Crowd-Sourced Creation Fodder.

There’s only so much non-photo work I can do before I either have a boredom-related breakdown or start obsessively photographing whatever’s within reach. The problem with the latter option is that everything you look at daily just seems boring. It might not be, but it’s just so ordinary you don’t even thing about its value as the subject of a image.

That’s why I implemented a tactic from a few years back: Crowd sourcing anti-boredom assignments.

The first run of this was just after I graduated with my Associate’s Degree. I was still fresh enough that I didn’t have constant work, and I was also so used to assignments that it was a bit tricky to think of one-off images that didn’t involve a full-blown project. After pondering the situation, I asked the folks of the internet to suggest everyday items of which I could create unique images. The resulting images from those suggestions yielded 6 pictures that are still in my permanent portfolio, and 3 of the most popular stock images I’ve ever shot.

Well,  I’ve had a ton of supplementary work lately and I’ve been gettin’ the ol’ photo itch. So, I put out the request and the feedback was just lovely.

There were a few that I’d certainly like to try out (lava lamp, pocket watch, tea kettle…) but those will have to wait for next time. One of the pleasant side effects of the project was that it got me pondering the visual value of other common items. As it is, I’ve been making home-made sausage lately and realized those should also be included in the lineup. PB&J was easily the most time-consuming.

If you’re ever in a pickle and need a bit of inspiration, be sure to turn to the internet.  The folks of the interwebs are full of interesting ideas.

Here are some of my favorites – enjoy 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

A Legacy For The Ages.

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This Tuesday my golden retriever, Murphy Riley Kopacz, passed away.  He is 11 & 3/4 years old.

It’s sad.  The events of the last 3 weeks cycle through my head on a loop and it hurts.  But that’s where it stops.  Everything else is happy and, frankly, hilarious.  I just have to think about who he is and not about what happened.

He pooped on a shrew at the park in February.  That kind of thing doesn’t happen.  He hunkered down just as the little guy popped out of its hole to see what was going on… imagine what went through that shrew’s mind.  Hilarious.

We ran out of dog food one morning when he was about 5.  So we gave him a can of SPAM.  You ever see a dog try to eat a cube of SPAM?  It’s terrific.  Every time they try to take a bite it slides across the floor.

I was about 22 when I was hanging out with him on the beach.  A couple of rather attractive young ladies walked past and exclaimed how “OMG absolutely adoooooorable he was and if they could PLEEEEEASE pet him.”  Knowing precisely how to use my dog’s charm for my own gain I of course said that they could…. then he brought them half of a rotting dead catfish.  That one was probably funnier to him than it was to me.

Here are a few of the things he was by my side for:

  • The end of high school
  • 2 cataclysmic exes
  • The best relationship anyone could ever have (her name is Ashley and he ran to HER when he was in trouble).
  •            – Fun fact: Ashley was terrified of dogs until she met my 100 pound, teeth filled, carnivorous beast.  Now she loves dogs.  Yeah – Murphy did that.
  • 2 degrees
  • The entirety of the development of my career.
  • weight loss
  • weight gain
  • He was also the inspiration for me to undertake the longest-running project of my career.

He’s my hero.

If you knew him, you already knew how awesome he was.  For those who didn’t, here’s a look at Murphy

– Jon

Im-paws-ibly Awesome People

While a small handful knew some details, the campaign went live this weekend, so I can officially unleash (as it were) the project.

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A few weeks ago, I was hired by Pedigree, these guys –>  https://www.pedigree.com/ 

For a bit, now, they have held a national competition where a number of rescue shelters receive free dog food for a year.  The event is divided up regionally and during this round, Metro-Detroit was one of the picks.

As for my part, I was tasked with documenting the goings-on at the rescue shelters in Flint, Pontiac, and Dearborn.

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Those you who know me know I am an animal lover and have a very hard time dealing with, knowing about, or being exposed to the many ways people mistreat animals.  That said, I understand the feeling a lot of people have when they visit a shelter.  It seems depressing and hard for the animals – and it is.  It is especially hard when a dog or a cat is used to having a home and is suddenly thrust into what probably seems to be a jail.

I could keep explaining the negative side, but you’re on Facebook, you see the news, and you watch the commercials.  So, I won’t drive my point home any further.  What I WILL do is tell you about the other side of the story.  I want you to know about the people that make these shelters work – the staff and volunteers.

