May 30, 2010

By The Light Of the Full Moon

One of my 2010 goals is to attend six Chicago Digital Photography Meet Up events. Back in January I attended the polar bear plunge with my friend Sarah, but since then I hadn't gone to any. Now that the weather is heating up, the the Meet Ups are much more frequent and with that the opportunities for photography are much more compelling.

Last Thursday I attended the Full Moon Fire Jam Meet Up, again with my friend Sarah. I'd been to the Full Moon Fire Jam years before with another photographer friend, however, I didn't bring a camera that time. Having gone before I knew the opportunities for interesting photos would be plentiful, so this was one Meet Up I wanted to attend.

The Full Moon Fire Jam takes place every full moon. A group of dozens of fire spinners and drummers meet in one of the lake shore parks and jam out for a good hour and a half under the light of the full moon. It's awesome. And if I do say so, my pictures from this jam turned out as awesome as I had hoped they would.

I shot manually the whole time, knowing that metering and capturing the light would be really tricky.  Photography is all about light and in this instance the light varied in brightness and was constantly moving. I really tried to test what I've learned about photography and capture the light in every way I knew how. I think I surprised myself a little with the variety of the types of shots I got out of this one event. I literally did not move from my spot all night. It was one of the best seats in the house - think fire dancers right in front and jamming drummers right behind. Since my view didn't change I changed the way my camera saw the scene.

I caught the fire spinner's spinning:

I caught the fire spinners faces:

And then I even stopped using the auto focus on my camera and started going abstract:

Doesn't that almost look like a painting?

But the three shots below are my absolute favorite. Usually these kinds of shots are a happy accident, but honestly, I knew how to catch these. And I couldn't be more proud. Pat on the back for me!

To give you an idea of the scene in its entirety, I even took a bit of video. The drummers make this event so I thought it only fair to show you their contribution as well.

One more goal this meet up helped me to accomplish is making it half way through my take 10,000 pictures in one year goal. I'm at 5,133 now with less than half the year over. Dare I say it, I just might blow my 2010 goals out of the water this year.

May 23, 2010

A Photo Collection Unlike This Blog Has Ever Seen

I have featured countless photos other people on this blog. I thought today I might turn the tables on myself. I'm not in front of the camera often (I prefer hiding behind the lens) but I happened into a windfall of photos when I was home last weekend.

My mom handed me a stack of photos from various family events over the past few years that were mine to keep. It seems I can't escape her lens. And it also seems that her lens does not like me. I present to you a collection of ugly and embarrassing photos of me. Please keep in mind that I had to scan these pictures because my mom gave me hard copy prints so the quality isn't so great. Please also keep in mind that my mom thought these photos were print-worthy.

Up first, Christmas 2008:
I am in the top right corner of this photo, looking very uncertain of things - mom's camera? Dinner? My crazy nephew in front? Who knows.

March 2009:
My mom, sister and I went to a friend's play in Stockbridge when I was home that weekend. I apparently brought my fake smile and crazy eyes on the trip.

May 2009:
I stole my nephew's bike and took it for a joy ride. I am that kind of aunt. I actually love this picture. I only wish you could see my face and the child's helmet I'm wearing a bit better. The scan doesn't do it justice.

The next three photos are all from my friend Dorrie's wedding last September. I had a great time at this wedding, but these picture will lead you to believe otherwise.

Two things I feel I need to clarify: 1) I love Mike very much and do not think I was angry with him when this photo was taken and 2) I am not a mouth-breather.

We like to call ourselves the Selma Street gang. (Our hands are spelling the letter S in case you can't tell). According to the faces of the other members in this gang, our gang is nice and friendly. According to my face, I'll cut a bitch.

This last one is my favorite and it's a shame it didn't scan better. This photo was taken right after my solo violin performance was over. I was happy and relieved. Yet this photo captures a very different Amy. This Amy has a machine gun in her violin case and isn't afraid to use it.

These photos makes me question what my face looks like on an average day. I don't think I generally walk around with my mouth open, with a crazy smile plastered face and certainly not like I am plotting other people's demise. But with the high percentage of crazy looks my mom was able to capture with her camera I am second guessing that. So I guess what I'm saying is if I pass you on the street and I look mean or crazy, please know that's apparently just what my face looks like. It must run in the family.

This is my parents on New Years Eve this past year. I can't really tell what my dad's about to do here, but I'm guessing they had a pretty fun night.

