Friday, June 18, 2010

Movin' on up!

Wow. That was a break. That was a gaping crevice of nothing which will never happen again.

If you're still following this blog - especially if you're subscribed - thank you for holding on to me over the past several months. The new official home of my thoughts on the interwebs is now

Compared to this pretentious and un-useful pile of crap you had been reading (save for this post), my new site over at Posterous is going to be like a mental slap to your John-loving (or hating, or I-just-follow-him-on-Twitter-and-don't-actually-care) face. Much more focused. Much more useful. Much more interesting.

As for The Fighting Swine - I've moved on since those days. It's getting to the point where I can look at this blog and kind of laugh at myself, so it'll stay here and link to there.

Make the jump to my new blog! (Don't forget to subscribe while you're there!)

As always - Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A new approach to on-line marketing

It's time. John's Photography needs to grow. After hours of bookreading and internet jockeying, I'm ready to build a website.

A few months ago, I made my first attempt at putting my biz on the web by creating Yes, that's (John's Photography - ' + sd.) It's a tough domain even for me to remember, it's a free blog based on a free template and it's what I like to call a "one-page wonder." If professional photography sites are Cadillacs, this thing is a tricycle. I'm gonna do something about it.

Like any aspiring amateur, I've got ideas. Where do they come from? They derive mostly from caffienated daydreams or from frequent wanderings of the internet. Today, I was in the middle of one of those random internet wanderings and I found a goldmine of inspiration for my future website. This is gonna happen.

Many books on photo business say that many photographers fail because they focus on the wrong things (pardon the pun). I know it sounds cliche, but the most successful photographers run customer-centric businesses that actually give a rip about who buys their stuff. John's Photography is focused on the customers in every way.

Sure, I could create the flashiest, intricately-designed, most interactive theme-park of a web experience for my potential clients, or I could simply and elegantly communicate to them exactly what they want to know.

What questions does the customer silently ask while visiting my website? (my best guesses):

- Does John actually take good photos? (portfolio)

- Who/how/where/what is John? (biography page)

- How does John offer his business? (packages, prices, business model)

- Why should I choose John to take my photos?

- What do I want from my photography? (from the customer's perspective)

- Is John going to be a pain to work with? (a well-designed page of text summed up as "No.")

- How do I pick a photographer in the Brookings area? (I'm gonna help the customer help themselves. Yes, I might actually link to my fellow photogs' websites to give my prospective customers some flavors to taste. This is an (possibly crazy) idea I have to keep me on my toes.)

I want to communicate the above things in a seriously convenient and easy way. I don't want to miss the point with this thing. Getting carried away on my website would create an unwanted effect on the nature and attitude of my photography career. One thing I really don't want my website to refect is the mild narcisism which I've developed through the use of this blog, Facebook and Twitter. After all, unlike those three things, my photography is about the person on the other side of the camera, not me.

By the end of the summer, I hope to have a clean, scalable, simple, effective, informative, satisfying, slick, impressive website for you and your friends to enjoy and re-visit often.

Please feel free to share any ideas, examples, links or comments as I go about renovating the online presence of John's Photography. I can definitely use the help.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

On the steps of the Campanile

Twenty-two days ago, I asked the most important question I've ever asked to the most important person I will ever meet. Here's how it went down:

So there I was, it was a typical Wednesday afternoon in Brookings. As I walked out of Daktronics at the end of the workday, Stacy walked into Subway for the workevening. I guided my car into the yellow lines in front of my apartment and paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and told my self, "Yep. This is the night. Let's do this."

I immediately put the Green Machine into rewind and headed for the place to which I unconciously head the most whenever I need something: Wal-Mart.

Before I spill the rest of the story, I should provide a little background for you, my valued readers: I'd had a burning diamond in my pocket for over three months beforehand. I knew the style/cut/size she wanted, so I went and got it (by the way, don't go to a jewelry store if you're not sure what you're looking for. Jewelry salespeople are worse than used car salesmen.) The time was finally right, and I was ready.

So, there I was, wandering the toy aisles of good ole' Wally World searching for the last thing that I thought I would ever need: purple sidewalk chalk. Why? Because Stacy likes purple, and John's got something to write.

They didn't have purple, so I settled for a set (box?) with blue and red pieces. (The best $1.05 I've ever spent.)

Stacy had to work until 9, and it was about 8:30, so I scooted over to the Campanile to scribble a question on the eastern steps.

