December 30, 2009

A Brief Look Back

Let's talk about goals.

I don't do resolutions. My friend Jenny and I do goals. Usually we pick five. And I'm sure tomorrow she will call me or I will call her and we'll exchange our goals. Before I do with you all, I need to revisit this year's accomplishments and shortcomings. There are some of both.

Goal 1: Find out and fix my credit score.
This is one of those things I meant to blog about but never got around to. I first checked my credit score in March. It was a 767. It still is. I haven't "fixed" my credit score because hey, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Goal 2: Learn the history of my violin.
My story about the history of my violin is the same. Earlier this year I did some research. I meant to blog about that too. I even started an account and was able to trace my family's roots on my mom's side to the 1700s through Google searches. However, I wasn't able to connect anyone as a Pennsylvania Innkeeper.

I also researched the make and model of my violin. I learned it is a knock off of an 1817 John Baptist Schweitzer model. It's a copy right down to the fake crack the makers most likely included to trick people into thinking it was authentic. I've always been worried about the crack in its face, so I was pretty relieved to find that was most likely put there by it's maker.

But if you asked me the history of my violin I would still say "Some grandfather (great or great-great) on my mom's side ran a hotel in Pennsylvania and a man came to stay one night. The man couldn't pay so he left his violin as payment. He said he'd come back with cash in exchange for the violin. He never did."

Goal 3: Run the Shamrock Shuffle in under 50 minutes.
Didn't happen. It snowed the day of. And actually as of this year, I gave up running entirely. I honestly don't know the last time I did it. Also, I don't care. I don't want to be a fantastically fast runner. I don't have the desire to run a marathon. I want to be healthy, and I don't need running to do that.

Goal 4: Play vibrato.
I still can't play vibrato. I practiced and I tried to master this, but I just didn't give it my all. I was talking to a fellow violin player and she told me it took her a year a half to get it down. And she can't play it today because she hasn't kept it up. I realized playing vibrato has more to do with strenghtening muscles than it does learning a movement. Strenghtening those muscles would have taken more dedication than I'd planned. So I failed on this account. But on the other hand, I am immensely proud of my performance at Dorrie's wedding and that's what truly mattered to me.

Goal 5: Cut my student loans in half.
I started with close to $9,000 in student loans. I now have none. I annihilated this goal.

Coming up tomorrow (or maybe the 1st), my amazingly awesome fantastic 2010 goals.

And because I now believe every post is better with photos, allow me to share a few that I took in Wisconsin this past weekend. Wisconsin was covered in a thick layer of snow and Mike and I enjoyed it with some sledding and skiing. And I of course, took a ton of photos.

December 24, 2009

Your Very Own Virtual Christmas Card

I didn't bother sending out Christmas cards this year. In fact I didn't end up doing anything. There isn't a single strand of tinsel or a Christmas candle anywhere to be found. I'm sure there will be years where I opt to have Christmas coming out of the wazoo. This just wasn't one of those years.

Mike and I are spending a quiet night home tonight, hanging with the cats. I'll probably drink a little wine. We'll probably eat some leftovers. And then tomorrow we'll get up and drive to Wisconsin with Leroy in tow. He hasn't been himself the past few days. We were getting concerned so we spent a part of our afternoon at the emergency vet. The consultation left Mike a little lower on funds that he'd like, but we now have a Leroy that is eating and resting comfortably. I can think of no greater Christmas gift than Mike, me and three happy and healthy cats.

So from all of us to all of you, we'd like to say have a very Merry Christmas.

December 21, 2009

Sweet Shayla


You said it Shayla. That's exactly how I feel about your photos. She's just such a little doll. And came with quite the array of costume changes, each more precious than the last.


And I will stop myself there. I think you get the idea. The idea being that she is one sweet little girl. And hopefully this is the first of many photo shoots with her.

December 20, 2009

Shayla's Sneak Peek

I photographed this little girl before I met her. Her mom and dad provided me with some great maternity photos. She is quite photogenic and has certainly taken after her parents in this respect. See for yourself.

Shayla, twice as cute

I'll have a lot more to share tomorrow, but I've been sitting on my couch for the past few hours working on these photos. Right now, I've got to eat some dinner and then make some sugar cookies (I'm tackling my mom's recipe again). But before I did that, I wanted to give you all a little sneak peek now into how I spent my morning. Let me just say, it was a great way to spend a morning.

December 18, 2009


I felt like I kind of cheated Leroy on a post a few weeks ago. When I got my new flash I used him to demonstrate how crappy my old flash was. Leroy deserves better than being the "how not to" model. So it seemed only fair that he should get to demonstrate how f'ing amazing my new lens is.

