Did the Giant Fall?

Did the Giant Fall?

B&H Photo has been my “go to” place for my camera gear for… well, for as long as I can remember. Officially known as B&H Photo & Electronics and located in New York City, B&H in my opinion was the gold standard in online camera gear purchasing. I have to admit I have never actually visited the mecca of “all things camera” however when I needed to purchase anything to do with photography or video B&H is where I would start. Be it something as small as a battery for 1964 Pentax camera or a major purchase of the newly released Blackmagic 6K cinema camera B&H was there for me.

Their website is the gold standard in finding information on almost any product. Like me, many people will use B&H’s website for looking up the specs on a product. Even outdated products will many times still be listed on the website. The product will be marked “discontinued” but the specs and Info are there for anyone to reference from.

Then came the Covid-19 virus crisis and like all things around the world life was severely dampened as we all headed in to a lockdown. With NYC being the epicenter of the virus crisis in the USA it was understandable that B&H would have to close its doors and it did. However, customers could still order online and pick up orders at the side door.

For me it did not take long to see the ripple in service to come racing across the surface.

First let’s go back to how it used to be to order from B&H. Now I will be writing about my own personal experience in shopping and ordering online but I know the experience was very much the same for many people. I live in Hunterdon County New Jersey, I’m located on the westside of NJ about 4 miles from the Delaware River, I can drive to B&H in 1 hour and 10 minutes (with moderate traffic). But, why would I want to ever drive there when I can place an order online and it would sometimes arrive the very next day with standard shipping. Yes, back in the day if I placed an online order in the morning before noontime often (not always) it would ship the same day by UPS and I would see the box at my door the next day by 3:00pm. And yes, I did say that was standard shipping. Obviously, logistics played a lot into this and I always reveled in the fact that while many things in life suck the one thing, I could always count on was getting my purchase from B&H lightning fast. I would always joke that “it was as if the B&H guy had ESP and was waiting outside my house with what it was, I was going to order.”

Well those days ended when B&H started to use FedEx Ground and it was a sad day for me. Where I live, I am about a 15-minute drive from the UPS terminal in Hamilton, NJ however, the FedEx Ground terminal for my area is located in Bethlehem, PA about 1 hour away. Needless to say, now shipping can take at least three days.

So now, here we are after several months of the virus crisis and the B&H shopping experience is far from a pleasure it once was and seems to be getting worse not better. Recently I placed and order for an office chair. It was listed as “In stock ready to ship.” Everything seems good, I get the confirmation email and then nothing. It just say’s “order processing” and a week goes by. Yup, 7 days. Then I email customer service and low and behold the order ships about 2 hours later. Then the next day I get an email saying “your order shipped yesterday.” This is pretty much how it is now when I place an order with B&H and yes, I have to admit I have started placing orders for gear with Amazon that I could buy at B&H. However, Amazon is not the best place to source certain kinds of camera gear from. Amazon has a sketchy reputation when it comes to things like memory cards and other photo & video related items. With B&H I have never ever felt that the product I was buying was not authentic and that it was the actual product it was labeled or packaged to be. I can say for 100% sure I received Sandisk SD cards from Amazon that were not the same as the ones I received from B&H. I could go on & on about this subject to the days end but, let’s just say B&H sells authentic products.

B&H has a great reputation with photographers of all levels. Yes, I was an armature when I found B&H many years ago and one of the things that really steered me to them was that fact that well-known famous photographers shopped there and spoke highly of the service and ability to get good gear quick. I have heard a story of a studio assistant running across town on her bike to get a much need piece of gear that broke in the middle of a shoot. Thanks to B&H she grabbed the flash head and returned to save the day. Actually, heard that story from a photographer giving a talk at the B&H event space. So, this was another great aspect of B&H and that is that they have produced so much online content that I have always taken advantage of.

How about meeting some of the people that work at B&H? While I stated earlier that I have never actually visited the store, I have always made it a point to at least say “hi” to the people working the tables at events outside of seminars at the Javits Center or the Philly Convention center. Again, always nice and pleasant conversation.

Today however, there are no seminars everything has given way to the online virtual seminars and B&H’s website has many mainstream products that say “back ordered.” Currently I have been waiting to purchase a camera slider from B&H. It is a well-known brand and other online dealers have it but the B&H website says “more expected soon” and it has been over a month. The New York Post released an article on May 1, 2020 describing the well-known camera shop as taking a very hard hit due to the virus crisis.

I want to see my favorite camera shop come back to the life it once had. I want to see our country come back to the life we lost before the China virus swept the world. I hope it is soon.

Covid-19 Daze Part 2 (…it never felt so good to be out in the rain with my cameras.)

After the parks & open space closure I decided I had just had enough and I am not going to let a governor decide my rights as they are given to me under the Constitution of the United States. I contacted a model who is of the same minded thoughts and we headed out. Who needs parks to shoot in? We can still go out in public and long as we follow the rules of social distancing and wear a mask. Let’s make it even more interesting and shoot in the rain, let’s even shoot in a graveyard at an old church.

The meet up would be New Brunswick, New Jersey right in the heart of the town. As crazy as it sounds it never felt so good to be out in the rain with my cameras. We shot for an hour, talked for a few minutes and departed. We never disrupted a single sole; pardon the pun and we captured some nice images and video too.

As I am writing this post the parks are due to reopen and that is a good thing. A good thing that has been brought on by vast protesting in other states. This is a free country and when that is taken away (virus or no virus) people are only going to take so much. At this time there are cases being heard or about to be heard by the courts and I think Governor “Free Stuff” Murphy knew it is only a matter of time before a court order steam rolls him into the dirt.

