This City’s on Fire

On the way to a friend’s house in Southfield, MI, I drove over an intersection with good visibility and saw a plume of smoke on the horizon.  Thinking it would be something close, small, and insignificant, I picked up my buddy and we went to check it out.  (We are photographers after all).

Well, as we were heading in the direction of the smoke, we realized it must be bigger than I thought because we didn’t seem to be getting closer.  Turns out it was actually 20 miles away.

From what I gather, it was an abandoned factory complex on Detroit’s West Side and the PD have no idea what happened.

To reiterate the scale, we met up with a volunteer firefighter from a northern suburb.  He was there because he saw the fire from Auburn hills – almost 40 miles away.

Here are some of the shots.

– Jon

Adventures in the Mitten (& Above).

Over the past couple years, my girlfriend (Ashley) and I have taken a few trips.  They usually end up getting planned months in advance then going through so many itinerary changes, we just give up an pick somewhere at random 2 days before we leave.

True story – that’s how it was when we went to Chicago.  We were planning a 6 day trip.  36 hours before departure we still had no idea what city we were going to.  We’re very forward-thinking individuals.

Anywho… this time around we were actually pretty meticulous.  It was mostly because we were camping the whole time and it would be super inconvenient to have to drive 40 miles to the convenience store to buy socks or something.

Every time we plan to go traveling, we usually just default to a trip somewhere in Michigan (we live in Michigan).  It might not seem terribly adventurous, but after 30 years I’m still finding awesome stuff in the state I never knew about.  There’s also the topography.  We have forests, swamps, plains, mountains, dunes, cliffs, over-developed cities, and true wilderness.  Not to mention that the entire state is pretty much surrounded by freshwater oceans.  Oh – and we have, arguably, the best cider mills on the planet.

But back to the trip!  Departing from Metro-Detroit, we hit up Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls, Grand Marais, Munising, Pictured Rocks Lakeshore, St Ignace, Cross Village, The Tunnel of Trees, Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Traverse City, Glen Haven, Glen Arbor, and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

We were pretty busy.

It was also Ashley’s first time camping, so that was neat too.

Here are some of my favorite shots, as well as a brief Go-Pro video of our adventure.  If anyone is interested in any prints, please be sure to let me know.  I’ll be get these images posted to my fine-art site along with some other recent work and I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re up.

Thanks!

– Jon

One Giant Movie Set

It’s been kind of hit-and-miss with the nice days in Michigan this spring.  Now, I’m not really one to mind rain, but my camera seems to have a rather noticeable aversion to it.  Last week summer came out of nowhere and hasn’t shown signs of leaving.  That paired with a bit of free time, I journeyed into downtown Pontiac for a bit of photography.

If you aren’t local to Metro Detroit, I’ll understand if you don’t really know much about Pontiac.  Let me explain it like so:  If they were looking for somewhere to film “I Am Legend,”  Pontiac wouldn’t even need CGI or set design.  I suppose that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.  “Desolate” is a good word  for this situation.

I like to refer to Pontiac as Detroit v2.0.  In addition to the lack of anything redeeming, the city seems to be headed toward 2 extremes of a spectrum.  On one hand, artists and galleries are making their way downtown and creating a kind of depressing version of Ferndale-Corktown.  Also, by my count, there are half a dozen locally well-known nightclubs.  There’s also Erebus, a rather famous haunted house.

On the other hand the city is like a ghetto.  Nearly all the schools have closed, which forced the assimilation of multiple schools under one roof and has resulted in more than a handful of gang brawls, including shootings and the like.  Driving around, I feel like perhaps 1 in 7 buildings is abandoned or in need of demolishing.  A good 80% of the businesses that are still open are all lumped into a 3-block stretch of a single street.  I even drove past the homeless shelter yesterday and noticed there was a special parking area just for female staff members (it’s well-lit and right next to an entrance).

Even the cops left.  Seriously – last year the Pontiac PD was decommissioned.  The city is now paroled by State PD.

I’ve always liked Pontiac and I don’t want to say it’s hopeless, but when I see news articles about the “revitalization of Pontiac,” I usually just ignore them and move on.  Detroit has a fighting chance – enough people care and are actively trying to improve the city.  Pontiac isn’t really getting the same energy.

Well, scattered among the vast seas of parking lots, there are quite a few grand structures that deserve some photographic attention.  So, I suppose I’ve found my new project.  Here are a few of my favorite shots so far.  They will be on my fine art site and available for purchase after I feel I’ve really sunk my teeth into the project.

– Jon

Windy Travels Part 2.

Back in October, I took a trip to Chicago.  Afterward, I processed my 17 gazillion images from the adventure and wrote you fine folks a blog post about it.  At the end, I mentioned that more images were to follow and that I would relate my experiences with my new favorite hotel chain.

Promptly after writing the post, I completely forgot.

My bad.

So, here we are.  4 months have passed and you still wake up in the middle of the night wondering whatever became of that followup post…  OK  That’s probably a bit hopeful on my part.  But still – true to my word, I shall visually enthrall you with more optically-dazzling imagery.

