Learn. Create. Evolve.

Learn. Create. Evolve. Those words carry a lot of weight in my world. They're heavy. I trip over them on certain days and glide over them on others. But they remind me of the journey forward. It's the cycle of creativity. Always in motion. Learning. Creating. Evolving. You can't create until you learn. You can't evolve until you've created.  See? And then we start all over again. Always learning. Always creating. Therefore, always evolving. If you think you've reached the pinnacle of your craft at any point, you haven't. And if you think you have, well, you're kidding yourself. There's no such thing as reaching the end. It will always be out of reach. And that, my friends, is a beautiful, elegant truth that I would have no other way. It's a wonderful thing. It's a never-ending quest to be better. Not to be perfect. Just better.

There are times when I hear the words 'you're just gifted' or 'it comes to you naturally.' And I'll be honest for a second, it feels like a slap in the face. I know people mean that honestly, in that, I'm just lucky that way, but I disagree. I've worked very hard to get where I am today. I had to earn my wings in that regard. For example, when I was a kid, I wanted to be good at drawing. My Mom and Dad bought me comic books and I would stare at the art in those pages and wonder if I could ever be that good. I kept pushing myself to be better. I would get up early, listen to my Empire Strikes Back record on my Fisher Price record player and draw comics. When my parents would attend my parent/teacher conferences in school, they would send them home with comments like, 'if he focused on his schoolwork as much as he does drawing, he'd be an A student.' That always made me smile. It wasn't uncommon to find me perched at my drafting table at 3am trying to work out a flying pose of Spider-man. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep with Stan Lee's "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" book on top of my face a few times. I took every art class in school I possibly could. By the time I was a second semester senior, I had run fresh out of art classes and had to take pottery. I figured it was better than having a study hall class. My point is, is that to get good at it, I had to practice at it. I had to earn it. You don't watch the Olympics and say, those folks are gifted. If they heard you say that, they would stare you down and burn a hole right through you with their eyesight. They earned it because they lived it, breathed it, and worked at it. Every. Single. Day. If anything, I would call my unwillingness to give up a gift. My stubbornness came as hereditarial gift from my parents. That, I came by honestly.

As a result, I treated photography the same way. Ten years ago, I knew nothing about taking photos. I knew about Photoshop and post-editing but not photography. But I learned. And guess what? I'm still learning. But I feel like I've gotten to a point to where I should share the knowledge I've gained from it and to help those who want to learn for themselves, so they can evolve too. I've been using Photoshop since it was version 3.0 on a Mac using System 7. Yes, this was even before they called them "Operating Systems" or "OS's." I've bounced back and forth between Windows and Apple more than a few times, but the use of Photoshop and Illustrator remained the constant. Having said all that, I came up with idea to do Sessions.  

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I'm so happy to finally be able to share this with you all. JR Design Sessions has been a concept rolling around in my head for months, or heck, even years at this point. I wanted to be able to just share with you the tricks I've learned over the years in a manner that enabled you, the viewer to watch at your convenience, and learn wonderful new ways to make or take better images.

Session 2 is coming soon, hopefully within the next week and will discuss removing unwanted objects, and adding more to your scene to create a final, better image.  

Just some fun facts...I started creating the above logo in February of 2016, a full year before the first session was published. I finalized it in July, a few months later. The software I use to record the on screen portion of my videos is called Ice Cream. Seriously. I'm not making that up. The guitar music you hear in the 'Learn, Create, Evolve' intro, is me playing. It's a just tiny piece I wrote and later recorded using Garageband on my iPad.

That's all for today folks!  Stay tuned for Session 2 and I hope you have a great weekend!      

What My Ancestry DNA Told Me...

You know the topic.  You've talked about it with other people.  We've all speculated as to where we actually came from.  You've asked your parents and grandparents and great grand parents if you were lucky enough.  You may have even started research on your family tree.  But what did you ever really discover?  The truth?  Or, mere speculation?  Don't worry, you're not alone.  I'll get back to that in a minute.  

In 2011, I started an account on Ancestry.com.  Ancestry opened quite a few doors to the past.  It was interesting to walk through those doorways, entering rooms filled with birth certificates, census data, immigration data, and death notices.  I kept walking through these dark rooms only to find that the castle was much bigger than I anticipated.  I found that Ancestry could tell me about my relative's past, but that it didn't necessarily tell me about MY past.  

Last November, around Thanksgiving, I walked into my usual hairdresser for a trim.  After waiting for a moment in the lobby, a woman calls my name.  As we're walking back to the trim throne, the conversation begins.

"Are you related to [Insert name here]?

"No, I don't think so." I replied.  "Why?"

"Because my last name is Rose too."  Interesting.  

"Is that your maiden name?"  I asked.  

"Yep."

She started talking about other people that shared our last name, but I couldn't connect the dots with any of them.  

"Are you on Ancesry.com?"  She asked.  

"Yes, it's very cool."

"Have you checked out Ancestry DNA?"

"No, not yet, but I want to."  

"You should!  It's cheap!  $99 and you'll know a lot!"

"99 Dollars?  That's all??"  At this point, I think I completely forgot I was there for a haircut.  I'm so doing that!  

In the months that followed, I sent away my DNA and the results came back.  I was little surprised.   

In the above web capture, you can see a breakdown of my ethnicity regions.  Blimey!  I'm 62% British!  Hang on a second.  I'm going to pump the brakes for a minute.  You have to understand something first.  The sample anyone sends off to Ancestry DNA is saliva.  It's not blood.  This is especially important with me because I've had a bone marrow transplant.  And therefore, my blood has been changed from its original form.  Altered, if you will.  Don't worry, I'm not going to grow into an Indominus Rex and eat your face off.  I'm still a boy, after all.  But saliva, on the other hand is 99% me.  So this data is 99% me.  Indominus Jonathon of badassadom.  

