March 31, 2010


There seems to be some reoccurring themes in a lot of the professional photo blogs I read. One main theme among the industry newbies and veterans is how social networking (i.e. blogs, Facebook, Twittter) has lead to a flood of so-called Rock Star Photographers. Of which I am not. These are the people who charge substantial fees for workshops yet may not have the years of experience to back of their costly expertise. The other hot topic is how the prevalence of digital SLR cameras (a la mine) have lead to a flood of amateurs on the market who charge too little for their services. In particular, I came across this article from the New York Times this evening.

I am an amateur photographer who charges a nominal fee for my services. I wonder if this means I am part of the problem. And if it's an actual problem or just an industry that is choosing to get up in arms over a perceived threat. Either way, I'm not sure what to make of it. The backlash and criticisms on blogs and forums relating to these topics is enough to make me think I'd be crazy to try and enter this field. And I really don't know if photography is something I could do or would even want to do as a full-time gig.

The one thing I know is I love taking photos. And I'm willing to give up most of my non-working hours during the week editing photos, even if it is for a nominal fee. Nothing makes me feel better than being able to hand over an image to someone that I just know they'll hang on there wall and treasure for years to come. Images like those below are enough to make me know that even if I never charge another dime for my photos, I'll still keep taking them.


March 30, 2010

Let's Be Friends

I am full of excuses when it comes to finding time to head to the gym. It's too hot, or it's too cold, or it's too early, or it's too late. Or I too recently took a shower. Apparently I at times need a swarm of flies circling my head to determine it is in fact time to head to the gym. My friend Lexi thinks she's the queen of excuses. But she has two children, so I reason that her excuses are immediately 100 percent more valid than mine.

Last Sunday though, I set something in motion. I didn't know it at the time, but heading to the gym a little over a week ago would give me the momentum to continue going, excuses be damned. Since that Sunday, I've gone to the gym  five times. That feat has not happened in months. I think I went five times total from November to January.

That's the thing about working out: The more I do it the more I want to keep doing it. Because if I stop, I don't know how long it will be until I go again. This week though, my excuses have fallen away. I've gone and not had any thought otherwise. I've gone even though it meant the earliest train I could take home was the 7:35 p.m. I've gone even though I've worked an 8+ hour day. I've gone even though I've only had 30 minutes to spare. I've gone even though the weather outdoors could not have been nicer. 

Today the weather was downright beautiful. And I decided I wasn't going to the gym. I was going to the park instead. For all my dramatic declarations of I don't run any more, I ran today. Not far, not fast. I got out there though. The weather could not have been nicer - mid 60s, sunny with a slight breeze. I made my third pass around the quarter mile track and was surprised upon internal inspection to find that I was enjoying myself. It was so nice that I did a fourth lap. And then ran part of the way home.

This is the thing I learned. I do like running. But I like doing it outdoors, on a nice day. And I like running without worrying about setting a pace or going a certain distance. When I don't self impose all these pressures on my running performance, I actually do find it quite enjoyable. So running, I have this to say to you: Let's be friends. You may never be a great love of mine, but I'll always look forward to catching up with you on a sunny day.

March 28, 2010

Eat Your Vegetables

I started off my weekend by watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Anyone else? I didn't plan on watching it, but some how I ended up on the show and then watched the entire two hour premiere.

It was eye-opening in the sense that I cannot believe how warped childrens' views of food are. Jamie proved that kids are willing to eat anything as long as its breaded, in the shape of a chicken nugget and fried. He also proved that a classroom full of first grade students couldn't tell the difference between a tomato and a potato. I realize kids at that age don't necessarily always know that french fries come from potatoes or that tomatoes make ketchup, but that fact that they couldn't identify the vegetables in their raw form was a bit sad. I would like take this moment to formally thank my parents for sitting us down for dinner every night. We had home cooked food more often than not, and I certainly remember eating my fair share of vegetables - whether I wanted to or not.

I ended my weekend with a photo shoot with a sweet little girl by the name of Becca. She restored my faith in children. And her parents are wonderful. Totally the type that will make her eat her vegetables, even though she currently only has four teeth.

March 23, 2010

Not This Time

Any one who has read this blog for more than a year knows I at one point in time considered myself a runner of sorts - and that I now no longer consider myself a runner of any sort. I gave it up last year after having realized there was no need to torture myself with an exercise that, in all honesty, I hated. Especially when I have a gym membership and several fancy elliptical machines waiting for me a few blocks away whenever I want.

