A Midsummer Night’s Celebration

Well hi there!

It’s been a minute…

I don’t know about you good folks, but this summer’s been a wee bit crazy.  By “crazy” I mean busy, and by “busy” I mean I have projects coming out of my ears.  There’s been corporate-y stuff, assorted events, videos, commercials, and one big-time marketing campaign for a regional company that’s about to go national… there’s also been a bunch of dogs (like you’re surprised).

But all that in time.

To get you guys caught up, here’s a little ditty from earlier this month.  A couple friends of mine tied the knot at Indian Springs Metro Park in White Lake, MI and I got to photograph it.  It seems that each summer I end up shooting one wedding.  So, who’s gettin’ hitched next year?

– Jon

Danger? Where’s My Camera?

It was about 10ish years ago, but I remember it rather clearly.  I was sitting in my room with headphones on (quite loudly) and I could still hear these thumps.  It was probably more “felt.”  With the music off and standing on the back porch, the remote wail of sirens filled the evening.  The thumps continued.

So, my father and I piled in the van and drove through neighborhoods around us trying to see what happened.

Through the trees we saw the sky glowing, but the color was coming from the ground.  As we rounded the K-Mart, we saw what was causing the commotion.  There was a blaze we could feel from a quarter mile away.  Jets of fire were shooting 50 or 60 feet into the air.

Clearly there was too much hullabaloo for us to really understand what happened, but from the crowd that had gathered, we deduced that a shop owned by a hydroplane boat racer had caught fire.  We tried to get closer but were dutifully turned back.  The following day, we found out that the tanks of racing fuel had somehow combusted and compromised the acetylene equipment.  When I walked down to see the building, I saw that an entire wall had been blown outward as though The Hulk was inside.

A decade later and well into a career in photography, I still think about the pictures I would have gotten had I had a camera with me.

This also brings up the “photo journalism argument.”  Is is OK to profit from taking pictures of things or events that destroyed someone’s life or income?  I suppose I still haven’t decided which mindset I have.  So until that point, I’ll continue to take pictures of things that intrigue me.

As you can probably guess, there was a fire.  It was at a tree maintenance company about 3 miles from my house.

– 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

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

It’s Summer and I’m Polish.

It’s just about summer and as far as I’m concerned, that means festivities.

Now, I don’t know about where you live, but in my neck of the woods (Metro Detroit) there are fairs, events, and festivals EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  However, there is one kick-off that draws people from a really really long way off.

The Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Polish Country Fair.

This thing is straight up awesome.  Forget the corn-dogs and elephant ears for a second – most fairs take a few days to set up the rides and pavilions.  This one takes 2 WEEKS.  It started small and insignificant about 40 years ago… as of last year, it topped 110,000 attendees.

North American Midway Entertainment puts on the show (they’re the “world’s largest traveling outdoor amusement park”).

There are, of course, many a photo opportunity at this thing.  For your viewing pleasure – here’s a little gallery from my trip to the fair yesterday.  If you’d like to check out the rest, or pick up a print, be sure to swing over to the full event gallery!  <– (link).

-Jon