Stacy was done at 9, changed/cleaned up a little, and we went for a typical hey-it's-nice-outside-so-we-should-go-for-a-walk walk. We chatted and giggled about dorky things as usual while I inconspicuously herded Stacy across campus towards the Campanile green. Needless to say, my chest was pounding, and I was f-ing excited.

We eventually started walking counter-clockwise around the Campanile while Stacy was giggling and giving me crap about something. Eventually, she was walking between me and the eastern side of the Campanile. She was not seeing what I brought her there to see, so I stopped.

"What's wrong?" she said as I paused.

"(Cough) umm (cough) there's, uh, there's something over there," I nervously pointed at the steps.


"Umm... there's.... something on the.... (cough)...."

(Looks around the Campanile towards Medary.) "I don't get it."

"Uh.... What's on the steps right there?" I made an obvious point directly at what I had written 30 minutes earlier.

She finally shed her confusion as she spotted the red and blue writing on three steps of the Campanile:

Stacy, Will you marry me? (heart) John

As she internalized the message, I fumbled and struggled to get the ring out of my jacket pocket and nearly lost my (very loseable) balance as I got down on one knee.

She turned around with her hand over her mouth, repeating "Oh my gosh... Oh my gosh... This is happening." Her suprised eyes met my nervous/tearing eyes.

"Will you marry me?" (Voice cracking with emotion.)

Before I could say "me," she blurted out a hearty "Yes!" and I proceeded to try and put the ring on her right hand.

"No, it's supposed to go on the left," and then she let out a small but cute I'm-smarter-than-my-struggling-boyfriend giggle (I had heard it many times before, but it really melted my heart this time). I finally managed to wiggle the ring onto her finger, and we hugged the hug of hugs.

I then produced the red chunk of sidewalk chalk from my other jacket pocket (I didn't want it to get all over the ring) and wrote "She said YES!!!" below the message to inform any curious passers-by of the outcome.

We basked for about 30 minutes sitting on top of my sidewalk-chalked message in the most memorable moment either of us has ever experienced. Neither of us could stop smiling.

As our butts began to get numb from pressure of the limestone step beneath them, we decided to call the moms and the grandmas to spill the news.

That's how it happened. I'm ready to spend more than the rest of my life with this girl, who is also my best friend, and the most talented giggler I've ever met.

Thanks for reading,


I'm back.

Life afforded me the motivation and time to do this, so I'm blogging for the first time in about six weeks. It feels good to be back.

Well, since my last post, I've come up with a lot of ideas and topics to talk about, so I'll just do a quick overview of thoughts for this post. I don't want to bore the crap out of everybody. These will all be their own posts:

1. I'm engaged. I asked Stacy to marry me on May 20, and she said yes. Yes. This is cause for a nice long blog post in the near future. Stay tuned.

2. I've been tweeting. A lot. Follow me:

3. I moved into a new apartment. I'm flying solo. It's delicious. Pics to come soon.

4. I made Stacy a blog for her birthday. (I think she likes it!)

5. The development of and news from John's Photography.

6. How to get the camera out of the bag. A personal story.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do you worry about crap?

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." - Charles R. Swindoll

I work in a very large and grey-walled office amongst a sea of cubicles. People email me, call me and occasionally visit me in person to give me crap to do.

Sometimes, this pile of crap gets really big. It happened the other day, and I got stressed. It sucked. Instead of simply focusing on my work, I became angry at my situation. My ears turned red, my eyes itched and I couldn't think about anything but the fact that I had a lot of crap to do.

Then, I remembered something.

As long as I would just do what I had to do, I would be fine. I didn't really know what I was worrying about. I get paid to deal with crap, so I dealt with it, and everything turned out fine.

Humans are interesting creatures. Not only because we live around habits, but we constantly measure ourselves and our lives and then we worry about those measurements. We judge things (even when our religion tells us not to), we see things and react to them.

So, when there's a pile of work to do in front of us, we tend to fret about it before doing it. In the face of challenges, we worry that we won't measure up, we worry about what other people will think of us if we fail.

When I first heard "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." - I didn't agree with it, but that was when my life revolved around measuring myself to others' standards. Today, most of my friends would probably tell you that I'm a generally laid-back person. I don't appear to be excited when I actually am (which can be a bad thing), and I don't worry about a lot of the things that people measure themselves with. I relax a lot. The truth is, I'm not a normal person, but who is?

