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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Samson - I was blind but now I see

Photos and Text by Richard M. Reyes

"I was blind, but now I see" are lyrics found in the classic hymn, written by John Newton, Amazing Grace.  It also echoes the comment of Jeff Bender, the Director/Producer of Samson at Sight & Sound Theaters.  Talking about the history of the Samson Production presented in 2 Acts and 24 scenes, which took 3 1/2 years, Jeff says they saw the truth that "God's ways are NOT our ways." 

Scripture says, in

Isaiah 55:8-9 Amplified Bible (AMP)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts higher than your thoughts."

 Jeff adds that [Samson] is full of "seemingly blatant contradictions" like, "water in the desert; when you're weak. you're strong; when you're blind, you can see; and grace triumphs over judgment."  We see in the Bible that these contradictions are situations where our strength is drawn from Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:10 Amplified Bible (AMP)

"...For when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength]."

Samson: The Production  (2018 - Branson, MI; 2016 Lancanster County, PA)
I had an opportunity to watch Samson at the Sight & Sound Theater in Lancaster County, PA during Sight & Sound Theater's 40th Anniversary (1976-2016).

Watching Samson at the Sight & Sound Theaters is a unique experience because of the 180 degree field of view achieved with the use of a main stage in the middle and two "side" stages located on the left and right sides of the main stage.  The main stage is normally the main focus for storytelling.  The side stages engage the audience by telling the story of day-to-day activities (farming, herding, etc.).  Sometimes the main characters use the side stages to begin and/or end a scene.
View of the side stage at Sight & Sound Theaters

In addition, some people like to sit at the end of the rows toward the middle stage as it is used by animals/actors to enter/exit the stage and begin/end a scene.

It is interesting to note that Michael Niederer, who plays the role of Samson (and has been with Sight & Sound since 2013), uses 5 wigs to help tell the story of Samson. There are 2 wigs used in Act 1 and 3 wigs used in Act 2:
  1. Act 1 - During Samson's teen years (Scene 1)
  2. Act 1 - The Wedding (Scene 6)
  3. Act 2 - There are two different wigs as one is so heavy that it requires a harness
  4. Act 2 - The Grinding Wheel (Scene 11)
The use of wigs is transparent and appropriately fits the scene in which they are presented.   You can watch more of Behind the Scenes in the video below.

Since March 2018, Samson is live on stage in the Sight & Sound Theater in Branson, MI.  It scheduled to play until December 29,2018.  You can watch the trailer below.

Samson - Live on Stage
  As with other Sight & Sound Productions I have experienced, they have been at least on par or better than Broadway for the following reasons:
  1. Orchestral Music -  Production quality music is recorded offsite by an orchestra.
  2. 180 degree stage - The stage immerses the audience with a 180 degree view of each scene.
  3. Acting, Singing, and Dancing - Professional actors, singers and dancers are employed whether main or supporting roles/extras.
  4. Stage/Prop/Costume/Design - The design and staging of props and costumes reflect the time period and story being presented.
  5. Lighting - The on-stage lighting is controlled and designed for the 180 degree stage.  The ceiling lighting is also used to show the night sky/stars.
180 degree stage - Sight & Sound Theaters

Samson - The Story
  Samson, a judge, whom we first meet in the Book of Judges, is an unlikely hero for the Israelites against the Philistines.  The Israelites had been "delivered unto the hands of the Philistines for 40 years" because they had done "evil in the sight of the Lord." (Judges 13:1)

  The first sign of grace and mercy God shows the Israelites is by sending Manoah and his wife (who was barren) a child.  God sends them a child to who is named Samson.  The first time we see the "Spirit of the Lord" coming mightily is when Samson faces the young lion and overcomes it bare-handed.  
  The stage musical shows different time periods and situations listed in the Book of Judges Chapters 14,15, and 16.  There are many times Samson is challenged and gives in through persistence.  First, during the wedding when he provides a riddle to the wedding guests and provides the answer causing Samson to lose the challenge and has to give 30 changes of clothing.  The second time is when Delilah found out the secret to Samson's strength for the price of 1100 silver pieces.
Delilah challenges Samson through persistence.

  One of the best scenes for me both visually and seeing the Spirit of God working mightily was Samson carrying the gate and two posts described in Judges chapter 16 verse 3; Samson defeating 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of an Ox, and the finale where Samson is called from prison and attends the Philistines celebration.   

