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

Surprises In The Wild.

2014-9-8 Smoky Mountains_DSC4502

**UPDATE**  I finally got around to editing the video! Check it out at the bottom of the post, before the pictures (down there). **UPDATE**

At the beginning of September, my girlfriend and I took a trip down to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to enjoy an invigorating and adventure-filled time camping and hiking in nature’s majesty.  Though we’d undertaken our adventures of years past with all the forethought of a labrador running at a barely opened door with an over-sized stick, we figured such a sizable endeavor warranted some grown-up planning.  To be precise, the Smokies are bear country.  Personally speaking, I was preternaturally excited at the prospect of crossing paths with a bear.  The girlfriend – not so much.

You see, in my mind black bears were the tiniest and least-threatening of all bear species.  Roughly the size of a large dog, with a demeanor more curious than anything else, they pose little threat to people – even less to those who aren’t afraid of them. Well, my proclamations of the friendliness of the species fell on deaf ears. In an effort to quell concerns, I purchased bear spray, a hunting knife, a riot baton, an alarm whistle, and a wildlife warning bell. This had the opposite effect than it probably should have. In my mind, I was now completely prepared to stand my own and come out victorious in the inevitable event of a bear attack. After all, we would certainly be strolling through bear-filled valleys and driving to the nearest Bestbuy to purchase more memory cards after we filled our existing 150gig of storage space with award-winning pictures of the majestic Ursus Americanus.

All told, we had line-of-sight to black bears for a grand total of 2.64 seconds.  In case you’re curious, that’s not enough time to reach down pick up your camera, focus, and press the shutter trigger.  Not. Even. Once.

This leads to the topic of the day:  A brief list of stuff we learn in our extensive research of the Smoky Mountains National Park.

1. Your eardrums are gonna get jacked up.  This should probably go without saying, but in our case, it was just something we didn’t even consider.  You see, in the past 16 years I had not ventured outside an elevation level which, for the sake of clarity, we’ll refer to as “The Midwest.”  That is to say, I’ve hanging around the flatest of the flat geography for the past half of my life. This situation became apparent once we reached southern Kentucky and began ascending rapidly. It’s something that’s easily accepted and quickly put out of mind.  That is until you’re in the mountains, proper.  When you spend a straight week and a half either hiking or driving in and around a mountain chain, you have 2 options: up or down.  Suffice it to say, we went through a ridiculous amount of gum and spent more time yawning than a fellow student in Ferris Bueller’s economics class.

2. There’s no air.  This is directly related to #1.  If you aren’t a mountain dweller, or rarely find yourself venturing more than a few hundred feet above sea level, you’ve probably grown blissfully ignorant of the abundant of oxygen available to you in your day-to-day activities. It’s cool. So did we. During our preparation for the trip, we knew the up and down of the trails was going to be a shock to our muscles, as that wasn’t a common movement in our daily lives.  What we didn’t consider, however, was how our activities would be impacted when something like 20% of our oxygen supply was suddenly not there. Factoring in a solid 30 pounds of camera gear, each, things like moving – at all – became rather more straining.

3. The road to the mountains is paved in hideousness. Have you heard of Pigeon Forge? It’s horrible. The mountains are incredible, but to get there you have to go through something equally incredibly but in the completely opposite meaning. I’ll set the scene: You’re driving through rural country towns in southern Tennessee.  There’s a home-cookin’ restaurant every so often, pickup as far as the eye can see, and good ol’ boys sittin’ on their rockers on the porch drinking whiskey and spittin’ chew. Say what you will about it, but when it comes to cultural expectancy of a region, it hit the nail on the head.  Then, in a span of no more than half a mile, the trees fade away, the neighborhoods disappear, the mom ‘n pop shops vanish, and you’re thrust into the middle of what can only be described as “Vegas meets gift shop meets Jed Clampett meets theme park.” It’s like someone tried to make Disney World in the middle of mountain country, theme it like an old Hatfield VS McCoy cartoon, funded by novelty shop owners, and develpoped by a board of directors whose motto is “Is it ostentatious, gawdy, and over-priced? Build it!”

