Photo Snowfari with Laurie

When I told my Dad yesterday morning that Laurie and I were going on a photo snowfari, he immediately quipped about it being a  a little cold for outdoor boudoir. Funny Dad, real funny.

While our shoots together these days are typically for Revealed, we try to make it a point to exercise our eye in other avenues.  With two feet of snow creating a natural softbox, we agreed a trip outdoors was in order.

I can’t deny I LOVE Montrose Harbor, so we opted to go there. Parents pushed their children down well-worn sled runs, dogs ran circles in the snow, and the light made it all feel magical.

Simply Cold.

It was cold when I woke this morning, but gold light filtered through the windows.

“I’ll take it,” I thought.

The frigid, finger numbing, skin burning, cough inducing winter air is unpleasant, but so long as the sky’s not grey–100 shades of grey, I can deal. I suck it up. I layer. I wear two hats, a sweatshirt, a jacket, fury boots, tights, jeans, double up on the socks, then top it all off with what my aunt calls the “El coat”–a puffy black number covering me from head to nearly toe during the winter months.  It may be fugly, but it’s functional.

Then I play a “get pumped” mix. Today’s included “Power” from Mr. West’s most recent release. I eat my words while listening to the song. A few weeks back I went off on a tirade about Kayne-“I’ve been with him since ‘through the wire,’ but I don’t think he’s that good anymore.”

“Well I hear this ones supposed to be the album of the decade,” Amanda says to me.

“He can’t sing!”

I still don’t think he’s a very good singer, but neither am I. The album…well….I might just be slightly, maybe, sorta kinda, hate to admit it, but if I’m going to be honest, addicted. I can own up when I’m wrong. I was wrong.

So, I’m pumped, dressed, armed with my camera, charged battery, and my arsenal of lenses. Off to North Ave. Here’s the thing about the winter, the days are SO short. In July, you’ve got hours and hours to shoot. Today the sun was set by 4:20;  my grand ambitions of shooting the Lake Shore then heading back to Gary were quickly adjusted. I’ll have to save Gary for another day. Till then…

This last shot is dedicated to my cousin Lizard. Merry Christmas.  I’ll make you a print. <3

Urban Photo Safari #1

I went to the rainforest Sunday. After a morning photo shoot and before Nebraska’s sad loss, some friends and I slipped away from the streets of Chicago that were slowly filling with a soft, white layer of snow into the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

It was so warm and humid beneath the steamy, green canopy that big, wet drops of condensation formed above and fell on our heads.

The rainforest inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory is a nice substitute to the jungles sprawling across Latin America. It’s also a great place for a photo lesson when the weather outside is frightful.

We started talking about this little “workshop” a few months back. It was one of the last warm days of fall–the day of the marathon. The heat drew buckets of sweat from runners and broad, silly smiles from spectators. After the three in our group crossed the finish line, we all got together to toast their achievement.

Sometime after that first toast, over a platter of loaded nachos, Cyrus and Ali signed on to an idea I had–A chicago photo workshop.   I’m pretty sure I was rambling on about how much I loved teaching photography in SE Asia and how I wanted to start something up in Chicago when Ali (Baj) piped in, “I’d be interested in a lesson.” Beside him Cyrus jumped in, “Me too.”

“Really? Great!” I said.

“So here’s what I’m thinking: informal workshops designed to be like urban photo safaris where the group explores a cool spot in the city.  Along the way, I’ll teach a little something, then give everyone the chance to practice what they learn.”

About a month later (I told the guys October would be nuts and we’d have to wait till November to arrange something) I received this email:

Hey Maggie,

I would love to take you up on that offer (if it still stands) on photography lessons.  Let me know what you’re thinking. /Ali”

Followed by Cyrus’ quick response:

“Keep me posted too!”

Sunday we were all able to meet. The guys were a little green, so we went over the basic functions of their SLR’s (single lens reflex camera’s–here’s a fun link“). By the end of it, they were able to manually set their camera’s shutter, aperture, and ISO for the correct exposure, understand how white balance affects their image, and identify a few exotic species of trees and plants 🙂

“Oh, there’s the rare electric tree,” Baj said, pointing in the distance.

“I didn’t know you could find those in here.” Cyrus said.

Yep, even the Lincoln Park Conservatory was decked for the holidays…

Down time…

I can’t keep track of how many times I’ve heard “Chicago is the best city in the World…five months of the year.” It’s true, the winters are brutal.  Come April and the first string of sunny days, we all crawl out of our head-to-toe winter coats and stand tense in the light, squinting like moles in disbelief.