It also gives you a description and a comparison to a typical person native to the region.  I actually show 62% compared to a native's at 60%.  Wicked.    

Moving on to the next one listed above is the Scandinavian background.  This covers Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and parts of Finland.  

The last category for me was Europe West.  This covers Belgium, France, Germany, and parts of Poland.  Seeing this breakdown was a pretty neat experience.  

My Mom and I were surprised as to how little Europe West was drizzled in there, considering her parent's parents had immigrated here from Poland.  

I'm sure my sister and I share identical data.  The interesting aspect of doing this on Ancestry.com is that not only do you find out your own ethnicity regions, it will automatically link you to who ever shares your DNA, who's also done the test.  You'll have to review the hints and approve them of course, but they show up pretty regularly.  I have several new cousins that I still have yet to review.

It's really funny to me that all my life I've unknowingly most often mimicked a British accent.  I just thought it sounded cool, and for some reason, I was always drawn to it.  Now I know why!  

In the end, I would just say to my readers that if you're interested in doing it, just do it!  Ancestry isn't giving me any money to say this, but it's only $99.  They send you a kit that's incredibly easy to work through and in a few weeks, you'll know.  Don't keep sitting around wondering and speculating.  Get the real data.  Everything else is just codswallop.      

Moments from 2015

We're just about ready to shut off the lights and close the door on 2015, but before we do, I wanted to share some of the moments that happened that some people may not have seen.  It is true this year, that while I may not have done a lot in the way of personal projects, with photography or design, I was very busy for the most part with both.

In January, we started off with some family portraits of our good friends, the Cramers.  They're such a bright and fun group and we will always be thankful for them introducing us to Silver Beach Pizza.

The Cramer Cousins, January 2015.

The Cramer Cousins, January 2015.

In February, I resumed shooting hotels in the area, starting with the Hilton Garden Inn in Elkhart.  From there, I did the Holiday Inn Express in Roseland, and Candlewood Suites in South Bend.  

On March 28th, our family grew just a little larger, with my sister having her first child.  This is little Patrick Daly Jr.  Or, P.J., as we call him.

Patrick Daly Jr., March 28th, 2015

Patrick Daly Jr., March 28th, 2015

We didn't stop there.  My sister in law Kelly welcomed her first child also.  Gavin Michael Bone was born August 31st.

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Every now and then I receive a surprise request from someone wanting to purchase a print from the few I have displayed in the area.  This request came from Kyle, who visited a restaurant near Notre Dame called, The Mark.  For those that don't know, I have photos on the walls there, as well as Uptown Kitchen.  (Shout-out to Jonathan!  Thank you!)  Kyle bought the print below, which is of one of my favorites of campus.  So, thanks Kyle, you have good taste!

Sunset at Notre Dame, taken in 2013. 

Sunset at Notre Dame, taken in 2013. 

Later in the Summer, I had the privilege of shooting a friend of ours wedding.  Our families have deep history, so saying no wasn't really an option.  Congratulations to Rob and Kim, who married on July 25th.

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Then it came time for a much needed vacation.  My wife and I decided on taking the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.  We ate like kings and queens, soaked in as many sunsets as Mother Nature would allow, and even arose early enough for a few sunrises.  I even bought my first NFL jersey.  I'm very proud.  

We took time to watch deer, we hiked trails, and witnessed the wonderful power of Michigan's waterfalls.  We also saw the Milky Way and drove through an enchanted tunnel of trees.  I may have take a photo or two, or 543, I'm not sure.

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Someow, during all this chaos, I finally finished our basement.  It only took me 11 years.  What can I say?  Life gets in the way sometimes.  We absolutely love it.  

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For those that haven't already noticed, my print site was updated on Smugmug too.  It's now easier than ever to order prints!  Smugmug is fantastic at handling prints.  Their quality is outstanding and their shipping is fast!  I also added a bunch of new items, like puzzles, coasters, fridge magnets and much more.  Check it out here!

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Christmas is coming next week, Star Wars comes out tomorrow, and I turn 40 on Sunday.  Yikes.  Most people would probably have a harder time with it, but I'm welcoming it.  There was a time when I wasn't sure I would reach it, so for this, I'm thankful.  Bring it!  Little does my wife know that the search for a new muscle car has already begun.  Shh.  It'll be our secret, right?  I can use turning 40 as mid-life crisis excuse!  It all makes sense in my world.  My world has classic Chevelles, dragons, Maya kisses, lots of pizza, and never-ending Star Wars movies.  It's nice here.  Serene, in fact.  I think I'll stay.

See you in 2016 folks.  May the Force be with You.

-JR  

Shooting the Milky Way - My First Experience

Manistique, Michigan.  Friday, July 25th, 9:30pm.  My wife and I went to grab a quick dinner at a local pizza parlor before heading out for the shoot.  All day the skies were unpredictable.  We had storms, sunshine, high winds and everything Mother Nature could throw at us that day.  That evening, the skies cleared and we knew the time had come.  

As we finished our pizza, we decided to brush up on research one last time before heading out.  I had spent the last few months studying and researching how to set up my camera accordingly to be able to capture the Milky Way.  I knew I needed to use a low aperture.  (Or, wide open, as some say.)  I knew my ISO was going to be high, somewhere between 2000-6400.  And I knew my shutter speed was going to have to be SLOW.  Like, 15-20 seconds.  Any more than that, would produce star trails.  The lens I intended to use was a Nikon 14-24mm F/2.8.  (Nice and wide.)      

In our last minute research, we stumbled across an article by Ken Rockwell.  Buried deep in the article, is a little tip about white balance.  He suggested changing your white balance to 'Tungsten' instead of 'Auto' (which is where I leave it most of the time.)  That article can be found here.  We decided we'd try it on site.  

