It was after a challenging two years as a photographer that my wife and I decided to move to Miami. I recall that time so vividly…we didn’t work for six months straight. Our savings had dropped off, we sold the studio and our home and hit the road. Miami seemed like the right place since we have family in town and our friends that live in Magic City all worked in print or film production.
Fortunately, just before we moved to Miami I re-licensed a bunch of photographs to a client and was able to go on hiatus for a year. Valdese and I needed time to recover from what we had just been though. We had to rethink everything and ask ourselves some tough questions. Are we going to stay in the business? Am I going to continue on as a commercial photographer? These are not questions that were easily answered, but during our time in Miami, we found the answers and found ourselves again.
To say Miami treated us well is an understatement. Being around people that cared about us and being close to the ocean had a deep healing effect. Valdese decided that she had enough of the ups and downs of working in production (she was a wardrobe stylist and studio owner) and decided that what worked for her was to have a career in corporate America. Like most people, she found comfort in knowing that (more or less) she’ll have a regular paycheck every two weeks and we’d both get health insurance which we did not have for years.
I was not sure if I wanted to deal with the headaches of running a photography business especially since the industry was just starting to enter a turbulent time.
There was this morning I’ll never forget. It was in the dining area of our simple, tiny, apartment that I had a conversation with Valdese. She was on her way out the door to go to work and what she did was a act of pure love for her husband. Before Val left she told me to take more time off, to find that spark inside me again and to be the G she fell for. That act of love, of sacrifice that Val did that morning is one I’ll never forget.
The path to finding my creative self and the roadblock
I started to work on some personal projects, fashion videos, music videos…projects that combined still photography and video into one. I always got a kick from seeing my still photography take on new dimension since I started working with motion in early 2009. I also loved the challenge regardless how much I fumbled through the post production as I learned new tricks. On an assisting job in Jamaica I befriended a model named Adam Dormi who was the subject of an experiment that combined still photography and video. The shoot was about 2 hours and the post around 3 hours total.
The shoot was about 6, 18+ hour days shooting and weeks in post. The post was a beast and I, its Jonah. Once I committed to the project and shot it I had to complete it. Hours and hours of transcoding, compositing, testing different color looks and effects. At one point I was kinda hating this project, but I knew I had to push on through to the other.
When I was done, it was beautiful. The full length video was just under 10 minutes which included two bonus tracks that tied each of the three individual videos together. I am proud how this turned out, grateful for the opportunity, for the friends that came in and saved this project from blowing up in my face and was happy to know that it would most likely be my last project of this size without a full crew and budget.
It’s like I had a visual split personality…part of me wanted to do post heavy work but the bigger part of me did not. It’s just not where I am as an artist at this point in my life.
Also, I found that although I enjoy combining still and motion photography into short, sweet projects the additional two + hours of work per shoot is not where I want to go production wise without a proper team/budget.
With exception to advertising jobs, the reality is that most assignments have budget for one assistant and that’s it. This means to shoot and deliver stills & motion into one project with a DSLR is not cost effective for most work since by the time you are done with post you actually lost money.
Losing money is not something any business owner wants and quite frankly, after two years of hell in a crappy economy, it was not an option for me mentally and financially. I knew that if I could make these multimedia shoots faster I could squeeze out a profit and possibly come out of hiatus with a forward thinking photography business ripe for growth.
The problem was that in Miami we have no real camera stores, so there was no way to see anything mirrorless.
With a friend of mine, we were able to locate where Olympus was going to be giving away some Pen Mini’s and we more or less stalked them online. We found them at the Miami Seaquarium and both got a camera!
First thing I did was hit up Silver Medallion and plan a shoot here in Miami. I called on all my friends to help and was able to get a sweet car and some killer locations in South Beach…we even got a $10MM penthouse to shoot in.
The shoot was pretty smooth…until I got the footage into the computer. The quality of the still photos were just fine but the video of the Pen Mini was not so good. By the time I finished the project, I decided that I was going to stick with still photography with mirrorless cameras for now and wait until I could get a hold of a GH2 or wait until Olympus came out with a camera that can make some decent video.