This time of year, I lap up the warm, fall days, desperate to enjoy the warm fronts on a patio, back porch or rooftop.

Here’s to an amazing summer in Chicago.  Though it be busy, it be fun 🙂

Art Walk in Pilsen Neighborhood

A few weeks ago my aunt Susie called me to arrange a bi-monthly meetup.  Usually we surf over to yelp or metromix and search for a  tasty ethnic b.y.o.b like Chilam Balam (one of my favs. Isn’t it fun to say?) or Opart Thai House on Western (closest I’ve found to the real thing). The Pilsen Art walk happened to fall during this particular week so we decided to head south to check out the local art scene and enjoy the local Mexican fare at DeCOLORES galeria y sabores.

My friend Serina joined us for the evening.  Around six we she and I headed toward Susie’s direction, stopping for a quick minute to snap a photograph of the bike below. We each admitted to checking out the beaut on earlier walks past.  I’m a sucker for the retro style and color! I can’t wait to get my own!

After a short pit stop at Susie’s beautiful Ukranian Village apartment to meet Paris, her new darling kitten, we hopped in her Volkswagen GTI (my grandpa introduced her to the German company with her first starter car, the beetle) and drove south on Halsted.

Our first stop was an interactive exhibit where visitors were encouraged to try out the “art.” These guys produced enough energy from peddling to power the lights attached to their helmets and illuminate the room. They were pretty stoked, if you can’t tell 🙂

View from Brian Mancl’s gallery.  This was my favorite collection of work.  His photographs were simple, abstract,  and beautifully executed.

Another view from one of the galleries. It’s a very traditional city scene to me. This could be nearly any city in the World.

On the walk back North to Decolores, Susie said there was something she had to show Serina and me.  Each corner she’d have us wait for a minute while she jogged halfway down the block to see if it held the secret treasure.  This alley is not what she wanted us to see, but I thought I’d take a picture of it any way.  On the third or fourth block Susie found it–a flourishing communal garden, kept by the local artist surrounding the plot.  At this point,  it was too dark for a photo that would do it justice, but I’ll certainly be back soon and take one then.

Chicago Fog

Explore where you live.

A man steps out of sunlight,
sunlight that streams like grace,

still gaping at blue sky
staked across the emptiness of space,

into a history where shadows
assume a human face.

A man slips into silence
that began as a cry,

still trailing music
although reduced to the sigh

of an accordion
as it folds into its case.

-By Stuart Dybek

Pieces of Panama, part 2.

On a Saturday morning a few months ago, I woke to find a missed alert on my phone from a friend and fellow photographer Laurie.

I dialed my voice mail expecting to hear a message continuing some portion of the conversation we’d had at dinner the night before.  To my surprise, the call was regarding something altogether different.

“Hey Maggie, it’s Laurie.  I talked to Johnny tonight and he said you could come to Panama with us.  We’re thinking about going in the next month or so and we’d really like you to join us!”

I thought about it for about 30 seconds before calling her back to tell her  I was on board.

Johnny, Laurie’s husband, was the point person for our travels. We laid down a few specified a few spots of interest (the canal,  countryside, and Caribbean) and he did the rest. A week before our departure he even showed me the excel spreadsheet coordinating our days’ activities in clear color-coated blocks of time. His enthusiasm for Panama was contagious, especially with the constant promise of hammock time on the beach.

I could only spare 5 days for the trip with my schedule, but I feel like I got a real taste of the country.  The people were warm and laughed easy.  Johnny’s family was wonderful.  His mom made a number of tasty meals for us, delighting my palette with tamales, a sweet yogurt drink, fresh fruit, and other treats I snarfed down.  To our delight, Marco, Johnny’s cousin spent three days with us. Marco knows a lot about Panama and was really patient with my constant queries about “that over there,” or “the history of this spot.”

The photos below chronicle a lot of our adventures, from our morning hike at the Smithsonian owned island, Barro Colorado, to our day at the Caribbean.

With Laurie, Johnny, and his family as my guide, I was able to see SO much of Panama… I had such a great time, and am already looking forward to the next visit.

Passenger’s reflection on the boat ride to Barro Colorado Island.      

The canal

A shared laugh.

The Jungle

Bus Station.


Our boat driver to the island.

El Cristo Negro

The little Chinese owned Panamanian spot. Delicious.