Time to collaborate

This past week truly was a nightmare, but having a stop-motion project outside of my daily job made it all bearable.  I feel like it's helped me to recognize that I'm not going to be stuck at a terrible job for much longer.   Honestly, this animation project was the most fun I've had in years.  Additionally, it's my first non-educational and non-personal related animation that I have made, and it helped me to realize that stop-motion is indeed something that is commercially viable even in today's tech-filled world.

Down the road without a truck

Despite spending time and money on the old truck, I was unable to transition into being comfortable behind the wheel – literally.  The last two months of driving, I experienced so much pain in my accelerator foot that I went to the doctor and he confirmed that I had tendonitis that was pressing against a nerve in my foot.  I told him I was planning on selling the truck because of how bad the pain was, and he actually agreed.  In short, I shouldn't be driving a car without cruise control.

Read More

Trials of using an Eye-Fi with a Nikon D800

I imagined using an Eye-Fi for previewing work on the computer screen a couple years ago after reading about the Wi-Fi cards on a photo blog.  The technology sounded promising, and I recently suggested to a fellow photographer that we might be able to utilize the technology at TEDxGrandRapids this year.

He ordered it and I gave it a shot.  My results were less than spectacular... I can't really describe to you how much I dislike the product in written form, so let me show you just what I mean:

Son of Bean

Son of Bean.  2015

I had been mulling over making a spoof of "Son of Man" ever since I saw it in the hall outside of my History of Art class at GRCC.  It's one of those things that I couldn't really come up with the right person mixed with the right expression.  

If there's one thing that I want to do better this year it's sculptures of actual people.  My dad said he looks like Mr. Rogers, and I guess he does in some way.  Rowan Atkinson just has one of those really distinguishable faces.  While this guy has a distinct face, it's not really Mr. Bean.    

I'm still not 100% happy with it, but it was a fun project that caused me to try something really different.  Maybe I'll try again in January of 2016 to see how far I've come.

Here's some of the behind the scene shots

Figuring exactly where the clouds and waterline have to be on the glass for my Son of Man mock. #sculpture #illustration

A photo posted by Jonathan D. Lopez (@clay.alchemist) on

An honest mechanic

After the bad experiences that I've had dealing with moped repairs, I've developed an understandable distrust of  mechanics.  They have over-tightened my brakes, overfilled the oil, overcharged me, and always talked to me like I was some kind of sap.  Perhaps that's why I have been so impressed with my last two repairs on my new mode of transportation, my [rusty] 2001 S10.

Last week, my engine light went off and I swung by for a free diagnostic at the local Monro Muffler.  They said the secondary air injection pump had died on my S10, and it was going to cost $420 to replace (I wish I saved the invoice to show you).  I said, "What's that going to do if I run with it, cut down on my gas mileage?"  "Pretty much" was his response, and he said I could run it indefinitely with the problem.  My truck only dropped to 20 miles per gallon, and seeing as I only drive about 80 miles per week, it wasn't really worth repairing. 

Later in the week, the engine didn't seem just right, so I made a call to Frank, a retired mechanic in Byron Center who is the relative of a church friend.  Frank and his son Sam replaced the clutch a little while back for a few hundred dollars less than the local brick and mortar shops were charging, so I returned to them for the repair.  

While the diagnostic machine confirmed that the the pump was the current problem, Sam looked from the top and the bottom of the truck to see where all the pipes and wires were going and the current condition.  To the Monro mechanics, the signal that the air pump was out was enough to replace it completely.

Sam gave me a call a short while after I had left to let me know the air pump was perfectly fine – rather the wire connected to the electric pump was broken due to corrosion.

He replaced the wire and cleaned off the corrosion.  The simple fix worked perfectly.    As Frank has said in the past, "I don't replace anything that doesn't need fixing."  I could have had Monro replace the pump and pay $420, but instead I wound up paying $55 for the parts and labor.  

I owe Frank and Sam a big thanks for saving me over $600 on the last two repairs made to my truck.  Unless my engine is about to explode while out of town, I refuse to go to a different mechanic.  It feels good knowing that I can go to a mechanic that I can trust, and talks to me like a human being.

If you need to have something fixed on your ride, I'll give you their number!

Farewell, ArtPrize 2014

All I can say is I enjoyed documenting ArtPrize more than being there as an artist.  I had no intention of documenting SiTE:LAB when I signed up for ArtPrize this year, so perhaps I neglected my exhibit and lost out on some of the fun.  Whatever fun I missed out on at my own exhibition, I made up for at SiTE:LAB.

Next year, I'm either going to have a sculpture installation or stay out of it.  I'm sort of tired of doing the same old same old.  I'm proud to announce I will be graduating from college this winter, so I hope to work really hard to make something terrific for the coming ArtPrize.

Making the cover of Gallery Guide

Evidently, I made the cover of the Grand Rapids Gallery Guide this year.  Last semester, all the students in Professor Filippo Tagliati's class submitted a cover for the Gallery Guide.  The selection was narrowed down to Julia Kessler's and my work.  

I was a bit disappointed when I learned that the association chose my least favorite of the three photos I submitted.  To be completely honest, it was a filler photo for the assignment.  In addition to choosing my least favorite, they weren't 100% onboard with the either of our designs, so we both were paid to go out and create similar works.  

