Category Archives: Photography

My Personal Top 10 Instagram Photos of 2012

My nine best on Instagram from 2012.

My nine best on Instagram from 2012.

Another year has gone by. I’ve been through some fairly major life changes. New city. New job. New friends. New experiences.

Instagram has gone through some major changes as well. The photo-sharing app with vintage filters opened its doors to Android users and a few days later was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion in early April. A few Instagram users freaked out about the availability on the Android Market and even more freaked out after the news of Facebook’s purchase. Of course, this did nothing to slow its growth. In fact, during this 10 day period, the app saw explosive growth and ended up adding another 10 million users–1 million new users a day.

Then Instagram changed its privacy policy and people freaked out again–this time with the idea that Facebook was going to start selling users’ photos. This would all come to a close soon enough after Instagram apologized to its users and vowed to remove language that suggests they have the right to sell users’ photos. Oh, and a new version with a new filter was recently launched. Nice timing.

Now that you’re all caught up on the latest happenings of Instagram; let’s take a look at some of my personal top photos. For the second consecutive year, I have combed through my hundreds of photos and picked my top 10 of the year. I posted a good number of images shot with my Nikon D90, but this list is comprised of only photos shot and edited with my iPhone. You can take a look back at my top 10 photos of 2011 to see I have continued to grow as a photographer and get more creative with my shots. To view all my best photos from 2012, follow my on Instagram (@eric_wheeler) and view my hashtag #wheelers_best_of_2012. Take a look at my top 10 and let me know what you think!

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Instacanvas: An Easy way for Instagram Users to Sell Their Work

Click to view my Instacanvas gallery.

Click the image above to view my Instacanvas gallery.

If you’re an Instagramer you have probably heard of Instacanvas by now. Interestingly though, Instacanvas has received little media attention thus far. Some of the larger tech and social media news sites I generally turn to have yet to crank out a feature story on the new start-up. That is rather surprising considering the site is generating 1.2 million unique monthly visitors and supplying around 20,000 artists with galleries to showcase their work and hopefully earn some passive income.

The concept behind Instacanvas is simple, but I’ll turn to the Instacanvas website to describe its offerings:

With Instacanv.as, Instagrammers can signup to sell their art and then people looking for something cool for their walls can buy that art printed on stretched canvas. We’ll print it, ship it, and tell you that you’re the best too.

I first discovered Instacanvas while scrolling through my home feed on Instagram and was pretty excited about the opportunity to showcase my work and hopefully sell a few items. I’ve been asked by a few people now if I sell my work. The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is a little more complicated. Printing, shipping and collecting money for my work can be quite difficult and time consuming (though, selling my work in person is a rather simple transaction). Instacanvas will hopefully solve some of these issues the next time someone asks to buy one of my Instagram photos.

Instacanvas appears to be open to everyone now, but in its early beta days (a few weeks ago), only users who were in the greatest demand were granted a gallery. This is undoubtedly where much of the early success of Instacanvas stems from. Using the power of Instagram’s 50 million users to promote a website is a sure way to gain some early attention. When I first heard of Instacanvas, I immediately started asking people to help me open my gallery via Facebook, Twitter and, of course, Instagram. I got the support I needed and about a week later, my gallery was open.

I have yet to see a physical canvas print, but the Instacanvas website claims they have developed proprietary image resizing technology that enables them to make beautiful canvas prints, up to 20 x 20 inches from Instagram photos. Of course, I would be absolutely delighted if I sold a few pieces, but I might even buy a print or two for myself or as gifts. The price is reasonable and I’m curious to see how my Instagram shots would look on 20 x 20 canvas–I have never printed Instagram photos larger than 5 x 5 inches. Maybe you’ll be the first to see my Instagram photos on stretched canvas?

Please click here to view my Instacanvas gallery.


Leading up to my First Solo Photography Exhibit

Art show invitation for "Visions of Minnesota," a photography exhibit by Eric D Wheeler.

