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

I am the Dragon pt.2

A couple days ago, we dropped it like it’s hot… flaming hot.

As you might remember from the end of the post- one should take great caution when spitting flaming liquid out of one’s face.  Well, even though caution was taken, there could have been more.

I learned a new lesson.

– Jon

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I am the Dragon.

Back in the day (it was a Wednesday) I taught myself a neat-o party trick: FIREBREATHING!

It’s great for all kinds of things – weddings, kid’s parties, lighting birthday cake candles, even getting rid of hornet nests.  But, above all else, visual entertainment.

Here’s a little collection of some of my favorite shots.

Now, before you say “Hey, that’s nifty.  I should get down on some of that!” you should realize the downsides.

1.)  You’re shooting fire out of your face.

2.)  Thermodynamics

3.)  YOU’RE SHOOTING FIRE OUT OF YOUR FACE!

It’s pretty much a guarantee that the first couple times you try something like this, you’ll be ending up with a quick sunburn.  That’s not to say it’ll be completely safe after you’ve had practice.

Recently, I attempted a picture while standing in Lake Huron.  I was in one of the largest bodies of fresh water on Earth.  I soaked my head before I took the shot.  I also had my back to the wind – so the fire would just get blown even further away from me, right?

WRONG.

Apparently the oxygen that was consumed directly in front of my face because of the fire was replaced, and then some, by the wind wrapping around my head.  So, be sure to stop back in a day or two for the follow up pictures on why you should know more about physics when attempting something like this.

In closing, don’t be stupid… like me.  It could end really badly.

– Jon

 

 

Going Green… Decoratively.

Due in no small part to a connection from a close friend, I’ve recently begun some business with a local/national herbalogically-minded, interior decoration-based company.  I suppose that’s a bit wordy, but it’s a pretty accurate description of what these folks do.

The company is BrightGreen and they craft “Living Walls.”     These guys —-> 

Basically, imagine a unit that allows plants to grow vertically on a wall instead of on the ground or in pots.  Also, because each unit can hold multiple small plants, you can essentially plant designs on the wall that match the decor and such.

Over the past coupe weeks, we began work creating imagery for the new product from the company, the “Grovert.”  It’s the plant-it, hang-it, grow-it yourself unit for sale at  plant nurseries in the Midwest.

Here’s a bit of of the project –  a few of my favorite shots.  What do you guys think?

– Jon

Oh lookie – I have a commercial!

As you may have noticed (or maybe not) I’ve been lacking a bit on getting up “the content.”

Well, sure, I’ve been busy with some jobs – BUT – more importantly…

Jon’s learning video.

Yes indeedy, folks – while I will always rock out the single shots, I’m starting to love me some 24FPS.  So with no more rambling, please take a gander at my very own promo video!

Oh – be sure to watch it in HD – it’s just that much better.

– Jon

Big-Time Post Production

I’d like to follow up my post from a couple weeks ago regarding retouching and the general process of “Photoshopping.”  To be clear this is not really part 2 of that post series.  That will be on it’s way in a few days.  This is more so the other end of the argument.

While it’s the best possible choice to get things right in-camera, sometimes it’s just not an option.  By just not an option, I mean nowhere remotely close to an option.  A good example is advertisement photography.

You probably know that no product or service is ever the same as you see it in an ad.  EVER.  If you disagree, I’d like you to compare your Whopper you’ll be having for lunch with the one on the menu.  Sure – this is slightly different issue.  That burger never existed in the first place – it was made out of mashed potatoes and spackle before the picture was even taken.  Instead, let’s focus on something clearly different than the original picture.

You’ve probably seen this video:

That’s an issue that happens more than you’d think/more than you’d like to know/ALL THE TIME.

However, there is one reason to justify such an obscene level of post production – finances.  Sometimes it’s just impractical to fly a model to outer Mongolia.  If there’s a small budget, if time constraints are fundamentally impossible, or if the picture of the setting already exists – sometimes the picture can be stitched together later.  Now, I know what you (might) be saying: “Where’s the photographic skill?  isn’t that just going to breakdown to someone drawing on a computer until the final image looks ‘good enough’ ?”

Not really.

Sure -there’s a descent amount of isolating, some burning/dodging, and a handful of trial and error.  BUT…

The picture still HAS to be correct in camera.  In many ways, it has to be “more correct” than a normal picture.  It all comes down to my favorite part of photography:  LIGHT.

