Gallery Exhibitions – First Experience

Decked out in a thrift store suit.

Dressed to the nines.

This was it.

100’s of hours preparing came down to 30 Photo frames, 30 loose prints, 28 days, 2 hours for a reception, and my first success into the public (and local) spotlight.

In this moment, nothing mattered quite as much.

OK, let me step back to six months before this…

It was July and I happily submitted my first-ever application to an art gallery located about 10 minutes from my home.

Wanting to impress the gallery directors, I opted to submit the application via mail. I wanted to make a distinct impression in a world that was saturated with email and digital photo files. So I filled up a tiny self-addressed envelope with five 4×6’s of pictures I took of frames…printed pictures of pictures. Narrowing my now diverse collection of prints to just five to show was quite the task.

Within several weeks, I got an email from the gallery coordinator saying they’d be happy to exhibit my work. The earliest being February next year.

I was quite excited yet a little bummed I’d have to wait six months, however this would prove to be worth the time waiting.

Things in the art world seem to move rather slow. What I mean is you have to apply and schedule out events many months in advance.

My first ever (and absolutely terrible) booth shot. While this blog post isn’t about art fairs, I took this in May for a festival that was in September.

I spent the next 5-ish months preparing more and more for February.

Printing, matting, hanging, and displaying your work is the final piece of the puzzle. Digital screens will never compare!

Opening day was here at last…and of course that would be too easy. Several inches of snow fell and there was a water main break on the way there forcing a detour.

Opening Day: All loaded up and ready to go.

Not only that but one of the frames fell and broke..

Fortunately, I replaced the parts and worked it out before reception night.

Then comes reception day, nerves were running very high for the 24 hours before the reception. Besides one of the framed pieces falling six days before, there was nonstop rain all day, and did it pour hard with no signs of letting up…

The view looking outside my window. Heavy rain certainly dampens the mood of any event.

To be honest I wasn’t quite sure how many people would show up, and if the rain would change their minds. Basically all my friends and coworkers were aware of the event.

Safe to say, the reception night was a success, five personal friends came and five members from the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association to my surprise.

Overall it was fun and I happened to make a sale from a friend!

All tucked away and ready to give.

So, would I recommend you exhibit your artwork?

Absolutely! No matter what medium you choose, the self-satisfaction of seeing your creation(s) outside your house on a public wall is worth the expense and effort. Not only that but seeing others’ reactions makes me joyous as well.

Galleries really aren’t the best sources of stable income unless it’s an established and high-end gallery or you’re a big name in the industry. However, see this as an opportunity to connect with other like-minded individuals and to network!

Find a gallery near you and apply! They are certainly everywhere and would be happy to share your work with the world!

Me trying to hide the smirk of success, this whole endeavor was so much fun that I will certainly be doing it again.

I’d say give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.

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Let’s Have a Chat About Setbacks

This will be fun to write.

As a fun little challenge, I wanted to write a list of setbacks big and small that have happened throughout my photographic career thus far..

Disclaimer: I have done a lot of stupid things over time. Some of which I may laugh about now but some I truly regret. Never put the well-being or safety of you, others, or your gear in harms way. Follow any trail and park rules and have fun! But think before you act.

In no particular order and without further ado, let’s get started..