"Visions of Minnesota" takes place Jan. 27 from 4-8 p.m.

Tomorrow (Jan. 27 from 4-8 p.m.), I will present “Visions of Minnesota” at Iris Vision Care–my first solo photography exhibit. “Visions of Minnesota” will mainly feature black and white photographs from around Minnesota and will also have a few color images. I have also been experimenting with photography on my iPhone (or iPhoneography as some may call it).

For the past 45 days, I have stepped out of my apartment to snap a picture using my iPhone 4 of a road leading down to the Mississippi River here in St. Cloud, Minn. The road was recently put in along with a new park and is enclosed on both sides with tall trees. The project started after going on a photo walk one exceptionally foggy morning and has continued since. Besides the natural beauty of looking downhill on a road engulfed in ominous trees, the project has gained traction as I have pushed both my curiosity and creativity through the use of iPhone photo applications. Each photo is snapped from the same position and, although I use many different iPhone apps to create various effects in post-edit, each image ends up on Instagram and can be viewed by searching the hashtag #wheelers_road.

wheelers_road is an example of iPhoneography.

The first 16 days of my photo-a-day project utilizing multiple iPhone apps to capture a tree covered road.

The bulk of my show, however, takes a largely traditional approach to photography and includes many black and white landscapes and a few landmarks from central Minnesota, the Iron Range and Duluth. I will have a few color photographs on display including images from depicting nature and landscapes. The event is free and open to the public and all pieces are available for purchase.

I should probably fully disclose that this is technically a public relations event for Iris Vision Care. My girlfriend, Dr. Sally Jackula is the owner and I have been doing some light PR, photography and social media marketing for her for the past year or so. The main motive for holding the event at her office is to build awareness, get foot traffic and hopefully help her gain a few new clients. That being said, I am very much excited about showing off my work for the first time without any public backing or organizational support such as being part of an art crawl or photography contest.

The Androy Hotel in Hibbing, Minnesota.

This photo of the Androy Hotel in Hibbing, Minn. will be one of my larger framed photos for sale.

From a public relations perspective this has definitely been a success so far. One of my photos taken at Quarry Park last year is currently featured on the cover of Minnesota Moments magazine, which hit newsstands earlier this month. I ordered 100 postcard-size invitations to hand  out (pictured above). I secured an interview with an arts reporter who ended up writing a story, which ran in the Jan. 19 edition of Up Next. I submitted my event to several area events websites including the sctimes.com, kvsc.org and aroundthecloud.org and even got a live-read community service announcement on KVSC-FM.

Of course, I put forth the standard social media effort as well–creating a Facebook event and cross-promoting on my photography page, personal page and on the Iris Vision Care page. I spread the news using Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn as well. I even changed my cover photo on Facebook. To top it all off, Ryan Ott featured my photography exhibit in his “Five things to do in Minnesota” for this weekend on iammnnice.com. That was a bonus I didn’t even see coming. Thanks, Ryan!

With that, I hope to see you at Iris Vision Care to check out my work as a budding photographer. Please help me spread the word during these final hours leading up to the event by sharing this post. Thanks!


My Personal Top 10 Instagram Photos of 2011

This has turned out to be my most popular photo on Instagram.

By now I am sure you have all read plenty of top 10 lists and ‘best of 2011′ countdowns. I promise you, however, I am not just sticking with the trend on this one. I could write a typical list of the year’s biggest stories in PR or social media, but I want to write about something that has truly changed me for the better.

When I joined Instagram a little over a year ago, I mostly used it to capture some of the little moments in my life–attending a concert, ogling over a sandwich I just made or posting a snapshot with friends. I mostly just snapped a quick picture and applied one the awesome filters from Instagram–without giving it much thought.

As the months carried on, I started participating in the many photo challenges and playing a more active role in the vast Instagram community (now with more than 15 million users). Soon my creativity started to blossom and I began using many extra photo apps to edit my photos. I began pushing myself to take photos from new angles and to bring about extra meaning to my images.

