a long laborious chore. Who knows how the new restaurant got its name, but it is brilliant, memorable and fun. That fits the new decor and the food.

Halloween heavy traffic raced past Two-Doors, just as traffic always does, but ahead on the trek home cars were slowing and some pulling over to grab a burger.

All because someone, maybe the genius who named the restaurant, created a cheap but compelling reason to drop into the restaurant.

Pumpkins are cheap. A few orange LED Christmas type lights didn't break the bank. surely the staff had fun making them. Or maybe the customers made them. (What fun.)

Putting the pumpkins in the window would have worked, but simply putting them on the street made them impossible to miss. On this rainy dreary night. It was warm. It was compelling.

They must have sold far more burgers that night because who could resist?

Accepting expensive solutions from advertising experts can produce great results, but advertising is always trial and error no matter how well researched.

On the other hand, creative thinking always wins over new customers, makes existing customers smile and makes the cash register ring.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0458 – 10/31/15

Sponsor: MayPartners – Pumping Advertising for decades but a new kinda marketing machine. Old fashioned marketing smarts with new technological know how. Our platform of constant promotion pumps up your sales. But you gotta call us now to start. –

Most Professional Photographers Are Not

By William May
Published: 10/22/15 Topics: Comments: 0

If getting paid for taking photos makes a professional photographer then the standard is too low.

For lodging, hospitality and architecture photos, only High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos are professional and most other professional photographers haven't a clue how to do them.

HDR is not a craft that can be picked up easily, or in a book, or in a short class. Prior skills may leave other photographers woefully under equipped to master the technological and artistic requirements of this new craft.

Having great camera gear is essential, but anyone can pony up the money and buy the very best gear. Although most do not!

Spending thousands of hours shooting photos conventionally may give a photographer some understanding of lighting and composition. But frankly the photos from many pros still look pretty much like those of educated amateurs.

For older photographers who grew up when flash devices and dark room chemicals ruled their lives, that time may have been a wait. They spent years perfecting mechanical knowledge that is really of no value to the HDR environment.

That isn't to say that some long tenured photographers have not grabbed the HDR baton and ran, some have. But simply having decades of experience is not adequate in today's internet and software age.

Starting Over

Not all is doom and gloom. There are photographers world wide who have invested considerable education, training and practical experience to learn the highly technical needs of High Dynamic Range shooting and processing.

Unfortunately, these photographers are few and far between.

That means unsuspecting businesses often hire a "Professional" and end up with the same old drab limited photos for their interior photo needs. And that is a darn shame.

In lodging and building interior intensive shooting, there are even so called "experts" writing blogs and touting their specialized skills - all while avoiding the long hours of technical learning necessary to master HDR.

And that is a shame because clients are short-changed while paying heavily for inferior photography.

If you are wondering if your photographer and your photos are at the highest level, are serving you well and if you got your money's worth, give us a call for a free evaluation.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0418 – 10/22/15

Cell Phone Photos Are Not Just Fine

By William May
Published: 06/01/15 Topics: Comments: 0

I do not want to argue and nit pick but sometimes advertising people just say silly thinks.

Recently while uploading some of our fabulously large, High Dynamic Range Photos (all converted to Progressive PDF's for loading speed, while retaining quality, to a very large vacation rental listing website a little box popped up that I must take exception with.

It said "Include a few well-lit photos."

OK I do not have a super big problem with that statement but they should also disclose that using only a few photos will cut rental inquiries dramatically. And not including enough photos is equally disastrous. I am sure the techies have the stats and know better.

But then the little box read "Cell phone photos are just fine."

Really? A cell phone photo?

If they meant "just fine" as in "not completely terrible" well maybe that is OK. Surely the websites is trying to get every possible paying property owner to use their service and asking amateurs to create and upload superb photos would result in less listings and lower income for the website publisher..

I get their logic, but I question their desire to help managers get the very best sales results.

On the other hand, these technical website folks need to spill the beans about cell phone photos.

A few folks can coax an adequately good snap-shot out of a phone. Some mobile devices have rudimentary HDR which can help. But most folks take truly lousy photos. (Check out your grant Grandma's photos of your sisters wedding. Your sister will never live those down.)

