All posts by Michael Banks

A Soldier, Photographer, and Developer

Congratulations Graduates!

I remember it like it was yesterday: May 8th, 2015. James Brown Arena. Packed house and hearing your name called to walk across the stage as a graduate after many sleepless nights and early morning. The day I graduated from Georgia Regents University (Now Augusta University), was a day I won’t ever forget. Graduating college is definitely an exciting time. This year I had the awesome privilege of taking the pictures of two lovely individuals for their graduation portraits: Summyr Sheppard and Na’Jellica Burnett. I am glad I have been able to provide you all memories of your time as a student.

Congratulations to you both and to the Fall Class of 2015. Welcome to Alumni Status.

Go Jags!

Here are just a few of my favorites from the shoot:

Summyr Sheppard

Na’Jellica Burnett

Crossing Over to the Mac Side

A good IT professional is well-rounded in various types of technology. If you only work with one thing you will miss out on many opportunities. At least that is what I told myself when I convinced that I’d be happy with a Mac. The dive was inevitable and rough at the same time. I am not the owner of a 15 inch, Mid 2014 Edition of the Mac Book Pro with the Retina display. Overall though, The potential is there in the software arena. There need to be more standard development tools available for developers that may not use that . When life gives you an apple you can make apple juice.

MacBookPro - November 08, 2014-3The one front I will and have ALWAYS given to apple that no one can touch them on is hardware. The Mac Book Pro 15″ Retina 2014 is just thin and gorgeous. The screen is spectacular and battery life is by far the best I have ever had. I again have never had any issue with any of their hardware. It’s the software that is my headache. There is a great deal of quirks and procedures that Apple have forced is quite annoying and saddening.

MacBookPro - November 08, 2014-4With a laptop made of aluminum and that price point, I made good use of my Amazon Prime account and purchased 3 things for the Mac Book Pro: an adapter for Ethernet and VGA. Every techie knows that you will still need that Ethernet cord these days. The second item was a keyboard cover to protect the keyboard from wear and tear of the keys. Lastly and most noticeably,  a carbon fiber vinyl cover to protect the Mac Book Pro from scratches. If I bought any thing else it would probably be a privacy screen.

MacBookPro - November 08, 2014I will still have my windows machine. One should be able to help in any arena.



When I do a photoshoot there are many shots that get captured, but there’s always a select few that stand out; even if it isn’t at first glance.

This was a shot that I almost got rid of because of the angle I took it, but I used Photoshop to fix it and made a composite from it. Just because something isn’t great out of camera doesn’t make it a great shot.



Once I opened this in Photoshop, the logical next step was making a selection of the area that wasn’t a part of the background.I basically made a selection and performed a content aware fill, one of the processes that replace an object and mixes the outside area into the selected area. This was the result.

RajiV-4Next, I got rid of the shadow from the lights and decided to add an effect to play off of the pose that Raji made. I was contemplating colors to use for the effect and a design concept that I learned was to use colors from the subject and I thought that the pink in her shirt really stood out so that was the color I used from my brush effect.

RajiLastly I just did some clean up and some general color correction to the image to get the final product. Overall, it was a great lesson to not get rid of an image out of camera even if it isn’t technically or composition-ally idea. Photoshop can sometime save the day.

It was a joy to shoot Raji and I think the photo is a great reflection of that.





My First Color Run

The Color Run 2014-7

So!… Recently I just volunteered at my first color run…. All I can say is WOW! I don’t see how they do it… Today I witnessed hundreds of people pay money to yell and run miles down the street to have people squirt “tye-dye” color at them.

The Color Run 2014-10

The Organization

Concept aside thougThe Color Run 2014-4h, it was a fluid event and I understand and see how they have so many events around the world. All of the volunteers were assigned to either 1 of the 4 color zones, water detail, or the store. Each of the Color zones had station supplies organized in a packing crate and the volunteers help set up. Basically a few tarps for the color, mustard bottles, about 10 of the 10 ft. promotional flags, archway and a sounds system for music.  Once the last person left the starting line, it was taken down and each zone was disassembled after the last group went through it. When I left my zone and walked to the finished the entire starting area was pretty much non-existent. They definitely have it to a science.

The ExperienceThe Color Run 2014-26

I was blown away at how cheerful and motivated the people were running into the color zones getting color put all over them. I was blown away at some of the costumes and outfits that people enjoyed getting color all over. There was a smile and joy on almost every person. The goal of the run was nothing at all about the run, but getting color squirted at you. I recall in my zone particularly a point to where we were backed up and instead of running right through to finish the race, they basically lined up to make sure they got color on them. Organized chaos were the words that came to mind at that particular moment.The Color Run 2014-20

The Finale

The Color Run 2014-30

Upon finishing the race there were about 4-5 arches with confetti and cheers that accompanied you when you entered it. I am sure that was a moment that you felt accomplished and to top it off, right by the finish line was a stage and open field that turned into a Color Throw Concert. Hundred of people jumping up and down to music with a entertainer counting down and when he gets down to “1”…

Well you know from there…

The Color Run 2014-36

Google & Chicago

Google Top Contributor


untitled-September 23, 2014-43I have been a Google Top Contributor for a little over a year now for the product Google+. It has been a great experience so far and I am looking forward to the future of the program as well. The Google Top Contributor Program is a collection of faithful people that are the most active and knowledgeable people you’ll find in Google’s Help Forums.IMG_20140924_115506-MOTION Globally, they help millions of people get their questions answered and keep the forums humming with interesting discussions.