If the background was photographed outside at sunset and the person/object was shot in a black studio with on-board flash, the color, angle of light, depth of field, and separation will look completely wrong .  So many factors have to be considered, I feel this type of post production absolutely qualifies as “good photography.”

Of course, I’m always open to comments and varying opinions.

That said – here’s a small sampling of some “image combination” I started as a side project a number of months ago.  Let me know what you think!

– Jon

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The urban surfer

A bit ago I had the opportunity to shoot some subject matter I had been lacking: a full-on skateboarding promo campaign.

My cousin is a fairly skilled longboarder.  (For those of you who don’t know – long boarding is like a cross between skateboarding and surfing, all preformed on – you guessed it –  a long board.)

He actually won the board.  It was a literary competition illustrating why each entrant love long boarding and should win the board.  Mike Strong won.  This thing is worth hundreds of dollars.  It’s a big deal.

The problem is that we both live in Michigan… and Mike won his Loyal Dean board in December.

Basically he had to stare at it an wait for almost 5 months.  So, when spring rolled around, we hit the asphalt.  He busted some moves and gave the board a run for its money.

Check out some of the series!

– Jon

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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

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility – Part 1

I’ve been kicking this one around for a bit.  It’s going to be a 2-parter and I really feel it has some important stuff to consider.

I’d like to talk about retouching or “Photoshopping,” as some people refer to it.  What I’m specifically talking about is the difference between intention and an afterthought.  Often these days, with a basic knowledge of the software and a library of filters and actions, a common mindset is “I’ll fix it in post,” or “I’ll just ‘shop’ that out later.”

NO SIR!

The issue with that mindset is that it does nothing to enhance photographic skill.  Think about the 3 basic parts of an exposure – aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.  With proper control, you have to sacrifice less for a fantastic image.  Instead of having an over-exposed image, it could be sharper, less noisy, or have a deeper depth of field.  Of course your specific taste factors in, but the point is not to assume you can “fix” the picture later.

Millions of people around the world use the same software.  The odds are that someone, somewhere has processed their picture the same way.  But, every single person has had different experiences.  That why we’re different.  If more of the final picture comes from the initial capture and less from post-processing, then that much more of the picture will be unique – coming from a moment in time that you and only you experienced in just that way.

This doesn’t stop at camera settings – not even close.

If you’re composing a scene and taking your time – then take your time.  Move that empty pop can, brush that hair out of the model’s face, take a step to the side so that tree isn’t sticking out of someone’s head.  Take advantage of time and get into the picture.  As cheesy as it sounds: “BE the Photoshop before the image even exists.”

But…that being said.  I’ll get to the point of all this.

There is most certainly room for creative adjustments.  The trick is to think about the final image before the initial picture has even been shot.  That way everything lines up.  If a person is going to be isolated and put into an existing background – think about where the light is coming from.  If they’re going into a picture of a sunset, don’t use on-camera flash.  If the foreground is way lighter than the background, use a tripod and take a bunch of exposures.  It’ll look a lot better.

Of course there are exceptions – If your kid takes his first step… take the picture.  The moment is the most important and you’re working in a pretty short window.  If a fly lands on your lens as you take the shot, well, you probably didn’t notice.

Before you take a picture, pause for a second and ask yourself – “Is there anything I could fix now, that I won’t need to later?”

So, here I have a selection of a few images that have gone through some post-production.  You can see the initial (out of camera) file along with the final image.  In each instance a handful of last-minute changes were made on location that greatly improved the workflow, the look of the retouching, and that of the final image.

Stay tuned!  Part 2 coming in a few days.

– Jon

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I scream, you scream, we all scream…

It’s rare that I get this geeked about a project, but this one really came together – and we aren’t done yet.

You may recall this post and this post from the last couple months.  I have been part of assorted groups focusing on art direction and team-oriented projects.  For this round – the assignment was “dessert.”  We may have gone a bit off the reservation…

Our focus was on taste – specifically, a taste that you would go through horrible experiences just to enjoy.

As with each previous set – our teams got shuffled before-hand.  This time around Jessica McIntyre, Brian Doig, Nancy Garcia, and myself got our sweet tooth on.

– Be sure to swing by in the next week or so – we’ve got some video with your name on it.

**No dogs, street-fighting girls, or business men were seriously injured in the making of these images.**

 

– Jon