web analytics
admin on January 3rd, 2013

Composite Family Photo

Did my first composite family photo this Christmas season. Penny-Sue’s family was all together for the first time in four years, since we are normally in China,  so we decided to do a family photo of the entire Crabb family. The last time we tried this it did not go as wonderfully as we would have hoped. So this time I thought it would be great to do the photo as a composite photo. With 21 people many of them being young people it is very hard to get the whole clan there for one photo. In light of all of this we took several separate photos and then I composited them all together.

Here are the individual photos.

First we photographed as many of the Zilinski clan as possible.

Second we photographed the patriarchs of the clan (Dad and Mom Crabb)

Mom and Dad Crabb

Then we photographed our own (Laterza)  family.

The next group was the Knox clan.

Then the last group was the missing cousins.


Once all the groups were photographed they were composited into one photo. Some shifting and creative editing was necessary to make it all work but everyone was pleased with the final results and it made for a successful family portrait in the end.

I was just notified that a group I belong to called the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, or NAPP for short, has chosen one of my images to showcase on their site this week.  It is an association for people who spend a lot of time using photoshop for either illustration or photography. On their site they have helps and tutorials for photoshop as well as a place for the members to put up a small portfolio of their work done in Photoshop. View my portfolio From the thousands of members and their portfolios they decided to choose one of my images as their editors pick. This is a huge honor and I was quite honored to be chosen. This also means that if they so choose they could also publish this piece in their October magazine as a showcased piece.
The piece that they chose to showcase was an illustration that I did as a promotional piece for another company. It is a digital piece of a honey bee. It was never published. I will let you know if this magazine ever publishes it.

Click for larger view

Bethany and two of her friends sang the special at our services today. They sang it in English but then we translated it for all the other mothers afterward that way they too could understand the words. The piano you hear is also Bethany playing she recorded it before hand then we just played it for the service. She said it was too hard to play and sing alto. The song is by Ron Hamilton and is a song he wrote for his mother. Although not a new song it was the first time we had heard the song. I am also including the lyrics here so that you can follow along as the girls sing it. It is a beautiful tribute to our mothers and the godly heritage that many of them bring to us.

Before the Lord created me He planned my life with you,
And He prepared you specially for all that you would do.
Then Jesus chose the best for me and sent me to your side,
So I could see His life in you and you could be my guide.

You were there to teach me of Jesus before I understood,
You were there to tenderly love me when I thought nobody could.
You were there to comfort and hold me close when my days were filled with pain.
I have seen God above through a mother’s love,
All because you were there, all because you were there.

Although I’m growing older now, I love you more and more.
In you I see my Savior’s love as I never have before.
And though the years are passing by, your beauty only grows.
The many ways you touch my life, the creator only knows.

You were there to teach me of Jesus before I understood,
You were there to tenderly love me when I thought nobody could.
You were there to comfort and hold me close when my days were filled with pain.
I have seen God above through a mother’s love,
All because you were there, all because you were there.



You Were There from Samuel Laterza on Vimeo.

Sam on May 2nd, 2011

I thought I would share a portrait session that I did with a great family here. They were really fun to work with. It is always interesting to photograph various Chinese families as they are generally very stiff when it comes to portraits. Most traditional portraits taken of Chinese families are without the people smiling. When photographing this family as we started they were somewhat stiff as well. We started in their living room. Dad has a very serious expression on his face.


Another one they are starting to relax just a little.

We then told them we wanted them to move away from standing and to sit on the couch and interact with each other and to just have fun. This is when personalities started to shine and they started to really relax.

Then we pushed it a step forward and asked them to move from the couch to sitting on the floor. This was the most relaxed images that we got inside the house. It was great to see them interacting and playing together on the floor and it made for some very cute images of their family.

They were really starting to relax and interact as a family and get a more of a lifestyle feel to the pictures which is what we wanted in the first place. The final step was to take them outside and have them just walk and talk together as a family. They decided themselves to hold hands and I think some of the cutest pictures are the ones outside.

This was a really fun family to photograph and they seemed truly happy with the photos that we did. They liked them so much they took them to their immediate family to give to them. It was a true joy to work with them and share this experience with them.