Throughout the past year I have grown as a photographer. While I still maintain a rather traditional approach when I have my Nikon D90 in-hand I do feel the creative power of Instagram and “iPhoneography” has brought me to a level beyond novice photographer. Shooting a wedding, doing outdoor portraits and low-lit concerts have helped refine my skills as a photographer and they have definitely helped me gain a better understanding of my equipment. However, Instagram has opened up my imagination and allow me to be more accepting of the editing process as a whole. After all, photography in its most premitive form does entail a certain amount of manipulation. Rarely (if ever) will a photograph appear exactly as it would in real life. Even if you are the perfect photographer who can almost always get that near-lifelike image; photography is an art form and should be treated as such.

The photos below represent my personal top 10 from the past year with my most popular photo at the top of this post. If you’re on Instagram, please follow me: @eric_wheeler. You can also view my full list of top photos of 2011 by searching the hashtag #wheelers_best_of_2011.

I should note all the photos above were taken and edited with only my iPhone. I had a few worthy shots from my Nikon D90, but wanted to only post photos from my iPhone. Probably my most notable non-iPhone photo I took involved using my Nikon D90 and a tripod during a July Fourth fireworks display in St. Cloud, Minn. Cheers to another year of Instagram!


My Arsenal of Photography Apps for the iPhone

My iPhone 4 not only takes great photos, there are also lots of great photography apps.

My iPhone 4 not only takes great photos, there are also lots of great photography apps.

When I decided to buy an iPhone 4 a little less than a year ago, I was mostly excited about being able to update social sites from my phone, check email and keep my life better organized. Little did I know … the iPhone 4’s camera turned out to be my favorite aspect. That does make sense considering I’m a photographer. However, I really did not think I would be using my iPhone as much as I do to snap artistic, high-quality photos.

The mobility of the iPhone (it is always with me) and the high quality images produced makes it the perfect everyday camera. The Apple iPhone 4 has unparalleled specifications including five megapixel images, optional HDR, tap to focus and a 2.8 F-stop. Add in thousands of photo apps available in the iTunes market, and the iPhone is hard to beat. Listed here are my 13 photography apps I keep on my iPhone:

  1. Instagram is a must for photographers or anyone with creative intuition. This five-star rated app creates a social experience based around the application of a variety of filters to photos taken in the app itself or from photos in your iPhone’s photo library. Added bonuses include tilt-shift generation, ability to tag your photos and share your creations on several social media sites and email. 100 million users can’t be wrong. Read my full Instagram app review herePrice: free.
  2. Adobe Photoshop Express (PS Express) allows basic edits to photos such as contrast, exposure, saturation and tint. There are also a few basic filters, effects and borders you can apply. I have the free version and is all I need for quick edits. The $4.99 upgrade might be worth it if you do not plan on purchasing any additional photo apps. Price: free.
  3. MagicShutter is a great concept, but not very intuitive. The idea is for the app to turn your iPhone into more of an actual SLR camera by being able to control exposure lengths. I have definitely made some cool photos with this app, but every time I use it, I have to re-teach myself. Still fun though. Price: $2.99.
  4. TiltShiftGen is another favorite photo app of mine. If you are familiar of tilt-shift photography then you will love this app. When I first got into tilt-shift photography, I was using a long, complicated post editing process in Photoshop and it was hard to get the effect just right. This fantastic app does all the work for you and has the necessary saturation, brightness, contrast and vignetting features to get exactly the effect you want. Price: $0.99.
  5. SnapShot Postcard is another great concept and one I wish I had when I was traveling through Europe–finding postcards, correct postage and a place to actually mail them while traveling can be a pain. This app does all that for you. The best part? You get one free postcard with your download. Price: free.
  6. PostalPix is a similar concept; only instead of sending postcards, it simply allows you to order prints directly from you phone. Prints start at 29¢ and offers some miscellaneous products such as metal prints and mouse pads. Price: free.
  7. Tiny Planet Photos is a novelty app that is really only fun a few times. It turns your photos into a … you guessed it, a “tiny planet.” You have to have the right style of photo for it to work right. Here’s my best photo, with the “early bird” filter applied using Instagram. Price: free.
  8. 360 Panorama is another app that has a great concept, but is a little difficult to get good results. The app creates a full 360 degree panorama in real-time. You just hold the phone out and hit record. Kind of fun, but I think I wasted my money on this one. Price: $1.99.
  9. AutoStitch is similar to 360 Panorama, but it does not capture the image in real time. Instead, the users takes several photos and then lets the app stitch them together automatically. This is definitely a cool app and very easy to use. Price: $1.99.
  10. Halftone is another novelty app for bringing a little life to your pictures. The app provides several comic book-like filters and the ability to add captions and thought bubbles to photos. Definitely a fun app. Price: $0.99.
  11. Photosynth is another real-time panoramic photo app developed by Microsoft. It has a five-star rating, but I find it a little difficult to use. The most recent upgrade allows users to submit photos to Bing maps. Try it out for yourself. Price: free.
  12. Postagram is an awesome app similar to SnapShot Postcard. What sets this app apart is the ability to choose photos from your phone, Facebook or Instagram. Additionally, you can add a personal message, save addresses and the photo pops out of the card! Also, an online version of the card is saved as well and the recipient can easily post it on Facebook or thank the sender. If you have Instagram, this is a must have. I send Postagrams as thank you notes all the time. Price: free. *Bonus – follow this link and you and I will both get a credit to send a free card: http://sincerely.com/u/2oo4s6.
  13. WordFoto is a really cool app that acts as a word cloud for photos. Take any photo, add some text and the image automatically converts to words. Sort of a hard concept to explain, so look at some images created here. Price: $1.99.

Approaching Lawrence Hall at St. Cloud State University

Lawrence Hall at St. Cloud State University

Lawrence Hall at St. Cloud State University

I know I know, it’s not even fall yet and I’m posting a photo from the dead of winter. However, I saw a photo of Lawrence Hall on the St. Cloud State University Facebook page in the summertime and I wanted to share this photo I took in February of 2009. The photo at the Facebook page is a completely different angle and the trees are green instead of leafless and covered in snow. However, seeing the photo stirred all kinds of emotions and memories related to a building I walked by everyday, but never set foot inside.

For two years, I walked from the Acacia House, crossed campus and approached this beautiful building. One of my favorite moments each day was walking under the trees and looking up as the tree limbs revealed the white bell tower perched atop the oldest building on campus. Many may complain about the lack of architectural continuity on campus (myself included), but St. Cloud State definitely has a few buildings I appreciate for different reasons and I couldn’t be more lucky than to passby Lawrence Hall on my way to KVSC.


Busy Photographer: Shooting Indoor Concerts

Shooting an indoor concert can be difficult. Read on to hear what I have  learned.

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I completely forgot to mention in my previous post that I also shot a concert the same weekend as my first art show. I wanted to mention what it’s like to photograph a live concert. In a nut shell, it is no easy task, but you can usually get some really great shots.

I have photographed several concerts for KVSC-FM now and I always have an enjoyable time. Whether I feel like I’m getting good shots or not, I usually have a low-stress experience because I get to enjoy a concert from right up front or even backstage. As much as I enjoy listening to live music and capturing the performers as they put their heart and soul into their music, shooting an indoor concert is a very difficult gig. Light changes, people/instruments in the way and energetic performers can all contribute to making making it a difficult experience. Below is a list of what to expect when shooting an indoor concert and how to deal with some of the situations.

