santa barbara commercial photography

Photographing 20 Strangers in Isla Vista

Step out of your comfort zone and photograph 20 random people on the street.

I studied photography at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. Known for educating students on the highest level of technical skill when it comes to photography there was one (amongst others) infamous assignment that dealt with approaching a stranger in order to photograph them. This was obviously not intended to teach a technical but a communication skill. It also forced you to deal with your fears and doubts. It challenged your comfort zone. It was called 25 Strangers.
Basically you had to produce a portfolio of 25 random strangers. Build a pop-up portrait studio in a park, photograph the strangers in a bar, at the pool, the retirement home or at the law firm on the corner of your street. I don’t remember the specific rules of the assignment but I put up a white background and had each of my strangers add a word to a sentence on a small chalk board and then I photographed them with the chalk board. I called it: 25 Strangers build a sentence. Surprisingly they didn’t. The sentence was grammatically and logically just … not a sentence. No idea what went wrong there…?

Anyways. The other day I remembered this assignment and decided to revisit it. 15 years and many strangers in front of my lens, from celebrities to homeless people in the back alleys of Mumbai, later I figured I should be a lot better at this. But it still was challenging the comfort zone a little. No control over the situation and you have to talk a random stranger into taking their portrait.

So Hugo and I went into Isla Vista on a Friday morning and approached a bunch of strangers. Isla Vista is a blend of University students, homeless people and middle aged surfers. Generally a demographic open to random experiences. This worked in our favor I think. Still, it took a little time to get groovy with.

The amazing thing about doing this was people opening up and telling stories. As you can see in the video some of the strangers shared memories, vented or maybe simply wanted to chat. It was amazing to see how quickly one can dive a lot deeper into a community by simply striking up a conversation with random people on the street. And using a portrait project like this is of course the perfect ice breaker.

I do this type of thing on assignment all the time but it is different when you go into your own community and when there is no agenda or story that you need to tell. Just letting your ego go, the creative juices flow and welcoming any input with open arms. Fun!

Publication in Naturally Danny Seo

Sweden for Naturally Danny Seo

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In December of 2018 I traveled to southern Sweden to photograph an editorial story for Naturally Danny Seo Magazine. Just like you are probably doing right now I was asking myself why we were going to Sweden in December but surprisingly it was rather pretty. Not too cold and the light had this late afternoon quality to it all day.

The story is published in the current issue of the magazine. Some highlights from my part: Moelle and it’s National Park. Climbing around the cliffs was amazing and there was nobody there! Just beautiful!

NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway

NASCAR - photographing and vlogging a racing series like no other

NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway

NASCAR at Auto Club Speedway

I am a portrait photographer. I photograph people. Most of the time in a studio setting. Controlled lighting, background, props. But then I also travel quite a bit and shoot editorial stories for magazines. I have been all over the world to shoot editorial stories and photographed while riding an elephant, 60 miles off the coast on a fishing trawler, hanging off a vertical cliff, while having food poisoning, underwater, the list goes on…

So naturally I am interested in the story. I try not to decide what to photograph based on my opinion on the subject matter. Actually, let me rephrase. If anything, I like to explore topics I either don’t know much about or have an opinion on which isn’t based on first person experience. If you really want to learn about a topic dive into it and experience it.

Queue NASCAR.

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Through a close friend I was invited by Aric Almirola to watch the 2019 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Full access to the pits and drivers area. This is how you go experience something you don’t know much about. Now, full disclosure: I had been to a NASCAR race before, in Sonoma. But this one was a track and not an oval. (Yes, both are in California and both are NASCAR races…).

So what did I learn? Well, you can watch the video linked in this post to follow along. Otherwise what I can tell you is that the viewer demographic is rather narrow. And it is what you would expect.

Aric Almirola at Auto Club Speedway in 2019

Aric Almirola at Auto Club Speedway in 2019

But there is something else I noticed here and also the first time I went in Sonoma. NASCAR is a racing series that operates like it is the 1970’s. While Formula 1 cars and teams are run by technology stock cars aren’t. They fuel the cars during pit stops by gravity fed canisters and they don’t have much data on the car while it is on the track. What this means is that the driver is mostly responsible to deal with the car. Driving as well as communicating how the car feels and if something may need adjusting in the pits. I call it out in the vlog, it’s good old driving. No readings on the screen in the pits and then a command on how to drive. The driver actually has to feel it out and do it. (Now going around an oval, which is the large majority of events probably doesn’t require as much input as a regular track but I wouldn’t know that… I can only assume. And assumptions can be dangerous.).

Aric Almirola taking off after a pit stop at Auto Club Speedway in 2019.

Aric Almirola taking off after a pit stop at Auto Club Speedway in 2019.

Sooo… what did I take away from actually going to a race and experiencing it myself? It’s a lot of things that you have to go experience for yourself. You reading my account is just like reading any other. My point with this whole post is that to really learn about something you actually just need go experience it first hand!

You should still watch the video. Do it! It’s fun! It’s entertaining! It’s NASCAR!!!

Photographic prints on wood

How to mount prints from a laser printer on wood

Here is a video I created to show how I mount laser prints on plywood. This is a way to create wall art that doesn’t break the bank but has a pretty edgy, cool look to it. I printed the photographs here in Santa Barbara at one of the local FedEx places. A black and white 8.5x11 print is $0.14!!! Doesn’t get any cheaper. And you can go up to 32” wide depending on the printers at your local FedEx office!

Laser prints are cool because they have strong contrast and there is no ink that can bleed or fade. By no means would I consider these archival but I have some hanging in my house and studio that are over 10 years old and they haven’t faded! Laser prints became popular in the street art scene for wall pieces and murals and if you haven’t played with them, give ‘em a try.

The video above goes through me making a set of 15 outside my Santa Barbara studio so follow along there but I’ll also give you a quick list of what you need:

-laser print
-1/2” to 3/4” plywood (cabinet grade if possible)
-modd podge glue and sealer (get it at Michaels or on Amazon). I like the matt option. YOU ONLY NEED A SMALL AMOUNT!
-a roller to flatten the print and squeeze the glue around

This does take some practice and you’ll find your own ways of doing it but since it’s so cheap you can play quite a bit. I recommend doing a couple to figure out what works for you.

Most important: Have Fun (and I hope you get some entertainment out of my instructional video…)!

HD cinemagraph from Santa Barbara

HD high quality cinemagraph shot in Santa Barbara

Here is another HD high quality cinemagraph I shot recently. It took me a while to figure out how to make these cinemagraphs HD. There is of course flixel but as far as I can tell they are putting out a video file instead of a gif. Making video files is easy to do yourself in Photoshop. The tricky part is to code the embed code to loop and autoplay. It is not as universal as a gif but rendering the cinemagraph as a high quality video file just makes it look so much better.

We shot this HD cinemagraph in Santa Barbara. The creeks are all full of water these days so it was easy to find a pretty waterfall and put this together.

At the Bookstore

stock images photographed at a bookstore

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Finding a good bookstore these days isn’t that easy. In Santa Barbara we can call ourselves lucky to have Chaucer’s, an amazing bookstore. During a stock photo shoot a little while ago we were in the area and so we stopped in and I took this image of the model browsing the collection.

Everest in a Stairwell

Climbing 29,097 feet in a LA skyscraper

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The idea is simple: climb 29,029′, the equivalent of Mt. Everest’s elevation, in a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles in one day.

Obviously when one climbs the real mountain there is much less vertical elevation to deal with. But the lack of oxygen and exposure to the elements more than make up for that. Let’s just be clear from the beginning. Climbing Everest is much harder on every level.

Still the idea is enticing so a group of nine men entered a very tall building in downtown Los Angeles one morning after driving down from Santa Barbara and got ready to ascend the 55 floors via the stairwell over and over… and over and over and over again. It would take 40 ascensions to make the 29K feet of elevation gain. There was also a cut off time since the building was shutting down and the security guards who had to be in the building wanted to go home.

I was one of those nine men but I wasn’t there to reach the goal, I was there to document. To photograph the ordeal. Capturing the climbers required me to sit and wait in the stairwell for extended amounts of time and carrying my camera gear up the stairs didn’t help either. At the end of the day I did 10 ascensions and was perfectly fine with that.

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One of the unforeseen challenges that started impacting climbers was motion sickness. constantly turning right in the stairwell started really messing with them. To the point of puking. Not pretty but part of the game.

Mid-day everyone had their groove going and in the early afternoon there was a scheduled break so that one of the climbers could propose to his girlfriend on top of the roof. This solid hour of break time would bite the remaining climbers (the newly engaged left after to celebrate) in the end. At 33 ascensions they ran out of time. They had climbed a respectable elevation of 24,000 feet.

Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy

Amir Abo-Shaeer and Emily Shaeer for The Townmarket

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It’s always amazing when you find out something about your town that you had no idea about. Cue the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy. Founder Abo-Shaeer and Emily Shaeer run a program that teaches high school aged kids all kinds of fantastic skills and knowledge in the greater realm of engineering.

I was perplexed when I visited. The amount of resources available to students is fantastic. From CNC machines to computers, tools and of course most importantly knowledgeable help and not to mention space, lots of it! Teenagers were programming machines, writing code, building things and discussing projects within teams. I wanted to stay and join!

The Academy is linked to Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta but students from Santa Barbara also visit the school. Overall a very healthy mix of kids, lots of girls and ethnic diversity. I felt like I had discovered a Santa Barbara gem…

Arlington Peak aka Dragons Back above Santa Barbara

Adventuring in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara

on the way to Arlington Peak above Santa Barbara

on the way to Arlington Peak above Santa Barbara

How do you avoid the kids going crazy inside? Take them on a big hike!

Likely my favorite hike in the Santa Barbara foothills is the adventure up to Arlington Peak. Colloquially known in the community as Dragons back (you climb up what looks like a spiny Dragons Back) this hike offers some good adventure without having to go far out of town. Crawling through tight spots and trying to stay on trail is fun and this is a pretty serious achievement for kids. My son was 7 the first time we went up.

For a special treat I like to leave early in the morning when it’s still dark and time it so that the sun comes up while I am halfway up the spine. The sun rises over the peaks in the south and everything slowly gets bathed in orange light. Makes for some fantastic photographs!

Adventure on Santa Rosa Island

Beauty on the beach of Santa Rosa Island

Beach Beauty on Santa Rosa

Beach Beauty on Santa Rosa

yes, yes, of course this is a staged photograph… But it’s pretty, right? Wouldn’t you want to be there?

I photographed this on Santa Rosa Island during a fun adventure to the Channel Islands. Santa Rosa is about 30 miles off the coast from Santa Barbara and depending on your boat and the surface of the Santa Barbara Channel it takes at least an hour to get there. You can’t land the boat so be prepared to travel to the beach by means of swimming. Once that is achieved you will enjoy peace and serenity! …and maybe a wandering beach beauty!

Encounter at the Salton Sea

when a photograph magically presents itself

fisherman at the Salton Sea by Jonas Jungblut

fisherman at the Salton Sea by Jonas Jungblut

A few years back I went on a photoshoot for L1 Premium Goods at the Salton Sea in California. I drove my Vanagon from Santa Barbara down there so it could be used as a prop. The moment I pulled up to the water’s edge this scene presented itself to me. All I had to do is press the shutter and take the photograph. The image was later selected by the Creative Review and printed in their annual book.

It’s amazing how having your camera always on your side can allow for images like these. In this case it was my Fuji Xpro1 rangefinder. The camera is small enough to just carry around with you all the time and I photographed many scenes with it and its follow up model, the Xpro2, simply because I had the camera on me when the image presented itself.

Santa Barbara trail running

photographing running on and off trail in Santa Barbara

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

I am lucky to have a solid runner as a buddy so we head out every now and then to photograph some running for stock or portfolio images here in Santa Barbara. The terrain is perfect for running of all kinds. From trail running to urban running, Santa Barbara has it covered. Difficulty from easy to painful, all here…

urban running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

urban running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

In addition to all the terrain, Santa Barbara also offers pretty ideal weather year round. Running in shorts and only a shirt is usually possible throughout the winter.

All these elements combined make for a perfect backdrop to photograph running around here.

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

trail running in Santa Barbara by photographer Jonas Jungblut

Portrait of Santa Barbara Supervisor Das Williams for The Town Market

Photographing local politicians

Das Williams by Santa Barbara portrait photographer Jonas Jungblut

Das Williams by Santa Barbara portrait photographer Jonas Jungblut

I have been working closely with The Town Market here in Santa Barbara and part of what we have been doing is documenting (in this case taking portraits) of local people that are having an impact on the community. Das Williams came up and having run into him from time to time over the past decade I was excited to finally be able to photograph him.

We met at his house and I found a spot to put up this blue background. I lit him with a Profoto monoblock but then also decided to use natural light for a variation. The above portrait is the natural light version, it worked well with the pastel colors of the background and his shirt. Shot on the 501cm Hasselblad and Kodak Portra 400 film.