I give you to Leroy, through the eyes of my brand spanking new 50mm/1.4 lens.

This thing is a beauty. The little I've played around with it already, I know I'm going to love it. And I promise I'll have more photos to demonstrate it's awesomeness soon. I'm shooting the adorable child of this cute couple on Sunday. It's fitting that the family that started it all should be the first to benefit from my new lens. Well, after Leroy that is.

December 15, 2009

Hey Hey Hey, GOOD BYE

One of my goals for 2009 was to cut my student loans in half. I am fortunate in that my only student loans were associated with paralegal school. My entire undergrad education was footed by scholarships and my generous parents.

I started the year with more than $8,000 left to pay from a $10,000 loan. It was all the debt I had, so I really kicked my debt pay off into full drive. Even though my minimum payments were about $100 a month, I was paying around six times that amount for the majority of this year.

So today, I would like to say I have the following amount left to pay off my student loans: ZERO DOLLARS! I'm done. No more student loans. EVAHHHHHHHH!

Thanks to my zealous over payments and my annual bonus it's all gone. About midway through this year I started to realize that I could pay it all off. And if I paid it all off that could free me up to do whatever I wanted in the coming year. So now I can.

And in a nod to what I want to do in the coming year, I purchased a lens today. The lens I've been wanting for so, so long. The best part about my purchase is thanks to my company I paid $250 less than I had budgeted. My annual company Christmas party was last Thursday, and I won an Amazon gift card. (I know, no meat! I'm as shocked as you are.) I'll have my lens by Friday, which is perfect timing because Friday will be a day off for me. I've got one unplanned vacation day left and Friday seems like as good a day as any to use it. And my new camera lens.

So yeah, I will definitely say today goes in the good day column. This year is ending pretty spectacularly. I can't wait to see what 2010 has in store.

December 13, 2009

Top Ten

In my mind, 2009 will always be remembered as the year I fell in love with photography. Sure, I've always enjoyed taking photos but this year I found more joy in it than I knew was possible. More to come on that later.

But in honor of this, my year of the photo, I thought it fitting to share with you my 10 favorite photos that I've taken this year. Some talented photographers I follow do this, so I figured I'd jump on that bandwagon.

Here they are in no particular order because honestly picking 10 was hard enough. There's no way I can put them in order.

I love everything about this photo. The colors, the clarity, the subject, the light. It was one of those photos that I did little to no post-processing on. Normally I feel the need to tweak photos after I take them. With this one, it was pretty darn perfect straight out of the camera. And it's this pursuit of the near perfect straight-out-of-the-camera photo that I will try to perfect in 2010.

This is my moon photo. I honestly don't think it looks all that spectacular, but the fact that I was able to set my camera and do this is still a great source of pride for me. The trip that Mike and I took to California was great for my camera and I. For a week straight, I took pictures, all in manual settings and I learned more about my camera in one week than I ever thought possible.

There were so many good photos from my session with the Bacon family. I still look at those photos and can't believe how many of them turned out as well as they did. I loved that session. The photo above in particular is my favorite and one that I believes sums up my photography in a most beautiful way. I love people, I love landscapes and there is nothing better when the two of them come together. And that's why this photo is front and center on my Web site.

Alien Invader
This photo was also taken in Chicago. There is a great botanical garden in the city right by the free Lincoln Park zoo. I had a free weekend and decided to take a day and wander around taking photos in the conservatory and zoo. I captured a ton a beautiful flowers that day, but this little guy is my favorite because I spotted him amongst many a showy flower.

CBS edited 29
This photo was taken during my first shoot. Before I really even knew what I was doing. I remember going home after that shoot and spending the rest of that day editing photos. I think it was when I saw this one that I really thought, "Hey that's pretty darn amazing. And I took that. And I want to take more photos like that." I just love the look on Carly's face, the way she's delicately holding her stomach and how her hair is gently sweeping across her face. It's serene and beautiful and I thought really representative of the relationship she was building with her child.

During this shoot, I was contending with some serious sun rays. It was sunny day, which normally is a good thing, but for budding photographers, such as myself, it makes shooting a lot more challenging. I tried variations of this photo at the start of this shoot and I just wasn't happy with them. At the end as I was surveying my shots to see if I had enough, I looked over to this grassy patch and knew I had to give it another try. I did and I love this shot. I love it because I don't think anyone would guess it's in Chicago. And that's one of the many reasons why I love shooting in this city. There is just so much to choose from.

