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.

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.

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.

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.

Read More

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