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.

End of Summer

Summer break is quickly wrapping up for me.  I've been busy focusing on the claymation that I have been making for the Back to School edition of the Collegiate.  In total, I've spent over two months working on this project.  I've invested in a TON of new equipment as I realized that I need to be ready for the next step after college.  Initially, I thought I would be taking classes in the fall for video production, but after I started working with the Collegiate, I realized that I already have the motivation to learn the software on my own, and I wound up teaching myself in  matter of a few days.

It's so much more important to focus on creating work that people are going to see.  I sometimes worry about students who do all this work in art school, and don't even have a basic portfolio website up and running.  In addition, a lot of them are worried about student loans, yet they still don't have equipment that they need to work in their field of interest.  

Who do you know when you graduate?  Do you have connections to people that can help you find work?  This summer has been all about that.  It's been about uncomfortable growth. 

I used to have a fear of what happens next after college.  Honestly, I know God's put more than enough on my plate to survive off of.  I know that the experiences I'm going through right now are getting me ready for that.  I'm ready – let's go!

Things to look forward from me in the coming week.  I have three different claymation tutorials written up about lighting and armatures.  I hope to finish the GRCC parking garage animation by Wednesday or Thursday; we only need to re-record the audio.  Once that is all done, I am going to create a fourth animation tutorial video on how to use Final Cut Pro X for animation.  I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but that software is so incredibly well done, that I was able to figure it out in three days.  If you know Photoshop and iMovie, you can work Final Cut Pro X.

The Collegiate: Statue Dedicated to Helen Claytor on GRCC Campus

Photos and Story by Jonathan D. Lopez

Wednesday marked the unveiling of the statue of Helen Claytor, the first African American president of the Grand Rapids YWCA and later the national president of the YWCA in 1967.  The statue is the sixth addition to the Grand Rapids Community Legends Project, commemorating Claytor for her civil rights activism and leadership.

The bronze sculpture by Jay Hall Carpenter was funded by the Secchia Family Foundation.  It is located in GRCC’s Dr. Juan R. Olivarez Student Plaza.

View on The Collegiate Live

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.

The Collegiate: New Amur Tiger Exhibit Opened to Public at John Ball Zoo

Story Ray Potts – A&E/Features Editor

Three Amur tigers are now on display at John Ball Zoo, part of the new “Tigers of the Realm” exhibit. Opened on June 14, this marks the first time tigers have been in the zoo since 2009, when a female tiger was moved from Grand Rapids to Roosevelt Park Zoo in North Dakota...

Continue reading on The Collegiate Live

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.