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!

Starting an Internship: What I Learned in a Long Job Hunt

Kohnstamm Communications Welcomes Eric Wheeler.
A fine welcome indeed. I had never seen my name on a sign before!

Tuesday, Feb. 21, marks the first day of my internship at Kohnstamm Communications in St. Paul, Minn. Yes, the long job search is finally over–at least for a few months.

I learned a lot during my 9+ month job search. I did the typical resume blast using job search sites such as CareerBuilder and Monster, I applied to jobs I found on LinkedIn and Twitter and I did my best to promote myself in the online world. In the end though, it came down to who I know.

Though I landed many phone calls and on-site interviews through the strategy mentioned above–even having employers reach out to me because of my blog or online presence–it was a former teacher who got me the initial contact.

It is definitely nice to know a former teacher believes in me and wants to see me succeed. I had Lisa Heinrich as a professor in both Advanced PR and Media Ethics at St. Cloud State University as I was working on my masters degree in PR & Advertising. One of my favorite professors for her ability to weave in her own professional experiences in lively class discussions, Lisa continued to stay in touch with me after graduation. She would occasionally send me job postings she thought might be a good fit.

My opportunity came when she informed me another former student of hers was looking to hire someone with a little social media experience. I sent an email to Katie Heinze at Kohnstamm that same day and a couple months later I was in St. Paul for an interview.

Though I was not particularly looking for an internship in my job search I felt this was an opportunity worth pursuing for a couple reasons. The position being full time and paid was definitely nice, but I also want to work at a PR agency and this should be a nice foot in the door. I currently do not have any public relations experience in an agency setting so this will hopefully open up new opportunities.

I knew as soon as I walked through the door at Kohnstamm that it was the right place for me. After being greeted by Gail at the front desk, my eyes were drawn to the large sign welcoming me to the “2010 Boutique Agency of the Year.” I had never really seen my name featured on a sign before so I snapped a picture and tweeted about it later that night.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I accepted the position. It may be surprising I haven’t been tweeting about it and posting the news on Facebook, but wanted to make sure my family knew about my new adventure and to make sure I found a place to live in St. Paul. I have made the appropriate phone calls and have found a nice house with a couple roommates (thank you CraigsList) in Midway just a 10-minute drive from the downtown office.

Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and for thinking of me when coming across opportunities. Please continue to keep me in your thoughts. My four to six-month internship will be over before I know it and I will continue to be on the lookout for my next opportunity.

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!

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.

Do Something Profound: Attend Grad School

In full academic regalia...
In full Master of Science academic regalia...

This past weekend saw the close of yet another chapter in my life: I have completed graduate school. Yes, I am now the proud recipient of a Master of Science degree with emphasis in PR & Advertising from St. Cloud State University. It was not long ago when I walked across stage at Northwestern Oklahoma State University after completing a bachelor’s degree in the same field.

As an undergrad, I had little desire to pursue post-graduate education and only got the notion shortly before graduating in December 2007. However, I remember hearing inspiring words a few months prior from the (then) president of the Oklahoma Student Government Association that I just never shook out of my mind. While attending an OSGA conference, several of us were talking about our plans after graduation when John Stephen Bobb-Semple looked at me and said “Eric, why don’t you do something profound and attend graduate school?” I’m not sure how profound it is to attend graduate school, but his words did play a huge role in my decision to pursue a higher degree.

The story of how I got to Minnesota is a little longer and I have had many ask me how I got here and why I chose St. Cloud State University. Allow me to expand. During my final semester at NWOSU, I had a wonderful girlfriend and a job at a radio station that I thought would keep me in Northwest Oklahoma for a long time, and I was happy about that. However, once that relationship ended and I decided the radio station I was working at was not the best place for me, things changed.

St. Cloud State University logo
The great mass communications program and an assistantship made St. Cloud State hard to turn down.