I love you mom!

May 19, 2010


It's over. My first wedding is done.

The night of the wedding when I got home and was laying in bed I couldn't stop thinking about it. I did the thing that I always do after a shoot. I analyzed the day and determined what I did wrong, what I should have done better and convinced myself that I'd be lucky if I got one good shot. Yes, these thoughts (and a splitting headache) woke me up at 4 a.m. and would not stop circling my brain. The next night was better, but I still couldn't stop the thoughts completely.

It's four days after the fact now, and I've come around. The cool, even-headed Amy has prevailed, and I'm pretty sure I did a good job. Are there some things I would have done differently? Yes. Did everything turn out perfectly? No. But do I think I did a good job? Hell yes. And I'll be proud to share these photos with the bride once they are ready.

And now my brain is as calm and peaceful as these photos I took at my parent's lake house. It was the perfect place to relax after shooting my first wedding.

Wedding pictures are forth coming, but editing will take a little longer than usual this time. I promise, I'll share though. I always do.

May 11, 2010


I got an eye opening-reminder today. The bride who's wedding I'm shooting posted this as a Facebook status update: "4 days."

Four days. That's it. Four little days, 96 hours,  until I photograph my first wedding.

To say I'm nervous would be an understatement. To say I'm excited would be an understatement. I keep trying to remind myself that even though this is a big deal, the bottom line is that I love photography. And above any other emotion, I should be incredibly excited to get this opportunity to do what I love.

I did have a nightmare the other night that the wedding went terribly wrong. I didn't get any pictures of the bridal party and the wedding ceremony was over before I took a single shot. Thankfully I woke up before it got any worse.

Now I may never have photographed a wedding before, but I have certainly been in a few. Counting the wedding I played violin in last September (hi Dorrie!) I've been a part of seven bridal parties. So I know how weddings work. And honestly, I know how photography works. Here's hoping that come Saturday I'm able to remember everything I know about both.

This is all to say that if I'm silent for a few days on this blog it's because I'm preparing for the wedding, photographing the wedding or recovering from shooting the wedding. My family is getting together on Sunday at my parent's lake house for a bit of a mother's day/father's day/mom's birthday celebration. I'm looking forward to it because even if my wedding nightmare comes true, time spent with my family always goes well.

May 10, 2010

Where I See Myself

I spend a lot of time dreaming right now. Awake or asleep it seems my mind is always set on what is to take place in the future.

It's not that I'm some aimless drifter with my head in the clouds, always pondering the great what if. It's the exact opposite. I know exactly where I want to be in five years, and I'm so excited to get there. But the thing with the five year plan is that is takes five years.

I never used to be able to answer that question: Where do you see yourself in five years? The answer forever eluded me. My standard reply was always some sort of philosophical, non-committal response - something along the line of, "Well I don't know if five years ago I could have predicted that I'd be where I am today. So I really don't know where I'll be in five years, but I hope it's grater than anything I'm thinking of right now." It's a great non-answer.

I was reading a blog entry the other day of a very gifted photographer who's taking her final exams for school. She's expressed her anxiousness to finish with classes and just get going with her life. I remember that same restlessness of the last few months of my senior year of college. I knew my exams were a formality, and that in a month's time my real life, beyond my school and everything I'd known for the previous four years, was just waiting to start. I kind of feel like that these days. I've got a clear vision of where I'd like to be, what I'd like to be doing in five years time. I'm presently doing all I can to get there, so I've just got to wait for the pieces to fall into place.

On Sunday, Mike and I were running errands when I suggested we hop over to a neighborhood in the city that's been peaking our interest as of late. It's a great old neighborhood with brick bungalows and mature, arching trees lining the streets. It's not anything I would have thought I'd want five years ago, but I found my self oohing and aahing over homes that suddenly didn't seem that far out of reach. After coasting down several city streets, Mike and I found a neighborhood joint and ate our lunch outdoors with beer in hand. We talked about the future, about the common things we want - a yard, dogs, studio (for me), a garage (for Mike) - and did that wishful sort of planning young unmarried, folks with no kids can do on a Sunday afternoon.

As Mike and I headed back home on Sunday evening, to our perfectly fine neighborhood in a great part of town, I found myself dreaming of the day when we will be living in the perfectly fine neighborhood in that other part of town. Someday, I know it will happen. I just need to be patient and give it about five years.

