Here's a sampling of some photos taken over the course of the last year or so. I haven't been doing too much commercial photography, with my professional life now devoted mainly to retouching -- but I still love to take my camera when I'm out exploring. There is so much beauty here in the Pacific Northwest!
The last eight months have been busy and equal parts challenging and exciting. I'm settling into my new life in Portland and working full-time as a retoucher at a truly excellent studio here in town, learning lots of new skills and tricks in Photoshop.
I have mixed feelings about online social networks, but my new friends at work finally convinced me to start an Instagram account, and I wanted to tell you about it here. I used to be one of those photographers who thought they were too good to take photos with their phone. "I'm a photographer, I'll use my SLR," was my motto. However, I have to say that I've been having a wonderful time using Instagram! I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to make great images, and shooting with my phone is really inspiring me to focus less on technical perfection and just have fun with photography again. I like to see what interesting, pretty, or strange things I find in the process of living my life, and post them without feeling like I have to create a masterpiece.
So without further ado, I'd like to invite anyone reading this to check out my Instagram feed and follow me! You can find me at http://instagram.com/jol.e.ne/
After driving slightly over 4300 miles, I arrived in Portland, OR. As I write from the couch at my friend's house, I realize this travel narrative/photo essay is going to be a longer and more daunting project than I'd originally anticipated. My route took me from Michigan to New Mexico, to California and up the coast. Sit back and enjoy the ride...
I left Traverse City on April 29. Drove from there to Chicago. I always stop in Benton Harbor when I drive through southwest Michigan. My favorite band (the Kills) records all their albums there, and I daydream that someday I will run into them when they're in town, even though I fully realize this will never actually happen.
However, thanks to the Yelp app on my phone, I find lots of interesting places. I ended up having a fish sandwich at the North Shore Inn, a bar/restaurant that dates back to the 1890s. Apparently, it used to be a feed store that rented out rooms upstairs in those days, then became a bar after Prohibition was repealed. The bartender/waitress had never heard of the band. Maybe next time. Given the violent presentation of my fish sandwich, if I was in a band called the Kills, I would definitely eat there.
I slept badly on my friend's couch in Chicago that night, and got a late start. Rush hour was already starting by the time I headed out. I-290 to I-88 to I-80; this was a pretty boring drive, and I really wanted to get out of the Midwest. I did, however, make a stop in Riverside, Iowa: the "future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk." Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am kind of a Star Trek nerd. I prefer the Next Generation, and if I'm watching the original series or the newer J.J. Abrams movies, I'm way more of a fan of Spock than Kirk. But nonetheless, I had to stop. I love the weird roadside attractions and obscure claims to fame that can be found in small town America.
I should add that I don't especially like having my picture taken. I often feel self-conscious being photographed and prefer to be on the other side of the camera... but I took this trip by myself, so it sometimes made sense for me to take self-portraits. If I had been traveling with someone else, I would have been photographing them, but in this case, I had to be my own best friend. Plus, sometimes pictures are just more interesting with people in them.
I got into Des Moines around 11 pm. It was late, and I was tired, but I also felt antsy and stiff from being in the car for so long; I decided to go for a walk. Downtown Des Moines was eerily empty. I suppose that's the case with the business districts of most cities, but Des Moines seemed particularly deserted.
In the morning, I got back on I-80. It's a long, straight, and flat freeway. It was raining lightly, and extremely windy. I got tired of feeling my car blowing around in the wind and getting boxed in by semis passing each other. Somewhere in Nebraska, I saw a sign for Ft. Kearny Historical Site. I had little to no interest in looking at an old fort, but it was a good excuse to get off the freeway. As it turned out, the historical site was closed for the evening.
But on the road to Ft. Kearny, I saw a sign saying I was on the Oregon Trail! Completely unplanned, this was a weird coincidence or synchronicity, as Oregon was my eventual destination. So I tuned into a country station on the radio (it seemed to fit the scenery), followed the Oregon Trail until it became a bumpy dirt road, then headed south and found a cool old neon-lit motel in Arapahoe, NE; near the border of Nebraska and Kansas. For only $47.50, I got to sleep in a cabin all to myself.
The next day, I drove through western Kansas and eastern Colorado. The terrain of the land here was flat and vast. I drove on back roads through miles of empty fields.
There is a certain poetry in the open, uninterrupted road -- ribbons of it stretching ahead and behind me, the impossibly large sky above. Watching the clouds cast shadows on the road that move and change, even when the landscape doesn't.
Nonetheless, it gets monotonous after a while, and I got tired. Stopped in Colby, KS to make myself a tomato and avocado sandwich, augmented with mustard and mayo packets from the gas station. Sitting in my car, cutting up vegetables with a jackknife on my key chain. Surprisingly delicious.