  Sitting at the end of the aisle was the best part to see Samson carry the gate.  This helps "bring the Bible to life."  It also gives the audience an idea of the strength that God gave Samson.
Samson carrying the gate

In the finale, the Philistines were celebrating their god for delivering Samson giving them the opportunity to make him blind, and imprisoning him.  The Bible says the Philistines invited him so "Samson could be made sport."  They believed they had triumphed over the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

  Being imprisoned humbled Samson.  When he was summoned from prison Samson requested to be placed in between two pillars then he, "called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life."
Samson summoned from prison and placed between two pillars.
Finale - "So the dead which he (Samson) slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life."

At the end it is made clear that God's ways are higher than our ways and even though Samson was physically blind, he was able to see.  He finally saw God's plan and followed in obedience.  He understood the reason for God sending the Holy Spirit mightily in him.  He [Samson] could have appropriately said, "I am blind, but I see."

* Paragon, Sight and Sound Theaters (

Note: Other sources appear as hyperlinks within the body of the article text.

Friday, June 29, 2018




The Epic Biblical Production from Sight & Sound Theatres® Makes Its

Way From the Stage to the Screen, Sept. 13 & 15, 2018
LANCASTER, Pa. – June 27, 2018 – The epic musical drama MOSES from Sight & Sound Theatres comes to cinemas nationwide September 13 and 15 through Fathom Events.  Filmed in front of a live audience, the original stage production was seen by nearly two million people at Sight & Sound’s theaters in Lancaster, PA and Branson, MO.  
“The burning bush, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea and the Ten Commandments—the story of MOSES is massive,” Executive Producer Josh Enck said. “But at its heart, this is an intimate story of the man who climbed a mountain to meet God.”

In addition to this incredible production, audiences will get a behind-the-scenes look at the 40-year history of Sight & Sound Theatres, whose live stage shows have been seen by more than 23 million visitors worldwide.  

SynopsisSet adrift as a baby and now wandering in the wilderness, Moses is one unlikely hero—until God calls him into action. From the Nile River to the Red Sea, journey with Moses as he leads God’s people on an amazing adventure toward the Promised Land.
Filmed in front of a live audience at Sight & Sound Theatres, MOSES is the original stage production that has thrilled nearly 2 million people. Now families across the country can experience this epic Bible story as it comes to life in movie theaters for two days only: Thursday, September 13, and Saturday, September 15.
“This high-quality production of MOSES will be a thrilling experience for attendees of all ages,” Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said. “We are excited to bring another Sight & Sound event to movie theaters that displays the unique multi-dimensional detail put into their titles.”

About the ProductionThe original, live stage production of MOSES debuted in 2014 at Sight & Sound Theatres in Lancaster, PA, then appeared in Branson, MO for the 2016-17 season. The filmed version captures all the spectacle and grand scale that are signatures of a Sight & Sound show.
Action takes place on three sides of the audience on a 300-foot panoramic stage . . . and in the aisles! MOSES features 60 sets that required two years to build, some reaching three stories high. Dozens of live animals include horses, camels, donkeys, sheep, goats . . .  (and stay alert for the trained rats). The cast is decked out in more than 880 costumes as they bring Moses’ story to life with a musical score by Hollywood veteran Don Harper, composer for National Treasure and The Lion King 1½, among many others.
Taking MOSES to cinemas marks the second time Sight & Sound has moved one of its productions from the stage to the screen. JONAH played in movie theaters nationwide in 2017.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONShow Times: Thursday, September 13, 6:30 p.m.Saturday, September 15, 12:55 p.m.
For tickets and more information, visit

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wide Angle Lenses

By Richard M. Reyes

Wide Angle Lenses are very good at bringing your subject closer to you.  This is a bit different than shooting with macro lenses where you can fill the image with your subject.  For example, you can photograph a flower in a field.  This flower can be in the foreground and be your main subject.  The bonus is that because of the angle of view covered by the lens, you can see the fields, hills, farmhouse in the background.  In the same macro shot you may have just the flower fill the image.

Wide Angle Lens on DSLR
It is a different thought process when shooting with an ultra-wide lens.  The lens I have access to now is a Canon 10-22mm on a Canon crop-sensor camera body.  This is the lens that probably stays on the camera body the most.  It has an equivalent focal range of 16-35mm (for a 35mm camera or full-frame sensor).

Wide Angle Lens on Camera Phone
My favorite wide angle lens on a camera phone is still the Nokia Lumia 1020.  It has a 41MP (2/3") sensor with Carl Zeiss Optics with a constant aperture of f/2.2 and fixed 26mm lens.  It is a quirky device.  It was designed with such a high resolution  to avoid having to physically zoom-in.  The idea was you can crop the image and still have a usable image.  I never use the camera thinking that I would crop the image and "post-crop".

