LensProToGo moving mountains !

It’s crunch time for the Artists for World Peace travel team – we are leaving for Africa in a few days…but before beginning my second journey with this incredible organization, I’d like to introduce another group of awesome people – the guys and gals behind LensProToGo. I have mentioned them in my last blog post – LPTG came on board as the main equipment sponsor for this year’s trip to Tanzania !
I’d love for you to get to know them a little better so I conducted a fun interview with Meg Rodney, Marketing Brains at LPTG.
LensProToGo is a photo/video rental company based in Boston, MA.

Meg, how did you connect with AFWP and Claudia and what made you want to support the cause ?
“We get many many requests every day for support with gear. When we hear about projects that are making a difference in the world, they grab our attention. This project between Artist for World Peace and Claudia was unique in the fact that it was a followup to a project that had already happened and was successful. First, it’s inspiring to see what they were able to do in Round 1. Secondly, who wouldn’t want to be a part of Round 2? The other part that we loved was there was a photo video purpose to the trip as well. Without this medium, few people would understand the difference that was made in Tanzania. The photos and video Claudia created tell the story. You can see the difference that has been made. It’s exciting to think that we have the opportunity to help make another difference happen.”

Tell us a little about what your company does and why you stand out from the crowd.
“We ship gear and lollipops. And we’re good at it. Technically speaking, we are a national photo and video rental company that ships gear directly to your front door so you only need to take 7 steps away from the couch/editing station.
We have everything from cameras and lenses for both photo and video as well as stabilization, lighting, audio gear, underwater housing units and more!”

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“What makes us different ? I’ll start out by saying that we aren’t here to take over the world. We see room for multiple rental companies so we don’t secretly plan to dominate anyone’s business. 
We are staffed only by photographers and filmmakers. This is the biggest way that we are different, and do I dare say “better” than the others. Where I’m going is that it allows us to have the best customer service, and our reviews say it too. There isn’t a piece of gear that we purchase that someone in the office doesn’t know how to use. We call all of our first-time customers, introduce ourselves and get a good idea of what they shoot so we know exactly how to accommodate them. We have awesome relationships with our customers. They are more like brothers and sisters than clients.
Another thing that we do differently is based on our shipping methods. First, we include the price of round-trip shipping in the price of the rental. Secondly, we ship all of our gear in Pelican cases. We want to make sure our gear gets to you in one piece and back to us in one piece, not 82… that’s pretty important!

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Lastly, every year in November we sell off much of our gear to turn around and restock with new gear. We do this so our gear always looks new and never acts old or used. 
We also have kick ass drawing skills and will draw dinosaurs/robots fighting dinosaurs on our customers’ boxes if they ask… or Darth Vader!

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Can you name one of the biggest problems your clients have and how you help them overcome it ?
“Probably the biggest problem overall between photographer and filmmakers is ordering gear that isn’t the best for their shoot. It’s always our job to find out exactly what they are shooting and get them into the gear that will be best for them. Many times this means that we lose money by taking people out of the larger items, but if they don’t have a good experience the first place they’ll look is at us.”

What makes you and LensProToGo happy at the end of the day ?
“Four legged furry friends, guacamole parties and razor scooters. In all seriousness, we love hearing stories of our customer experiences. In fact, we have an entire wall of letters from customers that get shipped back in their orders. It’s a nice reminder, as we are headed out the door at the end of the day, about why we do what we do and why we will be right back at it early the next morning. We slap hands (also known as high fives) in the office when this happens (on a daily basis).”

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What’s your favorite piece of equipment right now ?
“Right now we have a few pieces of stand out gear we love. Since it’s summer, we love the Ikelite Underwater Housing Unit. Also, the Sigma ART series lenses that recently came out are FANTASTIC! I personally used one to photograph my new niece and it is super sharp. The 1.4 aperture is very useful too for wedding photographers. Lastly, the Sony A7s camera that can virtually shoot in pitch black darkness (409,600 ISO) has been getting a lot of buzz.”

What do you wish that everyone knew already who comes to you?
“We wish they knew how different we were from other companies. We aren’t show-boaters and never will be, so you really only see the whole picture after you’ve placed a rental with us. We don’t depend on marketing/advertising to grow, we let our customers speak for us.”

And lastly, how do you feel about the Yankees and the Mets :-) ?
We will respectfully decline this question ;) But if you would ever like to come to Boston to see a Patriots game, we’d love to meet up!”

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Thank you for a great interview Meg !
Fellow photographers, filmmakers and hobbyists – check out our friends at LPTG and see for yourself why they are awesome. Rent a piece of equipment that you’ve always wanted to try…it’s quick, easy and affordable !
Also – show them some love on Facebook and Twitter (@LensProToGo) if you are happy with their services…

Meg and the rest of the team – thank you so very much for being the main gear sponsor for Artists for World Peace and Claudia Hehr Photography in Tanzania. We love you guys !

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T Minus 19 Days

Happy Weekend my friends !! I found myself in a mountain of photo equipment yesterday, as some rentals have started coming in early and some new gear arrived as well. I took advantage of this and hung out in Central Park with a photographer friend of mine to test out my Konova slider for the very first time. As you can see in the screen grab below, we had a lot of fun.

