January 31, 2010

Polar Bears

I took over 600 photos this weekend. Yeah, I'm doing pretty well on my taking 10,000 photos in one year goal (see tracker at the bottom of this page). As of today, I'm now up to 1,074, or more than 10 percent of my goal completed. I'm thinking getting to 10,000 shouldn't be too much of a problem, especially since I'll now officially be shooting two weddings this year.

I also chipped away at another of my 2010 goals this weekend. I went to my first Chicago Digital Photography Meet-Up Event. (Five more to go.) The Lakeview Polar Bear Club hosts an annual dip and that was the subject of Saturday's meet up event. It fittingly was called The Celebration of Shrinkage.

My friend Sarah and I set out for Oak Street Beach, the most picturesque in the city if you ask me. It's right on the curve of Lake Shore Drive with Michigan Ave and The Drake serving as it's backdrop. Not too shabby.

We stood around and waiting in the freezing cold for a bit watching people prepare to jump in.

And then, they were off. A hundred people or so dashing for the freezing waters of Lake Michigan in January.

The looks on their faces said it all.

It wasn't until people were out of the water that they showed some relief.

Don't expect to find me doing anything but taking photos of this activity ever. The shoreline was cold enough.

January 24, 2010

Just Call Me Poe

I'd like to write a blog post
but I have nothing much to say.
I'd like to post a picture,
something that would brighten your day.

At the bottom of this page,
I did update my photo stats.
However all the photos I took this weekend
were only of my cats.

I have lots of things planned
for next Saturday and Sunday.
A photo event, a book reading,
and a photo shoot with a little beh-bay.

But as for now, the most I can offer
are these few measly, little lines.
You probably notice I haven't said much.
But hey, at least it rhymes.

Hope you all had a good weekend! Did you do anything poem-worthy?

January 18, 2010

A Quarter For My Troubles

Mike and I took our extra weekend day to get in some Wisconsin skiing. We went to Cascade Mountain, which is where Mike and I skied the day after Christmas. The mountain was just as good - all the runs were open and the sun never came out and rendered us blind. However, as good as the skiing was I think I'll remember the weekend more for this thing.

The night before we went skiing, Mike and I, and couple friends of ours had hotel rooms by the mountain and empty stomachs. We set off for the booming mecca of downtown Portage in search of nourishment. We walked into three bars before we found one that served food and had TVs. These were our requirements. The bar we settled into was a pretty typical Portage watering hole. It was wood paneled and crawling with regulars, some who looked like extras from a ZZ Top video. But it did have games. Lot and lots of games. We played darts (the boys won - boo!) and some pinball. Those paled in comparison however to the quarter game (pictured above).

You see the quarters in that machine? I think Nicole and I added about half of them that night. We tried it, first putting the spare change we had in our wallets into the machine. Unfortunately that's what got us hooked. The sound of the quarters dropping was intoxicating. You see, there were two slots for quarters and two little wheels that would spin the quarters we dropped. Once the quarter dropped we hoped it would push enough quarters from the first level (which also had a $10, $20 and $50 dollar bill) that it would knock quarters from the second level down to us. We got good enough at timing the wheel spins that we started getting some quarters coming back to us. I couldn't tell you though how many we won.

Like these six quarters that we won (probably after feeding 15 into the game). They were immediately put back into the game to try and garner us more winnings. That is what we did with all our winnings. Put them back into the game.

The next morning as we were reliving our night in the Wisconsin townie bar, Nicole and I tried to figure out how much money we spent. We stopped counting after we realized we may have put $30 into it. OK, actually $40. It's not all our fault though. Our men at one point brought us a $10 roll of quarters. And then they brought another. Nicole and I sis walk away at one point. Just when we thought we had successfully slipped from its grip, she spotted a quarter on the ground. We of course had to play it. And as I did, I jammed up one of the slots. We didn't even stop then. There was still one working slot. I think we only finally quit because we couldn't find any more quarters in our purses and our men, sensing, our crippling addiction stopped bringing us quarter rolls. We were cut off. And it was a good thing.

