There I was banging away at my Mac, looking for an easy romantic get-a-way for my wife, Sue, and I. We wanted something different and exciting, we were sick of the old New England standbys (though wonderful destinations) like Martha’s Vineyard, Newport Rhode Island, Woodstock Vermont, and even Foxwoods™ Resort and Casino. With 720,000 square miles from Maine to Connecticut there just wasn’t anything that we were interested in doing in all six states combined.
So I decided to look elsewhere outside of New England, but within driving distance, that we could spend a quality three-night romantic weekend during the Fourth of July holiday. I looked at Niagara Falls, the Poconos, and even another jaunt down to Virginia (that we’ve been to many times), but nothing sufficed. We weren’t interested in flying, spending way too much money, and being under-whelmed by cheesy tourist traps.
And that’s when I said to Sue, “How about Canada?”
To which she replied, “I don’t know, I’ve been to Montreal and didn’t like it all that much.”
“Well, maybe there’s somewhere else in Canada we could go to,” I retorted.
“Well, go ahead and look,” she added.
So I did and after about two-seconds of searching on the Internet I came across Quebec City.
And we’re so glad I did.
I started with the official site of the city that had some basic information about visiting this French Canadian enclave. That piqued Sue’s and my interest. Then I came across the official tourism site and we watched a well-made Quicktime video about the wonders of Quebec City (i.e. the capital of the Canadian province and the surrounding areas) and we were hooked.
What a charming little city it seemed to us, and potentially a wonderful adventure for to embark on within a six and a half hour drive. Quebec could be the perfect romantic destination that we’ve been looking for—and it was as it turned out.
I made a few calls and got us reservations at a quaint little B&B near the old city (more on that later), and Googled the driving directions, looked up some sites and attractions, and asked my wife how to say, “good day,” and “thank you,” in French.
Just before our trip we made sure to get our passports as per the on-again off-again TSA rules for going between North American countries. We also got lots of recommendations from co-workers of things to do and see while there. And finally we packed up our car and were off to the Great White North on our little odyssey.
Though the Google maps website puts the drive at about six and a half hours, it really took us more like nine and a half with the stops we made for lunch and gas and just plain stretching out. No matter, the country-side that far North in the US was absolutely amazing. Lush old New England landscapes (right out of a classic painting) permeated the horizon and beyond, the little NE hamlets lining the road and the valleys were charming, and mountainous regions like the Franconia Notch in New Hampshire was awe-inspiring. Even though the Old Man isn’t there anymore it does not detract from the beauty of this venerated place.
Crossing over into Vermont for the last fifty miles before the US/Canadian border I began to get a sense of something unique, something I’ve never felt before: I have never been this far north in my entire life. What a feeling it was to be driving to another country. Sure, I’ve been to other countries like Italy, Germany, and The Bahamas, but I’ve always flown and expected the routine to be the same—kind of a disconnected “get on the plane in the US, sleep for a bit, have a few drinks, and get off the plane somewhere else.” But this was not the case when driving to Canada. I felt like a real explorer (for what it’s worth), charting new territory, and getting exhilarated in the process.
Finally it was time to cross the border. The Canadian border check point was relatively quiet and the person checking our passports was pleasant and unassuming. He waved us through and then we were in Canada. Just like that. Not just Canada, but a French Canadian province with its own language and customs. How incredible! Now I was driving Nord on Autoroute 55, and trying to take everything Canadian in as much as I could from the driver’s seat of my car. My wife was amused by my fascination with this whole experience as if she did this everyday and it was no big deal, but it certainly was to me.
We made a couple of nondescript pit stops along the way, but ultimately we got to our destination: Quebec City. I was still having trouble resolving miles into kilometers when suddenly the outskirts of the city crept up on us as the sun was starting to wane. What a beautiful site it was seeing the Saint Lawrence River for the fist time in my life as we crossed over it at that part of the day. Finally, we crossed the bridge we were on and headed for the heart of the city.
Our immediate goal was to get to the Rue Grande Allée towards the Old City. Our bed and breakfast, L’Arvidienne Couette et Café, was a charming little chateau-like home right across the street from the famed Plains of Abraham where the French residents fought the British army for control of the city back on September 13th, 1759. The French lost, and for over a hundred years Quebec City was ruled directly by the British until 1867. Founded on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, this little settlement had seen centuries of war, development, industry, culture, tourism, and world renown to become one of the greatest North American cities. Per capita, Quebec City has the highest number of fine dining restaurants, and is one of the few places on the continent where English is “not” the most commonly spoken language (excluding Mexico of course).
Our ebullient hosts at the L’Arvidienne, Mireille Hubert & Serge Gauthier, were fabulously attentive and endearing as they doted on us from the moment we arrived. Mireille had taken the liberty of making dining reservations for us that evening at an impressive little French restaurant in the Old Walled City called, Le Saint Amour. After freshening up a bit we headed out on the Grande Allée to the restaurant.