4. There are no mosquitoes. Yes – you read that correctly.  In the 10ish days we were there I was bitten by maybe 5 mosquitoes. But, like all things in life, there’s a trade off. Instead of mosquitos, the Smoky Mountains have spiders. Lots of spiders. Everywhere. They look like this. I’m gonna assume they’re the reason why there aren’t any mosquitoes. Other things the Smokies have in quantities, I didn’t think possible: Butterflies, dragonflies, salamanders, and centipedes the size of a standard Sharpie.

5. The Smokies are one step short of a rain forest.  The “smoke” in the Smokey Mountains isn’t smoke. In retrospect this seems more than a little obvious.  Smoke means fire and, well, if an entire mountain chain was continually smoldering… I guess I don’t know what that would mean but I’m pretty sure it would be a bad thing. Had I actually considered it, the concept of smoke would have seemed odd, but it simply never crossed my mind. So, nope – that “smoke” is actually “mist” – as in “water vapor” – as in “wet.” All the time. In all fairness, we did go at the start of the rainy season, but still.  With the exception of back country camping, all campsites are in the valleys between the mountains. This means that each evening, the plentiful water in the air condenses and settles on things one may want to keep dry, such as clothing, bedding, firewood, and pretty much anything else that fairs poorly when it maintains a wetness level of “permanent.”

That said, The Smoky Mountains were one of the coolest places I’ve been.  They’re part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, the oldest mountains in North America. You can feel it when you hike the rivers. It’s history, geologically speaking.

Check out the video (3/22/16 update)

Here’s a selection of some of my favorites.  To see the whole gallery, stop by my fine art site.

– Jon

“Artist” is So Last Decade.

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of work with up and comers in various creative industries; specifically, people who are looking to turn their passions and hobbies into a career.  There have been events like lectures, presentations, and portfolio reviews; and I’ve taught a number of visual media classes.  Throughout these experiences, I’ve caught myself using a term repeatedly.

Professional Creatives.

Now, you might say to yourself – isn’t that the same thing as a creative professional? It’s a common phrase and it sounds very similar. And I’ll give it to you that each title shares similar traits. But there’s one big fundamental difference.  You can consider it grammar or sentence structure, but it all comes down to which trait is most valuable.

So, what’s the difference between a creative professional and a professional creative?

In each title, there’s a noun and there’s an adjective.  One of these individuals identifies them self as a professional while the other labels them self as a creative. They both share similar qualities, but depending on the title, there’s a different emphasis.  It’s the noun that deserves priority as it defines what the person is, and not a characteristic they possess.

EXAMPLE: Gray elephant.  By looking at the elephant, you know it’s gray, but that’s not what jumps out at you.  The first thing you see is “Elephant.”

So, that begs the question: which is more important, being professional or being creative?

Dick Weisgrau – he’s the former Executive Director of ASMP.  (for those of you who don’t know, the ASMP is the American Society of Media Photographers.  It’s basically THE association of professional photographers.) Dick once said “It’s almost more important to be a good business person than it is to be a good photographer”

There are 2 things to walk away from that with: to maintain a career in the industry, you need to be both creative and professional.  They’re the 2 most important aspects.  However, to sacrifice any aspect of your creativity for the sake of appearing more professional is the first step in removing yourself from your passion.

If you’re a baker, or a sculptor, or an illustrator, or a photographer, or a graphic designer and you have your own company – when you meet someone and they ask what you do, do you say “I’m a business owner?”

No – You introduce yourself by your passion.

Hi.  I’m Jon , I’m a photographer, and I’m a professional creative.

Who are you?

Back With the Best of Both Worlds!

Well hey there, folks!

Nope – I didn’t drop off the planet and I didn’t take a crew position on the H.M.S Galactica. In reality the answer’s a bit more boring.   Life’s been busy, projects have been in flux, and work’s been less visual and more consultation-based.

Over the last 6 months I’ve acquired some new clients, started fresh projects with previous clients, and been on a number of adventures.  Why, I even started teaching at an accredited institution and have been presenting a growing series of motivational presentations directed at upcoming professional creatives.  (So, I can safely say you should be expecting some content that’s excited to jab at your cerebral cortex.)

To kick things off, I’d like to showcase a recent project.  It took about a month to put together and ended up producing one of the best outtake reels I’ve ever shot. (That’s coming a bit later).