This camera reminds me of the Nikon 5000 ("pre-dslr" camera) which also had a 2/3" sensor and had crisp color and focus.  I think some people refer to them as bridge cameras.  

Canon 5D II to Nikon D750

By Richard M. Reyes

It has been a while since I have used a camera with a full-frame sensor.  To be exact, the last full-frame sensor camera I used was the Canon 5D Mark II (which went on sale in November 2008).  At the time, it was a great upgrade from the Canon 5D.  The single largest reason for me to upgrade was the automated sensor cleaning system.  Before this, it was mandatory to have a blower to remove any floating dust particles which plagued my Canon 5D.

Now, after a lot of research on the full-frame sensor that may be a good fit for me, I am looking into a Nikon D750.  I did look into the 5D Mark III and think it is a good camera.  I am not considering the 5D Mark IV within the scope of this article because of price considerations.

Before listing my reasons for the Nikon D750, listed below are the compelling reasons for the Canon 5D Mark III or Canon 5D Mark IV.  I think if the Canon 5D's below kept the autofocus feature of the Canon EOS 3 (film camera) which allowed the camera to focus on what the photographer was looking at then there would be less reasons to switch.

In general, I do find the color rendition of the DIGIC processors to be pleasing and up to this point my workflow has been optimized around Canon gear.

Canon 5D Mark III best features (Most of which are improvements over the 5D Mark II).  Note: This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, only the top features that are important to me:

  1. Improved Autofocus 61 AF points (5D2 had 15) and can shoot at a higher ISO with less noise
  2. Headphone Jack (for video this is essential to monitor sound)
  3. Dual Card Slots (SD and CF)

Nikon D750 best features:
For me the deciding factors for this camera are:

  1. Focus - The Nikon autofocus system - the ability to focus on "eyes" for people photos
  2. Dynamic Range - Dynamic Range is an important factor for me.  Getting more highlights and shadows can benefit both color and black and white photography
  3. Dual Card Slots (SD)
Since I am considering a solution that includes people photos then the Nikon D750 is a worthy option.

This article is not meant to be a Canon vs. Nikon as I have other Canon gear that will not be replaced.  Gear is gear and you can shoot with what you have.

Canon Camera Museum. EOS 5D Mark II. Retrieved from

Canon Camera Museum. EOS 5D Mark III. Retrieved from

Canon Europe. Capturing the Image: Sensor Cleaning. Retrieved from

Nikon USA. D750. Retrieved from

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Emerald Expositions Expands Photo+ Group Portfolio with Formation of “Professional School & Sports Photographers International” (PSPI)

PSPI Association Makes Debut at WPPI 2016, Joins Extensive List of Emerald Photo Properties including PhotoPlus Expo, Photo District News, PDN Edu, Shutterlove and Photoserve

New York – November 4, 2015 – Emerald Expositions, a leading organizer of industry trade shows including PhotoPlus Expo and WPPI, has announced the formation of the Professional School & Sports Photographers Association (PSPI).  The new association will become part of Emerald’s Photo+ Group umbrella of photographic properties which includes Photo District NewsPDN EduRangefinder magazine, Shutterlove, and the online portfolio site, Photoserve.  PSPI, whose members represent the school and sports photography communities, will make its official debut at WPPI 2016 in Las Vegas, March 3-10.  A full day program of seminars and events for school and sport photographers will be scheduled as part of the annual wedding and portrait conference + expo held at the MGM Grand, along with additional programming as part of full WPPI conference programming. This education will be included in the Full Platform pass and offered at no charge as part of a benefit to Photo+ Group members.


Formerly the Professional School Photographers Association (PSPA), its board of directors were searching for an industry affiliate that had the strength and depth to properly support the needs of its members.  Due to its thriving photo industry trades shows, extensive communications network, large community of active members, and robust education program, Emerald Expositions and its Photo+ Group was best suited to support and expand PSPI.


“We are very happy to welcome members of PSPI to Emerald’s Photo+ Group family and encourage other school and sports photographers to join our expanded family,” explains Jason Groupp, The Photo+ Group director of education and membership who will also join the board of directors of PSPI.  “The Photo+ Group offers some of the most extensive educational programming anywhere and our active communities will help PSPI members acclimate themselves into our organization very quickly and take advantage of all the same benefits and opportunities as existing members.”