The virus crisis has changed the world no doubt but, people can change too. People can change to deal with many things and this virus crisis will not define us into being shut-ins and giving away our rights to freedom.

Covid-19 Daze (Loss of an unchanged world.) Part 1

Recently so much has changed in our world. When I say this I truly mean “our whole world” as in our planet Earth as a whole. Never before in our lifetime has an event had so much impact on the whole planet. Often, we make or hear statements about “our whole world changing” and it never really means the whole planet. The Covid-19 crisis has changed so much so fast. Like any critical and tragic event, it takes time for the full impact to set it and be fully realized.

Just the other night I was laying down to sleep and like most people I had various thoughts going through my head as I prepare to end my day for a good night’s sleep. Ha… “a good night’s sleep” is hard to come about these days. As I’m laying in bed waiting for sleep to come my mind is racing through many things. I latch onto the thought of “the planet has changed as a whole” and was truly thinking about it. Sure, we had the 9/11 terror attacks and there was the big tsunami but, this virus crisis is beyond that. And as sleep is coming, I just don’t feel safe and sound in my bed. Sure, my doors are locked and I live in a safe neighborhood but, I still worry about my wife who goes to work each and every day out in the public, I think of other family and friends who are working with the public during this time of virus crisis. I do not personally know anyone who has died from the Corona virus however, I have several friends who know someone who has died, my wife lost a co-worker just yesterday and I just feel it is only a matter of time before someone I personally know will be taken. … I hope I’m wrong.

I pick up on this same bedtime thought after I wake the next morning and I’m dissecting it. Asking myself the question; will things ever be the same? The reality is “no” things will never go back to the way they were before and this is not the first time in history that an event has changed the world as a whole. I was also wrong to think that this was the first time a huge impactful event changed the world in my lifetime. We have cell phones or as they are called today “smart phones” and what about the internet. Both of these have changed the world and there is no going back to the way it used to be. Even if you threw away your smart phone and stopped using the internet you would only be changing your personal world, the little micro chasm that is you as a person.

I think back to my feeling the night before and how I didn’t feel safe, it is actually hard to describe. I guess the best way to describe it is to say that it is just another thing to not feel safe about. We all now have to live with this thought that an unseen force known as the Corona virus is out there lurking. Much as I feel safe with my doors locked and I live in a low crime area… who knows an intruder could break in to my house in the middle of the night and rob and or kill me and my family. Highly unlikely but it does happen, even in a safe neighborhood. So, Covid-19 is just another “not likely” situation but, none the less it is always there.

Then I start to ponder… ok, so if this is not the first global change in my lifetime what is different about Covid-19 compared to other events. I mean after all this virus is killing people. Sure, in the news we see the reporters contrast Covid-19 to the yearly flu cycle (global) and others will put it up against the opioid crisis (specific to certain countries).

In my example I used non-lethal examples such as mobile phone and the internet… and now that I think about the mobile phone did bring about the “texting and driving” epidemic that kills several thousand people each year and maims hundreds of thousands. As for the internet… who knows. Although there are more teen suicides due to cyber bulling. However, any example that is put up against Covid-19, be it more or less in death, nothing has taken the world as rapidly.

As a photographer I have been documenting the changes the virus crisis has made in daily life in my local and surrounding communities. Part of the changes include safe practices like covering our faces and social distancing however; other changes are for the most part pure idiocy and downright unreal. Things such as not being able to take a small boat on the river to enjoy a day of fishing or to not be able to buy a pack of seeds to plant flowers or vegetables for a garden. For me the biggest thing is to not be able to go for a walk or a hike in the forest. The governor of New Jersey closed all parks and while I understand some of the thinking behind the decision it was painted with too broad a brush. Yes, there are large parks in populated areas where people gather in masses even before the virus crisis, there are still other open spaces and preserves that never see masses of people. Trails that run deep into the forests such as the ones I like to frequent fell under this decision and my fun was taken away. If you complain about this closure you are deemed “selfish and inconsiderate” to others. The idea that you may bring unwanted harm in the way of giving someone Covid-19. But I can still go to a liquor store, buy alcohol, get drunk and kill someone by way of driving drunk. Yes, the liquor store is open but, the churches are closed. You can’t fish from a boat on the river and you are not allowed to walk through a forest.

To stay somewhat sane through this whole mess I have still continued to venture out for photography and also now capturing video as well. I can honestly say that I’m doing this in the name of “work” and I of course am practicing social distancing and wearing a mask and shooting with a long lens while doing so.

In this time of virus crisis, the photography business in pretty much nil as in nothing. So, I have turned to looking for editing work online. There used to be a time when photographers had agents to help find them work. Now that is a rather old and antiquated way of finding work. Today there are online agencies where work can be found from literally all over the globe. So, there I sit at the PC searching through the postings and constantly refreshing the page in hopes of catching the latest posting before someone else does. Then once landing a job I am off and running into photoshop to cut a model out of a background for a clothing dealer in India who is selling garments on Amazon and at the same time watching the posting feed to catch another job of fixing a pimple on a headshot for someone to post to their Linkedin profile. I can’t complain because it is work but just in a way I’m not used to.

My mind drifts back to just two weeks ago when I was out hiking with my cameras and thinking how I had found an escape. Even if just a for a few hours, being able to go hiking through a forest where I was the only person there, I was in “the unchanged world.” In fact that is what I titled the video I shot that day “Unchanged World.” Then the parks and open space closures came and changed that world too.

Then after a week or so of that I had had enough and I decided that I would find a way to get out and shoot.

To be continued…