What the giant websites should tell their customers - in all candor - is that managers should find and spend money on a professional photographer who has mastered the art of using HDR for interior photos.

That will make the manager far more money than it costs.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0405 – 06/01/15

Creepy Vacation Rental Videos

By Wm. May
Published: 05/27/15 Topics: Marketing, Vacation Rentals, Videos Comments: 0

Recently, a number of websites - including some Vacation Rental portals - have begun using videos as a kind of background image that depict people using vacation rental homes.

Maybe you have seen them. Often they are mundane and slow moving but even the slight movement attracts attention.

There is no sound, and no titles and they are seemingly used mostly as a graphic element - to indicate that staying in the home is comfortable and desirable.

Unfortunately, they do the opposite because no one realized the implications that make the videos creepy.

  • One depicts a young woman asleep in a disheveled room as she wakes up.

  • Another shows a dad and daughter playing on the top bunk of a bed.

  • Another shows a couple of men making breakfast, in a none too attractive tiny kitchen.

All of these feel like they were video taped by a peeping tom when the people were not looking. Viewing them should make you feel uncomfortable.

So who thought this was a good idea? Maybe a peeping tom or voyeur?

The videos are often grainy, or perhaps faded which inadvertently indicates the videos were shot a non-professional camera. That too implies they were taken without the subjects approval. Even more creepy.

By comparison, some videos are exterior long shots of the ocean with boats moving, or waterfalls falling, some have people far in the background.

Those videos are more reassuring because they were clearly taken in a public space and not of some one in a private bedroom in their jammies. The subtleties between various videos is the difference between acceptable and creepy.

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Author: Wm. May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0398 – 05/27/15

Drones Will One Day Be Old News

By William May
Published: 05/01/15 Topics: Hotels, Photography Comments: 0

At a recent meeting of hotel operators the questions were all about drone photography.

Signatour Photo Team Experts were there to display dramatic " Before And After" photos showing how bad lodging properties can look online and how attractive they become when properly shot in the HDR photo technique.

But every admiring hotelier also wanted to know how to get an aerial photo shot of their hotel from a drone. is going to delivery packages with them. Hobbyists are sending drones into their neighbors yards and they are regularly featured on the news.

Of course, shooting an aerial, or a series of them, can be helpful in showing guests exactly where they may be staying. We are happy to provide that services to our clients.

But soon, every lodging property will have aerials and then property managers will need to find a new and better way to attract guests.

Good news - that ability already exists and it is called High Dynamic Range.

To clarify, HDR is not the HD as is common in High Definition television and computer monitors. Read our white paper: HDR is not the HD

Some hoteliers had regrets when seeing the Before and After photos that Signatour creates using proprietary High Dynamic Range HDR) techniques.

Said one, "Damn, I just paid a photo vendor, recommended by my Franchisor, a bunch of money for what are junk compared to yours."

More good news - Signatour guarantees our photos will impress and even stun you with their accuracy and vibrancy, or your money back.

Frankly it is an easy guarantee to make because we have spent a decade perfecting our Perfect Touch product. No one can match it. And we will throw in the drone shots too.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0395 – 05/01/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – Our Perfect Touch photos use High Dynamic Range (HDR) To create the most accurate and compelling photos every devised for architectur, hospitality and loding properties. Affordable Too. Just call 866-765-7520 today. Get more bookings tomorrow. –

Velella Velella Attack Ocean Shores

By William May
Published: 04/15/15 Topics: Ocean Shores WA Comments: 0

Velella Velella Attack Ocean Shores Washington State

With the unseasonably warm weather, people are not the only creatures trekking to Ocean Shores Washington.

The aptly named Velella Velella jelly fish have been washing up by the millions on West Coast Beaches.

"They do look messy," said Jackie Martin, a property manager at By the Sea Vacation Rentals, "The last time we saw these was six years ago and they washed away fairly closely."

The warmer temperatures causes the creatures to migrate closer to the land and in the millions. When the wind blows in a certain direction, the jelly fish are blown off course and up onto the beach.