“As a long time board member of PSPA, we are very excited that the Photo+ Group at Emerald has embraced the school and sports photographer community,” explains Mark Schoenrock, who will remain a board member of PSPI and the organization’s managing director.  “The opportunity PSPI members now have to actively participate in a growing conference and expo, as well as other educational programming throughout the year, is an enormous benefit.”


About WPPI

The WPPI Wedding and Portrait Photography Conference + Expo is the premier industry event for photographers and now, filmmakers, specializing in the creative and business aspects of wedding, portrait photography and filmmaking. Each year, over 13,000 professional and imaging professionals attend WPPI to learn new techniques from industry leaders, build new relationships to help grow their business, experiment with new products from major manufacturers to improve productivity, and to use Vegas as a backdrop while expanding skillsets and portfolios.


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Additional information and a complete schedule of seminars and activities is available online at





Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why I love the Canon EF 40mm

By Richard M. Reyes

I love the Canon EF 40mm lens ( for a number of reasons.  The order below most likely represents the order of importance:

1. Sharpness/Focus
2. Lightweight
3. Portable
4. Quiet
5. Good for photo and video
6. Price

This is a very sharp lens.  I have used this lens on a number of different camera bodies and the results are always sharp: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon EOS 60D, and Canon EOS SL1.

Canon website referenced above lists the weight at 130 grams.  When I pair this lens with the Canon EOS SL1, I can shoot all day without having to put the camera down because I am tired.  I can keep shooting from morning till night (or until the camera batteries are fully drained-whichever comes first).

This lens has been referred to as a pancake lens.  Like a pancake it does not extended much in front of the camera compared to other medium telephoto to zoom telephoto lenses.  While it is more noticeable on a camera body such as the Canon EOS SL1, it is hardly noticeable on professional bodies on the 5D and 1D series.

It is quiet because it uses Canon STM technology.  This is Canon's Stepping Motor that is designed to make shooting video a quiet experience.  Non STM lenses typically tend to be noticeably noisy when shooting video.

Good for photo and video
Because it uses an STM lens motor it is quiet and fast enough that it is good for both photography and video.

It is about $149.00.

I have long been a fan of Ken Rockwell's article reflecting his motto of "Don't Worry: Just Shoot".  Just as in the article, it probably took me about 5 years of worrying about what gear I have instead of just shooting.  This article reflects my departure into the journey of "just creating better pictures."  Ken, I have quoted you because although I have read your article a whole lot of times, it took a little while to live it.  For a more technical review with examples please check out Ken Rockwell's review of the Canon 40mm (

I do encourage the photographer to be proficient with their equipment.  That is a smart way to make the most of what you have and know the limitations.   However, take the time you would have spent comparing even more specs and just shoot (photographs).

PDN Photoplus Conference and Expo - October 21-24, 2015

By Richard M. Reyes

If you are a photo enthusiast or even a photo professional, you most likely have PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo already on your calendar.  This year's conference will be on October 21-24, 2015 and the expo will be from October 22-24, 2015 at the Jacob Javits Center Convention Center.  The best part this year is that the 7 train (New York City Subway's IRT Flushing line has been extended 1.6 miles from its prior end station at the heart of Times Square) to the 34th Street - Hudson Yards (

Having attended the last few conferences, this event will leave you with something new to ponder.  Yes, it is a great place to find out the latest greatest gadgets (lenses, cameras, backdrops, lighting) and technological advances the photographic and imaging industry has made.  However, this is also a great time and place to learn things you have always wanted to learn but never had the time.  The best part is that you have the opportunity to learn from the best (from wedding, landscape, models to photojournalistic genres).  You can even see the work of some up and coming and veteran digital film makers.  The website says you can also attend "over 100 educational seminars, Photo Walks and Master Classes"

When I was originally interested in learning all I could about getting started in Wedding photography, I attended PDN Photoplus.  I had the chance to learn and personally meet: Rick Sammon ( among my favorite landscape/nature photographers; Bob & Dawn Davis ( - a husband and wife team who are one of the premier Chicago and Destination Wedding photographer based in the United States-and some of the warmest professionals you will ever meet; and even see Vincent LaForet ( who was one of the pioneers of using the Canon 5D Mark II as an artistic and production tool for cinema. They do share one thing in common.  A great talent to visualize and use their equipment as an extension of their imagination.  The camera for them is like a painter's brush.  The images they create are full of wonder and vibrant in color.

It is also a great place to meet new and old friends and colleagues who share the same interest as you.  According to the website you can join "21,000 professional photographers, photography enthusiasts, filmmakers, students and educators from around the world."

For more information on how to attend, please go to:

American Minute

A Decision to Love Online Gallery