Um but skiing... skiing was fun. I'm glad we went.

And I'm glad I don't have a quarter game in my home because I'm pretty sure I'd be playing that instead of writing this blog post right now.

January 14, 2010


There was an email in my inbox this afternoon from the National Association for Professional Women. I have never heard of this organization, but I can tell you based on the name alone it immediately sounded as credible to me as The Human Fund. So before I even opened the email I decided to Google it. (Seriously, what did we all do before Google?)

Well you know how Google has the auto complete feature where it can guess what you're typing before you finish typing it? Google's auto complete displayed the following: "National Association of Professional Women scam." Yup, that's about what I thought.

I clicked on a couple of the links. Each site contained stories of women who paid to be in this fake organization, where charged sometimes 100 times the amount they were told the membership fee was and then after countless fruitless phone calls waited and waited and waited for the refunds they were promised. Apparently their promises of "free registration," "national conferences," "certificates of recognition" and "global corporate partnerships" were enough. And yes all these things were listed as perks in their email. Notice how it's all incredibly vague. I mean sure I'd like "to be considered for inclusion with the (association's) 'distinguished women' of 2009/2010." But I just don't know what it is they think makes me distinguished. In this case, I have a feeling "distinguished" and "financially gullible" are one in the same.

Needless to say I will be not be joining the National Assocaition for Professional Women (or NAPW) any time soon.This savvy professional woman is a little too smart for them. Also, any one else think "professional woman" kind of makes it sound like it's an organization for hookers?

January 12, 2010

Still Frigid

When I was photographing the snow on Sunday, I had to take a break midway through. I practically sprinted back to the car and immediately sat on my hands. I also may have apologized to my camera for taking it out in the cold.

I decided instead of heading back out in the same location, I drive a tiny bit north and capture the short and this bright red light house with my lens. So that's what I did.

January 10, 2010


Last winter my camera and I hibernated. The majority of the photos I took (which were few and far between) were indoors. I reasoned there just weren't as many interesting things to capture when everything was cold, dark and no one left their homes. The truth though was that I simply didn't want to brave the elements.

I started poking around Flickr last year and found a lot of photographers that were braving the elements and getting some really unique images. I vowed that I wouldn't let my excuses keep me indoors this year.

I tripled up on layers and decided this afternoon I would brave 17 degree temps in the name of photography and my 10,000 photos in one year challenge. It was cold. I'm not gonna lie. I still haven't warmed up completely, and I've been indoors for about four hours now. It was so cold that my camera's auto focus stopped functioning at long focal lengths. Despite all that, I'm so glad I forced myself outdoors. The lake looks like another planet with its waves frozen in time. And the mix of sand, snow and frozen sea provided some amazing color contrasts for me to work with. Also, I've got some really unique images on Flickr right now. For example:

I'll post more tomorrow. I took 160+ photos today so I figured I'd spread them out. I'm not planning on doing this again for at least a week. Maybe I will have thawed out by then.

January 9, 2010

My Name Is Amy And I Want To Be An Ethical Omnivore

Mike and I are going to Trader Joe's today, and I'm pretty excited. I do love Trader Joe's and its inexpensive assortment of snacks and sweets. What I'm really excited to get there today is meat.

As you may know, one of my goals for 2010 is to buy only ethically-raised meat, something Trader Joe's has in stock more often than larger chain grocery stores. I wrote that goal thinking everyone would understand what it was and my motivations behind it. And then I realized that was a pretty big assumption, and I should probably explain myself. Let me start by introducing you to an intelligent man by the name of Michael Pollan.

His fame within the food world is such that you may have heard of him. If you haven't he's written the bestsellers "In Defense of Food," "The Botany of Desire" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma." I read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" a few years ago, and it changed the way I thought about food. Unfortunately, that is all it did. I didn't really change my habits. Then a few months ago, Mike and I watched Food, Inc. It's a brilliant documentary, and one I recommend everyone see. Pollan and Eric Schlosser (author of "Fast Food Nation") are featured prominently throughout the film, and their words reinforced what I already knew about food. However this time, I want to change my actions.