  • I dropped a camera and lens a couple feet above concrete in a parking lot. (it fell straight down lens-first too.) An attached CPL Filter took all the fall and damage away from the lens and camera.
Amazing how an $8 filter can save hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of gear. I glued and mounted this to a small square of matboard as a reminder of what could happen with negligence.
  • My Canon 75-300mm telephoto fell out of a lens pouch strapped to my pants while doing some impromptu rock climbing after dusk to get to the car. I was hoisting my backpack and tripod up as I went. Yet it rolled and tumbled all the way down to the bottom of the slope however luckily avoided any big stones on the way down. Leaves seemed to blanket the rolling as well and no damage was done. I just had to move all the way back down to retrieve the lens..and this was the end of a very long day outdoors so exhaustion was at its peak.
  • I tried to photograph lightning from a distance only to not realize how fast approaching storms move. I biked (this was before owning a car) very energetically and fearfully home as lightning was striking in the clouds above me.
  • I slipped on the slanted exit ramp of a fiberglass boardwalk that had a layer of snow on top. The battery grip took all of the impact in the fall and so it was totaled.
Video excerpt from the photo op right after it happened.
  • While hanging up my first gallery exhibition, a 5×30 panorama fell and shattered the glass which also scratched the print. Due to my own self-imposed deadline I had in replaced within the week. This time with plexiglass…
See the scratches? The glass really messed up this print.
That’s a canvas texture finish I added when ordering.
Now this print resides on my bedroom wall.
  • Wandered into a public hunting area (more than once) during hunting season without wearing brightly colored clothes. Nothing scares me more than hearing gunshots or walking around a corner to see a fully camouflaged man sitting there looking at me.
  • I have lost numerous smaller items out in the field, such as lens caps and the rubber viewfinder cover. Lens caps have fallen out of big pockets when hiking around. In another instance I had a DSLR mounted on a tripod externally on my backpack. A bare twig must’ve snagged the viewfinder cover right off the camera and with several miles hiked in between the last time I saw it, I was hard pressed to go backwards and try to find it. Fortunately these are small and affordable replacements. I have even resorted to making DIY lens caps out of foam board and electrical tape. Anytime I lose something, I get frustrated trying to retrace my steps to where it went off to. It is best to hook and clip everything onto your person, have smaller keepsakes in zippered pockets, and make sure everything is secure.
When hiking out in the field alone, you’ve got to keep your wits about you and make sure all items stay with you at all times.
  • I use a very affordable wired cable release I have had for over three years now. Miraculously, it has survived well over a dozen dips into water when it slipped out of my hands photographing long exposures. While I don’t recommend field-testing your cable release like this (these have all been accidents) I am surprised how resilient and durable this little plastic stick with a button has held up.
This lovely $10 or so cable release is a piece of kit that stays with me at all times. Due to my shaky hands, I use this for water long exposures, landscapes 
and everything in between.
  • A million and a half times I missed amazing shots due to simple operator error. E.g. wrong exposure settings, lens cap was still on, camera wasn’t even turned on or out of my bag, too distracted from reading a magazine/book (NEVER do this!), or plainly just zoning out.
I had this shot lined up perfectly with a vulture soaring right by the moon yet after shooting off a round of images. My settings were all overexposed, leaving results that simply couldn’t be recovered. 
While I still like the image alone, the bird in flight would’ve been icing on the cake!
  • Countless times I accidentally spooked and scared wildlife away. Get as close as you can without disturbing them!
You should never stress wildlife or put them in dangerous situations just for an action-packed photograph. Do your best to learn the signs that they may be distressed and avoid it.
  • In 2016 which was early on in my photography journey, I somehow ended up deleting my entire photo library when resetting my laptop. I never backed it up anywhere, had no recovery software to retrieve it, and was absolutely devastated. It had some of my first images on there from when I started. I frantically visited a few locations where I knew I could recreate them and got it redone, but some were long gone. One was of a very patient toad on my front porch that I wish I still had. This is an important lesson I would argue everyone needs to go through. You’ll understand why it is important to have both local storage backups and cloud storage off-site. Find ways to keep your files in different areas. I have two local hard drives that sync with each other, my website backs all of them up in the cloud, and other social media sites have a few copies of images I’ve uploaded in case all else fails. You can never have too many backups.a
  • The infinite amount of times I have gotten lost before, alone, sometimes without a map/compass or any form of emergency communications and after sunset as well. From now, I carry a compass with me at all times. I usually have a physical map (in case phone battery dies) or a PDF of the map on my phone. I would even recommend that you tell someone of your plans, your start/end times, the location, etc if you’re going alone. Almost all of my trips have been by myself, I simply prefer to work alone. Sometimes you have to get creative and keep your wits about you. I ate snow (the white kind) just to keep myself hydrated once. Have a basic understanding of bushcraft and backpacking/camping skills if you ever find yourself in a true survival situation. Although I’ve never gone in the backcountry (yet) I have ended up in some could-be dangerous scenarios. Be safe when you get out there.

