fine art photography

Places I have been lately. Location 1: happy we aren't dog meat. Literally.

This must be the place. Hmmm. Here's a song for that - I always have a song for that, but this one is especially fitting and one of my top five favorites: 

I guess that this must be the place?

I guess that this must be the place?

Most people know I love scouting out places - whether for focus and calming myself after or before a stressful week, for possible shoots, even unfortunately for an adrenaline rush when I'm feeling a little um … bored … so I figured I'd share some of the most interesting places I have been lately since a lot of you wonder about them, and yeah, I have been pretty quietly active these last few months exploring. Haven't really been active on the blog though. It's hard while teaching and grading. One thing you have to know is that I rarely go alone. Maybe once in awhile, because I have learned a lot in the last two years, and one thing I have learned is to go with someone you are 100 percent comfortable with and whom you trust in any situation. I also go early, early in the morning. The light is beautiful if you catch it just right, and I like morning light better than evening light. Plus I wake up early and I'm shot by about 3pm. I'm like 85 years old. Maybe 90. So this is the most recent place I explored, and it was early in the morning, this past Sunday, at a McHenry County location which was obviously heavily wooded. 

First, walking up to the property was awesome. There was just so much STUFF outside of the house, and I wanted to go inside, but decided to look outside first because the light was ridiculous AND there were so many little "areas" I'll call them, to explore. I don't think the pictures I ended up with even do this place justice.

Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Two years ago, maybe even one year ago, I would have run straight into that sucker because of how cool it looked; however, I'd like to argue that I have become smarter after doing this many times and running into different issues or thinking about what could happen. I'm glad we stayed outside. But anyway, there was so much to look at. Whoever lived here made different little areas on this huge property. 

Coming onto the land was even interesting. I don't know how old the raised American Flag was, but it was torn, weather-beaten, and faded. The light was perfect though.

A partial flag …?

A partial flag …?

Then it was into the gate. Everything was overgrown, and there was so much scattered around. It's hard to say when this place went abandoned, but it had to be awhile ago.  Lawn chairs, Christmas lights, a gazebo, sheds, a bomb shelter, garden tools, an exercise bike - you name it, we saw it.

Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

I mean, you never know ...

I mean, you never know ...

Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

Unfortunately, after this point, I was ready to go around to the other side of the house to check out even more cool stuff and then possibly go in, but not alone. Many of you know I talk to myself, especially when I am nervous or trying to figure something out, and I actually, at this gazebo, said out loud, "Ugh. Why am I scared to go in there?" But I kept walking, and as I did, I heard the absolute worst dog snarling, growling noise I have ever heard. There was a dog tied up inside of the house, on the end, with a not so strong rope and it was pulling to get to me and foaming at the mouth. Needless to say, my stomach dropped and I was worried about where Nance was. So I backed up as slow as possible and then TOOK OFF, panicked and found her. Then we got the hell out of there. Turns out my gut was right. I know that when you go onto the property, it is a wreck and the house has a caved in roof, and it looks totally abandoned. Evidently either someone is squatting there and has a guard dog - because it actually is the perfect place for that, being so far removed from everywhere - or someone puts a dog in there overnight to guard the place. I'm leaning toward it being a person's "home." And yes, we were here and it wasn't our property, but I'm still glad we didn't get mauled because that would be a painful way to go. 

The reason why I am also saying this is because I got this address from kids who graduated. DO NOT GO THERE. AND ESPECIALLY DO NOT GO THERE AT NIGHT LIKE YOU DID! BECAUSE THERE IS A MEAN AND STRONG DOG THERE! I know you guys went at night and didn't go in, and thank God for that. I'm glad I found it and not you. But thanks for the sweet address because I liked the outside probably more than I would have liked the inside. But go with your gut. Turns out mine is right sometimes, and that I have learned to listen to it. It has taken me awhile though, because I get overly excited about things. That was a first for me, and I never want to hear a sound like that again or to worry about a person I care about possibly being in danger. We both felt lucky and blessed. Just be alert!

With that being said, I will for sure show you the next exploration! 

Learning: when your life gets to be like constantly studying for a final exam. In math.