The message of Pollan and Schlosser is the same. Food in this country has become a product. It's more effectively produced than it ever has been in the history of the world and for cheaper than it ever has. Like anything though, these so-called improvements to the system have their unfortunate health and environmental side effects. It's amazing that we live in a society where we can afford to eat meat every single day. There is a reason however that it has become so cheap to eat meat, and we and the animals we eat suffer for it.

Let's talk cows and how we've changed them to adapt to our needs. Cows eat corn. However, cows are not meant to eat corn. It's not a food that given the choice they would naturally eat. Cows are meant to eat plants, mainly grass. Remember in elementary school learning that a cow has four stomachs? Well those stomachs are designed to process plant based food.

So then why do cows eat corn? The answer is twofold: one, it's cheap, and two, it fattens them up.

The price of corn has been subsidized by the government since a 1930's farm bill that has been renewed every five to six years since. Because of these subsidies its price is much lower than most agricultural products. This farm bill also is the reason you will find high fructose corn syrup in most everything you eat. Feeding cows corn also has such a terrible physical effect on their bodies. For starters, it makes them big and fat much sooner than they would by eating plants. They become these beefy super cows when they are mere toddlers, and as a result are living shorter lives than ever. So instead of grazing in pastures, cows are packed into massive feedlots without a single blade of grass in sight and fed a steady diet of fattening corn while often standing knee deep in a thick sludge of mud and feces.

The other physical effect of feeding a cow corn is that is makes them sick. Grass has a neutral ph balance whereas corn is acidic. According to Pollan, this acidic diet leads to among other things a weakening of the cow's immune system, leaving it vulnerable to all kinds of feedlot diseases. To counteract this their diets aren't changed. Instead they are injected with antibiotics. One of the main problems with this is their bodies grow immune to these antibiotics, and in turn cows are pumped with greater and greater doses which never really cure the problem.

We aren't immune from the effect of a cow's man made diet. By feeding cows fattening corn, we in turn eat meat that is higher in total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories than a cow's grass fed counterpart.

Taking all of these things into consideration, it became clear to me that by choosing to eat meat that has been raised with its natural diet in mind, I am supporting the type of food industry I believe in. So what exactly does ethically raised meat mean? To me it means grass-fed, hormone and anti-biotic free beef, pasture raised pork and free range chicken and turkey. Pollan often says that every time you walk into a grocery you vote with your dollars. I want my vote to be for ethically-raised meat.

The main problem with choosing to eat this way is that isn't not the norm. It will be a challenge to get. It will be more expensive when I do. But I don't care. This is a topic I feel very passionately about. It's one that I plan to continue to talking about. This little blog post has just scratched the surface of the wealth of information regarding being an ethical omnivore. I hope I've peaked your interest. Or if your interest was peaked prior to my post, please let me know your thoughts and how you have or want to incorporate ethically raised meat in your diet.

January 3, 2010

Early Birthday Present

I am turning a very uneventful 29-years-old tomorrow. I have never liked the date of my birthday anyway, and coupled with the fact that it's most people's groan-worthy first day back to work after a lazy holiday and New Year's working season, I honestly haven't planned much. As of now, I'm looking forward to the coffee break with a good friend that I have scheduled tomorrow afternoon. She's buying me a latte. And in exchange I'm very excited that I can hand her one of these.

My business cards!

I have my very own business cards! I ordered them a few weeks ago, and they were sitting in the mailbox this morning. My little business now feels very grown up.

I used an online service that was able to print my photos on the front and back of the cards. I used five images I liked for the front (I have 10 of each) and one banner image on the top of each backside. They turned out pretty snazzy if I do say so myself. Sure they were a little more expensive than your standard business card, but I love that my images are on them. It gives a nice little sneak peek into what I can do.

