commitment. by John Benitez

5D3 + Sigma 35 f / 1.4

5D3 + Sigma 35 f / 1.4

Wow. It has been quite a while since I have since posted. Blogs are hard to maintain, but I'm doing my best!

So as you can see from the image above, I got my first tattoo. I got it in late November as an early Christmas present. For those wondering, the design is an "aperture". This is what the blades inside of a lens looks like prior to taking a photo. Some people think it's from the Portal video game series (Aperture Laboratories). I've never played that game, but a lot of the compliments I get are based off of the game. It's pretty nerdy but I love it. By having this on me, it solidifies my commitment to this craft, and what it means to me. Something tells me that this is not my last piece of art.  

This tattoo was about 3 years in the making. I first got the inspiration when I was photographing an event in Chicago. There was a temporary tattoo booth at the event and they had all sorts of cool designs to choose from. I was instantly drawn to the aperture design they had, and I had them put it on in the exact place where my piece is now. The temp tattoo lasted for about 2 weeks and it finally came off in the shower. I was actually pretty bummed that it wore off, and looking back, it was this experience that shaped my thought process for possibly getting one. But life got in the way and it was shelved.

For a long time, I was opposed to the idea of getting a tattoo. I felt like it was a huge mistake and giving into the peer pressure of trying to be cool, or fit in with a certain crowd. Plus, what business does a 37yr old have getting a tattoo? Mid-life crisis? Refusal to grow old? As if the window of getting a tattoo had past for me. I just didn't want to be 70 years old and having a piece that made sense at the time, now is one saggy mess. 

As the years progressed, I began to warm up to the idea. I started looking around for some ideas, and the aperture idea kept returning. If I was to get one, I wanted the piece to represent me and be something that I would be proud to show off, and this design was the perfect combination of these ideas. It's simple, yet meaningful. As I progress in age, the simple design will remain relevant and not look like some deformed mess. It's also a reminder of my love for photography. Whenever I get frustrated about what I do, I just look at it and it helps refocus me on why I shoot, and that I'm committed to the craft, in every aspect. It's my path and my love. And I am thankful to be apart of it.

My tattoo artist, Keith, is a great guy and man of adventure. We clicked instantly and he will be my main artist. Up next, I want to get something that compliments the aperture in design, but the subject will be about my kids. I'm itching to get back in the chair and feel that burn. To show my kids that I am committed to them and that I love them more than anything else in this world (including photography). I've got an idea for it but, you'll just have to wait and see! It's going to be a great ride.

happy new year. by John Benitez

Happy New Year everyone! It has been a while since my last post and quite a few things have since we have last spoken. Christmas has come and gone, the New Year came and went, and now we have a new President (eek!). A lot of my friends were so happy to see 2016 go, and in some ways I was too. 2017 looks like it's off to a shaky start, but once this year gets to its cruising altitude, I am hopeful for clear skies and minimal turbulence. I don't really know why I'm comparing 2017 to an airplane, but it kinda fits, at least in my mind it does. Oh well, end paragraph!

So in keeping with this "new year, new me" thing, I have have decided to freshen things up in life. I have lost some weight, changed up the diet some, and I'm feeling good about that. I also decided it was time to freshen up the website. I have a bunch of new content just waiting to be put up, but I have been putting it off for some time. As much as I love have new stuff to put on my site, I actually hate updating it. It takes forever because I am so OCD when it comes to how I want to present the content and the consistency, whether it's image sizing or image flow. I told myself that all I was going to do was put up some travel images and then call it a day. Instead, it turned into a partial website revamp with new color, new sub-menus, and a landing page that links to my site and its respective "micro sites". This process is so tedious yet soothing at the same time. It's definitely a love/hate relationship. I hate doing it, but I love the way it looks at the end. 

The hardest part of all of this is culling through images and deciding what stays and what goes. Sometimes I feel like an image hoarder, where I almost have too much content, oversharing and making the experience of viewing a particular section drone on. So then I purge the content and walk away. Then I look at it again and I get instant purger remorse and re-add content, ending up in the same spot. Can someone just do this for me?!? But, let me control it and oversee what content is going up. But I want you to make your best judgements on everything. But, I want to make sure you line up with what my judgements are. And so on and so on. Not a winning proposition for anyone! 

Well, until I get to a point in my career where clients are blowing my agent's phone up with international, world-dominating campaigns that leaves me no time but to shoot, leave all the gear on for assistants to turn off, and jet set to the next gig, I'll continue to tweak my site myself. Then I should be finished for a while. Oh wait, what about blog posts and instagram? Oh boy, 2017 is off to a shaky start!

ghost in the machine. by John Benitez

5d3 + 100-400 f4L /// Las Vegas, Nevada.

5d3 + 100-400 f4L /// Las Vegas, Nevada.