Small Camera Big Picture
By this time I had started a new blog called – Create, Inspire, You which was the original name of this blog when it first launched. As the name suggests, the goal of the site was to inspire others to shoot and be creative. There’s something very gratifying to see others break new ground creatively. It’s that spark, the one that I was looking for inside, that becomes a raging fire when one has a creative breakthrough. It’s a trait that is uniquely human and one thats inside all of us. I knew it was inside me…but I had yet to find it.
It was just after I started Create, Inspire, You that I really discovered how special shooting with a small camera could be. I shot a series of street portraits during Art Basel in Miami that made me realize that DSLR’s in their current form are over. The quality of the shots from the Art Basel Street Portraits were so close to what I was getting with my DSLR that I sold the system and started shooting assignments with the Pen Mini.
Since its launch, Small Camera Big Picture has become one of the most popular resources for everything mirrorless, specifically Micro 4/3rds. The love the blog gets from photographers around the world is exciting and keeps me busy. Most are here because they have a small camera and want to learn more about the system, some are curious as to what the buzz is about and some want to learn about the professional photographer who overcame his fears and sold his DSLR for a small camera.
The solution, the spark!
After selling my DSLR and shooting some assignments with the Pen Mini, I knew mirrorless cameras were the future but something was missing. The noise levels in certain low light shots from the Pen Mini were just a bit more than I prefer and the video quality was just not useable. Olympus had announced the OMD and I jumped on that right away.
Photographers and photographic companies alike took notice of Small Camera Big Picture. I had partnered up with Olympus as part of their Visionary group of photographers, started working with closely with other companies within the industry and was shooting a good amount of assignments again. The spark was back!!! Seeing me back to my normal self was a big relief to Valdese and to my family. Not only was I back but I was more creative than ever. Everywhere I went I was snapping away, creating and sharing my work online.
There was still something missing for me, though. While I enjoyed shooting with my OMD, what was missing for me was the ability to capture video with the same high quality as my stills. Whenever I would use the OMD for video I felt like I was using something that was just barely a cut above my DSLR which was not bad but it was not the same level of quality as my stills.
Not to to be tied into a system that while great for stills was not what I needed for motion, I left the Visionary program. It was a challenging decision but I knew that in order to satisfy my desire to blend my stills and motion together as one I would need to continue to experiment with different systems.
Through new industry contacts that found me through this blog, I was able to get my hands on these different systems. I was able to get a Fuji X-Pro and took it on a trip to Italy. The quality of the stills were amazing, but the motion and AF system were not compatible with my style of shooting. It was just not the camera for me. Right around the time I got back from Italy, Panasonic was kind enough to loan me a Lumix G5. When I first got the G5 I was really into the retro looking cameras, but I soon got over the vanity once I started using the system. The content that I was creating with the G5 was very close to what I thought would be the ideal system for me.
In talking with the people at Panasonic, it was apparent to me that better than anyone, they understood that photography was moving from still to hybrid. They told me about the GH3 and that they we’re going “all-in” to the serious photographer who wants more than just a still image. That sounded amazing to me and when I got the GH3 I knew that what I had was the future. I felt I finally had the tool to get out of my way and let me create without limits. It’s almost like they made the camera just for me.
I’ve since started a closer relationship with Panasonic. As a member of their Luminary talent team, Ive been working closely with their engineers to add features to their current line up and future models of cameras and accessories. It’s a team I’m proud to be a part of and a big part of my life right now.
As I’ve grown into hybrid photography so has my photography business. I completed a large advertising shoot in Austin, Texas for tech startup Tracking Point. While there I fell in love with the place. I felt as though Austin could be my next home.
Although I very much enjoyed Miami, I never felt settled here. The last few months it’s as though I’ve been here but not quite present to the city. I just keep thinking of how balanced I felt in Austin as if I already lived there. I’m happy to say that starting August 1st I will be based in Austin, Texas. I’m looking forward to getting to know my neighbors, photo community and home.
I can only wonder what would have happened if I didn’t get the opportunities to grow as an artist.
Thank you crappy economy.
Thank you Olympus.
Thank you Panasonic.
Thank you Miami.
And most of all, thank you Valdese.