Once we arrived, we set up the camera on a tripod, and walked out to the beach with my red helmet light resting atop my melon.  (Which, my lovely wife made fun of me dearly for.)  BTW, little tip...if you're ever out somewhere dark, and you need to keep your eyes 'used' to seeing in the dark, use a red light.  Works like a charm.  Your eyes won't have to readjust after using it.  After we set up, we gave our eyes a few moments to get used to their surroundings and there she was.  Resting just above the horizon, reaching upward, over our heads and landing in the trees behind us.  The Milky Way shined very brightly overhead.  The brightest part of it, which we called the Nebula, was just above the horizon above Lake Michigan.  It was a surreal moment for both us.  I stood there and thought, I've been up here dozens of times and never stopped once to appreciate this beauty that shined in the UP's dark skies.  That won't happen again.  We began shooting.  

                                                  Nikon D7100;  ISO 5000;  F/2.8;  4 Sec. Shutter - Auto White Balance

                                                  Nikon D7100;  ISO 5000;  F/2.8;  4 Sec. Shutter - Auto White Balance

Right away, we saw results, and got excited.  We can really do this!  Let's take another one.  But this time, let's increase the shutter speed to 10 seconds.  

 

                                                  Nikon D7100;  ISO 5000;  F/2.8;  10 Sec. Shutter - Auto White Balance

                                                  Nikon D7100;  ISO 5000;  F/2.8;  10 Sec. Shutter - Auto White Balance

Wow!  I think we hugged each other at that point.  Yeah!  We did it!  I swear a milestone was reached, and I heard victory bells ringing.  Loud.  Now, remember our little tip we found from Ken Rockwell?  Let's try that.  We changed the white balance to 'Tungsten' and...  

                                                  Nikon D7100;  ISO 5000;  F/2.8;  10 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

                                                  Nikon D7100;  ISO 5000;  F/2.8;  10 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

...Bang!  Now, I did bump up the temperature on this photo in post, but as you can see it's much 'cooler' than the auto white balance setting.  The tungsten setting makes the skies very blue, and created a great effect right in camera.

    Nikon D7100;  ISO 3200;  F/2.8;  15 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

    Nikon D7100;  ISO 3200;  F/2.8;  15 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

We had a great time out there and just kept shooting.  Even though we didn't have a very exciting foreground (save for the sign that's dying be to cloned out), we didn't care.  We took a picture of the edge of the galaxy.  That's something that just doesn't happen to me every day.

Then, I let my wife take over the controls and she brought the heat!  She made a slight adjustment to the camera angle and fired.  

    Nikon D7100;  ISO 3200;  F/2.8;  15 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

    Nikon D7100;  ISO 3200;  F/2.8;  15 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

She ended up capturing part of the sunset glow.  Man!  Neither of us could see the glow with our own eyes, but the camera picked it up.  She rocked it!  I ended up leaving the camera in the same spot and just kept shooting, hoping to a grab a shooting star along the way.  And we did.

Special thanks goes out to Ken Rockwell for his tips and reviews.  That little tip about the white balance rocks!  And I would also like to thank Jesse L. Summers, David Kingham and Jennifer Wu for inspiring me to do this.  Watching and learning from you guys made this possible. so thank you all.

We had such a fantastic time out there.  I remember feeling so small in the universe and so little in a world.  Like a grain of sand on a never-ending beach.  All of the world's problems suddenly disappeared from my mind for one moment.  We are just two people from the pale blue dot taking pictures of the edge of the galaxy that's riddled with billions of stars and worlds probably much like our own;  A drop of water out of all the planet's seas, lakes and oceans;  A single star tucked inside our own acre of the Milky Way.  We share this world with the universe.  And the universe shares its galaxies with us. Never before had taking such a big photo made me feel so small.

We. Will. Be. Back.  

    Nikon D7100;  ISO 3200;  F/2.8;  15 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

    Nikon D7100;  ISO 3200;  F/2.8;  15 Sec. Shutter - Tungsten White Balance

Hanke-Harrity Family Portraits

April and May went by in a quick blink, and June is looking quite similar.  I feel like I need to rewind a bit, and replay the last several weeks that came and went to relive some of the brighter moments.
Over Easter weekend, I had the privilege to photograph two wonderful families, the Hankes and Harritys, at the University of Notre Dame.  The weather was kind to us that day and we shot in a few different places around campus.  

After we finished shooting near the Dome, we decided to move down by the lakes and the Grotto.  

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Once the more important photos were done, they decided they wanted to just let the kids run around and let me capture them doing their own things.  

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Keeping up with children these days is no easy feat.  I wish I could take their energy and bottle it for later use.  I'd have a whole pantry stocked with nothing but energy bottles!  All in all it was a great day.  Special thanks to Megan and Maura for giving me the opportunity to share the day with them!

The Predator Composite

This year I decided to focus a lot more on compositing in Photoshop.   What is compositing?  It's like adding special effects to a film.  Only, in this case, you're adding those effects to a still image.  Why would anyone do this?  That's an easy answer.  Because it's freakin' cool.  The only rule in compositing you have to abide by is making it look real.  And that's often times easier said then done.  Fortunately, I have had the privilege of being trained by some of the best names in this business like, Corey Barker, Glyn Dewis, Joel Grimes and Matt Kloskowski.

"El Diablo cazador de hombres"  2014

"El Diablo cazador de hombres"  2014

It starts with an idea.  Wouldn't it be cool if _____?  Go ahead, ask yourself.  I'll wait.  Now, finish the sentence with something you're interested in.  Like I said, it starts with an idea.  And ideas can come from the strangest places sometimes.  In truth, this idea of doing a Predator themed composite came from a conversation on Facebook I had with someone.  In the conversation, the witty one-liners from the movie kept popping up in comments.  "Get to the choppah!"  "I ain't got time to bleed."  That kind of thing.  Then, my thoughts arrived at "Wouldn't it be cool if I did a Predator composite themed around the soldiers getting to the choppah?"  Um...yeah!  The hunt began.     