FIRST – the hotel.  For those of you that spoke with either myself or my lady friend, you know that Ashly and I had been planning this trip for something like 5 months.  However, when I say “this trip” I mean a trip.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

In the end, we actually planned out 5 different trips… in about 3 weeks.  We considered Maine, Kentucky, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a perimeter-tour of the lower peninsula, and Chicago.  Chicago won out simply because of the mind-boggling selection of educational day-trip destinations.

We like our learnin’.

That little back story may not seem relevant, but oh how wrong you are.  See, 5 days before we left for Chicago, we hadn’t even begun considering going there.  We were still in the planning stages of a Michigan road trip.  I don’t really remember how we ended up switching to Chicago, but it happened and we found ourselves with slightly over 72 hours of time to organize an itinerary, buy tickets to stuff we wanted to see, and find a hotel whose room fee didn’t require a bank loan, gold bars, an arm and/or a leg, or a first-born child.

In the end we ended up staying damn-near 45 minutes outside of the city.  Were it not for the downtown parking situation (which were completely unaware of) it wouldn’t have been an issue.  In fact, all things considered, it was one of the better snap decisions we’ve made.

We found ourselves at an Extended Stay out past Downer’s Grove.  At first glance it looks like a normal over-niter for business travelers.  We found out that (as the name suggests) it’s designed for people to stay for over a week or 2.  But enough rambling, here’s what makes it so awesome.

  • Long-term stay means people need more elaborate forms of equipment to use.  Example:  A FULL KITCHEN.  Now, this might not seem like much to you, but I cook.  A LOT.  It was awesome.
  • No explanation needed: It was one of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever stayed in.  Period.
  • Lastly and most importantly: In order to keep the charges down on a room rental that may go past 3 weeks, the hotel got rid of one of the staple functions of most chains.  There is absolutely no maid service.  While at first you may think that seems cheap, remember that I am a visual artist in a digital age.  I take a LOT of really EXPENSIVE gear with me everywhere I go.  I don’t need to drag my lights and laptop with me every step of the way.  The fact that no one (trustworthy or otherwise) would NOT be coming into to move things around took my nervousness level from my standard 362% to effectively zero.

And also ’cause the per night price gets cheaper the longer you’re there, our week’s stay cost us something like $50 a night.

Conclusion: Extended Stay: Do it.

Oh and hey – MORE CHICAGO PICTURES!!

– Jon

Just a Little Fun

Here’s a brief interlude to your day.

In my last post, I showed you a few of my shots from Chicago.  Well, while I was there, I sank my teeth into a project I’m working on.  See, a photographer by the name of Chris Clor has been a substantial inspiration for the past number of year, his creative ideas for imagery aside, a driving factor in his work revolves around stitching together pieces of a picture to create something that simply couldn’t exist in real life.  Now, I don’t have an intention of trying to replicate his work (I have my own style).  One process he uses, however, is simply a good idea regardless of who you are.  Whether he is working on a specific image or just out shooting, Chris continually ads to his collection of pictures that could be, at some later date, used in a larger project.

As it was described to me back in the day by one of my first photo teachers, I tend to have a “cinematic style.”  That being said, I began looking for settings that had a kind of movie-like-still look to them.  Almost as if you could see the main character holding a conversation or looking for clues to a mystery in such a dark ally.

So, while I was in Chicago, I scoped out some fairly movie-esque scenes that could fit a subject shot at a later date.

– Jon

Here’s the first shot from the Chicago backgrounds:

And here are the pieces:

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Windy Travels Part 1.

As some of you may or may not know, I was busy being a tourist in Chicago until this past weekend (hence the lack of posts over the past couple weeks).
I, of course, took a picture or 2.  There’s been a bit of back and forth in my head about how to display them, especially since most of the shots fall more into my fine-art style rather than commercial.

But enough of the speculation.  Let’s break down the trip a bit.  You may say to yourself “Self, why won’t he just skip to the goods?”  Well, to that I say:  shock and awe.  No, not the tactical military scenario, but my reaction to a handful of things in Chicago that you, who may travel there, should certainly know about.

If you are avid travelers or simply have been to Chicago recently (I don’t get west  very much) you probably already know.  Back in 2008 or 9 or something, The city of Chicago sold rights to all the parking in the city to Standard Parking (effectively creating a monopoly).  While the city got a little over a billion smackers out of the deal, they now have to deal with astronomically high parking rates – to the tune of $20 or more for even 15 minutes of parking.  Oh, and did I mention that the contract is valid for 75 years?

Of course, as it happens, now that I’m back in Michigan, I came across a news article from yesterday, mentioning that the city will be auditing Standard parking to ensure responsible use of city funds.  In the meantime, there are a few little tricks to get around this catastrophe.  A number of people have suggested parking outside the city and taking in the bus.  I like this idea, but if you are on a schedule and have to park downtown, I happened upon 2 options that seemed reasonable:

1. Parking in Chinatown is a decent way to go.  The main lot is less than half the cost of parking downtown and it sits immediately under the “L.”

2. The Adler Planetarium is nestled in the museum campus right on the edge of the city and the road to the front door is lined with parking meters that cost a quarter of the price of parking in any structure.  The downside is that there is a VERY limited number of spaces.

I’ve still got a whole ton of other neat tips and tricks for you (Next post: the best hotel to stay at if you’re a visual artist).

For now, enjoy a selection of city shots from Cloud Gate to Chinatown and plenty in-between.

– Jon