You win some, you lose some. That's what I tell myself when my life is a mess. You go through life trying to mitigate all the damage you cause by just taking up space on Earth and you being you, hoping that someone, anyone, will take you and all your imperfections in. You hope that they see you for who you are, not what you've become. You hope that they become the life support that you need to stay alive. You hope that the soul that once burned bright inside is still lurking among the embers, given just enough oxygen to not be snuffed out. Time and time again, strong winds blow hoping that this will be the end of you, but yet there you remain. Battered, beaten, hurt, but you remain. Holding on to that glint of light that you once saw before the clouds rolled in. There you remain. There you will remain.

Then you begin to see yourself as how people paint you. The compromise, excuses, and fear start to creep in, as if they ever left. They have made a home for themselves in you and become your dependency and an unsolicited touchstone. What can you do about it? What have you ever done about it? You claim at one point that you conquered mountains, but they ended up mole hills. Small feats of strength in an exasperated landscape of false thought. Bargaining, hoping, praying, lying...drugs to ease the pain, to take the edge off. But yet the pain remains. There you remain.

So you soldier on, how you've always done. Alone in the journey despite best efforts. The burden around your neck is too much for others to bear. A junkie to your own fear. Addicted to the loss. The high of disappointment. The withdrawal of comfort. All in the mirror with rolled up dollar bills. You wasted your life and your own time. But you can't break the cycle, because without it, you would be nothing. So you draw the needle of discomfort and plunge it deep into your veins. You feel the rush coming, almost bursting, climaxing, euphoric in its irony. But this is all that you have known. So you take your orders and march ahead.

You win some, you lose some. This is what I tell myself when my life is a mess. 

horseshoe bend. by John Benitez

5d3 + 14mm f2.8

5d3 + 14mm f2.8

Magic.

Earlier this week, me and my friends took a side trip to Page, Arizona. This sleepy little town houses two of my most coveted locations to shoot, Antelope Valley and Horseshoe Bend. Ever since I could remember, these two places captivated me. A wonder of nature, exquisitely crafted, and perfected over time. Pictures can't replicated the sheer scale and grandeur of Horseshoe Bend. It can only be felt and experienced.

We found ourselves up at 4am, to make the journey from Las Vegas to Page. Under the cover of buzzing lights against a dark sky, we hoped on I-15 headed north for the next 4.5 hours. The reason for the early wake-up call was that we had guided Navajo tour through the lower Antelope Canyon at 11am (post coming soon). 

As we drove, monolithic shapes seemed to envelop us. Their shapes made barley visible by the gradual lightening of the sky. The sun began to unfurl our landscape and we found ourselves in the vistas of the desert. I-15 cuts thorough Nevada, Arizona, and Utah and you find yourself crossing state lines quite often. The elevation changes just as quickly and there were stretches of fog that were so thick that you could barely see 20ft in front of you. Despite mild confusion and harrowing driving, you see that you are in the most beautiful part of the country. Cutting through mountains gives you a sense of how small you truly are, and reinforces the appreciation you have for where you live.

We arrived at Horseshoe Bend around 5:30pm. It was hard to believe that this location was only 10mins away from our hotel. You drive into an innocuous, gravel parking lot and suddenly, you're there, but not. The guide books never tell you that you have to trek up a steeply graded hill that leaves your thighs and calves burning, only to be faced with an equally steep downward slope to the bend. Nor do they tell you the throngs of tour busses that congregate on this place en masse. Or the host of flies that hover over the bend and are so big that you can literally feel them as you swat them away from your face. But these are only minor inconveniences to what you are about to see.

Once you reach the Bend, the race is on to obtain the most desired spot to shoot, which is the dead center. You will have to fight your way through the masses of photographer and tourists to get ahead, and I was determined to do so. The Bend tests your nerves as well since the edge is unfenced and provides a crystal clear view of the Colorado river, and in order to get the best shot, you have to be right on the edge looking at the 1,000ft drop. 

We stayed until the sun disappeared and the view was mesmerizing. Make sure you take a moment and just view the Bend with your own eyes, before looking through the lens. Take it all in and process your thoughts. Think about your journey getting out there and what you had to endure to get there. Take a moment to realize how blessed you are to be there, knowing that not everyone gets a chance to come there. It's as if the Bend selected you to view its majesty. Horseshoe Bend is best viewed with a drink (Modelo Especial in our case), friends, or your sweetheart. The experience that you will share together will be emblazoned on both of your hearts, with a perpetual call to come back to the Bend to re-live the experience once again.

 

 

valley of fire. by John Benitez

5d3 + 14mm f2.8

5d3 + 14mm f2.8

I'm on another business trip, this time to Las Vegas. I haven't been back in 13 years. Needless to say, much has changed.