Less hungry but still not quite refreshed, I checked out the main attraction in Colby, KS -- the Plains Museum of Art and History. The museum itself was not the most spectacular: large displays of glassware and creepy dolls, among other things. But on the museum grounds, there were old local buildings that had been moved there -- a homestead, a schoolhouse, a church, a barn, and a sod house. They were set up to look like they did during the dust bowl or the pioneer days. In an attempt to get kids involved, there were some period-era clothes, and signs instructing visitors to put them on and make believe you're living in that time. A sign read, "Try on these clothes from the 1930s." So it took its advice and imagined myself as a dust bowl era housewife. Another sign said, "Put on a cowboy hat and scarf and ride the stick horse." Obediently, I followed those instructions as well. Feeling goofy, but I had to keep myself amused.
Feeling marginally more alert, I got on Hwy. 70. It was too early to stop for the night, and I was pretty sure I'd exhausted everything Colby had to offer. A wind advisory in effect; my car blowing around again. Concentrating on the steering wheel to keep the car going straight.
Again, I got off the freeway. The back roads are so much more interesting. Plus at slower speeds, the wind isn't as intense. Looking at a map, Lamar, CO looked like a good stopping point for the night. I started heading in that direction. Finally, the scenery started to change from farmland to dry, dusty desert.
I saw a sign for Amache Historical Site. I figured it would be another fort or monument of little interest, but as I passed it, the sign read "Japanese-American Relocation Center."
I know about the WWII Japanese American internment camps from history classes, but to actually stumble upon the site of one was a powerful experience. Imagine being a patriotic American citizen, as those people were, and forced to leave your home and move to a prison camp in the middle of nowhere because of the government's paranoia and racism. All that remains of the camp are slabs of concrete and signs telling what used to be there -- the buildings were so cheaply made that none of them remain. Squat cacti and spiky dry flowers. Dead tree trunks scattered about. In the distance, weirdly, a trailer park and rodeo arena, on the site, inhabited and in use.
I was strangely moved by this surreal and sad location. It's easy to be removed from things you read in history books, but when you see and feel the remains of the past, it brings it alive somehow, and makes it seem real.
Sobered, I got back in my car and continued on to Lamar, CO. No, I did not choose this location simply because I like the music of Kendrick Lamar. Ha ha. I checked into the Holiday Motel that, while basic, got good reviews on Yelp. It was cheap, clean, it didn't smell bad, and the bed was comfortable. That's about all I look for in a motel.
Lamar seemed like a decent enough little place. It had the feeling of a true Western town, complete with actual tumbleweeds.
I was talking to the manager of the motel. He reminded me quite a bit of my dad. Turns out his daughter is a photographer as well. It made me wonder if I'd stumbled into a parallel universe in which my dad is still alive, wearing Kansas Jayhawks t-shirts rather than Detroit Pistons, and I photograph babies and families.
I slept like a rock for nine hours that night, and awoke with the strange sensation that the past was wiped clean and the future was already happening. Is it something about these wide open spaces?
Not too far down the road, I saw mountains for the first time in years. So happy to see another change of scenery, I started freaking out in my car all by myself. Smiling and laughing and shouting, bouncing around in my seat. I had to keep stopping to take pictures. It hit me that I had definitely made it out of the Midwest.
On the other side of these mountains was the Great Sand Dune national park. It was unbelievably beautiful. I hiked about halfway up the biggest dune, but had to turn around because I was getting lightheaded from the altitude. Made a sandwich in the picnic area below, and little deer walked right past me, not scared at all.
After this, I thought I'd drive to Santa Fe for the night... but I got too tired and ended up at a hostel in Taos instead. All that driving, even when it's fun, can be exhausting. I ended up staying three nights in Taos. I needed to rest and recharge. The first day, I did almost nothing except lay around with a cat that took up residence in my room. The second day, I went to a hot springs and took a long hike up a mountain. The third day, I decided I'd better get back on the road.
As I write this from the Silver Saddle Motel in Santa Fe, NM, I realize I have some catching up to do in my travel narrative. I'd initially planned on updating this every day with a few images and stories from each day's journey. What I didn't realize was how draining it can be to be on the road and living out of a suitcase. By the time I get to a hotel, I usually find myself to tired to do much -- and if I have more energy, I'm out having fun!