What's that like for person with a brain that is heavily unbalanced towards the right side? Here. Upon coming across the one math course I took undergrad, "Math as a Human Endeavor" I thought, "Hell yes! This is going to be the easiest math class ever!" and I signed up. No. Two grades of equal weight: a midterm and a final. 200 students in a lecture hall. One not-so-easy-to-understand professor who insisted it was easy. One math term I will never forget: olive-knot?! I have no idea how to spell it. I have asked my math teacher friends about it; I have googled it. It's like I have made it up, like it never existed! So I took the midterm. I tried. I cried a little. I wrote, "I DON'T GET IT!" across the front and turned it in. I was devastated. I had never earned below a B in any class. Ever. So I studied like heck for the final and earned an A. I have no idea how. And then that nice, nice, professor allowed me to write a paper about a mathematician. I ended up with a B. Moral of the story: writing is important! Ha! YES for writing! 

But I know learning is good. And it's a damn good thing that I have always loved to learn about a huge variety of things. 

I know I would not have an abnormally high knowledge of state capitals, weird facts about how different countries bury their dead, Native American Mythology (wolves are important), MLA Citation rules, on which page and in what paragraph Mrs. Dubose tells Scout she is a "dirty little girl" in To Kill a Mockingbird, where the Shameless house is located (thanks, kids!), how to do an image transfer 10 different ways for 10 different effects, and strangely enough with music: a song, the artist, the grade I was in, year it was, how old I was, and parts of the music video when a majority of the songs in my lifetime came out.  I have to try two favorites.

Example 1:  "You Might Think" by the Cars:  5, 1984, preschool. I remember a huge fly in the likeness of Ric Ocasek buzzing around a very 1980's colorful and cheesy setting while bothering a woman I assume he liked. I think maybe there was driving a car involved too. Or that could be the album cover they had with "My Best Friend's Girl" on it. Or maybe because they are the Cars? I guess I'll find out. But for sure, the fly.

Example 2: "Under the Bridge" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 11, 1991?, 6th grade. I loved, loved this song! Still do. Anyway, I remember Anthony Keidas never wearing a shirt, but that was ok because he was buff and had a nice tattoo.  I also remember him sprinting towards the camera and thinking, "Man, he's fast!" I remember Flea under a graffiti bridge that looks a lot alike one I have a picture of myself. I also remember a winter hat I wanted! 

Hopefully I'm right about these. I don't know for sure. I didn't cheat and I haven't seen these videos in years. Is there anyone else out there that can do this like I can? Had to do it to test myself. I'll look later. Sorry. So. To the things I've been studying and learning: 

Learning Goal #1: Uncertainty

Recent learning has all been about advancing in what has now definitely become my second career and something I'm in love with, photography. I've been doing a lot of research lately, different types of shooting, making contacts where I can, and trying to plan what needs to be done. I've always been a planner, and for some reason I can't plan this, so it's been driving me nuts. This means NO SET PLAN. I have always been a risk-taker, but I have always liked to have some kind of plan, too. This is different, and when you're at an age where you think you should probably have more figured out and you don't, it can't be unsettling. That's where this idea of uncertainty comes in. Maybe it's not such a bad thing. I recently read a part of a book that claimed uncertainty is actually a good thing. I think I'm with that. I think uncertainty actually drives a person who wants success as long as that person doesn't get so scared they end up stopping and getting too comfortable. No idea if that makes sense. Instead of fighting it, I'm doing my best to accept it and maybe actually welcome it someday. When I'm like 80 probably. One simple idea that I remember from that book is true: "The only thing we know is that we know nothing."  Nothing is guaranteed. 

Learning Goal #2: Setting up a studio and preparing for an intern

Studio 204D: Soon to be finished! Come on April 28th!

I'm finally into a studio at Starline Gallery, sharing one with my wonderful friend, Peggy Gannon. She's an amazing artist. We will be open for the first time during this month's 4th Fridays, April 28th. We want to pack our new place. So come! We are excited. But setting up a studio is not easy. No, it's not even closeti done.  But it will be soon. Plus I have also agreed to take an intern who is majoring in fine art this summer at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She seems creative and great. But it will be a learning experience. I think we'll both learn a lot.

Learning Goal #3: Fashion, which is funny considering I am all about comfort

I love this coat. This one is a flip coat. It can be worn one way so that it is shorter in length, but flip it upside down and it can be worn so that it is longer in length. Crazy!