Now, having said all of that, take the list and reread it. Have some humility and chuckle a little. Life doesn’t have to always be so serious.

Then,

Throw it away.

Yes, trash it, toss it, remove it, burn it, whatever you gotta do.

Just let it go.

Forget it all.

Now, the next step.

Starting anew, write a list about all the accomplishments and achievements you have made in your photographic career or whatever your profession is.

Allow me to start…

  • Built a massive portfolio over several years (and counting!) of hundreds of unique images, documenting and experiencing beautiful moments.
  • Tirelessly worked on putting together my first gallery exhibition and had a successful reception night.
  • Hiked countless miles across Southwest Ohio. Exploring tooth and comb what outdoors has to offer in the Buckeye State. To say the least, this state is amazing.
  • Met many amazing people, both on the trails and elsewhere, who have helped out or gave advice. Thank you so much!
  • Found my passion (or maybe it found me) from which I wanna spend the rest of my days living for.
  • Created a website from the ground up and designed to my liking.
  • Putting all my savings on the line to pull off this living, and I can already see the payoffs beginning.
  • Overcame personal hurdles (ex: fear of talking in front of camera) in order to produce video content.
  • Used social media to communicate with other photographers to share advice and questions.
  • My love and appreciation for nature has only grown with time. Caring about something bigger than yourself helps you grow as a person.
  • I’ve learned how self-sufficient and mentally/physically resilient I need to be to work alone.
  • Like mentioned above, lessons learned in how to shove aside setbacks and press on anyways.
  • Enjoying every single second of the process, all of it. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

I’ll stop the self-indulgence right there but you get the idea. The best thing about all of this is the list will evolve and expand with time.

So I’ll leave you with just this phrase..repeat it as a mantra if that helps. Perhaps every morning.

“What you choose to focus on grows.”

Make sure what you do today is something that the ‘future you’ will thank you for. No matter what you choose to do in life, always remember that.

Keep that focus, don’t settle.

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Why Is Photography Important to Me?

November 2017, Indoors Self-Portrait

This question was begging to be answered. I suddenly had a burning desire to know “the why’s” for which I do what I do. Even though I had an idea of why, did I truly know the reason?..

Why does photography matter so much to me?

Why do I even bother waking up before sunrise? Is it worth it to brace whatever weather may come? The dry humid summers, the bitter cold winters and everything in between? Putting it all off and sleeping in is much more attractive.

To be completely honest, my inner-critic talks me out of getting outdoors with the camera: every. single. time. You wage war with yourself just to stay at home once again but until you overcome that hunch, you’re creatively deadlocked and will never further progress as an artist.

I don’t believe I have ever truly regretted going out to photograph. A lot of days start out with me being tired and cranky, but by the end I am still tired, yet fulfilled and satisfied. Big difference for sure.

When life tries to derail you, remember why you started in the first place.

In order to nurture this symbiotic relationship with the art-form and life itself. I sat down for about half an hour and jotted away in my journal. Paper and pen seemed to be the best medium in which to start this journal prompt before being translated to the keyboard and screen. I had to strike a delicate balance between my thoughts racing to “throw up” on the page before my hand could even keep up. Once I started, there was really no stopping..

Four pages later, I had a sufficient enough response. Here it goes.

“Photography is important to me in that it gives me an excuse to get off my behind and explore the outdoors. This hobby seemingly overnight carved a divine and special niche in my psyche to where it is now a lifestyle. No other artistic mediums have quite dug deep enough into my soul as this one has. Through photographs, I am given a second chance to cherish and relive those would-be forgotten memories I have experienced. A new appreciation is gained for how small and insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. Putting ourselves into perspective of which we must be eternally grateful every passing moment from which we breathe.

Photography gives me a voice and a platform of sorts from which to speak and share. Photography gifts me with better vision, both in the spacial/seeing sense as well as the acute mental awareness. The world we inhabit is perfect in its’ imperfections, beautiful as it is ugly. Therein lies the solution: the actual act of pressing the shutter is a combination of numbers and technical know-how. The other side of the coin is the creative inspiration and driving motivation to express your ideas.