But anyway, to bring this up to date... I initially moved out of my place in Chicago in mid-April and spent ten days in my hometown of Traverse City, MI. Technically I grew up in Leelanau County, and that's where I usually spend most of my time when I'm "home". I really enjoyed spending time with my friends and family before actually starting my road trip. I also love the natural beauty of the area, and I hadn't been back for a visit in springtime in probably 10 years. It was still quite cold, and the ice formations on the lakes were amazing.
I was blessed with the opportunity to spend Easter with my stepmom and her friends (they've pretty much adopted her into their family). So I got to spend the holiday with family and some adorable kids -- I don't think I've seen an Easter egg hunt since I was the little kid hunting the eggs! The teenagers hid the eggs, then the younger children ran around and found them.
Finally, I left Northern Michigan on Monday, April 28. And the westward migration begins.
And now I'm going take advantage of the free continental breakfast here at the Silver Saddle, and will post more pictures and stories from the trip here later.
It was a whirlwind couple of weeks preparing for my move across the country to the Pacific Northwest.
I said goodbye to so many friends and realized how many people in Chicago I love and care about. It took me almost ten years for Chicago to feel like home... just in time to pack up and move somewhere else. Nonetheless, I am someone who likes to leave on a high note. I feel strongly that it's time for me to leave. I don't want to live here forever, and it's now or never.
My check engine light came on the day before I was supposed to leave, so I stayed another night and was able to attend the viewing party for CNN's Chicagoland, episode 7. Crushers Club was featured in the episode. It made Chicago look insanely dangerous. I've never had problems living here (aside from my wallet getting stolen when I first moved here), but I've only lived on the north side, like most other white people, unfortunately.
I will miss this city. It's tough. It's gritty. I think it's made me a stronger and more confident person living here. A lot has changed here since Carl Sandburg wrote his poem, "Chicago." We are no longer the hog butcher to the world, and I can't tell if our shoulders have gotten bigger or smaller. But Chicago is still "Stormy, husky, brawling," and I will miss that hard edge to the city. I still remember the first time I came through it on a Greyhound bus and fell in love with the brown brick, the industrial areas, the lights, the empty streets at night. Living here, I came to love the diversity of the people here, the myriad of neighborhoods that make the city into a collection of small towns with many distinct characters.
But it's time for me to move on. I leave Chicago with no regrets.
Over the last couple of months, I've had the opportunity to work again with one of my very favorite clients -- Atour Foods. They are a family run business that makes a cream spread used throughout the world; primarily the Balkans and the Middle East, but almost every culture has some form of it. Different regions call it kaymak, nata, kajmak, or urom. It's similar to clotted cream in the UK. I love learning about foods from around the world, so this project was right up my alley.
I believe the most common way of eating this cream spread is on bread or pitas, maybe with honey. I've photographed it like that for them in the past, but in these shoots, we wanted to showcase some of the many other ways it can be used too. Bear in mind that I did all the food and prop styling myself!
This is what the cream looks like when it's freshly made, before it gets packaged for sale. I had the opportunity to go on location to their shop to take the above photos right as it came out of the pan! It doesn't get fresher than this.
It can also be used in baking. In Latin America, it is known as Nata and is used to make delicacies like cookies and bread called pan de nata.
Kaymak can also be used in savory foods in place of cream cheese or sour cream -- we tried it as part of a lox plate and in spinach dip. Also, in the Balkans, it's used in a kebab sandwich called a cevappi.
If you'd like to find out more about Kaymak, including where to buy it in the Chicagoland area, check out: http://atourfoods.com/. (I took all the photos currently on their site as well.) They do free sample tastings at local markets too; check their facebook page for updates (https://www.facebook.com/atourfoods). Enjoy!
While I consider myself a photographer, it occurred to me that photography can entail many things besides just lighting, composing, and taking pictures. I thought I would post a few quick GIF animations of some Photoshop work I've done in the course of my career.
I've done a lot of photography and post-production work for e-commerce websites, which involves drawing a clipping path around the subject and removing the background, or changing colorways so one shot can be used for a lot of similar products. When I first started my career, I was surprised to see how the studio created so many images from just one shot -- now, I am surprised when I work for studios who don't do that.
While I always accomplish what I need to in Photoshop, I feel like my skills are pretty basic -- clipping, layer masks, color changes, retouching, adding shadows, etc -- and I have so much more to learn!
Another big development in my ceramics "career"... My work is now available for purchase online through Etsy! Now that I'm a freelance photographer, when I'm not working on photo projects, I have more time to devote to my other passion -- ceramics. I invite you to check out my work and hopefully buy some :) If you have something special in mind, I'm happy to make commissioned pieces especially for you as well.