  1. The light will usually look totally awesome, but it will also be very dark. Thankfully, this is not too much of a problem because most concerts put a spot light or at least more light on the main performers. However, when shooting a concert with no spot light, you might need to give in and boost up your ISO to 1,000 or higher. Shooting in aperture priority may also help in this situation. Basically, the rule with low-lit concerts is to just play around with the settings on your camera. Boosting ISO is a must, but choosing the correct aperture and speed can be difficult because the lights will change quite frequently. I do not recommend shooting with a tripod because of the difficulty in setting it up and making adjustments. Instead, investing in a monopod might be the way to go. I recommend Manfrotto monopods and Bogen heads.
  2. No two concert venues are the same. This really just adds to the excitement in my opinion. The joy of shooting in a new environment and experience the subtle differences across various venues is a lot of fun. The problem however, is you never know what the setup might be like. For example: Will there be a gap between the front row and stage? Will there be seating at all? How high is the stage? Is there a balcony? Each of these differences can usually be overcome by doing what any well-prepared photographer might do: Scout the location before you go. I failed to do this before the last concert I shot and was not allowed backstage. Nazi ushers!
  3. As if the low-light situation is not bad enough, most performers are constantly moving around on stage and making it that much more difficult to get sharp pictures. Again, just have fun and experiment with different settings. Sometimes, you might even get lucky and have an ‘accidental’ shot turn out to be one of your best.
  4. Capturing the right moments can be difficult. Other than having a set list, most small concerts are not really scripted. No need to worry though, just listen to the music, watch the performer’s expressions and be patient. Just let the shots come. In the world of digital photography, you can take as many photos as you want–no more worrying about the high cost of film.
I always have fun shooting performers, whether street performers, concerts or athletes, it is always slightly unpredictable and will have some challenging aspect. Just have fun and use your creativity–get low, watch the background, embrace obstructions–anything that will make someone who wasn’t there really feel like they missed out on something special.

Busy Photographer: Wedding, Art Show & New Online Store

My photos setup at my first art show--the St. Cloud Art Crawl.

The past couple weeks have been rather frustrating as a job seeker, but with my recent developments as a photographer, spirits remain high. Recently, I shot my first wedding with a friend, held my first art show in the St. Cloud Art Crawl and finally opened my Etsy shop so I can sell prints online.

As nervous as I was about shooting my first wedding, it turned out quite well and I couldn’t be happier with the results. With compliments from the bride and mother of the groom, I would call the day a success. Please read more about my experience in my previous post.

I might also call my first art show a success. I was asked via Twitter by Kathrine McDowell to participate alongside her at the Le St. Germain Hotel in the St. Cloud Art Crawl a couple weeks before the event. Of course, this meant I needed to purchase prints, mattes, frames and whole lot more to make it happen.

My prints arrived the day before the Art Crawl and I still needed to purchase mattes. It always seems to be the little things that I forget with these hurried events. The day of, I ran out of tape, I realized I was missing some 5×7 prints from my online order, I forgot to print business cards/brochures and I had to get change an hour before the event started.

Although I started setting up about 30 minutes later than planned, I was ready to go as the first ‘art crawlers’ started to come in. With black and white photos elegantly displayed in black frames and white mattes, my art looked great propped up against a white table cloth.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy, black and white photograph. Copyright Eric Wheeler, 2009.

The Colosseum in Rome. Copyright Eric Wheeler, 2009.

As expected, the night was fairly slow and I only sold a few 4×6 matted prints and one small framed black and white of one of my all-time favorite photos. It was nice talking to people as they came in and telling them about how I got some of the shots. As the night began to wind down, I was pleased with how everything went and satisfied I had sold a few items. Then, as I was packing up, a man came over and was really excited as he looked at my large framed photo of The Colosseum in Rome. He told me he wanted to buy it but needed to get some cash from an ATM first. I excitedly told him I would wait for him and when he returned, I handed over my first large framed print–for $100. How exciting to know a 16×20 photo of mine is hanging in someone’s home!