As small cnidarians, Velella Velella are members of a an ocean surface community that includes the better-known cnidarian siphonophore, the Portuguese man o' war. Each individual is about 7 cm long, usually deep blue in color with a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels them on the surface of the sea.

Velella Velella are carnivorous little guys, catching plankton in their tentacles that hand down in the water They are not poisonous, and they do not have a sting.

Says Martin, "They can be handled with out any problem, but people should wash their hands after touching them."

The wind and high tides may wash them right off the beach, or they could be in evidence for months all the way into summer.

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Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0393 – 04/15/15

How to Choose a Vacation Rental Photographer

By William May
Published: 03/01/15 Topics: Photography Comments: 0

Exciting indeed is the increase in lodging consultants and experts who put great photos at the top of the list for improved bookings.

Guests give websites but a few scant seconds to decide if it's professional, if it has what they need, and whether they are willing to look further. In two seconds, most people can read only a few words but a glance at a photo reveals dozens of thoughts and conveys quality, emotion, and content.

So why do those who tout themselves as experts constantly talk about the need to hire a professional photographers but then recommend vendors whose work is not up to modern standards?

An easy comparison of various vacation rental photographers will reveal the obvious differences. To help illustrate the differences, here are questions to answer when considering a photographer for an Inn, Resort, Hotel, or Vacation Rental Home.

Education - Digital cameras are great but it is not easy to use every bell and whistle to create accurate, stunning photos. If your photographer did not get a professional education then they won't know how to do everything they should.

Self Taught - Teaching yourself to shoot photos is fine, but unless you have 40+ hours (per week) to devote to the craft and for many years, you can't keep up on technology.

Flash Lighting - If your photographer uses a flash attachment to shoot your homes, they are shooting incorrectly. With today's technology, all photos should be done using High Dynamic Range techniques. Because HDR relies on multiple shots and accounts for each pixel at different exposures, a flash should never be needed.

Raw format - All great HDR photos must be shown using a camera's raw format because it is the most densely packed number of pixels. With more pixels, color correction, toning, and sharpening have the best chance for establishing accuracy. Any photographer who does not shoot in RAW, is not up on technology.

License - Sometimes you can get a better deal on prices if you only need the photos for limited use. For example, if you put them on your website but not elsewhere the price maybe lower. If you want all internet rights, usually a bit higher. And if you want exclusive rights, even denying the photographer the right to display them on his portfolio website; that can get trickier.

Travel - If your photographer is local he is less likely to be at the top of his game. Great photographers are in demand which means they usually travel from destination to destination. That is because they are in demand.

Time - Hiring someone who is instantly available should make you wonder why they are always available. Sure you might get lucky to fit in a shoot between your photographers other sessions.

Speed - Anyone who can shoot your property one day and have dozens of quality HDR photos to you the next, is fooling you. Retouching photos and creating HDR masterpieces takes time and talent. A photographer who needs some time to complete work is more likely to produce excellent products.

Weather - Even interior photos look better if shot on a blue-sky, bright sun day. If your photographer can set a date days in advance and stick to them when the weather is bad, they are taking advantage of you. The schedule must slide if the sun "don't shine."

Cost - If the cost for shooting is anything under $500 for a condo, $750 for a house, or $2,000 for a complex then they are only shooting and not processing.

Great photo sessions and images can cost much more depending on the size, type, and location of the property.

Barter - If your photographer is willing to do all the work of shooting and processing great photos for the privilege of staying at your home when he does it, he isn't a professional. Sure everyone loves to go on vacation but a great travel photographer has more free stays than he can stomach.

Expert - Not everyone who says they are an expert is one. Great photographers are found by looking for great photographs. No sales pitch or self-professed expertise can make up for a lack of quality.


Now that you are ready to talk with photographers, get prices, and look at their portfolios; here is how to go about picking the very best one:

Big Screen - Be sure to look at each photographers portfolio using a very big computer screen. Not all guests have large monitors but many do. The larger screen will show you photos that are not sharp or explicitly in focus. If a photographers shots are not super clean, scratch them off your list.