Heading to the Office
Speaking of the city, this is the type of shot you can only get in Chicago. I just love it. The mood, the lighting, and the fact that it was taken in a moving car proved to me how worth it it was to pay extra for the vibration reduction in my zoom lens.

It's a moment. And a beautiful one at that.

If I can be honest, I was a little nervous to shoot this family. I've known them all for the majority of my life, so I felt I really had to get a photo that was them. I didn't want my photos to look like ones any average Joe could have taken. This is that photo. I'll also always remember this shoot as the one the made me realize I need to trust my gut. I got nervous and switched to auto settings on my camera for a bit and in the end didn't loving any of those photos. The ones I loved were those where I told my camera what to do.

This photo was taken at the tail end of an all-day music festival Mike and I attended. The sun had set and this is usually the time I put away my camera thinking it was too dark to get a shot. Had I set this on auto, I don't think I could have gotten this shot. But using my brain and my manual settings I was able to get this photo of the waning light of the sunny summer day.

I honestly have learned so much about my camera, my style, photoshop and photography in general this year that I don't think I could sum it up in one blog post. But I can say, the 10 photos above are far superior than anything I could have posted a year ago. I can't wait to see what I'll capture next year.

December 7, 2009

Totally Worth It

A few years ago, my friend Brian announced he had purchased The URL was available so he secured it for a whopping $10 a year. He told me to let him know if I ever wanted to do anything with it.

At that time I was a young, journalist who has just moved to the big city with her big dreams of making it as a writer. I thought eventually that my site would be a place to launch my free lancing career. That never happened so nothing happened with the site. For a short bit this here blog was was linked to it, but for the most part it was a site in name only.

Today it no longer is. Check out my brand spanking new photography Web site: I could not be more proud. And even with all the hassles I encountered along the way designing this site, I can say it was all worth. As well as the $10 a year in hosting fees.

So yeah, I guess I'm really doing this, huh?

December 6, 2009

It's Christmas Time in the City

My Friday night took an unexpected turn. Instead of going home right after work like I had originally planned, I went out for a few hours. I got an email from an old coworker at about 4:45 who wanted to know if I and another coworker were free for drinks. We were.

We walked up the street from our office and sat down for a few hours for drinks, appetizers and lots of good conversation. The gathering ended only because she had to leave for a holiday party with her husband. But my night didn't end there.

Mike was down the street in Daley Plaza with friends consuming beer at the Kris Kindle market. I had previously decided not to go because of the cold, but somehow after a few rounds of drinks with the gals the cold just didn't seem bothersome any more.

Thankfully I had my camera on me, so I was able to capture some Christmas-y night shots. I present to you, Christmas in the City, courtesy of the Kris Kindle market.

You should buy nuts there
Christmas Time
Santa's On Display

As a result of my Friday night I found myself on Saturday afternoon at my local Kris Kindle market. I live in the German part of town, so it's only natural that it would hold this type of event. I met up with one of my coworkers from the night before. We stayed for a couple hours, perused the booths, and listened to a ton of children's choirs. It really got me in the holiday spirit and made me have second thoughts about my previous stance of not decorating my house this year. My Christmas bins are tucked all the way in the back of my storage unit and I decided I was too lazy to take everything out.

However, as my friend and I were leaving the market, we saw this brass quartet playing Christmas music and darn it if I didn't think, "Yeah, I could dig out those storage bins."
Christmas Brass
Trumpeting Christmas

December 1, 2009

If This Blog Could Talk...

This would not be a quiet post.


I have known this family it feels as long as I have known my own. I was introduced to them when my friend Jenny moved to my elementary school in the fifth grade. (Side note - I found out my elementary school is closing. So sad!)

This is Jenny and her hubby Luke. I was the maid of honor in their wedding. They are madly in love. It's cute.

When Jenny and Luke were married a few months back they forgot to do one thing in the rush of the day's excitement. They didn't get a photo of just them and Jenny's family. They got photos with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmas and grandpas, but not a photo of just the family. Jenny's solution was to suggest to her mom a shoot with me. I was more than happy to oblige when I was home for Thanksgiving. So family photos we got.


Even though Friday was cold. Very cold. And part of our shoot was to take place while they picked out a Christmas tree.


I even managed to get a few engagement shots for Scott and Heather's wedding Web site.


But I do have to say these photos don't do the family justice. They are not completely representative of the family I know. Sure they do smile, and they do like being in each other's company, but man are they fun. They more often joking around then they are sitting together and smiling quietly. If I honestly had to pick a shot that represents this, my second family, it's this one.


Man are they fun. Thanks guys. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Hopefully next time in better weather.