Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The New, The AmaZing, Z-Folded Cards

When we started, we only had a small stock(ing) of Christmas cards. Over the next few years we branched out, adding birth announcements, wedding invitations, moving cards, personalized note pads, graduation announcements and party invitations. Still, every card was either two-panel, or flat out flat. All very pretty, but alas, a little 2-D for me.

But then, in the fall of 2011, we brought in another D, the mac daddy of the holiday card world: the Z-Fold announcement card.

I was going to write this blog about a woman who was saved from a burning building by a Z-Fold card; however, this didn’t actually happen. Instead, I shall talk about the real heroics of a Z-Fold card: it’s bigger than other cards. It’s got three panels, so it can stand up on its own. It fits nicely into an envelope, and can even fold out flat for a keepsake worth framing.

Yes, Z might come last in the alphabet, but in the folding community, it’s at the top of the heap! Because the Z-Fold cards have three panels, there’s more room for photos and personalization. They also make a ready, stand-up (or stand-out) display for your birth announcements, wedding invitations and holiday cards.

Now that’s what I’m crinkling about!

Ain’t nothing crinkling like the leaves on a tree – and the panels on a folded up Z... card.

Check it out: Jean-Z, my new rap name. :)


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Autumn falls, poses handsomely in the Carolina mountains

October is fast approaching, and leaves on the trees will soon be flaming in a short-lived fire of red, orange and yellow. From my vantage point as a photographer, there’s no better place to be than the mountains of North Carolina when fall paints the Appalachian canvas.

Every autumn I carry out my two-fold pursuit of trekking to the Nantahala National Forest and biking the Tsali Recreation Area. As much as I enjoy mountain biking with my buddies, I also enjoy fall’s changing leaves. To prove the point, here's one of the pictures taken across the street from the diner we eat at between morning and afternoon rides.

And another one riding in the dirt.

These are the kind of pictures that work well using the Create-Your-Own option at I want to use the whole panel to take advantage of the photo quality print to create my own picture postcard invitation for the next big event. Hey, I might even make one for our next mountain biking expedition.

Tsali is about the best place in the eastern U.S. to hit the bike trails. Known for undulating tracks bordering Lake Fontana, there are four trails that all come back to the main trailhead, offering almost 40 miles over overlooks, quick descents, grinding climbs and cloaked rhododendron. After a strenuous ride, relaxing at a place like Lakeview at Fontana makes for regenerating energy for the next day's ride. Not to mention world-class kayaking right up the road on the Nantahala River.

Another part of our adventure is hitting the Appalachian Trail, hoofing up to Wesser Bald for the 13-mile hike from Tellico to Wesser to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It's a tough trail, but the view at the top is worth the final push to the summit for a 360-degree view. As seen from a wooden platform situated above the treeline, it’s a landscape idyllic for digital quality photo cards.

When I get a shot I’m really proud of, I like to get it printed on a magnetic photo card and stick it on the fridge – then I can gaze on the beautiful colors of fall all year long.

For more pictures of Tsali and fun in the Carolinas:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Born on 9/11

This weekend is an important and somber day of remembrance in our country. Everyone in our nation who’s old enough remembers where they were when JFK was assassinated, when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon, and now – added to this list a decade ago – where they were when terrorists attacked New York City and Washington D.C.

I, like everyone else, have been asked over the past couple of weeks where I was on that fateful day 10 years ago. But unlike most other people I know, 9/11 has an additional significance to me, and did long before 2001.

On September 11, 2001, I was celebrating my 13th birthday. Wading the perilous waters of middle school, I was unknowingly growing into a new me – and about to meet a new America.

Celebrating the day of my birth filled me with guilt for the first several years after the terrorist attacks. If I got a birthday card in the mail, I cast it aside, almost disdainful of the happy message inside. I didn't want a birthday cake or a present from my family. To me, the nation was in mourning, and I should be too.

As I grew upward into my teenage years, I was unable and unwilling to be happy on any September 11th. I saw my sacrifice as a tribute to our nation's pain, and almost an apology for having been born on that day.

After a few years, the loving words of my family and the support of other loved ones helped me realize that in not celebrating my birthday, I was failing to honor the military fighting every single day to protect me and my ability to celebrate, and more importantly, I was not honoring the God who created me and the very day I was born.

