WIP: Parking Animation

Lately, I've been creating an animation about parking for the new students at GRCC.  Amusingly, when I showed a friend my progress, he told me he had no clue that there was more than one parking lot at GRCC.  It's amazing how people can go somewhere for a year or more and not know these things.

Joining The Collegiate

Most of my friends know that I have a desire to travel, but I don't think most of them would say I'm ready for to be a world traveler.  I've found myself returning to the idea of photojournalism time and time again.  What I like most about journalism, especially photojournalism, is that it gives you a purpose for being somewhere.  Places you never would be, listening to people you aren't affiliated with, covering events that you've never been to before.  Cultured as I am, virtually every experience I have is new, so I look forward to a lot of firsts in the coming year.

First week with the D800

Last week, on the brink of the D810 release, I made sure to grab one of the D800's as  it proved to be a reliable camera for photographers over the past two years.  In the first week of owning it, I have little to complain about, and I'm glad I bought it over the D810.  Looking at the images I took with my AF-D lenses, I realized just how inaccurate they are, and I knew that I had to upgrade to the AF-S versions of the lenses.  If I had bought the D810, there is no way I could afford to buy new 50 and 85mm lenses immediately – and what's the point of having a sharp camera if your lenses aren't tack sharp?

The 50mm 1.8 AF-S, which replaced my 50mm 1.4 AF-D, definitely feels hollow in my hands in comparison, but when paired with the D800, I've definitely seen an increase in sharpness throughout the image.  I certainly won't get rid of my 50mm AF-D, but it's not going to be my go-to lens when using my D800.

I had to use my 180mm ƒ2.8 AIS (a 30 year old lens), and for being a manual lens with less than perfect optics, it worked fairly well.  I was impressed with the accuracy of the manual focus assist on the D800, but unfortunately, I was photographing a moving tiger for The Collegiate.  So while I shot 100 pictures, I probably only got 10 keepers, but most of the issues had to do with the subject and not the camera.

One thing I noticed after photographing the tiger was how dead my arm was for days.  The D800 and the 180mm were probably around four pounds together, and it definitely not something I was used to.  After a week of acclimating to the D800, my hands actually like the grip better than the D7000, which the grip is something online folks seem to gripe about constantly.

Something that should be griped about is the lack of infrared remote control.  Last night while shooting the fireworks, I noticed that there was NO wireless IR receiver.  Looking at the options online, there's really no cheap option for remotes, and since they all rely on the 10-pin connector, you don't want to get one that is subpar and may bend the connectors.  That was the nice thing about the D5000, D90, and D7000 that I have used in the past – they all used a simple remote shutter cord that you could buy for around $5.  That being said, I was able to find one for $20 on Amazon that looked pretty sturdy, but I am still annoyed that the remote will have to take AAA batteries – just another thing I have to remember to check in the future.  Additionally, there's no cheap alternative to get a GPS receiver if you were interested.  It too relies on the 10-pin connection.  It all makes sense though, since this is a professional camera, and you don't want something as critical as the shutter release falling out on you in the middle of a time lapse or in the middle of a session.

I don't want to end on my disappointment with the 10-pin connector, so I'll wrap it up talking about file size.  I'm thoroughly impressed with the transfer speeds of the files from the camera using USB 3.0.  While they may be 75MBs each, if you are transferring them without converting to DNG, it takes around a second and a half.  I'm not much of a believer in the DNG rationale of "If you don't convert, in ten years when Nikon goes bankrupt, no one will be able to read files."  Let me call B.S. on this – you seriously don't think someone would come out with an open-source or heck an app for $10 that would make the file openable?  Anyways, I also wanted to note that while everyone thinks I'm insane for buying a 36 megapixel camera, I believe that it will be a low megapixel within a decade.  You have to stay ahead of the game, and as of right now I don't have a problem editing photos any slower than I had before.  Exporting them to JPEG on the other hand I have seen a decrease in productivity, but overall, my solid state drive has kept me from feeling any real pain while working with the files.

I regret nothing in buying the D800.  Definitely will be my camera of choice for years to come.