Portfolio - Lastly, open a web browser, simultaneously pull up each photographer's website portfolio, and then switch back and forth. Great HDR photographs should stand out.

The difference between them and conventional (even professional) photos will be stunning.

Save your pennies until you have enough to hire an HDR expert photographer. The expenditure will pay off quickly and repeatedly with greater bookings and more occupancy. You'll make more money by spending the relatively small cost of finding a truly qualified lodging photographer.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0008 – 03/01/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – Perfecting how to shoot and process accurate compelling architectural photography for Inns, Resorts, Hotels and Vacation Rentals. Our Perfect-Touch program requires technical education, years of experience and the artistic skill that most profession photographers can not match. –

Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk

By William May
Published: 01/23/15 Topics: Communications, Football, Sports Comments: 1

Although the Seahawks football team have been the talk of our home town Seattle (as well as the whole country), I have noticed some very peculiar behavior.

When our surprisingly competent quarter back, Russell Wilson, comes to the line of scrimmage, it is not unusual to see him start the count that signals for the play to begin.

Frequently he turns his head left or right and barks commands to the team, or to individual players. Sometimes he steps back and commands the running backs. Sometimes he taps them on the arm or he puts his hands to his mouth megaphone style to alert the wide receivers.

He is alerting them that something has changed in the 5 seconds it took them to leave the huddle (where he had called the play) and jog to the line. He sees a defense he doesn't like, or notices an opponent not aligning as anticipated. .

He must believe his players do not see what he sees, or know what he knows. That makes it his job to communicate with them. So he talks, talks, talks, talks and talks some more.

He does all of that because a failed play can send very mean and very big 300 pound opponents crashing in on top of him, throwing him violently to the ground and destroying the play. He has great motivation to communicate with his fellow players.

Most of us do not risk physical pain when we fail to communicate. But using constant communication to do our jobs, and be successful is just as important. It is not an option, it is a requirement.

Do it in person, do it on the phone and, for less urgent matters, use email or snail mail. Then check back to make sure the other person received your message.

If you fail to talk talk talk, you won't get tackled but you will be letting your team mates down.

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Author: William May – Seahawks Fan, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0002 – 01/23/15

Christmas Trees Endanger the World

By William May
Published: 01/17/15 Topics: Government Comments: 0

Christmas Trees Endanger the World

The latest target of political extremists is the lowly Christmas Trees. They have pronounced that live- fresh versions are terribly dangerous when located in public places, like hotels, condo buildings, restaurants and even correction facilities (double speak for jails.)

This is really just another form of hate crime - where one group of people decide to punish and impugn the people they hate who behave differently than them.

Here is the pitch from Honolulu Fire Dept. Battalion chief Terry Seelig found on KHON TV website in Hawaii:

"Our goal is to help them understand what their options are," proclaims Seelig. Inherent in his hubris is that he and fire chiefs know what is best for everyone, even those who want to have a Christmas tree.

In faux generosity he is wiling to allow that those under his thumb, "can have limited amounts of cut vegetation."

Why must he create strange new terms and then explain them to the public like they are children? It is just his method of demeaning the people he serves.

And if you think politico speak is rare, get this one from Seelig, "They are going to probably have some change remorse." Really? Change remorse? Why can't he just admit, 'this is really going to peeve people but I just really don’t care what anyone things who thinks differently than me?'

No one should be surprised by this latest government official land grab. Big brother has an insatiable appetite to gain mind control citizens in every possible way, and to do it with inane laws and regulations.

The hypocrisy is proven by the fact that he is willing to grant some dispensation to the lowly serfs by saying that people "can have trees in their individual apartments." So if a tree is not dangerous in a private home why is it not safe in a restaurant?

This is not a rant about the political left or the right, but about a much more dangerous group - government thugs who feel they have nothing better to do with their time than to find a single complaint and decided that 300 million people should adjust their lives to conform to the mathematically unlikely scenario that a Christmas Tree will burst into flames and be dangerous.