May 4, 2010


The folder on my hard drive that contains Jack's photos is called "Jack!" I felt the need for the loud punctuation because I could not love this shoot more. Plain and simple. Jack was just perfect, could not have been any better.  And those eyes, my those eyes. I couldn't stop focusing on them, as you can tell by these pics.
Can you believe neither of his parents have blue eyes? It's true. But these eyes run in the family and his parents are hoping they stick around. And I promise, I did nothing to doctor them in photoshop. They are that blue.

We got out the football specifically for Jack's uncle, who I am guessing is a big football fan. I happen to think this beefy little man could make one heck of a linebacker some day.

Jack's mom sent me a photo of him ahead of time as a preview of her little boy. In it, he was wearing the kicky little hat in the photo above. I kid you not I looked at that photo almost every day leading up to his shoot. It made me smile because he's just so darn cute.
This is Jack's debonair look. I feel like he's saying "Why hello ladies" and saying it quite effectively.

After hanging out at home, we rolled to a nearby park and found a little patch of shade. By this point, Jack was getting a little tired. I didn't blame him. We had a big morning and he was such a trooper. So he hung out with his mom for a bit...

And then he was done. He and his mama went home, but not before I snapped this last pic.
Thanks so much Jack and Kathleen. I loved our morning together. Hope to do it again soon.

May 2, 2010

I Could Not Wait

I just got home from a shoot about an hour ago. When downloading the pics, I just couldn't wait to share these two.

I have to give you fair warning and say you are not ready for these rolls.

And you are certainly not ready for these baby blues.

I know I wasn't. So, so many more to come. I am ridiculously excited to share this shoot.

May 1, 2010

Manuals and Manual

First of all, I want to say thank you for the many kind comments you all left on my last post. I felt better immediately after I hit publish. And then after having read your comments, truly appreciated what great friends/readers I have. Not to mention, it was good to know that I'm certainly not alone in feeling this way every now and again.

I do have to admit though, that I felt better immediately after hitting publish for another entirely different reason as well. It meant I could play with my new camera! It was delivered as I was drafting that post. And let me tell you, it was like Christmas at that moment. I practically tackled the poor FedEx guy who delivered it. He must have thought I was crazy because he also knew I had been virtually stalking him all day. I had to sign for the package otherwise they wouldn't leave it. I was practically perched at my window when the truck pulled up not wanting to miss him. I raced downstairs to greet the guy and he's says to me:

Are you Amy?
You've been checking this haven't you?
More than three times?
Oh yeah, a lot more than three times.
Yeah, I know. This things goes off every time you check (he says pointing to his scanner/signature machine)
Oh really?
Yeah, you almost wore my battery out.

End scene.

But I have my camera now. I've taken a couple hundred pics since getting it and am completely and totally smitten. It's features are so much more intuitive to the way I shoot, and I can control a lot more of the manual features a lot easier. Actually all it has are manual features. There's no full-on auto setting for this camera. It can go partially auto, but it's always going to want me to make some kind of decision. That's just fine by me. I've shot full on manual for most of this past year.

I did run into a bit of a snag with it this morning. I started processing some of the many images I've taken over the past few days. You see, I'm trying to make sure I have all of the kinks worked out before tomorrow morning. I've got a photo shoot then and want to be confident enough with this camera to use it. I am but it's gonna change the way I do things. I won't get into specifics because I'll bore you all and myself to death with the details. However, I will say that it's not completely compatible with the version of photoshop that I have and that threw me for a loop this morning.

So what you'd probably wondering is, so how do your pics look. They look good. Here are just a few shots I took while walking around Millennium Park on my Friday lunch hour:

Funny side note: I was not planning on taking these dudes picture. But as I was walking by, the one in the white shirt said, "Hey! Take our picture." I said, "Why would you want me to take your picture?" He said "Because you have a camera." It seemed as good a reason as any, and since I wanted to see how my new camera took portraits, I did. The pose though, the pose was all theirs.

When I went to Millennium Park, I also took my manual. Yes, I am the girl who reads her camera manual.  I took it specifically because there is one big feature of this camera that my old one didn't have. I had no idea how to use this new setting but thanks to my manual I figured it out. So what does it do? It does this:

Now I don't plan on adding video to my repertoire. As you can tell by the shaky video above, it's not really my forte. But it's nice to have it. And the quality is so much better than the video on my point and shoot.

So yeah! I have a new camera!