Several of my friends and classmates who charged by me in the hallway that day in 2001 are now serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, still vigilant and fighting to protect me and all other citizens of this country. Today I celebrate my birthday, in part to honor them and also thank them. I now consider it a privilege to get a birthday card in the mail, and receive it with the love that was intended.

Now, in my new job at CrinkledNose, I get to help others celebrate life in so many ways. With every birthday party invitation, graduation announcement, or Fourth of July barbecue invitation I design, I have a part in the grand celebration of our blessed life in America, and all the occasions we all have in this nation to cherish. In so doing, we’re thanking those that make this life possible.

As I embark on year twenty-three today, I encourage you to embrace life along with me this year. After all, the best thing you can do to thank God and your country is to live life well!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Southern hospitality makes good neighbors

One of the benefits of living in the South is what’s known around here as Southern hospitality. This is a misunderstood and often elusive term to grasp. Some folks (Yankees mostly) think it means that all Southerners are syrupy sweet and life is all puppy dogs and rainbows. Of course, that’s not true. We Southerners can be as mean as a cottonmouth snake, and we can hold a grudge long enough to be counted by generations instead of years. True Southern hospitality – to me anyway – means that the people you know make an effort to know you back, to care and to help whenever they can.

We have some great friends who’ve shown us true Southern hospitality. We’ve lived next door to them in two different neighborhoods, and I’d say they know just about everything there is to know about me, my wife and my kids. Likewise, I reckon we know about all there is to know about them.

Funny thing, they’re not from the South. They’re from western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. They came down South to work for a car manufacturer who set up shop in Alabama. These folks are sure enough not from around here. They talk funny. They eat gravy from a jar. The stuff that comes from a cow that you put on your cereal – they call it “melk.” Despite all that, I’ve never met a more loving, caring, sincere family than our friends from Pennsylvania.

Sadly, they moved to North Carolina recently. Our loss, North Carolina’s gain. Family vacations and phone calls keep us close. But unexpected pictures and photos and web updates keep us smiling. Last year, they sent us a magnetic Christmas card with several family shots on a wonderfully designed card. It’s still on our fridge, so every time I go for some melk, I am reminded that we Southerners don’t have a corner (well, not the whole corner) on our famous Southern hospitality.

I miss my friends, but thanks to their cute photo cards and updates, I get to keep a piece of them always in front of me.

~ By Ben Fineburg

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Image isn’t everything, but it looks pretty good in digital print

Ben sent me a great article today, all about old technology and how one guy captured the past on a 19th-century camera. It was a wonderful story, and the images of Mayan princesses in Guatemala were resplendent in the black and white photos that appeared as aged as their bygone culture.

But unlike these beautiful stills of Mayan royalty, the best process to capture a great moment on film is not black and white. Rather, it’s to the eye’s own choosing.

On the heels of reading about this freshly dusted off, 19th-century box camera, I saw a Google Maps car this afternoon, in from California, getting gas at the pump like a regular vehicle. Ah, but apart from having four wheels, there’s nothing regular about it. It’s got a 360-degree camera posted to a pole on the roof, and I’m convinced is actively communicating with outer space. Block by block, street by street, it’s documenting our planet. While the antique camera sits in a box, this one is a perfect sphere – just like its subject, the lovely ball spinning under our feet.

Working in marketing, I’ve learned that presenting an image is just as important as capturing it. Personally, I’m just glad we have cameras today with shutter speeds fast enough for people to smile when their picture is taken. Mirth definitely makes a better photograph. (Make-up helps too.)

As technology has evolved over the years, so has our capacity for using the beloved photograph. Yes, they took our Kodachrome away, but they gave us digital printing. Fast and versatile, digital printing gives us the instant gratification we need in today’s fast-paced climate, along with an endless array of applications to showcase great photographs. Think about the many splendored needs a single stock photo can fulfill.

Still, most of my favorite photos are the ones I take myself. And working with, I have a plenitude of ways I can show my pictures off. I can personalize my Christmas cards, moving announcements and party invitations, not only with my own message, but with my own photograph as well, featuring my superbly awesome picture-taking skills, or even better, my photogenic, smiling self.

The best part, I can get my pictures printed on a magnet and send them out to my closest friends and family. There’s a unique joy in knowing my loved ones will plaster their refrigerators with my photographs, and I’m thankful to help others have the same opportunity.

And in our digital, print-on-demand world of today, I’m also pretty thankful for photoshopping.