One of the events that triggered my letting go of running was the 2009 Shamrock Shuffle. Those of you with good memories might recall that the morning of the 2009 Shamrock Shuffle looked like this:

Something about this race always brings the crappiest weather. This year was no exception. It did snow the day before the 2010 Shuffle. Thankfully the morning of the race was just cold, wet and dark. No snow. However, having given up running, as aforementioned, my title that day was photographer not runner. It's a title I'm more comfortable with any way.

My friend Jenny came into town to run the race and did quite fantastic I must say. I, on the other hand, got what I think are some fantastic images. And I didn't even break a sweat.

This crew below was a little late. I passed them as I was on my way to try and capture the lead pack at mile three. I didn't. The lead pack runs so much faster than I walk.

Even though it was cold and rainy, it helped me get this cool shot (below).

I learned that photographing runners isn't easy, especially on a cloudy day. There wasn't really any available sunlight and without it, my shutter was a lot slower than I wanted it to be. Plus, my lens was having a really hard time focusing on all these quickly moving, bobbing faces.

I gave that up for a bit and just tried to capture the movement.

The cool thing about the Shamrock Shuffle is that the loop pretty much shuts down. So sidewalks that I am fighting for space on my daily commute to work become desolate. The street below I walk down every day to work. There's no way I could have gotten this shot Monday through Friday.

The statute in the photo below is in a building's lobby right across the street from my office. I love how it stands out no matter the time of day or surroundings. But on this Sunday, it was a golden beacon.

Also located not far from my office is this plaza (below) with one of the famous Picasso sculptures. Again, I've always loved this sculpture, but I couldn't have gotten this clear of a shot on a weekday. The fact that a girl with a red scarf walked by as I was there was simply kismet.

I thought by the time I got downtown to the starting line that I might be sad that I wasn't running the Shuffle again. It is after all the first race I ever ran. But you know, I wasn't. I find so much more enjoyment these days behind the lens than I do pounding the pavement.

My one regret, however, is that I didn't get a photo of Jenny. I guess she's going to have to come back and run it again next year.

March 15, 2010


I'm still trying to figure out this whole eating ethically-raised meat thing, and I thought it was time for an update. Now is the perfect time because I have three different types of chicken coming from three different stores sitting in my freezer right now.

After mine and Mike's trip to Trader Joe's in January, I felt a little disappointed. Its selection of meats was better than my local chain grocery store (that's Jewel for any of you non-Chicagoans). Most of Trader Joe's meats are antibiotic and hormone free, so I felt like that was a step in the right direction. But none of the packaging for the red meat products (i.e. pork or ground meat) led me to believe that the conditions the animals were raised in are humane. I did purchase organic free range chicken that claims to be sustainably farmed and raised without antibiotics. This package of three chicken breasts set me back $7.62 or $6.99 per pound. This is of course more than what our local Jewel sells factory-raised Purdue chicken for. Three breasts of Purdue chicken cost $8.78 or $5.49 per pound. But I'm happy to say I haven't bought mass produced meats (i.e. Purdue or Jewel brand) at all this year.

A few weeks later I went to Whole Foods to see if I could find a better selection. I did find more of the types of meat options I was looking for and purchased a 2.5lb bag of chicken breasts. It advertised that the chickens were vegetarian-fed, minimally process with no artificial ingredients and raised without the use of antibiotics or preservatives. They also were shipped from Ohio meaning they are relatively local. This bag of  chicken breasts cost $9.99 or almost $4 per pound. I was surprised that Whole Foods was actually the cheapest option, but the store I went to isn't really located anywhere near my home. So it's not really a practical option.

If I have my choice though (and I certainly do), I prefer buying locally from a small, family run operation. I know this is the easiest way to ensure that the meat I purchase has lived the type of lifestyle I want to support with my dollars. Unfortunately, the local farmer's markets aren't open just yet. Once they do, buying meat in this fashion will become simpler.

There is one more ethical meat option I need to try and compare. The train station I ride into on a daily basis recently opened its very own market. Mike and I went once, and the options for locally grown meats and produce were far more abundant than those of our local grocery store. I just need to check the pricing and selection again.

Meat eating is something I'm thinking about on a daily basis right now. And I'm doing that purposefully. I want to be more mindful of the food I consume because I honestly believe I owe the animals I eat that respect. Part of my attitude has been fueled by the book I'm currently reading: The Compassionate Carnivore. Most pages in this book are littered with statistics that make my stomach churn. It isn't really an easy read. Each new stat I come across, however, strengthens my resolve to not unknowingly become one of those statistics.