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There is lots do to before our take-off to Tanzania at the end of the month but my To-Do-List is slowly getting smaller.
The Tanzania visa has been approved and is looking pretty in my passport; I suffered through Typhoid and Tetanus shots (ouch) and anti-malaria pills are ordered. My husband surprised me with Icebreaker shirts (see picture) which are amazing for traveling – they are made from merino wool of happy sheep from New Zealand and are wonderful when you want to travel light. This will come in very handy once I start packing – I have yet to solve the riddle of how to bring all of this photo gear to Tanzania…
Next week I will be doing a test shoot with our producer Cathy Jackman so we can get to know each other a little better and figure out a good workflow before we start shooting in Tanzania. I can’t wait ! This is the first time I will be working with a producer and editor – video is still a new world to me compared to photography, which feels like second nature. But I am thrilled to learn more and get out of my comfort zone. Onwards !

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Companies who care

Today I just wanted to take a minute to point out some of the beautiful companies who have stepped up to support my work with Artists for World Peace.
1) Official Gear Sponsor: LensProToGo (I will be talking more about these guys in the next post)
2) Manfrotto
3) CSI Rentals
4) Varavon
5) Fujifilm (see older blog post)

sponsors

Huge shout out to these companies for providing us with essential photo and video gear for our trip – we couldn’t do it without them. But this wouldn’t be possible without some individuals behind each company who understood the importance of our work and wanted to help. Meg Rodney, Shanna Smith, George Hertz, Tim Choi and Matthew Schmidt – you guys rock our world !!!

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Sold, sold and sold !

Wonderful news: The Teespring campaign was a big success and we have sold 91 out of the initial minimum goal of 75 shirts ! Big thanks to everyone who has purchased a shirt – they are being printed right now and should be shipped out soon. I am also very happy to report that thanks to a few especially generous supporters, I will be able to bring tees to all of our sponsored orphans.

The T-shirts kicked off my fundraising with a bang, but wait, there is more :-)
In order to get me to my total goal, I have also set up a Fundrazr-Website.
FundrazrAs of today, there are 8 days left to contribute – please click on the image for details. Great perks await my generous supporters !!
I appreciate each and everyone of you who has been following my journey so far, supported me by purchasing a shirt or making a donation – or simply has given me words of encouragement or sent some great karma my way.
Let’s continue to move mountains together !

 

Fuji has done it again !

Today is fantastic day…a big box arrived via FedEx with a whole lot of wonderful in it – 600 sheets of instant film and a Fuji Instax Mini 8. Fujifilm was a sponsor for my trip to Tanzania in 2012 already and they have kindly agreed to be on board again. Bringing an instant camera to Tanzania the first time around was one of the smartest things I have done. It was so beautiful to be able to give the people of Kibosho prints to keep – most of them have never owned a photograph of themselves. And it was impossible to explain why they can’t have that digital picture that lives inside of my DSLR. We had so much fun shaking those instant pictures and waiting for the image to magically appear. That never gets old :-) I am so excited that I will be bringing back more film than ever and a second camera. Big thanks to Matthew at Fuji for making it all happen !

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Tees for Tanzania

Happy Tuesday ! Just a quick update on what’s going on. The Teespring campaign is in full swing – if you haven’t heard, you can now buy a wonderful shirt or hoodie designed by my lovely husband. Look fabulous and support a great cause – it’s a win-win situation !

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Buy a shirt today and support a great cause !

For all of you who have one too many T-shirts in their closet already – stay tuned. I will be launching an easy-to-use fundraising website for everyone who’d rather make a financial contribution.  In the meantime you can share the Teespring campaign with your friends.

While everyone was enjoying their beautiful long weekend, the folks at Artists for World Peace in Connecticut were busy collecting donations and pre-packing for Tanzania. They are currently getting ready to load a shipping container with hospital beds, donated by Middlesex Hospital, bicycles from Bikes4Kids, soccer gear from Mission Soccer and so much more ! It is unbelievable how far we’ve come, thanks to all these amazing companies and individuals who are believing in AFWP and the work we do worldwide.

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Tanzania are you ready for us ?

Exciting news – our travel team will return to Tanzania this summer ! The flights are booked and preparations are in full swing. It’s going to be a very different trip this year. We are bringing a team of eye doctors and optometrists who are volunteering their time to set up camp in the new health center and will be able to see hundreds of children and villagers there.
On the documentary side I am very excited to have 2 great women by my side this year: Cathy Jackman, producer and editor and Cynthia Rockwell, writer and editor at Wesleyan Magazine. With their expertise I am sure we will be able to bring home some wonderful stories and create more awareness.
Just to refresh your memory – here is a video/slideshow from our last trip that I put together:

Make sure to turn on HD for a better viewing experience :-)

The other exciting event I wanted to share with my followers in the NY/CT area is the Celebration of Africa that is taking place on May 1st at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, CT.