As I was turning in my senior portfolio, I noticed a poster on the wall for a SCSU’s Master of Science in Mass Communications program. Triggering John’s words of wisdom, I became curious and tore off the reply card and mailed in my info. At this point I was already set to begin working for Acacia Fraternity headquarters in Indianapolis and thought it would be a great opportuinity to study for the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) and hopefully check out a few programs while traveling around North America as a leadership consultant. As it would turn out, I had the opportunity to visit St. Cloud State in the fall of 2008 and found the campus to be rather quaint and the mass communications department quite impressive. I applied.

I ended up applying to several other schools, but it all came down money. Though it would have been great to attend grad school in Hawaii, spending $50,000 a year to make it happen wasn’t really feasible. Indeed, it came down to SCSU, and a couple affordable schools in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Choosing SCSU, however, was contingent upon obtaining a graduate assistantship. After applying for several positions, I had no such luck. In May of 2009, I would embark on my lifetime dream of traveling through Europe by myself with no idea what the future had in store when I returned. I would most likely wind up at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. as it was the most affordable, quality program I could find close to home.

KVSC 88.1FM St Cloud, MN
I learned a lot through my assistantship at KVSC.

I was stranded in Munich after losing my passport and rail pass when I finally secured a position at KVSC-FM, the campus radio station at SCSU. Apparently Loren Boone, director of university communications liked me enough during my interview for a position in his department that he thought of me when Station Manager Jo McMullen was still looking for someone at KVSC. In the end, it all worked out and my position as Director of PR & Social Media at KVSC has proved to be the most valuable experience I could possibly ask for.  I have learned so much at KVSC and in the classroom, I’m not even sure where to begin. That’s really what I wanted this blog to be about, but I couldn’t seem to sort through all the knowledge learned. I hope this story gives you inspiration as you look to further your education or your career. For me, it all comes down to one mantra: Do something profound.

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.
 

Tour of Target Field–Home of the Minnesota Twins

View from the press box at Target Field
View from the press box at Target Field.

I had the privilege of taking a guided tour of Target Field yesterday in Minneapolis. This was my second visit to the new home of the Minnesota Twins and I could not be any more impressed with everything the stadium and the Twins organization has to offer. The tour was organized by members of PRSSA-St. Cloud State Chapter and was given by Chris Isles, corporate communications manager for the Twins.

The tour was amazing. Chris showed us around the entire stadium — telling plenty of interesting team facts and notes on the construction of the stadium along the way. Seeing some of the suites and season ticket holder areas was definitely impressive. The highlight of the tour was walking through the team clubhouse and stepping outside to view the snow-covered stadium at field level. We even took a look at the dugout before heading to the media room to learn about Chris and his role with the Twins. Kevin Smith, executive director of public affairs for the Twins, also joined us to share his stories and career highlights.

As much as I enjoyed the tour of America’s greatest modern ballpark, the Q&A session with Chris and Kevin was the main feature of our trip to Target Field. As with most PR professionals, Kevin and Chris both had very interesting stories on how they ended up getting to where they are today. The amount of work put in while working for a Major League Baseball team is unsurmountable — Chris mentioned writing about 10 news releases a year while working in health care compared to writing over 100 with the Twins. Chris also manages all social media efforts for the Twins as well as the many other odds and ends communications pros are known to handle.

I am not really much of a sports buff, but I have always wanted to work for a Major League Baseball team. I’ve been to home games for eight teams in 10 different stadiums now and every time go I get excited about the thought of what it would be like to work in that type of atmosphere and actually being a part of a team. Kevin had several stories about the little things he does as a public affairs executive that really showcased why he loves his job.

One example of going above the call of duty was when he was alerted of a little girl in attendance at a game who had just lost her father to cancer a few days prior. Sitting there with her uncle and mother, the family was looking rather solemn. Without hesitation, Kevin got a gift bag and a ball signed by Michael Cuddyer and headed to their seats. He presented them with the gift bag and told the girl that Michael Cuddyer wanted her to have the ball and let them know they were in good hands. He could see their solemn faces turn to tears joy and he quickly got out of there before he broke down too. Listening to Kevin tell this story, I could really feel how much he cares about and enjoys his job. I can only hope to find a place in the world that will give me the opportunity to touch someone’s life as Kevin has.