Because I'm a geek, I already own an actual statue of the Predator himself.  All I needed was a photo of him, some soldiers, and a choppah or two.  As the search began from stock images online, more ideas started to surface.  I wanted to put the soldiers and the Predator in a very dramatic environment complete with explosions, debris, and even lightning.  I wanted it to appear as though it was a truly dire moment and the soldiers needed to make it to the choppah to survive.  After I had the Predator and the attacking helicopter in the composite, I decided it would add even more drama to include a pair of F14 Tomcats doing an air strike.  I've been in love with F14's since I was a kid.  I blame Top Gun.  I still miss Goose.  No, really.

I shattered earlier personal records of mine with this work in Photoshop too.  I've done some big projects in my time as a designer, but this tops them all, so far.  

Facts:

-Built in Photoshop CC
-Project Time 35 hours
-96 Layers
-File Size:  745mb
-3D Elements

I had a great time creating this.  My wife was very patient with me as I asked her frequently about details.  I'm glad it's done and it stands alone as one of the first projects I've completed having turned out exactly as I planned.  Those are rare.  Trust me!  It was also nice to focus on something that was very much 'me-driven.'  Most of the time I'm working on something for someone else.  Which, is great...I love it!  But every now and again, it's great to step away and do something just for myself.  I'm already contemplating my next BIG composite now.  Maybe another movie theme...who knows?  

I'll be bock.

Prints on Metal = Happiness

Being that Relay for Life is rapidly approaching, I was asked again if I had interest in donating another photo for the OIT's online auction.  I was happy to do so again, but this time I wanted to do something different.  I decided to try out getting one of my images printed on metal.  Not to be confused with metallic, where images can be printed on metallic paper.  This process involves direct printing onto metal, not paper.  

Relay for Life Photo 12"X36" - Front

Relay for Life Photo 12"X36" - Front

Above is the image I chose to donate to the auction and have printed.  I contacted Bay Photo Lab, whom I'd heard does a fantastic job at producing these.  A few days later, the print arrived and I was astounded.  The sheen that comes across from the surface of this print is remarkable.  It's like getting image printed on a piece of glass.  In addition to it being a brilliant piece as it is, it's really easy to hang on a wall anywhere.  It comes with the hardware already attached to the back for ease of installation.    

Relay for Life Photo (Backside)

Relay for Life Photo (Backside)

In the above photo, you can see the back of the print itself.  The center section (where the 3 mounting holes are) stands out from the actual main print portion.  When you hang it on the wall, it actually 'floats' off the wall a bit, creating an interesting dimension for a more dynamic display.  Very cool!

I am considering adding Bay Photo Lab as an option to my galleries so that anyone can order one of my prints this way.  I will let you know when that happens!  

For now, you can visit http://nd-oit-auction.com/wpoit/  to bid on this print and other items with proceeds going to Relay for Life.    

Thanks for reading and happy bidding!

Photography Q & A - The Blur or 'Bokeh'

I asked my wife the other day if she had any questions about photography in general that I could use in a learning segment here.  She thought for a moment and then asked, "Why is it when I take a picture with my iPhone, my subject and the background is all in focus...but when you take a picture with your camera, your subject is in focus, but the background is blurred?"  Good question.  

 The answer is your aperture or f/stop.  Apertures or f/stops on all cameras control your focus depth.  All cameras, be it smart phones, DSLR's and point 'n shoot cameras have f/stops.  You can change it on most cameras, but on your iPhone you cannot.  If you're operating a camera where you can change the f/stop, you can use these settings as general guidelines:  If I'm out and about shooting a landscape, with no general subject, I'll set my f/stop at F/11 or higher.  Most of the time for capturing everything in focus, I'll even shoot at F/22.  This will increase your depth of field and no part of the image will be blurred.  If I'm shooting a portrait (where I want their face(s) in focus), I'll shoot at a lower f/stop to blur the background.  Say F2.8 or F4.5.  Make sense?  No?  Yeah, me neither.  I'll give you a visual guide then.       

Image Captured at F/5.6

Image Captured at F/5.6

The image of the monkey was captured at F/5.6.  He was standing far enough in front of the tree branch in the background for it to be blurred or out of focus.  

Image captured at F/22

Image captured at F/22

The image above the golden dome was captured at F/22.  See?  Everything in that image is in focus and nothing is blurred.  This effect is commonly known as 'bokeh.'  I don't personally use that word, and even the correct pronunciation of it is often debated.  Some people say, 'boke-ay' or 'boke-uh'.  I even heard it once as 'boo-kay'.  Who knows?  You decide.  I'll have a Coke in the meantime.  

 So, all you have is an iPhone and you want to fake it with your photos?  Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Yup.  There's an app for that.  If all you have is an iPhone and you want to fake that look when you take a portrait by blurring the background?  The last time I used Instagram, it could do that.  Otherwise, if you're really clever, you could use Photoshop.  

IPhone f/stops are currently unchangeable.  The iPhone 4s uses an F/stop of F/2.4 all the time.  It sounds low, but at a 4.3mm focal length, it really isn't.  The iPhone 5s uses an F/stop of F/2.2.  Now, you're thinking - but that doesn't coincide with what you said earlier about lower-numbered f/stops.  You're right.  But keep in mind, those lenses in those cameras are teeny-tiny!  Below is an iPhone shot I took in Montana.  

iPhone 4s.  

iPhone 4s.  

Doing this blog post actually gave me another idea for another post on getting better photos with your iPhone.  Stay tuned for that.