Savor Everything

As I was sitting here thinking about the day, I realised just how important it is to savor each moment. This past Sunday, David made some quiche for our class. I got up and said, "I already ate, I'm not hungry." I don't know, something just seemed so right to have a piece though. I enjoyed every bite.

In hindsight, I might have easily passed up on the very last gift that my friend offered me. We spent several minutes talking about how he made the turkey sausage, grinding up the fennel seeds, and man, he just was so proud of that dish.

I miss you already, my friend.

Behind the Shot: At the UICA

As I was admiring this piece at the 2014 Festival Artist Reception at the UICA, I kept seeing people walking around it.  I found it rather peculiar how you could see what they were wearing, and the way that people would stop and gaze at it for a moment and move around to the other side.  I had this picture in my head and I knew that I had to find "the right one".  I'm sure that my friend, Dann, can vouch for me on this, that I stood there waiting for several minutes.  My patience had been tried as a few other ladies in dresses stood in front of the work, but other people in shorts and pants kept ruining the shot.  Out of desperation, I even asked one of the ladies to stand in for me, but to both of our dismay, folks kept filing past.  I thanked her, but still didn't have the shot.

Now I'm not sure if it was just in my head, but it felt like I was wasting a lot of time waiting for one shot.  It probably wasn't more than 20 minutes, but I thought about what Tom Wagner said at TEDx about this one press photographer that would wait until the very last moment if necessary to take a picture – he didn't muck about, taking pictures of things that didn't interest him.  So in the same spirit, I refused to leave without getting the shot, and I'm glad I waited.

I will disclose that I removed the base of the table on the right – at least for my blog post, I don't want it in there.

UICA Artist Reception

May 30th marked the first time I photographed for The Collegiate at GRCC.  It was a pleasure being an artist and a photographer at the event as I typically don't know what to do with myself.  Being a photographer allows you to always have a reason somewhere.

View the article on The Collegiate website.

Great Night at the Artist Reception

Getting to be on display at the UICA was more than enough to make last night great, but what blew me away was that three of my teachers from elementary school showed up to the exhibition.  You don't know success until your Kindergarten teacher shows up to your first big exhibition!  It's been nearly twenty years since I was in Jane's Kindergarten class, but I gave her and Larry a big hug.  I probably hugged more people last night than at my family's last picnic, so you can understand how good of a time it was.

Never forget your teachers...

Larry, my first grade teacher, and his wife, Jane

Larry, my first grade teacher, and his wife, Jane

Into the Apple Fields

This was the first time I stepped foot in an apple orchard since I was on a second grade field trip from Math/Science Academy.  It was truly picturesque and much more beautiful to see the field in the springtime with all the apple blossoms in the trees.  Clearly, it was an occasion to be photographed as there were two other photographers outside of our group of three photographers.  My friend, Kelsie, was using an old Yashica medium format camera for a few shots.  I really admire that she is investing time in film work in spite of the digital age.  

See Kelsie Lemonnier's work on Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram.

Glimmer of Hope

Early this morning, I saw a sliver of light coming from my window; it looked like light shining through a jewel.  The light glimmered across the wall, and I laid there in wonder of what it could be.  Curiosity transitioned quickly transitioned to fear as the light became brighter.  When I gazed out the window, I saw nothing but the streetlight.  I laid back down.  Minutes went by and I could see the faint lights again, but then I heard it: thunder.

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Artist Interview

A trio of students from FSU interviewed me last month for a class project.  They needed to work with an artist from ArtPrize, and they were lucky enough to find a local like me.  I heard from the guys that some folks from their class were driving out of town to meet up with their artist; I was right across the street at GRCC.

I am extremely grateful for the work they put into the video making process.  I doubt I would have taken the time to think about some of the questions John asked.

John Ruterbusch - Producer
Derek Malone - Camera and Equipment
Ben Klein - Audio and Editing

A Conversation with TED Co-Founder Richard Saul Wurman

I overheard a man say something like I hate making eye contact in photos.  As I turned, there was a man in a very unique, flowing outfit.  Hearing this, I couldn't help but smile and say, "Oh I hate to do that– that and telling people to smile."  We shared just a few more casual bits back and forth, and I went back out to photograph people in the theatre.  

