Saturday, December 31, 2011

On grief, healing, and photography

Black and white of Ayrie and a camera
This post was supposed to be written on September 29 of this year. I wanted to write something important, memorable, and poignant on that day in memory of Ayrie Mekai Murphy who died on September 29 of 2010. I wanted to post an essay that explained the grief I felt when I looked through my photos of him, the horrible sense of loss that I felt when I realized there were not many photos of him and I together, and the sadness I felt about the many photographs that I would never get the chance to take of him. It turned out that I couldn't bring myself to write that powerful essay - the words were not there. Instead I stopped blogging entirely - partly out of guilt and sadness and partly out of remorse for not being able to write something worthy of Ayrie's memory.

For Ayrie's memorial service, part of my contribution was to gather photos of him from numerous Picasa albums, have them printed, and put together poster displays for the attendees of his service to see and remember the joyous and full life that he lived in his four short years. We decided to give away photos of Ayrie at his service so that everyone would be able to take a memory of him home with them. There was something healing about having printed images of Ayrie - a lasting impression of his physicality (which, by the way, was immense for a four-year old) - images that we could share and give to others.

I look back often at photos of Ayrie, and look at them today on the eve of a new year. I think that even though I didn't honor him with this blog post on September 29th, it makes sense that I do so today. When Ayrie died I made a lot of promises to myself, to him, to the universe... I promised that I would not take my life for granted, that I would make sure to appreciate every moment and live life to the fullest, that I would honor Ayrie everyday by living a life that would impact others, as his life impacted me. I have only started to make good on those promises, and hope that this new year will be one in which I will celebrate Ayrie through my photography, my writing, my research, my work, my friendships, and my family.

The photographs I have of Ayrie and that so many of us have of loved ones who are no longer with us can serve as reminders, may provide some healing and comfort, and may reopen wounds bringing on hours of tears. As much as I would like to, I don't know that I can say anything truly universal about images and healing and grief. I can say that for me, photographs serve as archives and reminders of feelings and memories - as sort of bookmarks for important pages in my life. I am so grateful for the images that I have of Ayrie, for the series of bookmarks I have for his pages in my life, and for the memories of him that reside in those many photos of his smile. I love you, Ayrie, and plan to keep all of my promises to you as I run, leap, play, and jump into 2012.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sometimes One Good Photo is Enough

Division Street Walker, Chicago, 2011

So... I've been out shooting a few times since may last post. I had a great photo shoot in Hudson, Wisconsin but came home to find that none of the photos turned out, and then I went out yesterday and shot along Division Street in Chicago for a few hours. Between those two shoots, I had taken a lot of photos - many of which I was excited about. Sadly though, I only came out with one good photo. Luckily, I really like the photo and it might just be enough from keeping me from being angry about the rest.

The lesson to all you budding photographers out there: KNOW YOUR CAMERA! And pay attention to it. As long as I've had my D300 and as well as I know it, I still made a major mistake two times in a row! I had inadvertently changed an ISO setting on my camera when I was shooting some concert photography (that will have to be another blog post) and never changed it back. The result was a lot of grainy photos that I wasn't at all pleased with.

However, sometimes it just takes one good photo to make it all better. This "Division Street Walker" is now one of my favorites and is also on my site at in my "quick takes" collection.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


striped trunk and shadowed leaves, 2010
The humid and tropical weather in Chicago right now made me think about this photo shoot on a trip to the Florida Keys. These three new photos were taken at a small botanical gardens in the Keys. All have a slightly warm tone to them; I like the silvery glint that black and whites get with a warm filter. 

I'm still slowly going through the photos from this trip. I find that it is a process to reflect on what I have seen, the images I have captured, and try to come to some sort of understanding of them. I'm slowly coming to terms with the "tropicality" of the Keys and my experience there with nature. Life there is so different from the Midwest; these photos are just some glimpses into that difference.

fauna forest, 2010

twin fauna, 2010

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Some Great Lakes Revisited

floating docks, Lake Huron, Michigan
I've been revisiting some of my Great Lakes photos as I have been working on my portfolio on 500px (you can view my portfolios as I add to them at The one above, floating docks, was taken at Lake Huron in Michigan. I took this photo at the end of a very long day of traveling up the Lake Huron coast. It's a little busier than I usually like my compositions but I love the contrasts - light and dark, as well as the contrast between the geometric docks and the masses of clouds. The sun was perfect that day, so I was able to get some nice reflection of the docks off of the water.

The photo below, quiet superior, was shot as I was getting shot at! I had drive up Lake Superior Road just outside of Superior Wisconsin, and walked around the coast of Allouez Bay. There was a small boat on the water that I had assumed was carrying two men who were fishing. Much to my surprise though they started firing warning shots at me. It turns out that they were bird hunters and I was disrupting their hunting!