I am by no means an expert on aperture.  I just know what works for me.  Another thing to keep in mind is when you open up your aperture, like when you choose a lower number, like F/2.8, you're allowing more light to enter the lens for an exposure.  When you close it down, like at F/22, you're allowing less light into the lens for an exposure.  By doing this, you'll need to compensate by slowing or increasing your shutter speeds.  

In any case, a wonderful photog friend of mine gave me this tip years ago:  More F's means more in focus.  Less F's means less in focus.  Because keeping your focus, is well, half the battle.

Have a great week folks!

~Jonathon   

A Look Back at 2013

Challenges come in a variety forms and 2013 was no exception.  As it always would seem, you have to take the good with the bad.  We have to man up, take it head on, or, as one of my buddies says, tuck your skirt in.  I'm no stranger to challenges and they don't often have a regard of my opinion in the matter anyway.  They show up without warning, and set you off balance even in the happiest of times.  They're often just around the corner, lurking.  They're devious jesters who hide around corners waiting to jump out at the opportune moment.  But last year had its surprising good moments too.

The year began at Notre Dame, much as it always has.  I've always enjoyed taking photos in the Basilica.  The light and vastness of the place has always been attractive to me.  Normally, the choir loft is restricted to visiting spectators, but that particular day, I knew a gentleman working up there on some electrical issues.  He gained me access to the loft, and I was able to capture this image.    

Taken from the choir loft, February 2013.  

Taken from the choir loft, February 2013.  

After being around Notre Dame most of my life, I have a lot of photos of the Dome.  I captured this image on a snowy morning in early March.

Taken in front of the Dome, March 2013.

Taken in front of the Dome, March 2013.

With it being Winter still, you knew there had to be a hockey game involved.  You let the whole team down if you didn't know that.  Irish Hockey fans will get that joke.  At least, they better.  

Compton Family Ice Arena, March 2013.

Compton Family Ice Arena, March 2013.

In April, I was notified that my job at Notre Dame was being eliminated.  For the first time in 18 years, I didn't know what to do with my career.  I didn't know if staying in design and photography was the best idea, or if I should move into another field.  I had till July to make a decision.  I tabled the idea for a while.  

Then, in late April, one of my friends wanted a special project done.  He approached me about doing a Photoshop composite of him onto an album cover by Eric Clapton and BB King.  We set up the shoot at his house at the appropriate angle with him sitting in a chair.  He wanted to be super-imposed in the backseat, sitting next to BB King.  Easy enough, right?  Below is the before and after of that print.  This print hangs in my office at home at this very moment to remind me that no matter how tough a challenge can be, it's surmountable in some way.    

Photoshop Composite, April 2013.  

Photoshop Composite, April 2013.  

In the time that followed, I decided that I wanted to stay in design and photography.  Now, I just needed to find another job that would allow me to do that.  But where?  The resumes were sent out and the interviews began.  I interviewed at different places in the area, but no one seemed committed to hiring.    

During that time, I had an ongoing discussion with one of my closest friends about doing a sunset shoot on the roof of the Hesburgh Library.  He had to be involved because of the access to the roof itself.  It's one of the tallest buildings on campus, if not the tallest.  I wanted one last shot of the Dome before I signed out for the last time.  But there had to be key elements in place:  A perfect sunset.  Perfect clouds.  And on a perfect day.  As April went by and May began, we waited.  Then, one evening as I watched what the skies were doing, I saw the elements take form.  The clouds were right.  The colors were right.  The air felt right.  I made the call.  Tonight was the night.  The rest is history.  Here's a capture from that evening.  This was without a doubt my favorite moment of the year.     

Dome Sunset, May 2013.  

Dome Sunset, May 2013.  

A photographer can never resist the opportunity to take photos of fireworks.  It's like railroad tracks.  We're drawn to them for some unknown reason.  I just wish that all railroad tracks ended up in Hogwarts.    

Fireworks over Diamond Lake, MI, taken July 2013.

Fireworks over Diamond Lake, MI, taken July 2013.

Near the end of July, we decided to take spend a few days in Chicago for a vacation.  We met up with my Father in Law and stayed at a place near the north shore of the lake.  It was a great trip.  He brought his BMW with him and I couldn't help but take a few shots of this beautiful machine.  And it drove just as nice...I can vouch for this.

BMW 385i, taken July 2013.

BMW 385i, taken July 2013.

In August, our Hisbiscus flowers are in full bloom around our house.  I love these flowers.  They're so large with beauty.  This image was captured in our front yard.  At the time, I didn't know how important this image would become.  Wait for it.    

Red Hibiscus, taken August 2013.  

Red Hibiscus, taken August 2013.  

In the weeks before, I was also working with another friend of ours about an exterior sign that he needed produced for a local park in his neighborhood.  I put together a design for him based on what he and the neighborhood association needed.  This was the final outcome.  It was a V-shaped exterior sign capable of being seen from multiple directions.  

Exterior sign for Klinedinst Park, August 2013.  

Exterior sign for Klinedinst Park, August 2013.  

At this point in time, I had been working at a new company called Valley Screen part-time.  When my term at Notre Dame ended, I began working for them.  I was essentially doing the same job that I was doing at Notre Dame with the addition of getting my feet wet in the knowledge of RV design.  You know those large, swooshes and designs you see on the sides of RV's and trailers?  They do that.  Well, now I do that too.  It's really interesting.  I'll save that for another post.  

By this time, October had come and things were getting busier with photography.  The OIT at Notre Dame hired me to shoot their Mobile Summit.  For those that don't know what that is...it's basically an all day event where mobile vendors come and spread the word about their product.  It's also used as a means to communicate with campus about adapting the use of mobile technology for the betterment of production from day to day.  I actually had the unique opportunity of meeting Coach Muffet McGraw that day.  Very nice lady.  She gave a wonderfully interesting speech about how mobile technology has improved their workflow as a basketball team.  