Sam on April 22nd, 2011

I have had so many things that I wanted to put on the blog recently but life has gotten in the way. We did however, have a time out with friends this last week and I thought you all would like to read about it. It was an interesting day all around. I woke up at 7:00am to take a visiting Pastor to the Great Wall. Since he was only in town for one day and he wanted to shop as well as go to the wall he asked if Anthony would be willing to do the shopping for him. We agreed to allow Anthony to got the market while we went to the Wall and then we would meet up after lunch and I could take him to the airport. After which I would Coach Anthony’s baseball team and then we would go to dinner with one of the other players and his parents.

We arrived at the Wall and it was in full bloom. Although I have been to the wall about 80 times this was the first time I was at the wall in the Spring when the flowers were blooming.



While I was on the wall I get a call from Anthony and he tells me that he is at the market and he has just sliced his finger open and he needs stitches. Anthony is our little boy who often cries wolf so I was not overly concerned I just asked how much blood and he said it was puddling in his hand. He is 1 hour south of our home and I am more than an hour north of our home. Penny-Sue is about 20 minutes east of our home so it was not going to be easy to get help to Anthony. He goes to the lady at the market we usually deal with and she calls me and tells me he needs to go to the hospital that he is turning white and bleeding badly. I have to say I did not hear any panic in Anthony’s voice nor did I hear it in the Ladies voice so I tell Anthony to get a band-aid from our friend and the things he went to the market for and then go home. He said OK and I hang up. I had separated from the pastor I was with so I had to wait for him to get back before we could leave the wall. He finally came back and we immediately left the wall and headed home. I called Anthony again and asked him how he was doing and he said that his finger really hurt but the bleeding had stopped. I again thought it was just a bad cut and not a big deal.

Anthony beat us home by about 10 minutes and then I get a call from Bethany. Bethany is a more reliable source then Anthony or our Chinese friend and she says to me, “Daddy he really does need stitches.” Then is when I started to believe he might need to go to the Hospital. When I got home and looked at his finger it really was a cut very deep and in need of cleaning and probably some stitches. I tell Anthony we need to go to the hospital and probably have stitches that is when Anthony starts to panic as he hates needles. I do have pictures of the cut and even a video but I will spare you. I will just say that Anthony ended up with five stitches. Here is his reaction to getting the shot and stitches. (He was a trooper really didn’t scream or yell or anything)

The whole time we were at the hospital Anthony was asking if we could still go to Baseball. He really wanted to play. We ended up being at the hospital till right after baseball. We still had dinner plans with our friends and so we thought if they were still up for it we would try and salvage the day while swapping China day stories with them.  We called them and they said they were still game so we decided to try out a new pizza place that we had heard about. The name of the place is called the Kro’s Nest. It is a very unique restaurant starting with the entrance. You walk up to this large wall and on the right is a switch that says push me. When you push the switch the front wall splits and opens up to the inside. The inside is decorated like the inside of a nest with very unique tables and set ups. The prices were very reasonable for Beijing pizza for the two families we payed about $6 a person. The real surprise came when the pizza arrived at the table. You know how in some restaurants the table always seems too small when you have the plates on it and the pizza arrives. Well at this restaurant that is really the case. The pizza arrived and it was the size of the table top.Here is a picture of the pizza in front of Penny-Sue and our friend.

One piece is larger than your plate. Here is a picture of Penny-Sue’s hands trying to spread from one side of the pizza to the other side.

Over all the day was a very trying and long day but this was the perfect way to end the day. We had a great time with our friends and the pizza was as good as it looks. You could not eat more than one or two slices of this pizza before you were totally full. If you are ever in Beijing we highly recommend the Kro’s Nest pizza it is well worth it.