From time-to-time I am called upon to use my Adobe Photoshop skills to create custom graphics for organizations, clients, and productions. Usually these custom graphics compliment the professional writing or video projects as part of the deliverables for the aforementioned entities.
Below are examples of the custom graphics that I created and their associated projects (writing or video production).
This collage was produced for the aforementioned program, which was a panel discussion and a live Q&A session about the environmental impact of the Algonquin high-pressure gas pipeline extension (known as the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline) passing through the Massachusetts communities of Dedham, Westwood, West Roxbury, and on to Boston. This was a deeply fought over issue in both the courts and with non-violent civil disobedience at the work sites. Even a member of Dedham’s Board of Selectmen, Michael Butler, was arrested attempting to stop work on the pipeline. The image of his arrest is in the upper right part of the title card.
I was also the program’s main producer, giving it its title: CROSSROADS…
Therefore, for the title card, I chose the two road crossing motif along with a montage of pipeline protest images. Also, I made sure that the Dedham Television brand logo appeared on the show’s title card.
The fonts and font colors were also carefully chosen to represent the intensity of the controversy while being easily viewable over broadcast airwaves and video streaming services.
The next three title cards were created for a children’s program that I helped to produce. Each card represents a different segment of the show.
How To Draw
This segment was a essentially a POV tutorial for kids to show them how to draw an animal. I chose a slew of kids-related hand-drawn images, along with a colorful rainbow palette for the segment’s title. The fonts were also specifically chosen to capture the youthful nature of the segment.
The girls in this segment wanted to do a full gymnastics demonstration. I thought it would be fun to call it Gymnastics Elastics because of the amazing flexibility that they had. I kept the design simple focusing on a collage of great gymnastic scenes from The Olympics and World Championships. The font was chosen to express the elasticity of the gymnasts.
The Secret Life Of Animals: Pandas
Finally, the kids did a segment on Panda Bears; therefore, I chose to create a college of pandas doing all kinds of silly things. I chose two different fonts and color sets for the show’s title and sub-title to give it visual variety.
NICK’S SCI-FI CORNER: NSFC @ SDCC – The Renegade Panel
I wanted the logo for the show to be obviously comics-based; therefore, I incorporated a variant of Captain America’s iconic Vibranium shield as well as me in a variant of Cap’s uniform—only instead of an A on the cowl, there’s an N! The font is, as you would guess it: Comic Sans, which was the official font for the show.
During the editing of this episode, the great Leonard Nimoy (who play Spock from TVs Star Trek) passed away. I thought it was only fitting to dedicate the episode to him. There is an opening dedication to Leonard that is a title with a background image of the Vulcan IDIC (an iconic totem from Star Trek lore). However, at the very end of the episode, I created this superimposition of Leonard both young (as he was when he first played Spock) and older (as he was before he died: venerated)—note the background image of the original USS Enterprise NCC-1701 and Shuttlecraft Galileo, and the Star Trek fonts. I also employed a feathering technique on this memorial.
His great artistic talent and love of humanity will be sorely missed!
Type: Title Cards (for show segments only)
Though The Renegade Panel was a special NICK’S SCI-FI CORNER broadcast, it was part of a much larger regular episode that would have been aired had the show not been cancelled. This larger episode simply called NSFC @ SDCC was going to employ a hybrid of documentary and journalism style covering the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con; as well as, the standard 4-segment format of the regular NICK’S SCI-FI CORNER show.
Those four segments were known as: Wormhole Extreme!, From Beyond The Stars!, The Amazing Cinematograph!, and Future Shock!
The following are title cards from each of those segments. The were also co-created in Adobe Photoshop with the help of Susan Howland of Creativedge. As you can see from each of these designs, I employed a Retro-Sci-Fi/Art-Deco design (with a little modern sci-fi imagery sprinkled in) in both the images and fonts. I wanted to capture the Golden Age of Science Fiction with these title cards. Even The Amazing Cinematograph harkens back to sci-fi movie classics such as Fritz Lang’sMetropolis.
During the run of NICK’S SCI-FI CORNER, I also produced a much smaller version of the show called NSFC Update!
This was supposed to be a 5-12 minute quickie version of the show’s more informational content such as pop-culture convention dates, movie releases and reviews, and other announcements. It quickly morphed into whole show in and of itself with some genre-related comedy skits as well.
This title card was used in the opening sequence of the show. It was a collage of great sci-fi tropes and imagery from Godzilla to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It still uses the Comic Sans font.
Again, this was co-created with the help of Susan Howland of Creativedge.
Aside from Broadcast Media, I also use my Adobe Photoshop skills to create Marketing Collateral for companies, clients, organizations. The custom graphics used on this data-sheet that I created for Bamboo Rose (a retail software company) was tailored specific to the flavor, style, and message that the company required to promote their product.
The first page header of the data-sheet is a collage of elements from their software platform, retail industry images, and the company logo.