Coach Muffet McGraw, taken October 2013.

Coach Muffet McGraw, taken October 2013.

My sister also got engaged last Summer.  We waited until the Fall colors were in full swing and did an Engagement shoot at her fiance's house.  Patrick, her fiance is a great guy and he's helped her and my family tremendously over the last few years.  I even heard the same thing from Yoda.  Good people, he is.  

Jennifer and Patrick, October 2013.  

Jennifer and Patrick, October 2013.  

That same month, my buddy Alan wanted to get portraits done of his family.  We discussed locations for a while and ended up deciding on downtown Niles.  Most our time was spent near the bridge along the river.  Special thanks to the whole Cramer family for taking time out for this shoot.  It was a lot of fun.  

The Cramer Family.  From Left, Grant, Angie, Alan and Bryanna, October 2013.  

The Cramer Family.  From Left, Grant, Angie, Alan and Bryanna, October 2013.  

My wife and I love to eat at this local restaurant called Uptown Kitchen.  One night, we went there to eat with her Mom.  While we ate, I noticed that there was local artist's work displayed in there, including paintings and photography.  We thought it might be a good idea to contact them to see if they'd be interested in displaying my work.  Within the next week, I met with the owner and his response to my work was overwhelming.  We narrowed down which prints he wanted to display and not only did he want some for Uptown Kitchen, but also for the Mark!  Which, is another restaurant he owns near Notre Dame.  Remember that photo of the Hibiscus flower I took?  There is a 30"X40" print of that hanging in Uptown Kitchen.  It's beautiful.  

Uptown Kitchen, November, 2013.  

Uptown Kitchen, November, 2013.  

The Mark, near Notre Dame, November, 2013.  

The Mark, near Notre Dame, November, 2013.  

The Mark, near Notre Dame, November, 2013.

The Mark, near Notre Dame, November, 2013.

The year concluded on a great note.  Not only did I have my photography displayed in two of the area's best restaurants, Valley Screen offered me a full-time position right before the holidays.  So, that helped ease my mind some!

Over the holiday break, we woke up one morning and opened the front door to find this array of frost on our storm door.  I snapped this macro shot of it.  I thought it was neat.  Technically it was taken in January of this year, not 2013.  But, I can get away with it.  It is my blog and all.      

Frozen ice patterns, January, 2014.

Frozen ice patterns, January, 2014.

Wishing everyone a great start to the new year.  I'm happy with the progress I made in 2013 and can look back on the year in a good way.  Bring on 2014!  

2014 Calendars Now Available

The wait is over!  Announcing the Jonathon Rose Design 2014 Calendar!

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The calendar itself is still 12”X18” with a spiral bound center.  Each month features a full page photo.  These would also make a great gift for the holidays if you’re interested!  I’m going to keep a few on hand, but I can receive them pretty fast from my print lab.  Shipping is available to you too. The cost is $30 for the calendar. (Payable by Paypal, check or cash).  If you're local, there's no charge for shipping!  I hope everyone enjoys the photos I've chosen!   

Contact me at jonathon@jonathonrose.com for further details.  Or, write to me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jonathonlt1

10 Things That Drive Me Crazy About iOS 7

I have never been a fan of updates.  When there's a weekly update from Microsoft, I cringe.  When there's an IOS update, my stomach sinks.  App updates can be frustrating too, as they happen so frequently.  I always end up thinking, what is this going to break this time?  No, Jon...it's supposed to make it better, I tell myself.  Doesn't help much though.  Although, I have been known to get excited about updates to my Angry Birds games.  And maybe Candy Crush.  

I am not one those early adopters of change.  When there's a new IOS update, I'll wait it out for a week or two.  Maybe three.  I like to see how it fares with the early adopter folks first.  To me, it's like chess.  Let the pawns go first.  If something's wrong with it, I'll hear about it eventually.  What's the hurry?  I like my turtle method of slow and steady just fine.  

I like Apple...don't get me wrong.  I like Windows too, but when I'm using my iPhone, I don't think of it as as Mac or Windows.  I think of it as a tool to make my life easier.  And I like it when I can make things just a little easier.  I'm all about small victories.  Having said all that, I recently updated to iOS 7.  I used it for a few weeks before passing judgment on too many things.  Personally, I don't like it.  I'll talk about some of the little things that drive me crazy, but I'll also mention what might work better, so it doesn't seem like I'm only dishing out the negative.  Ready?  Grab shell dude.  Find your exit buddy.

1.  Icons.  Blech...I liked the look of the older icons better.  These are flat, and almost lifeless.  There's no dimensionality to them.  I like that word, dimensionality.  Can we at least have an option in the settings to revert to the 'classic' icon look?

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2.  Where's the clock?  (iPad only).  This is an app specific thing that should be better controlled.  No matter what app I'm using or game I'm playing, I want to see the clock at the top of my screen.  Sometimes I need to know if I've wasted an hour playing Candy Crush trying to clear jelly.  My iPhone does this.  Why doesn't my iPad?  

iPad screen on the left - iPhone on the right

iPad screen on the left - iPhone on the right

3.  Lock screen font is too thin.  That screen can be tough to see under certain lighting or with a busy photo wallpaper.  The numbers and letters for the time and date could be just a little bolder, so they're easier to read.  

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4.  Photo organization.  This was a big one for me, in the way that it organizes your photos now by date and location.  Your collections look like one big jumbled collage.  I liked the old way better.  Just give us a little separation in those collection albums.  This is just sensory overload.   

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5.  Alphabet in the contact screen (right side of screen).  What.  The.  Heck.  Seriously.  Start at the top...A dot D?  Really?  So everybody in between is a dot?  Now, look at S.  It's S dot U.  Apparently we needed that dot to signify T. That one drives me bonkers.  Just put all the letters back on there.  