Photography seems like it should be work. Don’t get me wrong, this is perhaps the most challenging task I have endured in my entire life. The stress and decisions made everyday want me to throw in the towel. For some reason, photography still feels like play. More than it should, drop me in a natural setting and my eyes widen up like a child in a candy store. How is it that something so mentally-taxing and draining be so creatively and existentially rewarding?

Photography harnesses a possessive undertone between the capture; this is my photograph, my unique vision and ideas poured in and bleeding into fruition. Literally no one else can produce the same image. A dozen other photographers could attempt to capture the same scene and their sets of eyes would automatically see something different. The collective results would be so far removed from one another! If I’m quite honest, there is a sense of ownership and entitlement in that sentiment. This isn’t to say my work is any good or particularly better than anyone else’s. It means that “I created this” from which there is an obligatory responsibility to own up to the artwork produced.

Photography for me is to acquire an intensive thirst to explore and an innate curiosity to learn. To go on an adventure, one does not have to travel far away to realize these desires exist. If you are strong-willed enough, you will make this become your reality. A backyard can quench this thirst with a myriad of photographic subjects. I could spend all my time here and still would have more than a lifetime’s worth of inspiring photos! Think about this: we all have 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year. The only exception being is the different stages of age and life we may be involved with. For me, photography fulfills this existential craving to preserve my memories, to preserve some sort of legacy. Once again, not because I am an idol but rather a legacy to prove my own inner worth. I may very well die with a camera in my hand and would full and well accept that possibility. Regardless of subject, barring any self-imposed genres or labels. At the end of the day, I feel internally invigorated everytime I get to hold a camera, no matter where it may be pointed at.

Photography is an art using mechanical tools. This little box with folding mirrors and prisms somehow becomes an extension of my life. Sometimes you don’t need a reason. No one is forcing me to travel down this path…this path chose me. The ball is in my court, and I took it and ran with it.

Photography showed me the lights and shadows of my existence without me asking for that guidance. In return I will show the camera the best use of what light and shadow is given.”

I could’ve wrote ad infinitum about this topic but there needed to be a finite ending of sorts.

Collage of various images taken over the years. Each one is a different and unique experience I’ve had that amounts to a life well spent..and we’re just getting started.

I would insist that you go on a reality check every once in a while with this question. This has helped “ground” me more and more in what I do. Ask the difficult questions: Are you still having fun? What could I do to improve? What do I not like shooting? Etc.

Listen with both your heart and mind as you click that shutter, and you will certainly never be wrong.

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The Journey Begins

My First “Published” Photo of a Canada Goose, February 2016

Welcome to the beginning post. Enjoy the read.

This will be a sort of long-winded story of my start in photography from the time I was a child to the present. (Early 2019)

From an early age, photography was something that would come and go in my life. It only made sense when connecting all the dots afterwards. I originally aspired to be a fiction writer. I also grew up loving to draw and paint. Simply put, I yearned to create stories and art to express myself and that others can enjoy.

Early Experiment With Water Long Exposure, November 2016

Photography came into my view when I vividly remember being told by my elementary art teacher Mrs. Cooper that everyone in the class should take photography class in high school. She mentioned that it was fun and worthwhile. I didn’t give it much thought until years later.

In junior high I was given a disposable camera from my parents to take pictures of a zoo I visited on a field trip. I can’t tell you what the pictures ended up as because the roll of film sat in that plastic camera body for over eight years and was ruined when I foolishly opened it, overexposing the entire roll. I doubt they were any good but this was an important step in my journey. Photographing animals seemed to be a lot of fun!

White Tailed Deer, November 2016

My photographic interest heightened ever more due to a video game system. 2009 rolls around and I am gifted a Nintendo DSi for Christmas that year. For anyone who doesn’t know video game handhelds, this was the first Nintendo DS with a built-in camera. Equipped with a whopping several megapixels, let me just say I probably spent more time taking pictures and using the goofy special effects than actually playing any games! Over the top editing expanded my creativity and augmented reality photos in real time took up my time. The next couple years I used this little device to nurture my early composition techniques. Finally the photographer in me was being birthed. 