Also, I'm studying up on fashion from Pinterest to find and look at the work of the best fashion photographers I can around Chicago and the rest of the world, tearing out pages of both American and European fashion magazines, looking through books of designer art, finding models, and collaborating with many different people.  I have learned so much about fashion as an art. It's fascinating what concepts designers come up with and their creative processes associated with them. I'm blown away by the ideas one creative designer I've been lucky enough to get to know. I often ask, "How did you come up with this?" Her answer is amazingly similar to how and when I come up with stuff: when I'm really not thinking about it - running, in the shower, sleeping, etc.  Plus it is intriguing and almost comforting to hear about what someone has to do vs. what she really wants to do.  I've only thought about fashion photography a couple of times: when other photographers have mentioned I should try it. I think I might actually love it.

Lesson 4: Dealing with Discomfort

Speaking of new people, I have had to meet and speak with many new people about new and important stuff: opportunities, critiques, budgeting, second shooters, lighting, taxes, travel expenses, running a small business, having access to things I need at the time, "how to" questions … you get it. That's always been hard for me. Can I do it? Yes. Do I like to? Umm, yes and no. I have terrible anxiety at first, for weeks if I know something is coming up. The good news is that it fades once in action.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not an extrovert. I think I am an introvert who can demonstrate extroverted qualities at times. But I always need time to recharge or I'm in for a whole lot of trouble. "But you're a teacher!" Yeah, I know. Teaching students is different than meeting with potential clients or pitching ideas to a roomful of people when you've never had that experience before!

Lesson 5: Being grateful and learning from others (if you listen. Note to self: fricking listen!)

I have always felt great appreciation to people in my life, and I have tried to express it. But I have learned a ton about people in general, and I need to say thank you to the few people I contacted through email, messaging, or personally because all of you are very busy and very successful people who have been generous with your time and answers/suggestions when you could have easily told me you were too busy to help. It helps me so much to have some information before I make major decisions. I'd love to thank specific people for making even just a little time for me, but I'll feel like a jerk when I forget someone, but everything has helped in some way. Reaching out and asking is the hard part. I have never liked to ask for help, but I also never give up just because it's not easy. What is there to lose? You never know until you ask. I started realizing this the last few years when I finally found enough courage to ask, and I wish I would have understood earlier.

Wish me luck. I'm heading downtown and it's an important day. Step 2 in probably what will be a long process. I'm going to have to pull some of this learning together and apply it the best I can. I am a little bit nervous, but I feel confident, and that's what learning does for me: it makes me feel like I can talk without sounding like a complete idiot. Mostly. Because I will spill or trip or break a glass at some point that day. I like to call THAT charm. 

Charming, yes?

Charming, yes?

Yellow Glove Shoot #23 : Safari Bar and Kitchen

Yeah, holy crap. 23 Yellow Glove shoots. I didn't even realize it has been that many until I literally counted them a minute ago. Only 3 haven't been seen.  1 probably never will be. It didn't turn out like we thought it would. Let's just say a happy Gigi just doesn't work.

And so what if it's really 0 degrees with a -17 degree windchill and this shoot is approximately an hour north? Doesn't even matter when you really love a place and want to get one in. 

This home, which we chose mostly due to the amazing looking space and fully stocked safari-themed bar, is huge and abandoned, from what I can guess since sometime in the 1980's, is in Wisconsin, and it looks like the occupants got up and left as fast as they could … mob?? That would be the perfect story in my head. We all agree that someone need to buy this home and flip it. It could be unbelievable. Someone call Tarek and Christine. I know they're getting divorced, but supposedly they are going to keep flipping or flopping. Everything you see in the images was already in place, and there was so much more we couldn't include. 

Flip or Flop? Not their marriage silly  the house!

It was freezing, and we considered not going, but it was the only day that worked. One thing that I love about this shoot is that both models are extremely expressive, Gigi facially and her husband with body language. I think it's obvious that this guy didn't work out for her either.  She has no luck at all with men. She's like that Social Distortion Song : "Bad Luck." She's got bad, bad luck.

This is husband #6. We've had Caleb, who expects too much; Brian, who she ran from while at the altar; Riley, who was a tad bit abusive; Kai, who wanted her to cook and clean while he sat around; Alex, who was a little too perfect but made her sad; and now Ethan, who seems nice but drinks a little too much. I keep telling her she has to stop basing her choices on looks. 

Here's some of what we got during the last shoot:

I know. That bar, right?! I love the spiderweb stretching off of the bottle. And those cabinets in the kitchen! We might just have to reuse this location if it's still around in the future. Plus, looking at the models, who would even know it was colder than in the North Pole that day?