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6.  Music app.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  But if you're gonna fix it, don't put the shuffle and shuffle all setting RIGHT next to the fast forward button and the volume.  I can't count the amount of times I've turned my volume down by accident or turned shuffle off because of this.  Or, did I turn shuffle on?  Wait, let me look.  Ugh.

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7.  App Store update section is too cluttered.  Honestly, I don't care what app I updated 2 weeks ago.  Just give me the list of the current ones I need.  Like before.

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8.  Mail App.  Seems fussier and slower.  I don't know why, but it just does.  I blame the thin font again.   It's all in the details.  The devil is in the details my friends.  Perhaps a darker colored interface would look better.

9.  Voicemail app changes.  Again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The old way was better.  Don't need the expanding window when I tap a new message.

10.  I'll end on a good note, instead of a bad one.  I love the flip up window that accesses the camera, flashlight, Apple TV, and calculator.  It gives you other things too, but those are the ones I use most.  Good on that one!  

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Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Engagement Photo Session: Jen & Pat

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A few weeks back, I was privileged enough to be tasked with taking my sister's engagement photos.  This was no easy feat.  And then of course, you put a giant German Shepard in the mix...it makes things just a little more interesting.  What I discovered was more challenging than I had originally planned.  

My sister hates it when I take pictures of her.  I mean, she will burn a hole in me with her eyes if she even senses a camera lens pointed at her.  So, naturally, when she specifically asked me to do it on purpose for her engagement photos, I jumped at it.  On the day of the shoot, I was pretty excited about it.  I had a few ideas on things I wanted to capture with them including Tank.  Tank is the giant German Shepard in the above photo, who I have aptly nicknamed 'Shrimp.'

What?  I think it's funny.

Anyway.  The real challenge was to capture all of them in natural form.  We've all known one another for a long time, and because of that, we're all pretty aware of what's currently going on in each other's lives.  That, made it difficult to draw out natural smiles and laughs for an image that would be authentic.  As the evening went on, I realized this very quickly.  

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It's not the same shooting family as it is with shooting friends or strangers.  There's almost rules for each.  With people you don't know as well, you can small talk your way into conversations, or ask them questions about them personally.  As a photographer, I want the subjects to feel comfortable and relaxed.  Talking helps with that.  Even incorporating jokes along the way.  With my sister and Pat, this was tougher because you can't exactly resort to the simple small talk because we all know each other well.  They already know what's in my bag of tricks.  

Did we make it work?  You betcha.

Challenge completed.  

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Tank may have helped too.  

A little.  

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At the end of the day, I came through with some great shots of all of them.  I really like the above photo with the hands.  There's a story there.  And it's my sister and Pat's.  I'm very happy for both of them.  Special thanks to them for their patience and willingness to battle some colder temperatures that night.  You guys rock.

Shooting with the Nikon D600

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Late last year, I talked about how I rented a lens from my friends at LensProToGo.com.  Not only do they rent lenses, but they also rent out all sorts of camera gear.  This week, I decided to start experimenting with different cameras.  I chose to rent a Nikon D600 camera body this week.  So far, it's measured up to be a real workhorse.  I really like it.  The menus and functionality are a little different from my Nikon D5000, but I like it!         

It's a full frame camera, with 39 different focus points to choose from.  I like the ability to choose where I want my focus to be.  As you shoot, you can choose from any of the 39 focus brackets within frame, just by touching the control pad on the back of the camera.  

 

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The other reason I like it is its ability to produce a photo that's lower in noise when you're shooting in low light with a high ISO.  Have you ever noticed when taking pictures in low light or in the dark, that most cameras add a lot of noise?  iPhones are notorious for doing this.  It automatically adds something called ISO.  It's basically like adding fake light into a photo.  On DSLR cameras, you can adjust that manually, or leave it on Auto and let the camera decide how much ISO to add in.  When you can't use a flash, ISO may be your only hope for getting a decent exposure.  But there are downsides.  When you add ISO, you add noise.  Below are two shots taken with both cameras with EXACTLY the same settings/lens.  My dog kindly posed for me in these shots.    

 

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Not only is the D600 yielding a sharper photo, but it's also lower in noise.  Why does this make a difference?  Well, it really depends on how trained your eye is and whether or not you're printing your photos.  When you look at your photos on a screen, are they at 100%?  Or, are you zoomed out?  That'll make a difference too.  If you're printing photos like this, you can be sure you will see that noise.  Guaranteed.

As a general rule, most people don't notice it.  But if you look close in certain photos, you'll start to see it more and more.  Sports photography has a lot of noisy photos because the lighting in stadiums isn't really that great.  Look at your next issue of Sports Illustrated.  Rummage through the photos in the articles.  You'll see that those photos are noisy.  It's just a fact of life.        

I have two shoots scheduled in the next few days.  One of which is the Mobile Summit at Notre Dame tomorrow.  This will be a great trial weekend for the D600.  But I have a feeling it's going to perform great.  Hope to see you there!

  

Exterior Sign for Klinedinst Park

Back in July, I was asked by someone to design/produce an exterior sign for a park in a subdivision.  They had an existing sign, but it was in need of an improvement.  Based on the original signs dimensions, I designed a new sign for them that was a little more contemporary to their needs.  We talked about colors and graphics and narrowed down the details over email.  We came up with a design that's V-shaped, so it could be seen from both directions on the road.

 

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The above sign is what came out of those discussions.  The sign was digitally printed and then applied to a material called Sintra.  It's basically a thick, rigid fiberglass material.  The little sign in the center is a backer plate for an attached document holder that will eventually display the park/subdivision's event schedule.  Each larger panel measured 4' tall by 5' wide.  This was a fun project that turned out pretty well and they were very happy with it!  Special thanks to the folks at Prairie Lane Estates for making this all happen!    

