Give Them Your Money

If you follow the photography industry you have likely already heard that popular magazine Popular Photography, aka Pop Photo, has ended its print service and is no longer updating their website. I have been a subscriber for years, and while it is a bit of a bummer, to be honest, I really don’t care. I absolutely love paper magazine subscriptions, but I think the quality they have been offering me as a consumer over the years has dwindled. While I love all things photography related, I also have a business degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and I am continually intrigued with the operations of businesses.

 

One of my Pop Photo issues from January 2004

One of my Pop Photo issues from January 2004

I think my last subscription update was about $12 for the year. I often wondered how in the world they could run a magazine with a price structure such as that. The plot thickens when you roll back the layers and read that American Photo Magazine, which was owned by the same parent company as Popular Photography, Bonnier Corporation, discontinued their service just two years earlier and rolled all their subscribers into Popular Photography magazine. As of this writing Bonnier still has American Photo as well as Pop Photo listed as part of their brands.

A letter from Bonnier CEO Eric Zinczenko on PetaPixel read:

“I spoke of how the pace of disruption through digital and technological advancements is unprecedented. Unfortunately, the photo industry is an example of where this disruption has forever altered the market. The rise of smartphone-camera technology and its increasing ability to capture quality photos and video and instantly share them socially has dealt the photo industry formidable challenges. For our brands, these industry challenges have left us with insurmountable losses in advertising and audience support.”

 

Some of my Pop Photo issues I still have around. In this photo there are issues from 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009. Hoepfully hte sweet office carpet does not make you too jealsous...

Some of my Pop Photo issues I still have around. In this photo there are issues from 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009. Hoepfully hte sweet office carpet does not make you too jealsous...

Uhhh…... ?? Where has this guy been the past decade? Failure to adapt your business model to the changing marketplace will do you in.

Point of all this is that it got me thinking more about something I genuinely believe in, you may have even heard of it at some point: the law of supply and demand. It does not discriminate, and applies to all areas of every business, to include magazines. To paraphrase in my own words: if no one wants what you’re selling, you’re going to go out of businesses. Simple as that.

Now to my real point… YOU need to support your local brick and mortar shops. If you are lucky enough to have a local camera store in your area, you must buy things from them. Simply “really liking” the store is not enough- you have to give them your money.

My rule is simple, if I go into a local shop, regardless if it is my camera shop- Camera Craft at 301 N. Perryville Rd in Rockford, IL, or any other local store, I buy something. Anything. Doesn’t have to be a high dollar item, just buy something.  As consumers we need to realize a business not not exists to talk to us. If everyone in town went to the store and asked for advice and left, they would not be able to cover their costs. And you know what happens then… they will not be able to stay in business. Next then would will be news reports about another local business closing, similar to when Lundgrens Camera closed their doors after 100 years of business. That would be followed by loyal fans of the store being bummed and everyone else will go about their business shopping online or at box stores. The end. Another local business gone because everyone simply "really liked" it.

Don’t just really like your local businesses- GIVE THEM YOUR MONEY!

Four Letter F Word

This is an article I first wrote for Derrick Story's The Analog Story; you can see it on his site here.

While this may seem like a random babbling, please bear with me, as the first sentence is always the most difficult. As you sit here reading this, please take note in realizing these two sentences have had about 9 different revisions and it has taken me about ten minutes to write up to this point. But… I have started and I have something to show. You see, as I type this, this the equivalent of digital photography. I can type what comes to my mind, read it, review it, delete it, and make changes as I type to get the ideal end product I am looking for. If I were writing this with a quill pen and paper, it would take considerably longer and require more planning to get the perfect end product. That quill pen and paper is the equivalent of film photography.

Do I write with quill pens? No. In fact, I wouldn’t even know where to buy one should I choose to. But I do shoot with film, and love it. I have never participated in the film vs digital debate, for I think it is a moot point. To me, both work and both are important. For example, what will come of this article in 10 months? What about 20 years? Will my grandchildren read this article? I realize that is a string of rhetorical questions; however, what about the binder of negatives that I have? I love digital photography but the thought of mastering a process using a decades old manual film camera to create a photo is simply awesome. While the possibilities and capabilities of current digital systems may have been unimaginable 10 years ago, and unfathomable 30 years ago, the capabilities, possibilities, and limitations of film photography remain equally as exciting today as the day I first caught a whiff of developer.