For more insight into crazy thinking and stupid laws, be sure to read, "The Death of Commons Sense" available on

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Author: William May – Anti-Scrooge Advocate, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0388 – 01/17/15

HDR Photography is not HD

By William May
Published: 01/01/15 Topics: Comments: 0

Do not be mislead. Do not be deceived.

The term "High Definition" may apply to your television or computer screen but "High Dynamic Range" photography is a different breed of animal.

HD and HDR are entirely different things and they are what Signatour Photo Team does exclusively.

HDR refers to a technological process so powerful and so compelling that it has been patented by Adobe software. Almost anyone can use HDR. In fact a rudimentary version is built into Apple’s iPhone 5.

Only one in every ten thousand amateur photographers (one in a thousand professionals) can master HDR to become truly capable of using it for dazzling accurate photos.


HDR has many uses but the Signatour Photo Team goal is very simple.

HDR is the advanced tool used to produce architectural photographs that actually reproduce what the human eye sees. You may get tired of hearing the phrase, but that simple capability is essential to making your photos accurate and proper.

Even the world's best SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera requires the photograph to pick an aperture and an exposure time.

For example, for Aperture most SLR cameras have a standard seven "F Stops" that can be chosen, but one must be chosen to take a photo. F-Stops represent the amount of light entering the lens, with digital cameras, the amount of light arriving at the sensor.

Further, aperture values are not absolute measurements. They are relative requiring the photographer to divide the aperture's diameter by the focal length of the lens.

For example, a 50mm diameter aperture on a lens with a focal length of 200mm would have an f-stop of 1/4 - generally written as F4 or 1:4.

Prior to digital cameras, photographers had to spend hour upon hour using special hidden lights to overcompensate for dark areas inside a room, or screen away light form outside.

Very expensive magazines have been doing this for decades but it requires a bunch of workers, toiling together for days to get a single accurate photo.


On the other hand, the wondrous human eye can adjust all F-Stops on it's own lens and judge focal length at the blink of an eye (actually much faster than that.) So as you switch your glaze from a dark interior space to a bright outside window, then back to another interior dark space, your eyes sees it all perfectly. Automatically.

Surprisingly, not all animals can do this well, but humans can. And they never know it happened! The miracle is taken for granted


For over a hundred years photographers tried to solve the aperture and exposure problem using odd techniques and time consuming methods.

Decades ago, some shooters actually tried to take multiple shots of the same image using different exposures. They then cut apart their glass plate negatives, glued them together and made paper prints from them in hopes of getting accurate exposures. It was unpredictable. It was expensive. It was tough.

Other photographers spent hour upon hour in the dark room, covering parts of the light source used to expose sensitive photographic paper to manually adjust the black or white (later color) to represent what they remembered to be correct.

Most famous photographers "dodged" and "burned" and "blended" photo prints relentlessly in the dark room to improve or change the character of the photo.

It was said that Ancil Adams - a dedicated outdoorsman famous for his stunning Yosemite National Park photos - spent more time in the darkroom creating photos than he spent shooting them.

Shooting HDR photos is not for the unskilled or lazy. To do it properly requires patience, proper equipment, computer skills, a good memory (more about that later) and the fine hand of an artist.


The problem with shooting interior spaces is that the range of light and contrast in a room varies from very dark (back in a corner), to the diffused light (on a ceiling), to the very light (seeing through a room out a window).

To correct that problem our team members use very sensitive professional cameras, mount them on heavy tripods, locked down so it will not move, and then shoot up to 16 photos each with a different F-stop.

Be careful - if the camera is jiggled, the photos are useless. Even the slightest movement means the photos can not be amalgamated into a truly accurate photo.

Each single photo is shot repeatedly, at the highest possible digital camera range and in a "Raw" format to stuff the photo full of every pixel of light (or dark) in the room. The files are huge and there are 16 of them for every single photo to be created.

Those photos are then uploaded to a high powered computer with lots of storage and computing power because the software needed for the next step eats computer memory alive.

To complete a single photo, the photograph next pulls all 16 photos into a single screen (remember these are huge files) and overlays them in a cascade so he can examine the exposure of each.

