My name is Steve. I’m a Chicago photographer, cinematographer, video editor, audio engineer, stop motion animator and guitar player. I have 2 dogs, Jack (cairn terrier) and Leia (german shepherd named after princess Leia.) This site is about the arts I love and the products I use to achieve said art in both the visual realms and music.
My blog on this site talks about the video projects I’m working on, stop motion animation, recording studio, product reviews and animal care. I know it’s a lot of variety but that’s my life.
At the time of writing this, I run 4 YouTube channels, this website and have a few video editing projects in the que for clients. This site will only get larger. Have a look around and enjoy your stay!
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO PRODUCTION
As a kid growing up in the early 1980’s I was lucky enough to see Star Wars Ep 4 A New Hope on opening day in the theater. That movie sculpted me into what I am today; a lover of the arts; music and film. I was 7 years old. 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. These were the days of vinyl records and cassette tapes. 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. Stop motion animation was not possible with the lack of equipment I had as a 7 year old. All the ideas and thoughts for visual effects and how they would be shot, stayed in my head.
The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1981. That story line and stop motion animation of the AT – AT walkers was amazing. My aunt Mary Lou purchased 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 their effects were shot. It was there I learned about blue screen effects and how sound effects were incorporated into film, known as foley sound.
Late at night, while laying in bed, I listened to movies I recorded to cassette tape. I held the cassette recorder 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.
In 1988 I purchased my first video camera. A sony 8mm digital camcorder. Although it lacked any bells and whistles, I was able to film. After that, I purchased another camcorder and my first SLR photography camera by Pentax. I was photographing on 35mm film in highschool and developing images in the dark room. Digital photography would not exist for another 10 years. Everything was shot on film.
In 1999 the first digital camera came out from Olympus for $1,000 and I had to have it. It was 1megapixel and slow but it was digital! 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! No more film or developing charges. It was great to see what you shot as you shot it.
After the olympus, I purchased the first DSLR camera by canon, the digital rebel. This canon camera had interchangeable lenses and made photography more fun since it was an SLR camera in the digital ream, and not a point and shoot like the Olympus. No more dark rooms or film developing charges. Many people were against digital technology, stating it made the images look more “sterile” and not as warm as film. The same argument was made when recording studios switched from analog 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 photographing weddings in Chicago. It was a ton of work, especially starting up the business. Not only do you need pro photography gear, you need to know how to use it, 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 my photography and video studio in Chicago while having a full time job. A lot of time and money was spent marketing my business, which was called SAR weddings, and now Rotter photography.
I rarely ever saw payment with photography clients due to the massive overhead. The two photographers working for me were paid well and the rest went into marketing. Clearly I needed to raise the pricing but was afraid of not getting clients. That was stupid to think. If you’re good, charge to cover costs and PAY YOURSELF! You need to do this from the beginning when you build clientele and your name.
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, which was frustrating to the pros in the field.
Many saw digital photography as the answer to easy money: photographing weddings. These point and shoot, set your camera to fully-auto and hope for the best “photographers” gave the photography industry a bad name. I slowly bowed out of the wedding photography business and closed the websites in 2017.
This site, www.steverotter.com is the now the home base website that houses all my passions via blog posts and video. For the record, I will still photograph or video a wedding or band or corporate event, but I will no longer market for them.
In 1987 I thought it would be fun to play an instrument. My grandfather had given me an old acoustic guitar, which I still have to this day. I was still very much into photography but guitar took over the next 10 years of my life. A friend in the neighborhood started playing guitar a year before. 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 played guitar for hours each day trying to learn songs off cassette and vinyl. I didn’t have the patience to sit and learn scales and theory. Classical music, rock and metal paved the way.
I discovered one of my favorite artists, Yngwie Malmsteen, through a friend, which cemented everything in place. Yngwie (pronounced Ingvay) combined classical music and metal perfectly. In the 1980’s, kids aspired to be Yngwie, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai or Paul Gilbert…all virtuoso guitar players, and all my favorites.
I played in and out of bands for years, 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 my Wraith album is instrumental because I left the band before the rest could be recorded. I took my songs and left, recording and copyrighting the rest on my own.
In 2013 I recorded another CD, this time 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 this writing, I run four YouTube channels. I struggle to keep up.
I still love working with photography and video clients and I take pride in my work, but YouTube is best for me.
Guitar has been on the back burner unfortunately since around 2014. Life gets in the way and my personal video projects on YouTube are my focus.
It’s upsetting to choose between passions but there isn’t enough time. Photography and Video won in the end and have always been more satisfying.
As I get older, I have less patience to sit with a guitar for as long as I used to so now it’s more for fun. I would rather create and share images and stories through my work on YouTube and Vimeo. There are only so many hours in the day.
Along with the dogs, I have a 125 gallon saltwater 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 YouTube. A 28 gallon tank was my first, then a 75 gallon tank a year later, and a 125 reef ready aquarium.
I started a you YouTube 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.
The most recent endeavor is writing. Ever since I was a kid, I loved English. This blog is meant to help others by sharing my knowledge about the passions I enjoy.
Surrounding myself with art and those who love it is a necessity or I would die.