It wasn't until reading an article about Richard Saul Wurman the following day at night that I realized who he was.  Sheesh, I had been talking with the TED co-founder!  What a missed opportunity, I thought to myself – that is until I really mulled it over.  Had I known who he was, perhaps I would have said nothing or tried to play it cool.  I had a real conversation, a real connection with Mr. Wurman (albeit brief).  

The crazy thing is, when I listened to him while photographing from the balcony, I was on the same page as him.  I really loved how he said something like, "When I usually give speeches, I tell people not to take notes.  To take notes is to tell your brain not to remember."  Meanwhile, half the audience was typing away on some sort of device.  

I can't imagine how he feels looking at people going to a conference about connecting, while so many of them are looking down at a screen for most of the day.  I wish there was no social media, no computers, no phones allowed into these events.  Stop, listen, and understand what the speakers are telling you.  Stop living merely in the moment, and let the meaning culminate. I don't know...I just think that's most important thought I took home from the other day.


Richard Saul Wurman, Co-Founder of TED

TEDxGrandRapids 2014

Chuck Heiney shooting from the Peanut Gallery

If it was 2013, I would have said no to photographing an event.  In the past, I've just hated being around so many people, but this has been the year of busting out.  It was a privilege to get to work with so many amazing speakers, photographers, and videographers – after all, there's only so much you can do from home.  

I believe I may have been one of the more inexperienced people on the team when it came to event photography, but I was given a few chances to try new things by the photo team leader, Tom Wagner.  I was teamed up with Aaron Bannasch to set up time lapse GoPro's in a few locations; one of them being in the crow's nest overlooking the audience.  While I try not to show it, I have a fear of heights because my depth perception is terrible.  I nearly fell off the balcony while checking one of the GoPros (but don't tell anyone that).  By the second day of working in the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, I felt pretty comfortable being up high, so much so that I volunteered to take pictures from the "Peanut Gallery".  I felt great getting over my anxiety of high places.  

Dropping your camera from here would result in instant death of the poor fellow below. #NeckstrapsSaveLives

Perhaps it was Wayne Curtis's speech that made me thirsty for a drink.

By six o'clock, pretty much all of us were exhausted.  I could tell I was shooting the same pictures again and again, so it was time to give it a rest.  I sat down in the green room and watched the last speaker wrap up on the television.  It was amusing to see how all the speakers were just as whipped as I was by that time.

I was only able to sit for about fifteen minutes before they called for the volunteer leaders to come forward.  Immediately, I rushed to the balcony as I saw other photographers getting ready to leave for the Grand Rapids Art Museum.  Luckily, I travel light, so I took the last shots of the volunteers on stage and sped over to the GRAM.  It was a good thing because I beat the crowd and got a few shots before people started filing in. 

Just add 500 people, and you'll get the picture.

It was intense as 500 people filled the lobby, courtyard, and bar of the GRAM.  Still, I'm glad I pursued the shots as I got to congratulate Doug Fitch on his entertaining speech (especially his laugh out loud ending of nonchalantly walking off after being told he's out of time).  He was an amusing conversationist to say the least.  Really, all of the speakers were genuinely friendly people – that's probably why TED is so popular.

That and Donald Kinsey from The Wailers played music periodically throughout the event.

To see more of my photos from TEDxGrandRapids, visit Flickr.  All photos are Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND).  Feel free to publish any shots from TEDxGR on my Flickr.


UICA just released their list of accepted entries to the Festival of the Arts Exhibition for 2014, and I'm exicited to announce that three of my works from I'm Not Myself will be on display.  You really have to see them in print to fully appreciate them.  They will be on display from May 30 to August 17.  I'll be there at the artist reception on Friday the 30th from 5-8:30pm.