Once I finished, I waited and waited to hear whose work they had chosen.  I kept asking Filippo if he had hear the final results, but to my dismay, months later they still hadn't announced it.  

This past week, I bumped into Filippo in the Paul Collins Art Gallery, and he told me I had made it on the cover – after I had completely forgotten about it altogether.  It was a pleasant surprise to end my school week.

The photograph is a composite of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Kendall Art Gallery, the Grand River, and an inverted mask of myself from a photo.

Keeping up

This Friday, I found myself photographing for five articles after waking up for work at 4 in the morning.  I photographed for GrandCon, a retirement (TBA), GrandLAN, the Annual Sugar Pull, and the Faculty Recital.  It was nothing short of a miracle that things went so smoothly.

Chef Gilles Renusson ran to bring the sugar ribbon to students lined up on Fountain Street.

Chef Gilles Renusson ran to bring the sugar ribbon to students lined up on Fountain Street.


To top it all off, Jordan and I got our photographs put up for ArtPrize at Morton House for SiTE:LAB.  

84 photos on display at SiTE:LAB 2014.

84 photos on display at SiTE:LAB 2014.

You gotta be fast

Get assignment. Take the photos.  Process them.  Publish them.  Write cutlines.  Send off to editors.  Archive files.  

The past couple months have been a test of my skill and organization.  In addition to working at the GRCC Collegiate as the photo editor, I have been working with SiTE:LAB project at Morton House.  Both jobs require me to have lightening fast turn around, publishing, and archiving.  

I cannot comprehend how any professional photographer (or creative for that matter) could survive without a rock solid system.  Jonathon Russell, Grand Rapids photo legend and former professor at GRCC, always reminded us how important it is to have a system.  Have a system for organization and a standard for how you present your work.  

I could go on a rant about this, but I'll refrain from doing that.  I cannot show you documentary photographs from Morton House until after ArtPrize. However, you can see my photographs in various articles – click here.

If you are thinking about getting into photography and are unorganized, you might be able to get through college without a system.  Here's mine if you're looking for a start:

Jon's Archiving Method

Folder Naming: 

Year.Month.Day – Title of event

ex., 2014.9.6 – Grand Rapids Balloon Festival

Why is it so important to have the title like that?  When cataloguing, it makes it easier to sort through, especially if you export the folder and are moving it about in Finder (Windows Explorer for PCs).  All you have to do is "Sort by Name" and it will place your folders in chronological order.

Individual File Naming

 Shortened event name 001

ex., GR_Balloon_Festival_001

Some websites are finicky about file names containing spaces (e.g., Wordpress).  Using underscores (or dashes) makes it fairly easy to read in your Finder while preventing this problem.  

I use "Batch Rename" in Adobe Bridge to change file names.  Other programs like Google Picasa only allow you to rename files while exporting photos which can be a bummer if you have to find a RAW files for a JPEG.  


Yeah, tagging.  It's a living hell to tag photos AFTER you export them, because then you don't have tags on the RAW files.  At the very least, tag your select shots.  Don't tag the photos on your computer up the wazoo or else it will be a lamented chore that you never do.  Make it worth while.  I generally tag people and specific locations (in addition to cities if cities are relevant).  As you might be photographing things completely different from me, you'll have to come up with useful tags.  Create a core set of tags in Bridge, Picasa, or whatever program you use and use it to batch add tags.  

The longer you use tags, the more cluttered tag banks can become.  Make sure to keep your core tags separate from one time use tags.  Use tag folders as much as possible.

Multiple Photographers

When collaborating, it can become incredibly difficult to differentiate who shot what from a glance when you are dumping large quantities of files to a common place before anyone even edits (this happens at events).  Just about any SLR and most cameras above $200 will let you change the file naming.  I have my D800 save files automatically to _JDL0000.  Using your initials can make it easy to spot your photos out of a group, especially when all the photos might be arranged by date and time, mixing shots from different photographers.

Even if you rarely shoot with other photographers, it's a wise idea to make your filename different than factory defaults.

A claymation a day...

For the past two months, I've spent just about every day working on the claymation for the Collegiate.  Now that it is all finished, I can't help but feel accomplished that I animated something that took longer than a day.  Seriously, nothing else that I have animated (and published) has taken me more than a few hours.  The years of doing only stills has spoiled me as I had a finished product in sometimes as little as eight hours.  

We hope to get this animation some attention during the first week of school.  Every time that you make something, it's a gamble.  There is always the possibility that what you have worked on isn't received well, or that simply, you didn't publicize it at the right time.  When I was in-tune with Tumblr, I had a better understanding of when things would get traction.  Although I highly despise Tumblr for the massive amount of porn, it's still a valuable tool that I try to remember to post to whenever I finish a clay project (especially since I have over 100,000 followers).

Stop-Motion Armature Tutorial

Many YouTubers ask me how to make armatures.  What they don't realize is how difficult it is to make even the most simple armatures.  I hope that this video gives you an appreciation for stop-motion animators who take the time to make characters with armatures seeing as mine is very crude in comparison.