Now with many of my favorite prints through the years already matted, I have taken the next step and opened my own online shop on Etsy. Since I first saw an old friend open her Etsy shop, which eventually turned into a brick-and-mortar store in Enid, Okla., I have wanted to do the same. Well, that is now a reality. Now when someone on my Facebook page tells me they want to buy a print or they would “hang that on their wall,” I can direct them to etsy.com/shop/photographybywheeler. I have not sold anything yet, but I do have 10 matted prints up for sale. Please check out my Etsy shop and if you see something you like, buy it! Or at the very least, help me spread the word.


From Novice Photographer to Wedding Photographer

 

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I have always had an eye for photography. Since as long as I can remember I have usually carried a camera around with me–often just a point-and-shoot or cell phone camera, but a camera nonetheless. Since my purchase of a Nikon D90 in April of 2009, I have really started to focus more on developing my photography skills.

In the past year or so I started to feel I have the skills to take my passion to the next level. I launched “Photography by Wheeler” on Facebook and got the support from friends and family and eventually started getting offers to do grad announcement shoots, which I gladly did free of charge. However, once I started getting requests for weddings, I was a little hesitant.

What if the shots don’t turn out? What if my memory card fails? What if my batteries die? There are countless ‘what if’ scenarios when it comes to wedding photography. I had basically given up on actively searching for my first client for fear of failure. Fortunately, I have a wonderful girlfriend who didn’t count me out.

When a patient came in to her office and asked if she knew of a wedding photographer, my name came up. I jumped at the chance and everything was basically settled over the phone. Then the nerves kicked in. I decided to call up a good friend, Mike Doyle to hire as my ‘assistant.’ I use single quotes around his title, because he turned out to be more of a ‘rock star photographer colleague’ than merely an assistant. I also ended up purchasing two additional lenses and a second camera (all Nikon of course). This made a huge difference and definitely helped me to get all the shots I wanted.

Though Mike and I have plenty of horror stories about our first time shooting a wedding, we turned out some fantastic photos and are looking to team-up and do more weddings in the future. As Mike said in his blog post, “Doyle & Wheeler Photography” is officially open for business (or should it be “Wheeler & Doyle?” I’m kidding).


The Perfect Minnesota Snow

Photo of a dock at Quarry Park and Nature Preserve.

Photo of a dock at Quarry Park and Nature Preserve. Shot & edited with Instagram.

 

I waited two long winters in St. Cloud, Minn. for picture-perfect snow to blanket my surroundings so I could trek the outdoors and capture the ideal winter wonderland through the lens. Though I think fresh snow is beautiful no matter when or where it comes, the temperatures in Minnesota are often too cold to get that perfectly fluffy snow that peacefully falls from the sky to rest on tree branches. Besides wind often making it impossible to stay on trees, the bitter cold known to permeate Central Minnesota in the winter usually makes the thought of spending a couple hours outside snapping photos a bit undesirable.

Alas, my winter dream came true this spring. Yes, spring. The perfect snow I was waiting for finally fell on April 20, 2011. The lakes in Central Minnesota had thawed out only days before and the snow that seemed to stay on the ground forever had finally melted away. When I woke up early in the morning and looked outside, I was excited to see such a perfect opportunity to capture the beauty of Minnesota. I had been to Quarry Park and Nature Preserve a couple of times before and figured it would be a great place to take in the spring surprise.

Thinking I would just hop out of my car and snap a few pictures before getting to my morning workout, I packed my camera and gym bag and headed out. Little did I know, I would spend the next hour and a half exploring the trails and capturing images of white trees reflected off still water, rocks climbing out of wintery surroundings and winding trails. I ended up snapping over a hundred photographs. The photos below are my favorites. Though the light was not necessarily ideal, I think they turned out nicely and no manipulations or adjustments were made. Shot with a Nikon D90. Enjoy!

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Photos from Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in Waite Park, Minn. taken April 20, 2011.
 

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