elvis castillo photography

The Good Life Project is a weekly show hosted by award-winning author of “The Uncertainty Book”, Jonathan Fields. Johnathan recently sat down with photographer Nick Onken to discuss Nick’s journey from graphic designer to uber-successful advertising, travel and editorial photographer. Nick is proof that regardless of where you start, hard work, a self imposed responsibility to give back, and a relentless drive to create truly pays off! Do yourself a favor… grab a comfy seat and take the time to watch this inspiring and informative video.



We’ve all heard it over and over again (and probably even said it a time or two) that it doesn’t matter what kind of camera gear you shoot with, it’s what’s between your ears that makes all the difference. As a matter of fact I even wrote a short post on this very subject back in March.

That being said, sports photographer Brad Mangin took that mantra to new levels when several of his Instagram photos were recently published in Sports Illustrated. That’s right… SI! We’re not talking about the local baseball round up rag, we’re talking about the quintessential sports magazine in the world (arguably speaking).

For most professional photographers this brings up more questions than answers. Is it possible that we have arrived at an era that allows photographers on assignment to shoot publishable images with iPhones? Are images shot with a $400 iPhone worthy of the same editorial space that these “professional” $5000 cameras are pumping out? Are camera apps like Instagram and they’re post processing techniques adequate for clients?

Have a look at the photos for yourself and you decide.

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lifestyle image of a man and a woman standing in the west 6th lobby

black and white portrait photography

Just a couple images from a personal shoot I did a while back at the West 6th building in Tempe, AZ.

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I find myself constantly searching for new ways of looking at my world and finding new avenues of creativity and inspiration from different sources. You may remember a couple weeks ago I posted a video that I stumbled on about visionary creative designer Michael Wolff. I recently came across another video in the same series of classically trained, avant-garde cellist Zoe Keating. As a photographer and “visual creative” it’s important to branch out and look at things from a different perspective. Music is the truly a binding thread and the one thing that we all have in common. Listen as Zoe talks about creating a visual world through music.

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Having fun with Brennan

My neighbor and I decided to have a little fun with her son Brennan… he’s a natural!

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Considered by some as the father of 20th century brand expression and identity, creative designer and visionary Michael Wolff discusses his take on visual creativity.

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Van wrap of one of elvis castillo's photos.

Pretty cool seeing one of your images wrapped on a van! The photo they decided to use was taken from a shoot I did a while back at the Living Room Wine Bar.

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Black & white image of a model in Tempe Arizona

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By now you all know about the recent release of Canon’s new 5D Mark III and Nikon’s new D800. These are without a doubt the two hottest cameras out right now for both professional shooters and amateurs alike. What better time to attempt to bring us all back down to earth…

Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, 5D this… D3 that… it’s all the same really. For most of us, it’s simply a means to an end. That being said, we often forget that which is most important (our vision) and focus mainly on that which is the least important (our gear).

Don’t let your camera get in the way of becoming a good photographer.

When starting out, it’s difficult to say the least, to avoid getting caught up in the hype. You know what I’m talking about… should I buy the 7D or the 1Ds at four times the price? Why buy the D3s when the D3x is only $2800 more? 10 grand later and you’re no better a photographer than when you started. Now I know it’s en vogue nowadays to say that “no amount of gear will make you a good photographer”, but I’m convinced if you give a $45,000 Hasselblad with $50,000 worth of Profoto lighting to a 10-year old, you’ll get a decent shot or two. What it really boils down to, and something that most professional photographers have figured out already, is one simple philosophy… consistency is the key. Amateur photographers shoot great images occasionally… professional photographers shoot amazing images consistently!

I’m not out to discourage anyone here, just the opposite. As a matter of fact, this is something I’m constantly striving to achieve everyday with my own photography. It’s simply my hope that you strive for this professionalism in your photography as well. It’s my hope that you strive for consistency in the images you create! And I personally feel, the best way to achieve this is to focus on what’s important… and I’m not talking about your gear! 😉

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great artists steal

During a recent Chase Jarvis Live, Chase sat down with San Fransisco DJ Mike Relm to discuss the topic of “remixing” as it pertains to creating your own work from the influences of others. Here’s my two cents on the interview.

“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

Whether it was paintings, sculpture, architecture, poetry, or food Picasso understood the concept that everything he created was in some way influenced by everything else around him. He understood that in order to truly create unique works of art it was important to not just borrow those ideas, but to steal them. Basically, what Picasso was referring to was that to borrow something means to simply copy what’s already been done, but to steal means to take something and make it your own. Ironically enough even T.S. Eliot in a way borrowed from Picasso when he said, “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal…”

 In today’s age of copyright law, watermarks, patents pending, and registered trademarks this is a difficult concept to grasp, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you run right out and find someone who’s already doing a certain project, turn around and do the same thing. But that’s the point now isn’t it.

Just as many artists and creatives before us, we’re constantly being influenced by everything around us. Whether direct or indirect… whether we’re even aware of it or not, we ingest fresh ideas, absorb that which inspires us, soak up creativity, and develop new ways of thinking. We take in all this information, input it into our little databases, prioritize what’s important, weed out the minutia, and out pops our very own artist’s interpretation. If you are influenced by an idea, a song, a painting, an ad campaign, or really anything for that matter, “steal it” and create your own interpretation of it… allow it to influence your own work. Take bits and pieces from everything around you and create your own body of work from those influences.

At the end of the day, we as artists must decide… do we want to simply copy that which has already been done, or do we want to be great and create our own masterpieces?


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