Here's a sampling of some of the work I have for sale on my Etsy site:
I have some exciting news on the ceramic arts front... one of my cups made it into an art show! This is the first time I've been in a show outside of Lillstreet, so this is pretty big news for me. The show is called "A Home for Joe," and it's at Baldwin Wallace University. Here's a link to their page: http://www.bw.edu/academics/art/news/
The show features over 80 cups from ceramics departments around the Midwest. When I first heard the name, I thought it was some kind of homelessness benefit, or a fundraiser for some guy named Joe who had lost his house somehow... then I got it... oh yeah, coffee = joe. My cup is more of a tumbler, so you could only comfortably drink iced coffee out of it. But if any readers are in the Cleveland, OH (or Berea, OH to be more precise) area, check out the show!
Here's a snapshot of the cup, taken with my iPhone. I didn't get a chance to properly photograph it, but you get the idea.
Now that I'm a freelancer, I've had more time to work on my pottery, so look for more of this to come!
I realize there are few things more sad than an unattended blog. Well, OK, that's not really true. Nonetheless, it's been a while since I posted anything on here. The last few months have been extremely difficult, following some major life changes. One of these changes was the loss of my full-time job, which I'd had for the last four years.
Following my layoff, I immediately took a trip to visit friends and family in the Pacific Northwest. I've been seriously considering a move out there, especially now that it's basically winter here in Chicago. So this seemed like a good time to share a few photos I took there.
Those were some of my favorite photos and memories from my trip. I hope to be back there soon.
With Lillstreet's Member Show quickly approaching, I've had the opportunity to photograph the work of some of the talented ceramic artists working in the studio there. I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of their work and invite everyone who reads this to check out the show! All of these artists whose work is featured below will be showing their work there. Here's a link to the gallery website for more info: http://lillstreetgallery.com/exhibitions-and-events/exhibitions/student-member-show/
Hope to see you there!
I recently spent a week in my hometown, spending some quality time with friends and family. A lot of times, when I go on vacation, I try to take images that capture the feeling of actually being there. Here are my favorites from this trip.
It started as sort of a joke, but every year, my pottery friends have a rhubarb-themed potluck. I like to get creative and approach this like an Iron Chef challenge, so this year I made a lamb tagine, using rhubarb in place of preserved lemon. I didn't officially call it a tagine, because I'm not sure how "authentic" it is -- and stew sounds more approachable anyway. A couple of people asked for the recipe, so here it is... I didn't really follow a recipe, so hopefully I've accurately remembered everything I put into it!
Lamb and Rhubarb Stew
2.5 lb lamb shoulder or bone-in stew meat
1 tbsp light olive oil
4 small onions (or 2 regular sized ones)
2 cans chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 cans water
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp coriander
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp cumin
salt to taste
3 dried chiles
4 small carrots, sliced
1 small butternut squash, peeled and julienned
3 stalks rhubarb, sliced
10 dried apricots, chopped
¼ onion, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 can garbanzo beans
juice of 1 lemon
rhubarb pickles, optional
Brown lamb in olive oil in a large, preferably nonstick soup pot (do this in two batches if it doesn’t all fit in one layer on the bottom of the pan).
Sautee onions for a few minutes, until softened and slightly browned.
Add broth, tomatoes, water, and spices.
Stir well to release browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Simmer for 1 ½-2 hours, until meat begins to fall off the bone.
Then, add the carrots, squash, rhubarb, and apricots.
Cook until softened but still slightly firm, about 10 minutes.
Cool and remove meat from the bone.
Add the de-boned meat back in, along with the ¼ raw onion, yellow pepper, garbanzo beans, and lemon juice. Add more salt to taste, if necessary.
Heat and serve.
If you really want to bring out the rhubarb flavor, garnish with pickled rhubarb.
1 C vinegar – I used a mixture of cider and rice vinegar because that’s what I had in the cupboard.
1C sugar (or equivalent amount of stevia or honey)
3-4 stalks rhubarb, sliced or chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, sliced or chopped
Chop or slice rhubarb and ginger to your personal preference – if you want more of a relish, chop finely; if you want more traditional pickles, slice larger.
Heat vinegar, sugar, and water to a boil in a saucepan. Let cool slightly.
Once the sweetener is dissolved, place the rhubarb in a jar and pour the vinegar mixture over it.
Place in the refrigerator and leave there, covered, for 2 days before serving.
I'm not sure I've ever worked this hard in the course of 3 hours. While I was shooting these photos, I was running around, getting up on chairs, leaning down low, yelling out instructions... By the time I was done, I was sweaty, thirsty, and exhausted. I felt like I'd had a workout along with the boxers. It was difficult and interesting, and I can't wait to go back. These boys are amazing.