One fact that's been turning in my mind over and over since I read it is the amount of food wasted each year in the United States. The simple truth is we waste a lot of food. But saying food makes the statistic sound benign. I immediately think of plates of potatoes, breads, vegetables and desserts heading for the trash - not necessarily meat. However, when I step back for a moment and realize there are animals in our food, these statistics take on a whole new meaning.

According to the author Catherine Friend's rough mathematical calculations, we kill and throw away the equivalent of 15,000 cattle, 36,000 hogs and 2 million chickens. Every. Single. Day.

Seriously stop and think about that. Those are astonishing numbers. Ones that should make everyone pause, meat-eater or not. That is so much senseless killing, so many animals that didn't have to be born into atrocious living conditions only then to be killed for literally no reason at all. 

This senseless killing goes on though. And I believe mainly because people don't think of meat as animals. It's packaged and produced in such a sterile way that by the time an animal makes its way to our plate, its original form is unrecognizable. Now I'm not saying we should all go out and purchase whole cows, but I do believe if meat came with a photo of the animal it came from, we wouldn't be as quick to toss it.

It's this kind of mindful eating that I'm trying to practice. I want to acknowledge that the meat I eat is from an animal. It lived, it breathed, and it ate. It had a life. It had a spirit. And when I do eat meat, I want to note that it came from a being that at one point I could have reached out and touched. It lived so I could be fed and nourished. It lived so I could continue living a long and healthy life. I would like to think that that animal had a relatively long and healthy life as well. But at the very least, it had a life. And that's not anything that should be overlooked, and should never be carelessly tossed away.

March 14, 2010

A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit of That

This post is not an attempt to be witty or insighful or really even coherent. This is a post I am writing simply to fill the time it will take for my dinner to roast.

I am making salmon and roasted carrots. They should be delicious. And they should be done in a matter of 15 minutes. So what can I tell you in the next 15 minutes? Well a few things.

First, this weekend was the official Chicago St. Patty's Day celebration. And if you have never heard of my town's St. Patty's Day celebrations let me tell you they are Legen - wait for it! - DARY. We even dye the river green. See here. Sadly, yesterday was not as nice as the day in that photo. It was dark and rainy, but that doesn't really stop anyone from going out. It's almost as it its Chicago's Groundhog's Day. Practically the entire city comes out of hibernation, hoping to see its collective shadow. But even if we don't, there's still a giant freaking party. Mike and I did our part. We left home at 9 a.m. and didn't return until after 6 p.m. We visited three different establishments, drank green beer, heard an Irish band and partook in some silliness on the el.
It was a job well done.

Now it's Sunday night though, and my mind is drifting toward all I need to do tomorrow at work. And honestly, some of what I should do tonight. I didn't leave work until 6 p.m. on Friday despite having enough work to stay another couple hours. But I just couldn't. I was spent and hoping I'd be able to finish one project this weekend. I have not yet. See St. Patty's Day paragraph above for reasons why. Despite all my work, I still will tell anyone who asks that yes, I do love my new job.

I took some photos to CVS today for prints. They turned out like crap. I didn't think they'd be great, but they look terrible. I had them printed as a gift for a friend. CVS ruined my gift. I am growing increasingly frustraated with my lack of photo printing options. So much so that I'm considering buying my own printer and just doing them myself. I'm not usually this much of a control freak, but I'm not happy with anywhere that prints my photos. I might just take matters into my own hands.

Also on the photorgaphy front, I've spotted the next lens I want to buy. Given the number of shoots I have coming up in the next four weeks, this purchase would be completely paid for. And then some.

Mike and I made an impulse purchase at Sears today. We bought an old school Orville Redenbacher popcorn air popper. I have never been so excited to eat popcorn in my entire life.

Speaking of eating, my food is done. I'm hungry. Later gators.

March 8, 2010

Keep Your Anonymous Comments To Yourself

I love comments. I have no shame admitting that. While I don't write with the intention to provoke comments from my readers, I get ridiculously happy whenever someone takes the time to comment on whatever recent drivel I've written. That's why lately, I've been getting increasingly fed up with the countless spammers who've found my blog.

Years ago, I made it mandatory that I accept any comment before it is published on my blog. It's my blog, my content and out of respect to the people I on occasion have written about, I just felt better having that little bit of control. I could not be more happy I chose to do that because for every post I write as of late, I get at least one spam comment.