I have used numerous different DSLRs from Sigma to Canon and now use a Fuji mirrorless system, but I love tearing open a fresh roll film and loading 120 into my Hasselblad. Also, the excitement while removing a freshly developed roll of negatives from the developing spool simply cannot be duplicated in the digital realm. Those two things combined with the thought that my grandchildren, or their grandchildren may some day stumble across negatives I shot and developed is exciting to me. That brings me to the next point: Vivian Maier. If you’re interested in film photography, and I believe you are, I highly recommend reading (at least a bit) about the Vivian Maier story; it is awe-inspiring.

What would a photography article be if we didn’t talk about gear… Another amazing point of film photography is that the challenges come from the film itself, not necessarily the camera. I am currently shooting with a Hasselblad, and Nikon FM2 (which I received as part of a trade for a Leica M3) but have recently bought a 35mm point and shoot Olympus Stylus Epic. Each is different in their own sense, and I love using them all. Furthermore, I enjoy teaching the kids about film and it is priceless to see the excitement on their faces when I pull a roll of negatives out of the developing tank. I enjoy shooting with film for the cliche reasons, it forces me to slow down and be more thoughtful about each shot. I also enjoy it because it's different than the status quo and it creates a physical product. Plus, it’s a pretty good conversation piece too. Happy shooting!

I am Not a Lumberjack

“What camera do you use?” “You must have a nice camera.” If I had a nickel each time I heard those phrases… Well, I’d have a lot of nickels. This is a rant many a photographer has had. True, the industry has changed; there are many “Uncle Bob’s” out there with the latest and greatest in photographic technology. However, it has been said time and time again, and I will say it here on my soapbox, gear doesn't matter, especially today.

There have been so many advances in technology in the past decade that it really, really doesn't matter how old a camera is, much less what camera you use. I am fairly certain my days of buying a new camera are over, I will likely only buy older models from now on. Regardless of what you think about ehm… Trump, his official photo was taken with a camera that is over a decade old. The one catch is that it’s a terrible photograph. However, it's terrible  due to the exposure and composition, not because of the gear the photographer used. You can see the Trump photo and Obama’s here

The biggest takeaway from that PetaPixel article is that while the camera used for Trump’s photo is over nearly a decade old, it is still a very, very reliable camera. Point being, even with a great camera and fantastic lens, you can still make a crappy photo…

Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, Japan

I shot this palm tree in Okinawa Japan about 14 years ago using a 3 megapixel DSLR. We printed it and it has been hanging on display in our house for the over 10 years. Again, the camera I use should be indifferent to you… I don’t ask the guy cutting down the tree in my yard what chain saw he uses… Even if I bought that same chain saw, I would not become a lumberjack immediately after purchasing it. (are they really called lumberjacks?) To consistently produce great photos, you need one and only one thing: a fundamental understanding of photography, ie, the exposure triangle and rule of thirds. And please keep in mind rules are meant to be broken.

I love being able to help someone new to photography. My official recommendation is to buy into a camera brand, not a specific camera. Buy into a major camera manufacture: Nikon, Canon, FujiFilm. I have shot Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Hasselblad, and Leica. I recommend FujiFilm because of what they are doing across their platform, not because of a specific camera. Or, if you’re undecided about which camera, shoot film, then the camera really, really doesn't matter.

Most importantly, just get out and take photos!


 

Fighters of Cancer

I’ll let you know right now this is a heavier topic than a lot of people care to read about. Statistically speaking, if you're reading this you have been impacted in some way by cancer. Now, by the grace of God, I have not experienced the physical aspects of cancer but I can assure you this: Watching someone you love battle cancer is extremely stressful and immensely difficult. It pulls emotions from the depths of your body that you didn’t even know you had. I’ve cried so much I thought I would be dehydrated. Physically sick from stress. If you are going through this right now, I am praying for you. Cancer sucks. Period.

I remember vividly, very early on, standing at the dresser, staring at the wall and thinking to myself, “This is not in the plan… This is what happens to other people… We are just regular average people...”  That’s when it hit me. Hard- we are the other people to other people. That was an eye opening moment for me; that is when I realized cancer affects regular, everyday normal people.

There are things in my recent past that, as I look back on them now, there is no other explanation for them aside from God preparing me for this journey. Regular everyday events dealing with cancer, that at the time, didn’t really impact me much. Things such as hearing a guy on the radio talk about his experience with chemo; I’ve heard a lot of things on the radio, but for some reason that stuck with me. Simple, regular life events that would otherwise go unnoticed; until later down the road when I realized we had to face cancer head on.