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This year we celebrate Africa. Featured will be African cuisine, an art auction of superb African-inspired work, and live music and dance, including performances by Jocelyn Pleasant and The Manding Troubadours, Abraham Adzenyah and the Wesleyan University West African Ensemble, and Sankofa Kuumba Dance Ensemble.  Also joining us will be Middletown’s mayor, Dan Drew. Mayor Drew will be reading a proclamation declaring May 1st as “Artists for World Peace Day” in the city of Middletown!

Proceeds will go to several ongoing projects in Africa including equipment for the health center, bicycles for the orphans and so much more !

To purchase tickets and find out more about the event please click here:

http://www.artistsforworldpeace.org/2nd-international-celebration-of-peace-africa/

 

The show must go on…

Tanzanian women in the village of Kibosho-Umbwe

It’s been a while. I am in the middle of working on a multimedia slideshow while learning Final Cut Pro (a video editing program). Thanks for hanging in there, many of you have asked to see pictures.
A lot has happened. Our world has just been turned upside down by Hurricane Sandy. I’ve been extremely lucky to live in Harlem which is up on high grounds and far away from any water. Others haven’t been. Lower Manhattan just got power back as of last night but many others are still in the dark in Staten Island, New Jersey, the Rockaways and so on. As terrible as Sandy’s impact is, I believe it brought out the best in the people of the Tri-State-Area. Everybody is volunteering, donating and comforting each other. New Yorker’s are tough and although it will take a long time to pick up the pieces, I know we can get through this.
Long before the announcement of Sandy, Artists for World Peace had planned their second annual Broadway event and fundraiser on November 4th. “In an intimate evening of song and dance, some of Broadway’s best and brightest,the ‘cream of the crop … the top of the heap’, pool their talents to support the ongoing work of Artists for World Peace.” In addition we will screen a short video about our trip to Tanzania and we will auction of  2 beautiful 24×36 prints of yours truly (including the image you see in this post). At this point I’d like to thank Jeffrey Kane of LTI Lightside for pulling off the impossible. Jeff not only made the gorgeous prints on fairly short notice, he also donated them to us. Then Sandy happened and Jeff’s company lost power on Monday. The prints were to be mounted this week, which can’t be done without electricity. So Jeff came downtown on his bike yesterday to meet me at LTI, headlamp and flashlight in hand, so I could take the unmounted prints for Sunday’s event.
I think we can all use an evening to take our minds off of Sandy, so please join us tomorrow, Sunday, November 4th. Wendy, all of  AFWP, and myself would love to see you at St. Luke’s Theater.
You can get more information and buy tickets here: http://artistsforworldpeace.org

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Homecoming

Witness is learning how to use my DSLR camera while Dorcas and I are posing and Bahati is taking our picture with my little point-and-shoot…The kids just loved to learn all about cameras…

Hello everybody. Sorry for the long silence. It’s been a crazy few weeks. We made it back safe and sound from Tanzania – our team worked hard there, I met so many incredible people, made friends for life and shifted my perspective big time. It’s hard to put in words, but spending time in Africa impacted me to the core.
Coming back I got struck down by a wicked summer flu and was forced to just rest for a week. Thankfully I got sick when I was back home and not in Tanzania. When I felt better I started organizing all the images and video files – a big project ! I just had a great photo editing session with Wendy yesterday and our friend Lisa will start working on sound and video this week as well. I will keep you posted on the progress. Bear with us, it’s a lot of footage and images to go through.
Lastly I will of course start working on the Indiegogo “ThankYou” perks for all of you who have been so generous. I am forever grateful that you made this trip possible.
Assante Sana !!

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Into the wild

Only 2 1/2 days left in this beautiful country…I can’t believe how the time just flew by. We spent a few nights at the orphanage in Kibosho where the air is wonderfully moist and clean – a nice change from driving back and forth from our hotel in Moshi which left us all with some nasty coughs from all the dust that we are constantly inhaling. Life at the orphanage means that you never know when the electricity will go out, which is a photographer’s nightmare – not to mention the tough daily decision: african bucket wash with boiled hot water or just a quick cold shower ? It’s winter here in Tanzania and Kibosho is at 1200 meters so it gets pretty chilly at night…
So much happened since I was online last – we took the kids and Josephine on a two-day safari which was just a delight to experience. I probably got as excited about all the animals as the children, but it really made us all feel great that these kids finally got to see the wildlife of their own country.
Here are some quick pictures from our adventure…

The kids are so psyched to look at all the animals…

Wildebeests at the Ngorongoro crater with saltlake in the background.

Baboon baby – we all wanted to take that one home with us…

One of the many Massai that we encountered in the area.

Tomorrow we will spend some time in Moshi to get a few things to bring home with us and then I’ll tackle the last few points on my photo and video agenda…plus we are all looking forward to just take it easy and hang out with the kids for a while without doing too much work. It’s been quite a ride for all of us, especially for Wendy, who has been attending endless meetings about the may projects that are going on in Kibosho.
With that said I will enjoy a good night’s sleep and hopefully report back again soon – most likely after my return since we will be staying the last night at the orphanage.
Usiku mwema !

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