For instance, today I received the following comment about a post I wrote in December wherein I posted several photos of Chicago at Christmas:
I am able to make link exchange with HIGH pr pages on related keywords
like and
other financial keywords. My web page is

If your page is important contact me.
please only good pages, wih PR>2 and related to financial keywords
Yup. I rejected that one. I reject them all. But I'm annoyed at the frequency at which I have to do it now.  I used to get really excited when I had an "Anonymous" comment because they'd more than likely be from my mom, or some of my good friends like Dorrie, Jenny or Wendy. There was even that one time Mike even left a comment. But lately they are all robot-sounding, grammatically incorrect spam. And most are trying to link to some other service or page.

For instance, when I posted photos of my recent trip to Phoenix, I received the following comment on that post from "Heidi":
Thanks for posting those wonderful photos!!!You had a nice adventures
huh?Hope,we could do those things that you did..I enjoy reading your

phoenix personal trainer

The "phoenix personal trainer" in that comment had a link that I never clicked on. I didn't want them to think they won.

Sometimes though the comments can be a little intimidating. Like this next one. I like to believe it was written by a nice, but stern older gentleman, whose native language is not English. He commented in response to my post about my weekend in Wisconsin spent pumping quarters into a bar game:
Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not
as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality
now. Keep it up!
And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but
only this time! :)
So noted anonymous commenter. I will do my best to conform any future opinions to your imaginary ones. And thank you for the emoticon.

Sometimes though, they are short and sweet, like this comment left in response to my Olymp-nics post:
Hello. And Bye.
By far and away though, my favorite comment recently (I can't possibly remember them all at this point) is the following one left on my Phoenix post. It in no way can be related to anything I wrote in that post. And it's a controversy I never thought my little blog would be subjected to:
Good afternoon

We do not agree with this year BRIT awards 2010 decision.

Please attend our little web survey

Lady Gaga can not be better than Madonna

Poll supported by BRIT awards 2010 sponsor femmestyle - tickets left standing!! This Competition is now closed
I looked into it, and learned that Lady Gaga did a clean sweep of her nominations at the 2010 Brit Awards. She won for best international female artist, best international breakthrough act and best international album for The Fame. I, however, found no mention of Lady Gaga stealing Madonna's thunder.

So anonymous commenter you, you are the worst. Do not clog my inbox with fake controversies. And untimely ones at that. The Brit Awards were held more than three weeks ago. It is time to move on. And to you, I say:
Hello. And Bye.

March 4, 2010

Best for Last

It is March. And now that February is over, I plan to catch my breath.

My February flew by. Looking back at all I did, it's no surprise. I quit my job of three years and started a new one. Mike and I went skiing for a day. I threw in a last minute photo shoot with a friend. Mike and I spent literally a weekend adding Bertha to our family. The following weekend Mike and I metaled in the inaugural family Olympics. And this past weekend, well let's just say I saved the best for last.

I have these two friends. Really calling them friends isn't suitable. The three of us may all live thousands of miles and states apart, but I am closer to them than I am most other people. They are more like family. Lexi, Kelsa and I met in college. Since then we have each moved to a different state, so we don't get to see one another all too often. This past weekend however was the exception.

After months and months of planning. My chicas and I convened in Phoenix. Given that I live in Chicago and Lexi's in Philly, Phoenix was the most appealing option in late February. I mean, Phoenix has this.

Lexi and I got the added bonus this weekend of a free personal training session with Kelsa's husband Michael. Michael has an awesome work out blog (check it out!) that Lexi and I follow. It's challenging and makes me try things I wouldn't otherwise try. And occasionally there are things on his blog that I'm not really sure I'm doing right. Mike walked us through his exercises, and I realized I was doing some things wrong. Yeah, I'm looking at you squats. I learned that apparently when you do squats the right way they actually really hurt your legs - for DAYS.

I also learned that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for. Mike spotted us on the bench press, and I surprised myself by doing 17 reps with a 45 pound bar. I honestly wasn't sure if I could do more than one.

We went to the gym earlier on Sunday when it was raining. Later on though, the clouds broke just as we pulled in to watch the sunset in the foothills.



After having not seen the sun for most of January and February, letting the sun hit my skin in for a while felt magical. I really miss the sun. But I wasn't in this trip completely for the weather. The weather was just a bonus. This was the real reason.

If our laughter kept you up, I'm sorry. No wait. I'm not. I'd see them both again this weekend if it were possible.