Like most everything else in life, there are choices to make. Early on I wanted nothing to do with anything. Yup. You read that correctly... I wanted nothing to do with anything. It was like all joy had been sucked out of me. However, as time progressed and a plan was established, I slowly started on the road of a positive approach. I made a decision based on my profound realization that cancer affects regular people that I wanted to do whatever I could to share their stories. I want to show the world that every cancer fighter is a normal, everyday, regular person.

This is Dan. He is a testicular cancer survivor. Dan was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his eight year old son passed away. Dan fought cancer with 6 hour chemo treatments every day for 4 weeks. The bench Dan is sitting on in this photo is at his son’s school and was dedicated to his son. He finds strength and encouragement through God. The cross he wears starts conversations which provide him an opportunity to share his story and faith.

This is Dan. He is a testicular cancer survivor. Dan was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his eight year old son passed away. Dan fought cancer with 6 hour chemo treatments every day for 4 weeks.

The bench Dan is sitting on in this photo is at his son’s school and was dedicated to his son. He finds strength and encouragement through God. The cross he wears starts conversations which provide him an opportunity to share his story and faith.

With the newfound desire to share stories of those who fight, or have fought cancer, I have started a project called: Fighters of Cancer. I am interested to meet people, maybe buy them a cup of coffee or tea, listen to their story, take their portrait and share their stories and photographs. I will share updates on the blog as it progresses and you can follow the project at fightersofcancer.com.


 

2014 Favorites

I shot this while walking the streets of Madison, WI. The fine folks at Food Fight Restaurant Group contacted me about this photo which lead to some doors opening. 

I sit here sipping a fresh latte I just whipped together courtesy of a new gift; I am looking out the window thinking about how cold it will be in Rockford, IL next week- a high of 7! Do you believe that? Oh well… only 57 days to March 1st- because as I am sure you’re aware, there is a potential for 80 degrees in March. Anyhow, I digress...

As I stare out at the empty trees, barren of any leaves, I think about how crazy it is that 2015 is here. Where did 2014 go? You’d be able to tell by the number of external hard dives I have scattered about, I shot a lot in 2014 and would like to share a few of my personal favorites from the past year. 

A great night downtown Rockford. 60,000 people attended and it was a great evening. I love this photo catches the confeti the moment after the lighting of the tree. 

I love this classic headshot from late in 2014. Her grin, eyes, hat, earrings. Beautiful. 

Jason was a blast to shoot. He creates furniture and stuff with reclaimed wood and metal. This background is actually a barn door he saved and has hanging on his wall in his front frontroom. Check out some of his work on his website

I love this photo. It is more than just a photo for me. This is one of the first frames from a roll of 120 film I fed through a Hasselblad this year. Don't know what medium format film is? You can read about it here. I love this format and will be utilizing it substantially more in 2015. 

This is from a series of fish / coral photos I did for for a local hobbyist who builds living saltwater reef aqauirms. I love the colors in this photo. 

Stroll on State

If you haven't heard…. Christmas is right around the corner! And with that came the second annual Stroll on State in Rockford, IL. This is an awesome event in downtown Rockford featuring food, live music, a parade with Santa, a tree lighting, and a spectacular firework display. I was able to shuffle through all the people and had a great spot for the tree lighting and had to look straight up to see the fireworks. This event made me proud to call Rockford home! If you did not make it this year, put it on your calendar for 2015! 

To everyone who put work and effort into making this happen: Great job, and thank you for making Rockford shine!

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Milling in Madison

We recently took a trip to Madison, WI; which I’ve always viewed as a big small town. Think about it, it’s capital, has a town square, hosts farmer’s markets, and is home of the University of Wisconsin. Anyway, I digress. We walked around taking in the sites and ate at Great Dane, which was excellent and I would absolutely recommend it. I had a blast and can’t wait to return. 

Mirrorlessness

I did it. Try as I might, I’ve been bit by the mirrorless bug. What’s a mirrorless camera you ask? Well it’s simply a camera without a mirror... duh! Seriously though, that's what it is. You see, traditional DSLRs (digital single lens reflex) cameras literally have a mirror in them which allows you to see through the lens. And while there have been cameras without mirrors for years, only recently have they begun to offer the quality and control I am after. This has enabled me to carry a small, high-quality camera with me more often which has allowed me to capture the following photos. 

There are many more features I a excited to explore in the mirror less world. Portraiture? You bet! Up for a session with a mirror less camera? Hit me up and let's do it! If you want to help me experiment, I'll offer you a free session!

Until next time, get out and shoot!