I can't wait to start passing them out, and I'm hoping they'll go pretty quickly. More quickly than my current paralegal work cards have. In the three years I've been at my firm, I think I've given out four. One may have been to my mom. But I have big plans for my photo business cards. My awesome hairdresser extraordinaire has already said she'd take some and pass them out to her clients. And I've already made Mike take one. I even offered a few to the cats. They were very uninterested after they sniffed them out.

I may not have terribly exciting plans to ring in my 29th year on this planet, but getting these cards was all the excitement I need. If you see me any time soon you can expect to get one.

January 1, 2010

Five Minutes, Five Goals

There was a span of five minutes in 2009 that in all seriousness may have changed my life. It happened in early April. I was sitting on the floor of my friend Carly's home. Her closest friends and family members were gathered around and watching a slide show of photos that I had taken the previous day. Sitting there and listening to the oohs and awwws and then applause that followed the slide show was almost too much. It was a great moment. No not great. Great is too small a word. It was monumental. I don't think I completely knew at that moment, but something in me was sparked and I haven't been the same since.

I will always remember 2009 as the year I started dreaming big. I remember the exact moment that made me think I could take an entirely different path than the one I was on. And before I knew it, I was was gingerly tip toeing down that path. And in 2010, I just want to sprint down it as quick as possible.

It's no secret that I am trying to transform my love of photography into something more than just a hobby. And what gets me about this is despite all the goals I had for myself in 2009 this pursuit can be found no where on the list. I didn't even know these dreams were in me. I honestly didn't know what I was capable of. So in this coming year, I will do just that - try and see what I'm capable of. I will try to transform my hobby into a career. This is by far my number one goal. But I also know it's too lofty, it's too big. I know there are things I can do and steps I can take that will propel me further down this new path. These things make up the majority of my 2010 goals.

Goal number one: Take 10,000 photos
There is a theory that in order to master something you need to do it for 10,000 hours. Well I did the math and even if I spent every second of 2010 taking photos, I still wouldn't log 10,000 hours. So I can't do that. But I think it's reasonable to say I can take 10,000 photos in a year. And thanks to my digital card reader, I should be able to keep track pretty easily. I might even do a little tracking side bar a la Kelsa. I've taken 63 today already.

Goal number two: Get on WBEZ photo of the day.
Every work day I log onto Chicago Public Radio and listen to their live feed online. On the front page each day there is a photo of the day. I want one of my photos featured there. I already submit photos to their Flickr pool and given that I'll be taking more photos throughout the year (see goal above) I might have a better shot at submitting one that is ultimately selected.

Goal number three: Attend six digital photography meet ups.
I belong to the Chicago Digital Photography Meet Up group, but only in spirit. I have yet to attend an event despite the weekly emails they send me. So I'd like to try and attend one every two months. I need to network and meet other photographers, and this is the best way I can see to achieve this. It also will require a lot of stepping out of my comfort zone which is exciting and scary all at the same time.

Now I don't want to have photography be my one and only focus in the coming year. It will take up plenty of my energy and free time, but there are two other things I plan to do/attempt.

Goal number four: Buy only ethically raised meat.
I could write an entire blog post on this, and probably will at some point. Suffice it to say, over the course of 2009 I became increasingly aware of the health and environmental benefits that stem from eating meat that has been ethically raised. I'm not saying that's all I'm going to eat. For instance, last night my NYE hostess made chicken. I'm not going to be so bold as to demand my dietary restrictions upon others, but ethically raised meat (and cage free eggs) will be all I purchase.

Goal number five: Touch my toes.
I can't do it. It hurts. My hamstrings and lower back are so tight that this is the best I can do.

I mean look how far away my hands are from my feet.

Pathetic. I don't want Mike to be able to make fun of my inflexibility any more, so I'm doing something about it. Daily stretching here I come. Yay!

(I thought I was having a good hair day until I saw this photo. I don't care too much though because I haven't left the house today - hence no make up - and don't think I will. It's a lazy New Year's day.)

I think my life is pretty darn great, so even if I fail miserably at all of my goals I think I'd still be happy. But I also am not one to sit back and be content with things just as they are. Hence my 2010 goals. I wish you all the best in achieving your goals in the in the new year.