So, what do I believe about worrying? I think it's the only way that most people can confront their challenges in life, but I believe worrying blows things out of proportion and causes unneeded stress. Worrying skews our perception of our challenges. I don't need to worry to get stuff done, but I still do it because I'm human.

As a photographer, I'm familiar with people and how they see things. When I'm behind the camera, I get to see a lot of expressions and reactions. I notice little things, little quirks, and I learn from them. Sometimes, when I'm photographing nervous, despairing subjects, I help them relax by simply talking to them to get their minds off of themselves, to get them to stop measuring themselves for a moment. I've discovered that the reason people don't like being photographed is because they think that the camera is measuring them. They worry about being too pasty or too chubby. If you're one of these people, you need to understand that people will appreciate a photo of you just as much as they appreciate seeing you in person. Trust your photographer to bring out the best in you. The memories and feelings that people get when they see the photo are what really matters (this is another future blog post topic).

I'm definitely not an over-achiever by any means, but I do know that the only thing between where you are now and where you want to be is in yourself. Getting stuff done can be difficult, but only because we preconceive that it is going to be difficult. If you expect something to suck, it's gonna suck. But if you expect something to get done, you have to stop, recognize what's in front of you, relax and do it.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, April 20, 2009

The Martin Schoeller close-up portrait

In the last few months, I've found several pieces of literature, ads, magazine articles/covers and even books with these interesting close-up facial portraits in them. I picked up an edition of Esquire the other day at Hy-Vee (home of the greatest Chinese food in SD) and found an interesting article containing more of these close-up, slightly creepy yet not-quite-a-mugshot facial portraits. The photos are the work of a professional photographer named Martin Schoeller.

Mr. Schoeller has photographed thousands of celebrities using this same technique with two strobe lights and a shallow depth of field.

So, after closely studying a few of Shoeller's famous faces, I decided to take a crack at the method. I talked my roommates into letting me get uncomfortably close to their mugs with my 50mm. The main challenge of making this style of portrait is to create an interesting facial closeup without letting it look like a mugshot in a poorly-lit hallway. After about 10 minutes of shooting, and a few minor touch-ups in PhotoShop, I came up with these two portraits (click for full-size view):

I photographed Matthew (top) first and Brett second. You might notice that the white balance has been slightly adjusted in each photo. Although they are identical in composition, they each have a unique feel because of the difference in white balance. I used a wider aperture in the first photo, which gave it a shallower depth of field and a slightly overexposed look. You can spot this difference by looking at the blurriness of their ears. The second challenge was to get the strobes in just the right position. Too far outside and I had too much shadow, too close to center and they would blow out the facial definition. I also wanted to get the circular catch-lights on each side of their pupils.

Overall, I had a lot of fun trying out my new studio equipment with my roommates. It was nice to try something new. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.


Martin Schoeller on Wikipedia
Martin Shoeller on/in Esquire (a very cool website)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Twitter is my friend.

About a month ago, a sudden impulse compelled me to start using my previously-neglected Twitter account. Maybe it was my friends talking about it, maybe it was all the media attention, whatever. I started, and now I cant stop.

I think many people avoid Twitter because they don't understand it. Besides gambling, people only buy into things when they know what to expect in return. Twitter and the concept behind it can be overwhelming, but the difficult part of the learning curve is surprisingly short.

After about a month of tweeting, I've realized that the two most exciting things about Twitter, for me, are it's inherent functionality and it's casual concept.

I'm growing up. Work currently confines me to gray-walled cubicles for 40+ hours per week. I don't make the daily journey to campus anymore. I don't see nearly as many people in one day as I did when I was a student. It's not that I purposefully isolate myself - I'm just physically separated from my old environment. Anyway, my friends are still my friends, and Twitter helps me stay connected with them.

I currently follow 51 peeps, and they're all different. They all have taken at least slightly different approaches to the "Big T." Some describe what they are eating, some post useful links, some post funny links, some complain about their hangovers, some promote themselves or their business. My point here is that I love the variety, and I hope the Tweets on my homepage stay as diverse as they are today.

My current Twitter research involves its role in my photo business. I'm not sure how I'm going to pull it off, but like any small business owner/capitalist pig, I want to take advantage of Twitter to market and sell my photography service.

My advice for people who are where I was about a month ago: the only way you're going to understand Twitter is to sign up and start using it. Dive in.

Follow me: @johnnelson1

Thanks for reading!