The 39-year-old has become a recognized name across Winter Garden and beyond for his captivating local photography showcased in many businesses and institutions throughout the city.
Never in his wildest dreams did Winter Garden resident Jon Burket ever imagine himself to become a photographer.
Now, the 39-year-old has become a recognized name across Winter Garden and beyond for his captivating local photography showcased in many businesses and institutions throughout the city.
Burket currently has five prints hanging in Winter Garden City Hall as part of the Historic Preservation Month exhibit; two prints in the SOBO Art Gallery as part of the “About Face” exhibit; as well as prints in Main House Market, Pammie’s Sammies and even local residents’ homes.
Although Burket is known for several different styles of photography — including pet, travel, headshots, golf, Winter Garden and events — he said his favorite by far is his focus on wildlife and nature.
He loves being out in nature and often wakes an hour-and-one-half before the day starts to drive an hour or hike a mile just to see a sunrise.
“I’ll find the most incredible sky, or I’ll find a bobcat or something else, and I’ll just look around,” he said. “There will be no one out there, and I just think to myself, ‘What a shame that this incredible thing is taking place, and I’m the only person here.’ I like trying to capture that second of a moment and share it, so it’s never wasted.”
Remarkably, Burket only has been shooting photography professionally for about a year. But his story is a series of strange coincidences.
Burket credits the start of his new life journey to his haircut in 2004.
His large afro-like hairstyle was perfect for his — at the time — music-oriented career path and drew the attention of many, including a man who invited him to his recording studio in Burket’s home state, Pennsylvania.
“If any one of these events didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be here,” Burket said, laughing.
He was finishing his senior year in college as a voice major studying music when he began to spend some time learning the production side of business at the studio. The guys explained they were turning the studio into the Pennsylvania Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and offered for him to attend for free if he stayed in the area.
Burket jumped at the opportunity. He found an apartment and worked at a cell phone store while he took classes.
In 2008, one of his customers gave him a gift card to play golf as a thank-you gift. He admitted he was going to give the card away — he had never played golf — but instead decided to try it out. He was hooked.
Soon after, he and his former wife decided to move to Washington, D.C., when she got a new job. Burket said he took his newfound love of golf with him.
Although he was unable to find a job as a recording engineer, Burket obtained a part-time job at Sirius XM radio, where he started as board operator for PGA Tour. He quickly moved up to producing live tournament coverage for the network.
In 2011, he got a call from his former boss at PGA who had been hired by the Golf Channel to start a show called Morning Drive. He invited Burket to come to Orlando to work for him. Burket was going through a divorce and knew it was time to start over.
Although he lived in Hunter’s Creek at the time, Burket said he always had a love for downtown Winter Garden.
He worked with Golf Channel for a number of years. Then, in 2020, the station announced they were moving to Stamford, Connecticut, and laid off most of their employees, including Burket.
Burket decided to start his career path from scratch again.
For as long as Burket can remember, his mother loved carrying around a camera. It wasn’t about capturing an image artistically but about imprinting a moment.
The Winter Garden resident said he remembered carrying around disposable cameras in college but didn’t get his first camera until 2004, when he was studying music abroad in Salzburg, Austria.
Burket said he had a professor who challenged them to a photo contest. He captured a photo through a circular rod iron railing down to a cathedral, a moment the professor said “brought him to tears.”
“It was really cool to see a photo I had taken elicit an emotional response from someone,” Burket said.
He would have never thought almost 20 years later, he would be doing it as a profession.
Although photography always was something Burket thought he was “only kind of good at,” from family and friends telling him he was talented, it has now taken off to a new level.
“It’s kind of like when people go to audition for ‘American Idol’ and they’re like, ‘My friends and family tell me I’m a great singer,’ and then they open their mouths, and the judges are like, ‘Ummm no,’” he said, jokingly.
After losing his job in 2020, Burket decided to take a chance and spent a few months honing in on his skills, researching and eventually buying cameras and gear to learn the science behind the perfect picture.
Right around that time, We Are Winter Garden announced a photo contest with 12 categories, and Burket decided to treat the categories like a job to explore different types of photography. He went on to win seven of the 12. When he went to pick up his prize, he met the team and a couple weeks later began working with them. He is currently a senior producer at Minion Media Group, works with We Are Winter Garden and does freelance work as a producer and photographer.
“It’s been really great being able to share my work with others and see the community have such a positive response to it,” he said.
His dream goal for photography is to have a million Instagram followers and get paid to just post wildlife photos, or to sell tons of prints, although he said he feels it’s unrealistic.
He said many people have suggested he offer wildlife photography guided experiences or classes, and he is exploring that possibility.
He and his wife of five years, Robin, now live on the outskirts of downtown Winter Garden and often wander the area with their three white golden retrievers. They love the variety of events that take place in the community, as well as walking, biking and exploring the outdoors.
Burket said he would have never been able to reach this part in his journey without the help of Robin, who he said has been supportive as he explores this new career path.
In addition to being resourceful and utilizing free tools, Burket said anyone interested in photography simply had to be willing to put in the time.
“Learn your camera inside and out,” he said. “Have it with you all the time, because you never know when something special will happen in front of you. You have to have patience, anticipation, determination, awareness and sometimes luck. You have to accept that some days, you won’t see much or might even just miss an epic shot for one reason or another. Those near misses are hard for me to let go of, but if you keep putting yourself in position, the moments and opportunities will eventually appear.”
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