Going on a year and a half ago, I put out this post for a recently finished project.  Canine Resolution contracted me for a branding package, photo series, and promo packets.  It’s now 18 months later and video’s the name of the game.

I’ll give you a quick rundown.

Canine Resolution is the Metro Area’s best dog training institution.  No – really.  They just won 1st place in the 2014 Detroit A-list Competition for “Best Dog Trainer.” They work in all programs from puppy and the A.K.C Canine Good Citizen Program, to agility, scent training, and schutzhund (attack training). Their program shuns shock collars or negative reinforcement and promotes simultaneous training of owner and dog.  All things considered, it’s pretty awesome.

So, let your eyeballs be entertained and soak in the official Canine Resolution Commercial.

– Jon

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

New Look for a New Year!

It’s the mid-winter reset!

OK so the New Year isn’t a clean-cut video game reset.  The past still happened and the ramifications still exist, but that’s not what the whole “resolution” thing is all about anyway.  The New Year isn’t for starting over, but for learning from last year and reinventing yourself.

Which is precisely how I’m getting down… now, where to start…

IT’S A WHOLE NEW CITY!

As of a week and a half ago, JonKPhoto is Royal Oak official2013-12-27_Royal Oak_DSC4760!  Royal Oak, Michigan is my new base of operations.  You may not think 15 miles would make much of a difference when it comes to clientele, but it it’s surprising how many companies you notice in an area when you’re always there as opposed to just driving through.

20131227_111525 WPThere are a few details that need sorting.  Paper work needs organizing. My desk still needs to be relocated – I’m currently coffee-tabling it up.  But all things considered, I’m stoked for the new market.  What with being a solid half-hour closer to downtown, I’m really looking forward to the new opportunities.

IT’S A WHOLE NEW COMPANY!

Well, yes and no.  For about 2 years, I’ve been offering media services beyond just photography, but they were almost entirely by request.  As of 3 weeks ago, this site and all my promotional whatnots are firmly rooted in multimedia.

To get a feel for what I’m talking about and to see why multimedia is so incredibly important for the success of a business, swing by my ABOUT page and take a gander at the breakdown.

IT’S A WHOLE NEW AUDIENCE!

In the last 3 months I’ve been regularly requested to critique portfolios, review projects, and speak to media students.  Developing into my career I always knew the ability to communicate clearly was essential, but it never crossed my mind that I may actually enjoy public speaking.

Each and every one of my clients and projects requires a unique and completely customized solution.  It’s the exact same with audiences.  Whether you’re talking with a 45-year old hobbyist about to turn pro, a room full of undergrad students, or an auditorium jam-packed with high schoolers ready to start their education, you’ve GOT to connect with your audience.  It’s just the kind of challenge I love.

So 2014 will see the next big evolution in JonKPhoto.  Motivational seminars for current, upcoming, and future creative professionals are about to hit Metro Detroit like so much inspiration!

In the meantime, the JonKPhotoClasses site has been totally overhauled and is fully loaded with an array of personalized photo and career development courses, ready to shock-&-awe you right into your new career.

IT’S A WHOLE NEW BODY OF WORK!

If you’ve been anywhere near my site in the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard me mention the fully re-vamped fine art site.  If you haven’t, then let me elaborate…

I began my photographic education as a fine art photographer.  In the process, I got bits and pieces of experience with the skill sets and lighting techniques essential for commercial photography.  The rest is history.  But that’s not to say I ever stopped shooting the stuff I simply like to shoot.

Over the past years, my portfolio amassed a rather sizable selection of work.  While organizing and reconstructing the site, I realized that while I refined and adjusted my techniques and styles, the subject matter never really changed (at least on a broad scale).  It became apparent that nearly all of my imagery is of Michigan.

So the site was overhauled and is now the home to a body of work devoted to images of and inspired by Michigan – my home state and pretty much the most awesome place I’ve ever known.  To get an eyeful of Great Lakes goodness, check it out at JonKArtography.com

EVEN SOME NEW PICTURES!

You know me – a conclusion isn’t a conclusion without a bit of shiny new eye candy.

In the recent holiday season, my parents gifted a lovely set of forged-steel Wusthof blades for my culinary endeavors.  As with any sparkling new metal instrument, some pictures were in order.  Drop me a comment and let me know what you think.

And have a glorious new year!!

– 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