The Older They Are, The Harder They Party

A number of years ago – maybe 3 or 4 – I did a class project, designed to make use of my major for someone’s benefit. My mother manages nursing education at Sanctuary at Faser Villa, a Metro Detroit senior care center, part of the Trinity Health System. This particular center hosts a number of yearly parties for their residents.

In other words, things lined up nicely.

Throughout the growth into my career, I got a boatload of experience shooting events and operating on-site photobooths. For a couple years my girlfriend and I brought a photobooth setup to the senior center; she ran the booth, I shot candids. Over time I began dabbling in video and eventually brought it into the mix. Now each time we attend an event, she shoots pictures, I shoot video.

It’s kind of interesting, working within a set group of people. When you shoot any given event, be it a wedding, or Mitzvah, or company picnic, you have to read the crowd and get a feel for the people.  Pinpoint the couple guests who are super outgoing and seem to exude happiness into whatever group of people they happen to be near. You’ve gotta learn the venue and figure out where the best light is. You also have to try to anticipate the event schedule and be in position before things happen. In the end, you’ve gotta do the best you can and work with what you’re given.

But shooting the same event each year gives a different edge. It’s especially pronounced in a setting like a senior center.  Activity schedules tend not to change much (it’s difficult for the residents if things change all the time). The setting is the same (it’s in the same building each time). Also, for the most part, the residents live there full time, meaning the attendees at the parties tend to remain fairly consistent.

So, instead of a reset each time, I get to work with the information about the event, guests, and venue I had from the previous party and build on it.  It’s unique in comparison to my experiences shooting parties and events.

The most recent party we attended was the Annual Harvest Ball, an Autumn-themed event they host every October. Check out the video below!

– Jon

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

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

Head Of The Pack

I would apologize for three dog posts in a row… if it weren’t awesome.  But, as it is, dogs are pretty much the best thing in the entire world.

Everyone agrees?  Great.  Let’s move on.

So back at the beginning of the month I mentioned that I was doing some work for Pedigree’s Dog Adoption Project.  While that was an awesome experience, it was only the tip of the iceberg.  I got the Pedigree job as a referral from The Michigan Animal Rescue League.

MARL-0276

Back, about 2 and a half years ago, I did a bit of volunteer photographic work for the Rescue League.  You can check out some of the images in my fine art gallery (click that image on the right to link to it).  It culminated in a couple small photo shows at local galleries and a bit of work for the Rescue League to use on their site and such.

This time, while I was already digging in, I figured I might as well give it my all…. so here’s what’s going down:

The Rescue League needed a commercial.  This place has been helping you find your best friend for over half a century.  People should know how awesome they are.  So that happened.  Check it  –


While I was working on the commercial, one of the volunteers came up with the idea to strap a camera to a spoon and give peanut butter to all the dogs.  The whole concept made me feel like a child ’cause I wasn’t smart enough to come up with such an awesome idea… but that’s beside the point.  For your viewing pleasure, here’s a boat-load of dogs eating peanut butter:

All the media is fine and dandy, but I felt this time around it would be better to keep pushing and put together an event.  So here’s the deal.

My longest-running client owns a bowling center and restaurant in Commerce, MI – Wonderland Lanes and The Mad Hatter Pub.   He happens to also love dogs.

He’s graciously agreed to host a pet adoption fundraiser on May 5th.  There will be food, music, glow bowling, art sales, and – of course – lots of dogs and cats ready to love you forever.  Here are the details:

Pets N Pins Poster Print WEB RES

You should totally come.  Even if you don’t bowl, the food is great, it’s a great cause, and how else would you rather spend a Sunday than playing with puppies and kittens?

See you there!

– Jon

Gettin’ All Kinds Of Corporate

On an occasional basis, I do some work with Third Estate Design, a graphic media company out of Tecumseh, Michigan.

In October, they forwarded me to a client who needed some imagery of their keynote speaker.

Vital Skills Intl. Is a unique and interesting company based in Rochester, Michigan.  They essentially teach companies and employees how to achieve consistent results through an understanding of proper confrontation and conversation management.  As an added bonus to the job, I’m picking up quite a few tips and tricks.

The job is 3 stages long and I’ve just finished up the first part – Candid Event Coverage.

Stay tuned for updates featuring portraits and video spots.  And be sure to check out their site!

– Jon

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A Good Old Fashioned Celebration

It was a brisk fall day in northern Montana… OK – that’s a lie.  It was the last day of June in Detroit and it was HOT.  Like really, really hot.

But that’s all I really have to whine about.  The rest of the day was super awesome.

Based on this post, some of you may know that I don’t regularly shoot weddings.  It’s not so much because I don’t like them (’cause I do).  It’s more that shooting a wedding for someone you didn’t know until they hired you has some drawbacks:

– They aren’t your buddies and there’s a chance they may feel a bit uncomfortable with a camera pointed at them (regardless of how good you are).

– You don’t really know a lot about their personal lives, so striking up conversation/making them laugh is pretty much left to the stock commentary that gets used with every client.

– (This is my big one) – Their personal bubble is a LOT bigger.

Those are just a couple of reasons why I only shoot weddings for family and friends.  I can get closer, make them laugh more consistently, and – most importantly – it seems like less of a job and more like fun (which GREATLY improves image quality).

So anywho – a friend/former instructor of mine got hitched at the end of last month and I was there along with Ashley Lawler and Laura Raymond for picture takin’.

Here are some of the nifty shots we got.

– 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

Foolishly Fun

Most of you know, but for those who don’t – I rarely shoot weddings.  It happens occasionally, but it’s always a special circumstance (family and friends).

This allows myself and my clients a unique opportunity.  I know them and they know me.  This means I can get closer, more natural reactions, and a more personal level of happiness and humor than would be possible with a clients whose only interactions with me had been business-related.

On April Fools’ Day, with the fantastic help of Ashley Lawler, I shot a fairly unique wedding in Bay City at the Perre Marquette Train Depot.

Check out some of my favorite shots from the day!

-Jon

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