Using various software tools he does what those photograph explorers did a century ago with their glass plates - he picks and chooses the proper exposure for every inch of the room.

The software automates this some, but not entirely. It is necessary to examine pesky problems like blinds or draperies that are composed of very dark and very light components.

Sometimes the photographer must tone each color in the room to match what his eye remembers (remember the memory requirement?) Then set about to insure that lines are as straight (or not) on the photo as they are in real life. Camera lenses are round and naturally straight lines, such as ceiling to wall junctions can appear rounded.

After all the proper parts of each photo have been chosen, the photographer instructs the software to combine them leaving out all the photo parts not chosen. Software helps make intricate connections clear but it takes an artist to insure it is realistic.

In the end the photos are truly dense in pixels which is where the term "High Dynamic Range" originates. The file is massive but full of details.

Today architectural photos are primarily used for the internet and large file sizes can cause web pages to load slowly or improperly. Therefore the next step is for the photographer to resize and reapportion the photos to reduce file size while retaining the same accuracy.

Using nothing more than his wondrous human eyes the photographer artist reduces the file size until just before its reduction would be visible. He does this separately for each final size and reduces the file size significantly without decreasing the quality and accuracy of the photo.

This entire process is all made possible by multiple images of different exposures, a huge computer file size and the millions of resulting pixels but only if the HDR process is properly handled at every prior step.

It takes hundreds of hours to master. Great HDR photographers get progressively better over years.


Many try, but few succeed. Signatour photos are better than those produced by some other very skilled HDR photographers because completing the photo to match what the eye sees, requires a true artist.

The difference between Michael Angelo, and his contemporaries, was not their tools or the quality of their paints or marble for carving. It was that Michael Angelo had the touch. He had the eye. He had the magic.

Signatour Photo Team members use HDR in ways far beyond what your garden variety professional photographer can do. By specializing in architectural photos for the travel and tourism industry they are able to proceed through the photographic process over and over again.

Each time they use specialized skills to create photos that are as vibrant and accurate as what the miraculous human eye can see.


Putting inaccurate and embarrassing photos in your advertising or website means you are subliminally telling customers that your property is not of the highest caliber.

Using Signatour HDR photos tells them just the opposite. If you care about the quality of your advertising then they will presume you care about the quality of your business.

The Signatour Photo Team process is called "Perfect Touch" because we use the latest technology, the best equipment and have movingly beautiful properties to shoot - but mostly because we have artists who can make every photograph come to life.

Now all you have to do, to get photos that will properly show case your property and business, is to call us today.

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False Assumptions

Every now and then someone says, "But gee your photographs look fake or odd." In some ways they are correct, but mostly they are unobservant.

For hundreds of years, printers have been forced into reproducing photos using a pattern of tiny dots to trick the viewers eye into thinking it was seeing a photograph. To produce color photos, they had to overlay four versions of those dots, offsetting them slightly to fill the gaps. It worked but close inspection shows imperfections and inaccuracies.

In very high-end printing - such as National Graphic Magazine - the dots are so small (and the printing so costly) that your eye can not see the dots. But in most pulp printed newspapers, a close look at the photos reveals those dots with the naked eye.

These methods were good for the day, but they were not accurate, failing to reveal the proper dynamics of dark and light and medium. In short, what you saw in print was not what your eye saw in person.


Until the advent of digital photography, amateur photos, such as those most amateurs get back from the photo store, the problem of F-Stops remained. Photos of moms, dads, kids and vacations were taken with simple cameras with scare ability to alter exposures and aperture.

Now that everyone has a pretty camera in their pockets, their phone, the number of photos taken is skyrocketing. Although some smart phones have rudimentary HDR, the onslaught of photos simply means that a whole lot of people are seeing far more photos that remain improperly exposed and focused.

The result is photos with improper exposures. Yet - due to a history of looking at bad photos - consumers have been subconsciously trained to think that crappy photos are accurate. They are shocked to see accurate photos that they think something is wrong with them - when nothing is wrong with them - and everything is right.

Read more

Author: William May, Signatours
Blog #: 0380 – 01/01/15

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