When All Else Fails, Grab your iPhone

few weeks back, we traveled to Chicago to tour the city.  We stayed on the north side of the city, nestled in a nice home in the suburbs.  That day we had spent time downtown and I had taken a lot of photos of things.  We got back to the house and I took my SD card out of my camera and began downloading the photos.  After dinner, we decided to head to a nearby park that was located on the beach near the lakefront.  We parked the car and walked down the path to the beach, camera in hand, to take in the views.  When we arrived on the beach, little did we know, we were about to experience something special.

We looked up, and there, right in front of us on the pier was a couple.  The gentleman knelt down and made his proposal at that moment.  At first instinct, I grabbed my camera, held up the viewfinder to my eye and went to capture the moment.  

[Click]

I quickly glanced at the back of my camera and was there an image?  No.  Instead, I got an error message that read 'No SD card Inserted.'  Oh crap.  I cannot confirm nor deny the presence of a few curse words.  I had left my SD card firmly inserted in my laptop which was back at the house.  My only alternative was my iPhone.  So, I quickly reached into my back pocket, grabbed my iPhone and snapped this picture.  

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Luckily, I was able to at least capture the moment.  As soon as I took the picture, the gentleman stood up, and the moment was gone.  (Yes, she accepted his proposal.)  

What I learned:

1.  My SD card needs to learn how to run not walk. 
2. No, it needs to learn warp speed, which is around the speed of light.
3. No, wait!  Trans-warp Beaming!  Yes, that's it.  Thanks Scotty.
4. Carry your phone.
5. Because you just never know.

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

How I get those 'Up Close' Photos (Macro)

First off, let me say that I'm on a budget.  That doesn't mean I'm skimping, but it does mean that I do my best to make the best picture I can, based on the gear that I have.  I've chosen what works for me from day to day, keep myself open to new things to try, and usually come up with a variety of ways to solve a single problem.  Macro photography to name one. 

Ordinarily, most photog's use macro lenses for those 'up close' shots of insects, flowers, or even beads of water.  I've always been kind of fascinated by the mini-world you can't always see with the naked eye.  I don't like bugs, so generally you won't see shots from me of that Wolf Spider that's currently hiding under my bed.  He can stay there as long as he wants.  As long as it's not longer than 1.8 seconds.  After that, I'm bringing out the light saber.  So...hypothetically speaking, should that Wolf Spider decide to take a gander outward, and I wanted to take a picture of him...hypothetically speaking...I would use my macro filter.  It looks like this.

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Macro filters come in a variety of magnifications.  This one is a +10. I have a few others as well that are different amounts of magnifications.  Macro filters also come in a variety of diameters too.  Buy a set that fits the lens on your DSLR.  I just have a set that fits my kit lens, which is the lens most people have.  That's 52mm.  Works fine. Remember, I'm on a budget.  In addition, you'll need a tripod.  Or, something sturdy to set your camera on.  There are man-made and natural tripods scattered all over this beautiful planet.  Use a bench, a tree stump, or even a stool.  There are things around.  Use them.  You can't generally do macro handheld.  Your hands aren't steady enough.  You'll end up with blurry photos all day long and twice on Sunday.  And get a remote shutter button.  If you don't have a remote, use the timer on the camera.  This will eliminate the possibility of camera vibration or shake from you pressing the shutter button, and yield you a sharper photo.  Set it for 2 seconds.  Or, what you're comfortable with.

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Pardon the dust on the camera.  This happens when you shoot outside a lot.  I blame the Wolf Spider.  After you've tightened the filter on your lens, get in close to your subject.  And I mean close.  When I use my +10 filter, I'm about 5-6 inches away from my subject.

Compose your shot, focus, and press the button.

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Looks good to me!  Macro photography is really cool and I love doing it.  It opens up a new world that's rarely seen.  Filters are a much cheaper solution to going out and buying a new lens, considering how much I use it.  If you see yourself doing these kind of shots a lot more, you may want to spring for the lens instead.  But my little filters work just fine.  After all, the devil's in the details.   

Creating a Panoramic in Photoshop CS6

In this tutorial, I'll teach you the method that I normally use for stitching panoramics together in Photoshop CS6.  Don't worry if you don't have the latest version of Photoshop.  This same feature has existed the same way throughout the last several versions.

First, all you'll need is a decent camera and a steady hand.  Go out somewhere and start shooting.  Instead of shooting horizontally, hold your camera vertical and capture 4-5 shots while 'panning' across the subject.  Keep in mind, you're stitching each of these photos, so there needs to be a little overlap in each image you shoot.  I attached a screenshot below of the 5 images I captured for this panoramic.  I did these hand-held, but you can use a tripod.  

You'll see the 5 images I've taken using the 'overlap' method that I mentioned earlier.  Now, open Photoshop.  Go under File>Automate>Photomerge.

 

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Another window will come up.  It looks like this below.

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Click Browse and select all 5 images from your shoot.  Leave the layout on Auto, but make sure Geometric Distortion Correction is checked, then click ok.  Watch what happens.

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You'll see that it automatically stitched all 5 images into 1.  Each of them are on their own layer with a layer mask.  Now, your panoramic is stitched, but we still have some distortion from the lens capture.  This comes from the curvature in the lens itself on the camera or the way you were holding it at the time of capture.  It's easily corrected in Photoshop using the transform tools.   Flatten your layers into one, and I generally use the warp tool to normalize the image a little.  The final image can be seen below.

 

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The most tricky part is getting your shots right in the camera.  Most people's first instinct is hold their camera normal (horizontally and pan over) and shoot.  You can do this, but you're able to capture more of the surroundings if you shoot vertically.  Think about your depth of field.  You can also use this method for shooting vertical images, rather than wide panoramics.  In which case, yes, shoot horizontally, then pan upward or down.

More to come from JRDesign.  Stay tuned for more.  Have a great weekend folks.