Now a sophomore in high school, I recall the early exposure of being told of photography classes. Enrolling in two semesters, the first being with film and the second with digital. I was completely enamored to say the least. It was fun and engaging, all the more with a supportive teacher. I still have computer scans of my first assignments using film. These proof sheets show some rather blurry captures, some over or underexposed, and a select few sharp and in focus. The second had us working with landscapes, so my mother drove me to what I later know was Siebenthaler Fen not too far from my house. This early exposure to nature once again tapped me interest and abilities. During that first semester with film, working a traditional darkroom however was not coming easy to me. Plus the smell of fixer I can never forget!

Rock / Water Reflections, September 2016

Anyways, I later quickly picked up digital photography with ease. Using a loaner Nikon DSLR for much of the digital assignments, my first time using a real expensive camera. The colors, the instant feedback of checking my progress. My ideas were set free and flourished. Most of my work at the time was still objects and pictures of my mother and I, not so much of nature although I did experiment with that. This is the time period where I learned how to take self-timer portraits, created a photo series, and wandered my backyard and town in search of imagery. Using a copy of Adobe Photoshop Premiere Elements at school, I sought for a lot of wacky and over the top effects that would not go over too well in contests. But I didn’t care, this for me was as good as art can get. Capturing an image and using post processing, the process was neat. The cutting mats, the paper trimmer, choosing mats as well. Where drawing and painting was too slow for me, photography became my field of choice. It felt as though I had a sore throat my entire life and now I began to have a voice. Digital photography was the medicine I needed!

Now, I first began diving deep into the art of photography at the end of 2013. I was gifted a Canon Rebel T3 bundled with a Canon 18-55mm kit lens from my parents. Moving hastily around the house taking pictures of every still object, the dog, with my first photo taken with it being me in the mirror. After exhausting all indoor opportunities. I became very eager to get outside in the freezing cold and explore the local park a few minutes from my house. This was before I had a drivers license, so I made my way via bicycle. Both fun and carefree, it didn’t matter how cold I was. This single trip was a photographic bonanza for me.

Graduating high school in 2015 left me directionless and confused as to what I should do with my life. The multitude of options froze my decision-making that I ended up taking a year off to hopefully “find myself.” This was obviously not an overnight endeavor. 2016 seemed to be the catalyst for everything I had known to that point. All the pieces fell into place when I made a little spot in the local newspaper with a simple Canada Goose portrait. This was also the year where one of my best friends and I went to John Bryan State Park for a day where I was floored by the enormity of the park and what was possible. That Autumn I made a conscious decision to enroll in online photography classes with the New York Institute of Photography.

Excited About First Visit to John Bryan State Park, September 2016

The year 2017 was when things started to look up for me. That same best friend and I drove up to a place called the Narrows Reserve for a day where my skills were further enlivened. I finally got my drivers license that year and out of excitement explored tooth-and-comb every nature location around my county and eventually beyond. I managed to graduate from NYIP in a year The two classes I enrolled in really took me to where I am today. I will soon have a separate blog post detailing my experiences with the school.

February 2017, Photo Taken by Aaron Jinks

I set a goal for 2018 to be the year I took this passion seriously and fortunately it paid off. This was certainly been the hardest working year so far, with each one subsequently becoming more and more.

April 2018

You can clearly see that in three years, my gear and clothing reflected my passion and drive to pursue photography head-on. 2016-2018 were what I now consider my “baby years” where I developed the skills and experience necessary to achieve great imagery. So far 2019 is looking to be my first big break in the local public and beyond.

To this day I am ever more grateful of all the people I have met along the way during my career. The most exciting thing for me is watching my skills increase and style mature with time. In a couple years it already has! Personally for me, the journeys and experiences when taking the images are equally as imperative as the final photo itself.

Birding, November 2018

Looking onward, I wonder what is next?

“To create photography is to draw with the light, so I guess that makes me a light drawer?”

– Me

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