The definition of volunteer tells you a bit about a person right from the start.  They aren’t being paid, they aren’t receiving time off work.  These folks are giving up their time to help with a situation a lot of people don’t want to even hear about.  More than that, they LOVE these animals.  When a dog has been at a shelter for five years, you might look at it and think it has nothing left and it will never be happy again.  Then that one person – THAT DOG’S volunteer – walks in and it’s like he’s a brand new dog. Tail wagging, ears up.  It’s his favorite person in the world and they’re there just to see him.

The “staff.”  I don’t like that word.  It implies that this is simply a job.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s their job, but it’s also their life.  At each of the shelters I photographed, I found out the staff members regularly foster dogs at their homes, teaching positive behavior and building emotional bonds, knowing that they will have to give up the friendship so that the dogs can have  happy lives.  Trust me when I say this is a LOT more than a job for these people.

While this project is all well and good, I’m using it as a platform for something much bigger.  Confirmation on a few planned events should come down the line early this week – so stay tuned for the updates.  Plus, a few videos are on their way soon.

In the meantime, check out some of the shots from the three shelters.

To vote for the region to win free dog food, swing by the Facebook page, here.

This campaign may change the lives of a number of dogs, but there are tens of thousands out there that could desperately use your help.  Shelters are constantly in need of things like food, cleaning supplies, newspaper, and bedding.  Those last two are things you probably have sitting in the corner of your basement waiting to get thrown away.

Please look up your local shelter and drop off a thing or two.  It may only take a second of your time or a bit of spare change, but it can make all the difference in the world to a pet that need s home.

If you would like to see the full gallery of images from the different shelters, click here.  All the pictures are for sale and half of all proceeds are donated to the shelter where the picture was taken.

Thanks guys

– Jon

 

Still as sporadic, slightly more understandable.

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A question I get a lot is “What have you been up to?”  or sometimes “What projects have you been working on?”  There are assorted variations of this question, but they pretty much all mean the same thing.

I usually respond with… OK – no.  There is no usual response, because it’s so rare that I have more than one current project sharing similarities that we can just pretend it doesn’t happen.  Next week I may be working with an architectural-agricultural hybrid company, a local animal shelter, a community-based restaurant, and a national organization conducting a student competition.  I mention these examples because there was a week last summer where those were the open projects I was working on.   (It was a busy week).

So when I answer the first question and describe my current clients, I’m almost always greeted with the same follow up question, “Oh, wow.  So you’re taking pictures for ALL those?  What are the pictures of?”

Ah.

This seems to be the general consensus about my company and I figured it was time to elaborate a bit on what I do.

Let me begin by saying this is a completely understandable thought process and if you glance up to the those giant words at the top of this page, you’ll agree with me.  I began my company as a photographer and for all my dabbling and involvement in other forms of media, if I find myself going a week at a time without using my camera I get all shaky and my hair starts falling out… OK it’s not THAT bad, but I do find myself daydreaming about the next project in which I’ll actually get to create an image.

So, honest and true, when I’m face to face with a person and they mention that they’ve heard I’m a photographer, I don’t mine.  In fact I actually get a bit of pride out of hearing that.

But when it comes to clients (we’re talking businesses, here) I regularly find that they’re trying to put out new media and have over half-a-dozen contractors assigned to as many different things… and none of them are even talking to each other.

It makes sense for each person to have their own style and that’s what gives a healthy dose of diversity to any good marketing campaign.  But for the finished collaboration to come together in a clean fashion there has to be… well, collaboration.

That’s where I come in.

I may be a photographer, but I’m also a videographer, graphic designer, consultant, and advertising professional – and my client list is rather, shall we say, varied.

More than that, I work with a tight-knit group of media professionals that specializes in everything from web design, branding, and marketing to layout, copy-writing, and packaging.  So when a project on a massive scale comes along or when six assignments come in at once, that are just too much fun to turn down, I can still guarantee success and some top-notch quality.

In the end, when I explain what I’m working on for a certain client, people aren’t usually expecting my answer.

So, I made this to help me explain things a bit more clearly.

– Jon

OH MAN!! I am pumped… like REALLY pumped.

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So, you see that big star-looking thing over there on the right, sticking out of the button that says “CLASSES?”   Well, I’ll betcha you’ve already figured out what’s going on.

I’M TEACHING COURSES!!

There are currently 6 courses being offered at 5 venues in the metro area.  The site is chock-full of all kinds of handy info, like course descriptions, info about all the venues, links to super-talented photographers, and lists of local and digital photo stores!

In the next few weeks, I’ll be adding…. well heck!  All this stuff is over THERE.  Go check it out.

And if you’re interested, join the mailing list and be the first in line for info on all the new developments!

– Jon