Way to Stay Busy

The next two weeks are going to be hellish.  Although the semester is over, I've found myself dropping Benjamins to get frames for the pictures I'm submitting to Festival of the Arts next week.  I'm sticking with my initial pledge that I would get my work out there this Summer.  As much as I have hated the madness of all the crowds in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize and all the art festivals, it's one of the few ways I'm going to run into some awesome people.

Speaking of awesome people, I'm going to be working with a group of photographers covering the TEDxGrandRapids event coming up next week as well!  Time photographer, Tom Wagner, is going to be leading the team.  While the event is happening on Wednesday next week, we're going to be getting all the technical details down and setting up lights on Sunday and Tuesday.  

Best part of all, I'm back to class in a little over a week.  No need for a break. 

Getting Tired of Myself

The past few ideas that I've been working on for the self-portraiture series just have been murder trying to get to work.  I'm really pushing myself each time I start a new photo to try something different and worth while.  I have learned so much while capturing this series, but I'm beginning to get burned out being the subject of every photo.  Perhaps it's because I'm getting tire of looking at myself.  Anyways, I'm looking forward to sculpting this summer and using the same photographic techniques that I have done full scale.

Featured in the Student Exhibition

I was hoping to get one or two works into the GRCC Paul Collins Art Gallery this semester, but I never imagined that I would have three works chosen to be on display.  Best of all, Night Delivery was used on the posters for our Art.Downtown exhibit at GRCC.  This semester has been full of good news!

Grand Rapids Gallery Guide Cover

Sometimes I find myself thinking that if I shoot like someone else that I will make better work; today was a perfect example of that thought being false.  My PO-230 class's latest assignment was to make a cover photo to submit for the GR Gallery Guide this year.  I came up with a few ideas that were really "different" and more graphical, but they were not  photographs that had my fingerprints.

Occasionally stepping out of the comfort zone is a great thing, but this was trying to make work someone else's picture. While I know that the picture wasn't copying anyone else's, it wasn't my style, and I wasn't passionate about the picture.

So to redeem myself, I sculpted a new character on Sunday, and walked to the Grand Rapids Art Museum, only to find out that it was closed.  Luckily, the sun was just barely poking through the architecture of the building, and I took the shot that I submitted.  If they choose one of mine, I hope it's this one.  I would honestly have been disappointed if I didn't submit a photograph that clearly had my fingerprints on it (literally, too, since it's a sculpture).

Mr. Tuttle visits the Grand Rapids Art Museum

Update April 13, 2014.  

While the judges didn't choose this photo, they really liked my other shot, and have given me a couple weeks to give them a revised shot.  

Starting Over After 5 Years

I've been afraid to leave Tumblr for the past two years.  I kept telling myself that numbers don't matter: I'm not getting feedback from my followers, and the platform is just overrun with garbage (to be blunt).  I want to focus on creating, not trying to do what everyone else is doing.  It just seems that I was doing things that I wasn't passionate about because I wanted to satisfy my "followers", all 101,000 of them.  

Tell me, what did those 101,000 followers do for me?  I feel that at first, the numbers boosted my ego – far beyond what it should have been.  Looking back at my work, I am unsatisfied with most of my work, as most artists feel when reflecting.  Regardless, it got me here.  

What made me grow: stepping out of my comfort zone; breaking the rules; focusing on lighting.  I got so consumed with making sculptures that I forgot some of the most basic things of photography.  Looking at my recent work from Colorado, it was so sloppy.  I wasn't trying.  This most recent project, "I'm not myself", focuses solely on lighting and creating a story within one frame.  If I can do it large scale, I can make better work small scale in the future. 

This is no longer ClayAlchemist.com, this is JonathanDLopez.com.  I am not just a sculptor or an illustrator or a photographer.  I want this blog to cover everything that helps me grow as a human being, as an artist, and as a Christian.  

I no longer want to treat my work as a hobby – this is my career.  Success does not come to those who do not believe in themselves.  I've been working hard since 2006 on making a name for myself; now is the time to push myself even more.

Anyways, this post is already too long, but let me assure you that I will be focusing on clay work this summer.  It will be more spread out as I will be taking Spanish classes, but I am certain that we will see at least ten good sculpture illustrations between May and September!