The crew and I arrived a day early so we used this day to take a side trip to Valley Of Fire State Park. VOF is about an hour northeast of the strip, so it was an easy drive, once you got out of the tangled mess that is downtown Las Vegas.

Armed with all of our gear, we headed out into the desert. The day was overcast, often threatening with rain, but we did not let that deter us from seeing this natural wonder. I was recently given a new Spotify playlist that is chock-full desert vibes. These tunes provided the perfect soundtrack to our desert adventure. It really gets you in the mood to explore and create memories.

It was amazing to see this park unfold before your eyes. For what seemed like miles of browns and muted greens, this park literally shatters the landscape with its vibrant red, giving the vista its name. Even against a cloudy sky, these vistas seem to glow under its own inner energy. It's truly a sight to behold.

Upon entering the park you can literally lose yourself in the valley. Many times I had to remember to keep my eyes on the road since you catch yourself staring off in amazement. We only had two hours to spend at the park and this was not enough time. In total, we only hit three spots, and within that, not much time was spent at these locations since we wanted to see another spot.

If you come, make sure you plan for a whole day. This park is amazing the treasures it holds for adventure seekers (and photographers) abound. Take a picnic lunch, play some desert tunes, and lose yourself in God's creation.

 

and it never goes away. by John Benitez

self-portrait /// 5d3 + 24-70 f2.8L

self-portrait /// 5d3 + 24-70 f2.8L

Airplanes, ubers, and hotels. A dizzy pace that leaves things in a blur. I know that I have been somewhere, but was I really there? Did I leave with an impression or did I leave it with one? Sometimes I have to remind myself that I have to look outside the lens and enjoy the view. View it as God has intended, but then would I miss something worth capturing? Maybe the best moments are best left out of the 1's and 0's and committed to memory. Where the vision can become something of legend and myth. Where it can be remembered for what it is. Just as a moment. Nothing more, nothing less. 

midwest muse. by John Benitez

the chicago theater /// 5dsr + 16-35 f.2.8L

the chicago theater /// 5dsr + 16-35 f.2.8L

I am starting to travel quite a bit more for work. It's something that i love, yet leaves me feeling bittersweet. i am very much a traveler and this job allows me to fulfill that need. however i feel that there is a sense of escapism in  it all. An avoidance of responsibility or the leaving of the "real world". Can you possibly enjoy what you do so much that it no longer feels like work and work trips become vacations? don't get me wrong, there is still a lot of work i do, i mean a lot of work, but these shooting trips seem to even things out, kind of like using a cheat code in a video game. it makes the game so much easier, but just kinda feels wrong, almost unearned. nevertheless, its my job and i feel very fortunate to do it, and fortunate to be where i am.

I took a quick trip to Chicago to shoot a cover story for work. it was super fast i was gone in the blink of an eye. when i'm in those situations, i feel the need to slow my mind down, just so that i can take in where i actually am. i hadn't been back to Chicago in a number of years so it was a real treat to see my favorite midwest city again. the weather was perfect (mid-60's and sunny) and the energy of the city energized me for the task at hand.  i feel that i could almost live in Chicago...almost. this is a town that caters to people in a much higher tax bracket than myself so i'll just choose to visit. 

one of my favorite spots is the Chicago theater. its an iconic part of the city but tucked away in an area that you would least expect. i like this spot because it reminds me of the sitcom "Perfect strangers" and "Family Matters". Not only were they required watching on tgif, but these show epitomized what it was like to live in Chicago, whether it be in an apartment in downtown, or in the surrounding suburb. these shows made the city feel romantic and almost candid. a diet New York City. it has the grit that you would expect from a big city but with a heavy midwest accent and its subsequent charm. a gem of middle America.

Hopefully next time i'll have more time to wander about the city, but for now, i'll just watch Balki and Larry and root for the Cubbies.

 

 

WELCOME TO MY NEW BLOG! by John Benitez

jorge /// 5D3 + 50L

jorge /// 5D3 + 50L

Hello everyone and welcome to my new blog. This is where I will be updating everyone on my latest content, technique, and musings of the day. I hope to update this blog pretty regularly, or whenever life allows me to! 

I wanted to start this blog odd with a bang, so here is a recent image I took of my good friend, Jorge. He is a fellow photographer and also happens to be my "boss" at work (taking pics of the boss is always good; blackmail or otherwise! :)). We love to share photo knowledge and encourage each other to raise our photography to the next level.

On this photo I was experimenting with adding a subtle energy to an otherwise standard b/w portrait. I like the small hint of color as well as the bit of motion on the right side. It was cool technique I learned on PHLEARN, a treasure trove of great ideas found on YouTube. I think the key to this image is in its subtlety of processing. Nothing too heavy handed or overly-done, just enough to convey the story. I love that his eyes are leading to negative space on the right. To me, this communicates a story, or the formation of one. Does it to you?