Well, I'm pretty sure I know I'm doing the right thing working on this photo essay, because I'm waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I mean, I'd way rather be asleep, but it also feels good to be so excited about a project I really believe in. It's really consuming my thoughts and creativity, even when I'm not there or working on the images. I keep thinking, how's a better way to light this while keeping it from looking lit? Or, how am I going to reduce all this noise from underexposed images shot at ISO 4000? I've even started listening to hip hop. (I highly recommend Kendrick Lamar, if you can handle a bit of uh, adult language.)
I know I'm going to figure it out, and I'm trying not to worry too much about how to do it, because with this kind of photojournalism, I think you just show up and do your best to capture what's there... you can't plan too much anyway. But still.
Also, apologies to my friends -- I'm not blowing you off, I know I've been sort of AWOL, I'm just really preoccupied these days. June and July should hopefully be a little calmer.
And with that, here are some more images from the project. Yesterday was an intense day of editing down all the pictures I took Friday and Saturday (thanks for helping me out with that, Dan)!
My friend, Fred, sometimes has me photograph his pottery, so I thought I'd share it on here. Fred's work is unique and strongly influenced by Japanese ceramics. He achieves some really interesting surface textures through slips, glazes, and soda firing. If you like what you see here, he will be selling some of his work at the Midwest Bonsai show this weekend (May 18th and 19th).
...and now that I've shown off Fred's work, I'll do a little shameless self-promotion of my own. If you're an artist in the Chicago area, and you need photographs of your work, get in touch with me! I love working with artists to show off their creations in the best way possible, and I have reasonable rates. Save yourself the hassle of trying to shoot it yourself. Plus, if you're lucky, you might get promoted on my blog, which has literally tens of viewers each month!
Last night, I had the opportunity, along with some other EPIC volunteers, to get our first look at the gym for the Englewood Crushers. This is a club run by Restoring the Path, working to keep inner-city kids out of gangs and off the streets. This is the beginning of what will become a photo essay about those kids. This place is just amazing. On first impression, it was loud, full of energy, alive, and fascinating. I can't wait to go back and take more pictures for them!
One of the brand managers at work asked me to take some photos that could be used to promote their clothing on social media. "Just shoot some products in a different kind of way," he said, or something along those lines. He didn't want them shot on a model, or in the basic style we usually use for showing products on the website; but he gave me no other guidelines to work with.
So, since I didn't really know what he was looking for, I thought I would just photograph them the way I wanted to. And here they are. I still don't know if they're what he had in mind, but I'm happy with the way they turned out.
My photography has been primarily commercially-oriented for the last few years; working full-time at a commercial studio doesn't leave me a lot of free time for my own personal projects. However, this wasn't always the case; right after I graduated from college, I got really interested in working with Polaroids. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, I will be able to do more fine art work like this. So, since I'm still home sick and have some free time, I thought I would post my favorites.
Usually transfers have bars around the outside that frame the image. I scanned these in a long time ago, and honestly don't remember why I cropped them out.
Anyway, these are Polaroid transfers, shot with my most prized possession, my Polaroid 195:
About a month ago, I made these muffins for a potluck, and a couple of my friends asked for the recipe. So, finally, here it is.
I've been so busy lately that I have not had time to post anything in a while. Today, I'm home sick with a cold, so I have some downtime.
Cooking healthy, fresh food is something I have come to enjoy over the years. Of course, I'm still learning... This recipe was adapted from one in Bon Appetit; the original can be found here if you'd like to compare.
My version has different types of flour to add nutrients and protein, stevia instead of sugar, and more fruit.
- 1 C whole wheat flour
- 1/2 C soy flour
- 1/2 C oats
- 1/4 C almond flour
- 1.5 Tablespoons Sweetleaf Stevia (this is not a paid product placment -- I've just found this brand tastes better than others I've tried)
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 mashed, ripe bananas
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 C 2% milk
- 1/3 C light olive oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 C blueberries
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, and whisk wet ingredients in another, larger bowl. Mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, taking care not to over-mix. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins or cups.
Bake about 25 minutes, 30-35 if using frozen blueberries, until tops are golden brown and toothpick or knife comes out clean. Makes 12 standard muffins.
If my calculations are correct, these should contain about 190 calories per muffin (if your tin holds 12 muffins), and 18 grams of carbs.
I should add the caveat that these are definitely best when fresh out of the oven and still warm. When they are a day or two old, they seem more dry and crumbly. If anyone who's a more experienced baker wants to give some advice on how to improve that, it would be appreciated.
Still, these muffins are healthy and delicious. The lemon zest adds a freshness that I think fits well with the approaching spring season. Enjoy, and feel free to comment and tell me what you think!