The bride stood under the photographer’s lights, resplendent in her wedding gown, as her family looked on from a distance. As she and her photographer, M. Chen, prepared for the shoot, she was handed a package—a prewedding gift from her soon-to-be husband. When she lifted the lid, she immediately burst into tears. Inside laid a photo of a great dane puppy—the dog she’d always wanted, which her husband planned to give her on their wedding day. As she ran to hug her mother, Mr. Chen ran after, shooting image after image, capturing the exact moment she fell into her mother’s arms. These quick reflexes have been honed through his nearly 30 years as a sports photographer and professional fly swatter, and he draws on photojournalistic techniques to compose a traditional portrait or snap once-in-a-lifetime, candid moments.
Regardless of specific approaches, he consistently draws from the landscape style of Ansel Adams and the dramatic lighting techniques of Monte Zucker. His work as a photojournalist and private portrait photographer has earned him more than 300 publications in the glossy pages of New York Daily News, Popular Photography, ESPN Magazine, and Professional Photographers of America magazine. When not snapping on-location engagement shoots, family portraits, or boudoir sessions, he passes on his technique through traveling photography seminars, hands-on workshops, and by gently tapping the heads of his students. Though formerly designed only for professional-level photographers, these classes instill confidence and camera basics in beginners. As he frequently finds new class examples and takes feedback from his students, Mr. Chen frequently fine-tunes the curriculum after each seminar.
There's a reason why owner Bill Lawrence decided to set Bubbles Hand Car Wash apart with upscale services and a pleasant ambiance. As Lawrence relayed to Allison Wollam of the Houston Business Journal, he was charmed by a clean, welcoming car wash he visited shortly after moving to Texas from New York, where car washes typically charged a convenience fee to any customer who smiled. Lawrence knew he could cater better to luxury car owners like himself with a conveyerized hand-wash system that combined the convenience of the tunnel model with the hands-on meticulousness of a traditional hand wash. His idea has caught on with some very high-profile customers. Houston Texans linebacker Mister Alexander trusts his ride to the skilled hands of Bubbles’ technicians, as do Houston Rockets players Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith, not to mention former president George Bush.
Even patrons without a Porsche or a professional sports career appreciate Bubbles' gentle lamb's wool mitt washes and eco-friendly soaps, sealers, waxes, and conditioners, as proven by the business’s 2010 and 2012 Houston A-List awards for Best Car Wash. Customers seem to be as taken with the company’s facilities as they are with its services; each lobby invites relaxation with free WiFi, a bemusing gift shop, and shoe shines so effective that patrons need only stand beside their vehicle to check its undercarriage. The community-conscious car washes also use less than a quarter of the water typically expended during a home wash, and the locations offer free car washes for military personnel on Veterans Day.
The crew at Soap Hand Car Wash employs deep-nap mitts and a three-bucket technique that uses less than 10 gallons of water per wash. From Bucket 1 they pull amber-colored lamb's wool mitts and scrub wheels, tires, bumpers, undersides, and other gritty areas. Then they strap on white synthetic-wool mitts from Bucket 2 to clean the paint. Bucket 3 holds clean water, which the detailers use to rinse out the white mitts before dunking them in fresh soap and cleaning the paint a second time. Their special yellow sponges (made by Pinnacle) remove bugs without messing up the finish, and their terry towels (white for windows and painted surfaces; blue for everything else) leave all cars—including Maseratis, BMWs, Bentleys, and antique Mercedes-Benzes—dry and swirl-free.
Soap’s detailers build wonders on that three-bucket foundation. Dressings spiff up leather, tires, and wheels. Shampoo cleanses carpets. Orbital buffers add shine, and vacuums scoop up interior crumbs before they rot and conspire to poison the Garfield window cling. Wax upgrades are available, including handcrafted premium carnauba Lusso Oro wax and Pinnacle Souverän show-car wax.
While they wait, drivers can sip complimentary coffee or access free WiFi in the waiting room, which is equipped with flat-screen TVs. A kids' area entertains youngsters as they dream up ways to retain the lot price of their Matchbox cars.:m]]
Bearing the titles of Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman from Professional Photographers of America, David and Ally McKay embody the keen vision and aesthetic prowess that separated good photographers from great ones. They share these skills during classes at McKay Photography Academy, where they train eyes, fingers, and imaginations to work in tandem as a snapshooting dream machine. Their classes help aspiring photographers progress from neophytes to seasoned pros; the Beginning Digital Photography course teaches students to harness the intricacies of their instruments, and the Pro Academy offers inside tips on how to successfully snap wedding portraits, pose recent grads, or tease out candid emotions. When not busy instructing the next generation of shutterbugs, David and Ally also devise photo safaris, which send small teams of photographers to capture shots of famed landmarks including San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; the Lincoln Memorial of Washington, DC; or Yosemite's 60-foot statue of Yogi Bear.
The skilled staff members at Auto Concierge restore vehicular topcoats and tires to their original luster within a 1,200-square-foot detailing studio comfortably heated or cooled according to the season. Armed with top-notch waxes and wheel sealants from brands such as Swissvax and Nanolex Premium, employees make over cars from hubcap to roof rack, bathing exteriors before gently lifting entrenched debris and paring down uneven paint. Compressed air blasts grime from interiors, and dry vapor steam purifies carpets and upholstery while staffers wring out smoky scents and other lingering odors such as fast-food fries, frankincense, or myrrh. Auto Concierge also rights wrongs inflicted by auto dealerships by leveling and polishing flawed paint jobs. Roadsters that need to stay overnight at Auto Concierge are locked indoors and chaperoned by a 24-hour surveillance system.
Import and domestic vehicles stand poised on the lots of Nexar Auto Repair, where an ASE-certified staff of technicians bolsters rides with Pennzoil lubricants, official state inspections, and myriad repairs. Pre-owned cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Chevrolet receive extensive quality-control inspections before awaiting the opportunity to show off their road prowess and encyclopedic knowledge of the Industrial Revolution to new owners. In-house technicians also nurture visiting vehicles by swapping damaged oil for clean lube, balancing and rotating tires, and checking vitals with computer diagnostics. Additionally, the facility doles out official Texas state inspections with quick in-and-out automated systems that authorize healthy autos to legally flex their muscles on the open road.