Sam on March 23rd, 2011

This the question that Penny-Sue was asked by our 16 year old daughter Bethany. You see we had the been out late and did not have time to make dinner so Penny-Sue saw some boxed pizza’s on sale and she thought she would just get those to save time. She got home and she asked Bethany to help her make the pizza. Bethany’s reply, after pulling it out of the box, was, “How do you make boxed pizza?” Bethany had never made a boxed pizza before and she was just not sure what to do with this already made boxed thing. The funny thing is if Penny-Sue had turned to Bethany and said can you make a pizza for us. Bethany would know how to make the dough the sauce and put it all together. Her problem was that she did not know how to do it the quick way. Living in China it is rare and expensive to get frozen foods or prepared foods so we make most things from scratch. Funny thing is this last week Bethany was asked do you want to order pizza or make some pizza yourself and she replied homemade taste better lets just make it ourselves. Bethany loves to cook and she especially loves to try new things. One of her favorite shows to watch when the Internet is working is Alton Brown and his show Good Eats. She has from watching this show made lots of great dishes. Some of the things include: whole wheat bagels, soft pretzels, herb stuffed chicken , etc, etc. All of these dishes have been thoroughly enjoyed by all in the family. This post though has to do with her most recent self challenge. She decided to make home-made marshmallows.

The response to this has been somewhat funny. Most people say I did not know you could make marshmallows. Then after they try them they wonder why anyone would want to buy store bought marshmallows. Bethany did a great job making these fluffy delights. I have to say I am not a marshmallow fan but these were rather tasty. She also decided to add a touch of peppermint extract to these and that never hurt in my opinion either.

The thing is that she did not even stop at this point she took it just a bit further and decided to dunk these already delicious treat into chocolate. Now anything dipped in chocolate can only be made better right.

Needless to say this has been one of the biggest hits here. The only problem with all of this is that after tasting these like the boxed pizza no-one will want to eat the overpriced and stale tasting bag marshmallows. We love Bethany’s sense of adventure when it comes to cooking. She has done a most excellent job of learning well from her most excellent teacher, Penny-Sue, as well as branching out and trying new things on her own. She is a blessing to have helping here and will be sorely missed by us and our stomachs when she goes off to college.



Sam on March 9th, 2011

I know most of you that read this blog are not photography oriented. So I will explain what I did here. I was waiting to pick up Penny-Sue from recording and we had a rare somewhat blue sky day here in Beijing, so, I thought I would take a few photos. I thought it might be fun since Penny-Sue works just up the road from the Olympic Venues if I could take a few pictures using HDR of these venues. Well the view was not that great from my vantage point but I did find an interesting building across the street and so I thought I would play for a few minutes.

First many of you are probably wondering what HDR is. Here is the quote from Wikipedia

In image processing, computer graphics, and photography, high-dynamic-range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wide dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight.[1]

The two main sources of HDR imagery are computer renderings and merging of multiple photographs, the latter of which in turn are individually referred to as low-dynamic-range (LDR)[2] or standard-dynamic-range (SDR)[3] photographs.

In simple terms you take a bunch of photos of the same image with the camera on a tripod so that the image doesn’t move. Then place them all in a program like photoshop or photmatix and blend them together to get a more vibrant and detailed photo.

Here is the sample of photos that I took of this pagoda off of the 4th ring road in Beijing.

Here are the nine original photos used to make the final HDR image.

As you can see in this file there are nine images. The one in the center of this grid is the shot that was properly exposed for the conditions. As you can see the sky is not really blue in this shot and the overall color is somewhat lacking. So I put all of these images into the program and then merged together to come up with this image.


The composited final HDR image please click for a larger view

As you can see it is much more vibrant and has more detail. To really understand how much more vibrant and detailed I also prepared 100% crops of the image (that means a 1 to 1 comparison of the images as you would see if it was printed on paper in front of you not being made smaller by the computer).

Be sure to click on these to see them at full size. First I will show you the non HDR image you will see that the color is somewhat lifeless and it is lacking in detail in both the highlight areas and the shadow areas.


Non HDR 100 percent crop (please click on it to see it full size)

Here is the same exact area at 100 percent in HDR look at the color and detail.


Here is the HDR image you can see the color vibrancy as well as detail in both the highlights and shadows.

As You can see the HDR can give you some fun results. I also photographed the Bird’s nest but the image was not that great. Here is the non HDR image.



Here is the same view but this time using a total of 9 images to create the HDR look and feel to the scene.


I hope that this was informative and enjoyable I will keep trying out this technique to see what other places I can photograph in an interesting manner.  Thanks for looking.