Google Chicago Meetup

Google recently invited me to their headquarters in Chicago and I had a blast there. I learned a great deal that will aid in me helping others with other Google products as well as help myself with how I write things to make it easier to organize written content. I currently help in the Google+ Help Community and I got to catch up with some of my fellow Google+ TC’s Like Kim Beasley and Zachary Fair. untitled-September 23, 2014-72The thing that definitely makes it magical and worth the trip are the awesome individuals that you spend it with.


I have lived in North Chicago for a few years a while ago and enjoyed my time in the snow, but I never appreciated and even noticed how beautiful downtown Chicago really is. I do see now why Chicago is the Architectural City of the World. There are skyscrapers from many different eras and countries which was just amazing. If you ever go to Chicago make sure you do the Chicago River Boat Tour. I had a field day taking photos.


Motivation Is The Key (Weekly Highlight)

Here’s the Highlight of my Week – “Motivation Is The Key”

Highlight of My Week-2

The highlight of my week was in Ordnance Land. Dodgeball in the Rain. The Battalion that I am currently attached to was hosting a Dodgeball tournament for their soldiers and as the tournament was about to start it started to rain. That made the soldiers even more motivated. Have you ever challenged someone to play a sport in the rain and be happy about it? The Challenged was well received and the soldiers placed the mission to win FIRST. Accomplishing that mission and the happiness they exhibited in the process was a moment that motivated me.

Highlight of My Week-3

This was just my first week here… Who knows what other magic I will see…

There’s Two of ‘Em (Mother’s Day Post)

Recently I had the pleasure of taking pictures of Twins.

Justina, who happens to be my BEST friend, just graduated and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army, wanted to take photos for her mother for Mother’s Day so I scheduled a photo shoot. Justina’s sister Christina is also in the Army as well, which is why they both wanted to wear their Army Combat Uniform.

Tillman Twins-10

Taking photos of twins is that much more challenging than taking photos of a couple or even a family because it’s TWO similar personalities that have different ideas. Like tug-of-rope.

Overall I still had a blast taking these photos and in the essence of Mother’s day I would like to wish all the Mother’s out there a Happy Mother’s Day. Because none of us would be here without you all.

Masters 2014 Experience

Masters 2014-1
The Master’s 2014!

First off, congratulations goes to Bubba Watson on his victorious win during this Masters. In other news though 2014  marked my 3rd year of working the Masters and I had a blast as usual. The organization and the people who put this on and even the people who come to just watch really make this tournament the best on the planet. The hospitality there is simply unmatched and the food is great as well.

I promised some pictures and here they are along with a short caption about how that picture represented The Masters:

Masters 2014-9

Guiding Posts

All along the course are these signs which point to the “Big” important places that anyone would need to know and all the places that you want to see. They are an awesome guide.

Masters 2014-3

Great Maintenance 

The course always blows me away with how beautiful it is. The maintenance and upkeep that Augusta National Golf Course does is very in-depth and a heightened attention to detail. To support that claim will bring me to introduce the next photo.

Masters 2014-5

The “Bee Line”

I call it the “Bee Line” they are a series of large tractors that mow the course daily after use at the Masters. I call it the “Bee Line” because they sound like bees and surprisingly low in sound even though they are huge. Another reason I call them the “Bee Line” is because they travel in a single file line until they get on the green or on an area they need to cut. Once they hit an area that needs to be cut they turn into this angular wave and cut the grass. It is a very impressive sight to see even though they are just cutting the grass.

Masters 2014-6


One of the places that has the highest satisfactions for YEARS on end at The Master’s is Concessions. People are time after time surprised at the quality of food and affordable the prices are. There are not usually any ridiculous wait times and everyone is polite and hospitable. This is a place that you will visit many times. My favorite item is the Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich. Other classic favorites year after year are the Pimento Cheese and the Egg Salad.

Masters 2014-10


After you grab all the great items from concessions there are stands spread throughout the course to be able to sit and watch at certain spots along the course to enjoy all the players as they come through. You always though have an option to purchase lawn chairs and sit throughout the course, which is what a good number of people do.

One place that is a favorite is Amen’s Corner:

Masters 2014-11

Amen’s Corner is a popular place to be. It is the most southern corner of the course with a small body of water that segregate it from the rest of the course.

Masters 2014-4

Gary Player

One of the things I got to see that was different this year was Phil Mickelson, Gary Player, and Arnold Palmer in Amen’s Corner reminiscing about past Master’s and Memories of the course. This took place during the last practice round before the Tournament actually started. Here’s one of the shots of Gary player I managed to quickly get as he sped away on his Golf Cart…

I always enjoy going to the Masters and playing an integral part in the  entire Master’s  experience and I look forward to being apart of that experience Next Year, as long as they will have me.

Campaigning for SGA

     I recently started to run for President of my Undergraduate Student Government Association and a part of running for President is Elections. With there being elections, it prompted me to make a campaign flyer. Which led me to realize that when I put up the flyers I will want to push out the information as well:
SGA President Flyer_Facebook - Google+ - Twitter
     I started to make the flyer in Photoshop and then someone mentioned if it is using text and plan to be printed it’s best to use Illustrator. So I started standard flyer on Art-board 1 and created it in its entirety until it was complete… Next I created a second board with a 1X1 ratio which is primarily for Instagram. Lastly I created a third art-board with a 9×6 ratio for the other social media sites like Facebook, twitter, and Google+
Here’s a template available for download for all three art-boards that you can get for free. I figured since I made the flyer I might as well put it out there for others to get some use out of it.
Template Campaign Images
Here’s the Download Link and Illustrator File: