This website showcases my visual work as a Chicago photographer, cinematographer, video editor, audio engineer, stop motion animator and musician. Check out my blog on this site, which talks about various things I’m working on.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO PRODUCTION
As a kid growing up in the early 1980’s I was lucky enough to see Star Wars Ep 4 on opening day in the theater. That movie, by the second, sculpted me into what I am today; a lover of the arts and film. I was just 7 years old and fascinated. Movies from the 80’s and before, were the best movies. That era had stories, plots and differences that films of today cannot touch. I would ride my bicycle to the local library to get whatever sound effects records I could. Back then there were vinyl records and cassette tapes. Radio shack was the place to get wire and cable adapters to copy vinyl records to cassette. I was writing an action film in my head and working out sound effects, although there was nothing to film on but my dad’s silent movie 8mm film camera. There was no money for film and developing so something else had to happen. I never wrote stories down, as all the ideas and thoughts for visual effects and how they would be shot, stayed in my head.
Stop motion animation was interesting to me, although, even as a kid, I hated how fake and jittery it looked. I was a perfectionist even back then. Empire Strikes Back came out a couple years later, in 1981, and the stop motion animation of the AT – AT walkers was amazing. My aunt Mary Lou would purchase for me, the ILM Industrial Light and Magic book and history of visual effects from Lucasfilm. I had to have this book. It was very heavy and packed with everything you wanted to know about Lucasfilm and how the effects were shot. It was there I learned about blue screen effects and how sound was incorporated into film. Late at night while laying in bed, I would listen to movies I recorded to cassette tape. There were no VCR’s or ipads or internet back then. The cassette recorder would be held to the television’s speaker as the movie played. At times you could hear my parents talking, even though I begged for them to be quiet as recording commenced.
Fast forward to around 1988, I purchased my first video camera. A sony 8mm digital camcorder. Although it lacked any bells and whistles, I was able to film. From there I purchased another camcorder and my first SLR photography camera by Pentax. I was photographing on film and developing images in the dark room in highschool. There was no digital photography for another 10 years.
Fast forward passed all the camera gear I bought, to 1999. The first pocket digital camera came out for $1,000 and I had to have it, so I bought it. It was the olympus, which was 1megapixel. Way too much money but it was digital and did a nice job. The refresh times were about 2 seconds before you could see an image on the back screen, but, YOU COULD SEE YOUR IMAGES ON THE BACK SCREEN!
After the olympus, I purchased the first DSLR camera by canon, the digital rebel. This had interchangeable lenses and made photography even more fun. You were able to see images as you photographed them. No more dark rooms or film developing charges. A lot of people were against the digital technology, stating it made the images look more “sterile” and not as warm. The same argument was made when recording studios switched from reel to reel tape to digital in the late 1990s.
I have owned the Canon 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D, 1D MKII and ended with the Canon 5D MKII. From 2006 to 2013 I was shooting weddings in both photography and video, in Chicago. It’s a lot of work. Not only do you need have good gear, you need to know how to use it, how to get along well with people, how to work well under pressure, market yourself, pay your employees, design your website, handle the wedding albums and photo orders, keep everything updated, and the list goes on and on. I juggled this while having a full time day job. I spent hours and money marketing my business, which was called SAR weddings, and then SAR studios, and then Rotter photography. I rarely ever saw payment. My 2 other photographers were paid well and the rest went into marketing. I was afraid to raise the price for fear of not getting clients. That was stupid to think. If you’re good, charge to cover costs and PAY YOURSELF! I was a little desperate so I took anything for whatever money I could get. You will need to do that in the beginning. I enjoyed photographing weddings but the days were very long and lugging heavy gear around for 10 hours took its toll. I stopped advertising since more and more people were buying digital cameras and starting up photo studios. People who could barely work these cameras were starting up studios. It was the thing to do for easy money and unfari to wedding clients. I slowly bowed out of the wedding photography business and closed the websites in 2017. www.steverotter.com was to be the only website that housed all my passions. For the record, I will still of course photograph or video a wedding or band or corporate event, but I will no longer look for gigs or market for them.