Sam on March 3rd, 2011

We often refer to Valerie as an egg. She is white on the outside and yellow on the inside.Meaning although she looks like an American she acts Chinese sometimes.

Although Valerie was born in Greenville South Carolina in the Good Ole USA sometimes we wonder if she really isn’t part Chinese. It is true she has lived longer in China then any other location but we always thought that she would still be all American. What really happens when you raise a kid in a foreign country is that they start to adopt the characteristics of the country they are being raised in. Valerie by far has adopted many Chinese customs. This week we have been going on dates with our children. We have been taken each of them out by themselves to just talk with them. This does not happen in the morning but has happened around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Why am I telling you this. Well it is not uncommon in China to see the Chinese at all times of the day out in their jammies. That is right we took Valerie out to spend some time with her and she being the goofy girl that she can be insisted on staying in her jammies and slippers as we went to the store. We didn’t think she would go through with it when she asked if she could stay in her jammies. We said yes and she was very excited. So we took Valerie out to Starbucks at 4 in the afternoon while she was still in her slippers and jammies.

sorry about the pic quality just a cell phone image

We thought this was very funny but the funnier thing is that not one person stared at her as if this was weird. She garnered no more attention then as if she had walked into the place dressed normally. We love Valerie and her sense of humor and the fact that she will always have a special place in her heart for China. We pray that she will never lose her sense of fun and desire to bring a smile to others faces.


Sam on February 25th, 2011

Today I thought I would share a little bit of history of some of Valerie’s friends. Valerie is usually the one who we can count on to bring a smile to our faces. One of the things that makes her unique is her imagination and creativity. Since she was quite little she has always had friends and all of these friends seem to have the name John in their name; there is John Bear, John Huck, John Bark, and even John Hop. There are many others as well also with John in their name. The thing is that most of these friends are not real and you can not even see them. John Huck is a friend she came up with when she was three or four and he is an invisible friend with an invisible helicopter. We have been driving down the road before and then when we stop at a red light she would open the door and call out “John Huck get in here” then she would just shut the door. It was all for a laugh. Of course John Huck had a dog named obviously John Bark. Every once in a while John Bark will bite (with the help of Valerie) someone else in the car or at home. Then we got a Bunny and his name also had to have John in it so he became John Hop. I thought we should call him “John Hopkins” which Valerie liked but it quickly got shortened to John Hop. There are other invisible friends like John Flink, an elephant of course, and John Grr the pet tiger. Everyone of these have at one time or other brought I smile to our face as Valerie in a way only she came brings these imaginary friends to life. The question is who started it all. That would be John Bear. When Valerie was just 3 years old one of the summer teams that came had a young man by the name of John Leone. John took a shine to little Valerie and one of his students gave him a student bear to thank him for teaching him English that summer. John took the bear but just did not want to take up precious suitcase space with the bear which was almost as big as Valerie at the time. So, he decided to give it to the cute little MK. Valerie thought Mr. John was pretty cool and so she named her new friend after him thus started the tradition with the first friend “John Bear.” She has loved this bear since she got it almost 7 years ago now and even decided to take the little sweater off of the bear and claim it as her own. The sweater has long since been lost but John Bear still finds a place on the bed every night. He has lost an eye and seen better days but I think it will be a long time before he is retired. I just thought I would share this picture I took today of Valerie and one of her best friends, so here it is Valerie and John Bear.

Valeri and one of her best friends "John Bear" (click for a larger view)



Sam on February 21st, 2011

Many of you know that I have suffered from acute gout for the last 5 years or so. In that time I have not had an red meat because it usually leads to a gout attack which is extremely uncomfortable. Well I have been on medicine to reduce my Uric acid levels and so we thought maybe today was a good day to try a hamburger. We have a new Burger King

So I thought I would try to eat my first hamburger in almost 5 years.

Here is the first hamburger I have put near my mouth in a long time.

And then my first bite, and it was good for sure, tasted just like I remembered.

Then came the wait to see if the medicine I have been taking is working. It took about 4.5 hours to find out that after eating red meat I still end up with a gout attack. The hamburger was good but now I will need to take some additional medicine to deal with the additional pain. I do have to say that the pain is less severe then it has been in the past. I have a doctor appointment on Tuesday to see what my levels are.