The reverse side incorporated a fashion and lifestyle collage that preceded the company’s Factoid.
Type: Product Concept
Finally, there is a demo image of a fictional product that the Bamboo Rose retail software platform is capable of creating from concept to store shelves (it’s a visual part of the case study described on the reverse side of the data-sheet).
Frequently, as I create mar/comm and writing-related content for websites, custom graphics are an essential part of telling the story both textually and visually. The following backgrounds were created by me in Adobe Photoshop for three micro-sites that I built for Dedham Television. Each micro-site represented a Video-on-Demand channel for the broadcast media organization. The channels were: VIDEOSNOW! (for entertainment programs including NICK’S SCI-FI CORNER), MeetingVids§ (for municipal and community programs), and SchoolSpaceπ (for educational and kid’s programs).
Each background was designed to compliment and enhance the channel’s purpose.
Note: These are the full sized original images. The ones that are actually used on the micro-sites are blurred out versions because the focus there is on the uploaded and available videos.
Type: Entertainment Programs Collage
This collage represented all of the major public entertainment shows that Dedham Television was airing at the time—including the shows that I had produced. It was designed to easily fit into an HD broadcast screen size and aspect ratio.
Type: Municipal Collage
This collage is a collection of the foremost public buildings in Dedham (the town hall, the court house, the Ames Schoolhouse/future town hall, and the Endicott Estate), plus the official Seal of the Town of Dedham Massachusetts.
Though I usually write the copy for advertisements that I’m working on, from time-to-time, I’ve been asked to also provide a custom graphic design for the ad as well.
This one was a simple quarter-page ad announcing the new website for Dedham Television (that I built, see the Websites page for more info on that). The ad not only discussed all of the great new bells and whistles that Dedham TV was promoting on its online presence, but also I chose a mobile-web design motif for the ad. The copy is framed by an outline of an iPad, the new Dedham Television logo (that I created, see the Branding & Logos page for more info on that) also appears prominently, the fonts I use are a combination of 3D and elegant, the layout of the text is carefully placed for readability, and the company’s new tagline [“Integrated Media for a Connected Community!”]—which I wrote (see the Copywriting page for more info on that)—fills out the bottom of the ad.
It goes without saying that I wrote all of the copy for this ad as well.
I’ve written for a few blogs as a paid freelance writer. The most recent being Make Tech Easier (MTE)—a consumer technology how-to and review online publication. As a writer for them, I frequently had to provide custom graphics for my articles.
The following examples come from my published articles on MTE.
This custom graphic is a collage of screenshots depicting the use of Apple’s Photos App for iPhone. The article it appears in is titled Master the iOS Photos App with These Hidden Gems. This was created using the Apple’s iOS Photos App and Adobe Photoshop.
Type: Processed DSLR RAW images via Adobe Lightroom
One last side note about my custom graphics skills as it pertains to my professional writing experience is also my ability to digitally process images in general. In other words, not just taking digital pics and plopping them into Photoshop to mash them up with other images and add titles and effects, but also to take nicely shot images and tweak them in Adobe Lightroom for photo galleries and such.
Even though I am a big fan of using the HDR setting on my iPhone to take professional-quality images that I will process later for a dedicated purpose, I also use a Canon DSLR camera for really amazing shots, which is evident by the following example:
On the former DedhamTV.com Summer Camp page, I had a photo gallery with pics of one of the kids’ video production classes that was held. In the original photo to the left of Anne (an intern at the time) and the kids, it had some issues—especially where Anne’s black dress was concerned. As you can see in the original, her dress is almost completely detail-less. Also, the lighting tones (due to the neon lights above) were too cold and lifeless. The image is a little blurry thanks to the kids’ constant movement, but I kept it that way because they made the class full of life with their youthful exuberance—you can’t beat that!
Using Lightroom, I tweaked the contrast, brightness, and histogram of the image to rectify the above issues, as you can see here:
In the second example here, Anne is down in the studio setting up for a shoot. Again the details of her dress weren’t apparent and the lighting was too bland.
All of which I fixed in Lightroom here:
Note: These examples are not the actual original images. The RAW camera files are about 25MB each (too big for web pages), and the processed images currently in the linked photo gallery are 1920 x 1280 when viewed full size. The images here are reduced in size for easy posting and example purposes for this portfolio.
Unfortunately, you can no longer view the entire photo gallery as the new, new Dedham TV website (that I was not involved in, which is sorely lacking in a lot of the great and relevant content I created) has omitted the nice photo gallery (that I worked really hard on) for that page. In my opinion, this is a big marketing mistake. Simplifying the DTV website loses all of the features and benefits details that prospective businesses would want to know about before working with Dedham Television. This also includes parents who would consider sending their kids to the Dedham TV Summer Camp. Those images in the photo gallery would have been very helpful to generate new campers to sign up. But now it’s gone! Oh well…