In 1987 I thought it would be fun to play an instrument for some reason. There was a recorder from my jr. high days a few years ago, that I thought of learning again. “That wouldn’t be too cool” I thought, as an early teen. Sitting behind my door was an old acoustic guitar my grandfather had given me, which I still have to this day. Very old with coarse wire strings, it built up my callouses fast. I was still very much into photography but guitar took over the next 10 years of my life. A neighbor was playing his electric guitar in the garage next door. I was amazed! Never have I heard anything like that. He introduced me to the metal and hard rock bands of the 80s. Until that time I was listening to what my parents had on the radio in the car. I play for hours each day trying to learn songs off cassette. There was no money for lessons and I didn’t have the patience to sit and learn scales and theory. I learned most of that on my own a couple years later. I knew I didn’t want to just learn by ear, although, that’s what it turned out to be. Classical music and rock and metal paved the way and discovering one of my favorite artists, Yngwie Malmsteen, through a friend, cemented everything in place for me. Yngwie (pronounced Ingvay) combined classical music and metal perfectly. You either aspired to be Yngwie, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai or Paul Gilbert…all virtuosos, and all my favorites.
I played in and out of bands, my favorite being the last one, which ended in 1996. As with most bands, there was one person who did all the work, wrote most of the songs and made sure everything was together and set. that person was me. It’s because of me we have recordings of our practice sessions and an album, which is available on itunes. You can find that album, entitled “Steve Rotter / Wraith”, here. It is available on CD baby, Amazon and itunes. Most of it turned into an instrumental album because I left the band before the rest could be recorded. I took my gear and my songs and left, recording the rest, and copyrighting it, on my own.
In 2013 I recorded another CD in my home studio, Rotter studios. I had no band and no one to write songs with. I turned to the internet to find studio musicians, who I paid to record their parts. I recorded all guitars and bass, while they recorded their parts in the their studios, sending their files to me via dropbox. Technology is awesome. One song has the vocalist from Los Angeles and a string quartet from the UK. Amazing and fun! You can buy that album, called MIME RIOT, directly from my website HERE, and itunes, amazon and CD Baby.
Photography and Video have always been a huge part of my life and with the rise of You Tube, even more so. As of the writing of this, there are 4 you tube channels I struggle to keep up. I still love getting clients and I take pride in my work, but you tube is best for me. Guitar has been on the back burner unfortunately since around 2014. Life gets in the way. It’s upsetting to choose between passions but there isn’t enough time. Photography and Video for myself won in the end. I find that as I get older, I have less patience so sitting in a room with my guitar for hours isn’t something I can do, as I once did…so now it’s for fun. I would rather create and share images and stories through my work on you tube via photo and video production. I do get bummed by this decision, but again, there are only so many hours in the day.
One last part I will add is my hobby for saltwater aquariums. I have one 125 gallon tank. Thoughts of owning saltwater fish would come and go. It’s something I always wanted to try. As with most things, I learned from videos on you tube. A 28 gallon tank was my first, then a 75 gallon tank a year later, and a 125 reef ready aquarium the year after that. I started a you tube channel in 2014 for saltwater aquarium care that has a lot of great subscribers. Rotter Tube Reef on you tube is where I discuss and teach what I learn in the hobby. I make it fun by being myself and people enjoy that.
That brings us to the end of this section. With so little time and me not pursuing photography or video clients, I have decided to shut down the websites for photography, video and my recording studio. Everything can be found on this one main site, http://www.steverotter.com. Most of my free time is spent watching You Tube, studying marketing techniques, editing video for clients from around the world (mostly authors) and working on stop motion videos with legos.
Surrounding myself with art and those who love it, is a necessity, or I would die.