Luckily, I was able to get this shot off before I was too rattled to continue. It's a quiet shot of a sometimes stormy Lake Superior. The irony of the shot is that it is the quietest photograph I have taken of Superior in one of the unquietest of circumstances!

quiet superior, Lake Superior, Wisconsin

Monday, July 11, 2011

New post, new fun, and a new lighthouse photo

A new post! And, I bet you thought I would never come back!! Well, I AM back and busy as ever. You might notice that there are some new features on my blog. I have paired up with Fotomoto so that folks can now order prints of my work! Underneath the photos in each of my blog posts there are links to purchase prints, share, or to send a free e-card of the photo to a friend. I am still working out some of the kinks but am excited to be rolling this out!

lighthouse majesty
My photography is also now on, a new-ish photography sharing site. You can view my portfolios at - I am just getting started there, so many more photos will be added soon. AND,  if you would like to purchase the photos in any of my portfolios just visit my profile page at and join 500px yourself. You will have access to my work and to the work of many other talented photographers.

Speaking of, I was pleased to get such a nice response to my work from fellow photographers. One of my photos from the great lakes collection was chosen as a favorite in the first hour I uploaded it! You can see the photo, lighthouse majesty, to the right. Looking forward to sharing many more photos soon and rolling out more fun features!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Supermoon... plan B

So.. I was one of many folks who went out yesterday night to try to catch a glimpse and a photo of "supermoon." I checked the moonrise time and with excitement headed out to the Chicago lakefront with my camera and tripod. Unfortunately, what was a clear day turned into a cloudy night with the moon just a diffuse glow behind thick clouds. I waited for a while, decaf latte in hand, but it was cold and there was no sign of the cloud cover clearing. Disappointment set in.

But there can always be a plan B if you have the right equipment on hand. I've wanted to work on some nighttime landscape photography for a while, but am usually more of an early bird. Since I was already  out in the cold with a tripod and my camera in the dark though, I decided to take a few shots. I was especially pleased with this one, "Night Tree" - I love the contrast and felt like it was sufficiently moody and eerie. I'm glad I didn't freeze by the lakeshore for nothing!

"Night Tree" Chicago 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Golden Gate

Another Instagram post... I'm really liking some of the filters offered in Instagram. This image was taken with an iPhone 3G on a trip to San Francisco. I took photos of the bridge  with my DSLR that day too, but I've always loved this camera image the best! 

Backyard Chicken

Life has been a bit busy, but back to blogging! This is my first experiment with posting through Instagram. Photo of Penny the chicken taken in Chicago with an iPhone 3G. More fun Instagram posts to come.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pawn Reflection

"Pawn Reflection" San Francisco 2010

This was taken on Mission Street in San Francisco. I love the character of the Mission District - it feels old and vintage - like you are walking the streets of a different era. I felt that this shot captured that feeling a bit and, at the same time, is a bit of a sign of the times. The storefront with its tiled shadowy entryway and the diagonal line created by the angle of the sidewalk make a nice backdrop to the woman gazing at pawned jewelry in the window. I really love the tone of the image as well. It feels like there is a longing there that also feels a little sad and a little lonely to me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chevy Cat

"Chevy Cat" Key West 2010

I'm taking a short break from San Francisco photos and sharing a shot that I took in Key West earlier last year. I spent my trip to the Keys visiting some very good friends and trying to capture the wildlife, nature, and flora that were particular to the Keys. I'll probably share some of those photos too in this bog, but this is one of the shots from the trip that I most liked and it had absolutely nothing to do with the Keys! You can see some of the more tropical leaves around the back edges of the photo, but in the end this was really just about a cat who happened to be perfectly perched on a classic Chevy. It was a simple shot in terms of composition - I just tried to square it up and take advantage of the natural symmetry. It was a bit more difficult in terms of lighting and white balance as the car had a few highly reflective spots and the trees in the back of the car gave quite a bit of shade. In the end it worked out and Chevy Cat is now immortalized!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Washington Square

"Washington Square" San Francisco 2010

This shot of the church and park in Washington Square was taken with a pretty wide angle. I was aware of the distortion it would create, but I wanted to get the peaks of the church as well as the park and some framing greenery. I like the subtle gradation of the sky and in a large size print you can see some of the folks hanging out in the park. It was unseasonably warm in San Francisco the day of this shot - about 80 degrees and sunny in mid-November. People were taking advantage of the park and the warm weather all day.

Mission Street Psychic

"Mission Street Psychic" San Francisco 2010

Another post and another photo from San Francisco; I had taken quite a few pictures during my trip there so the next several posts will probably feature photos from the city. I had spent a long morning in the Mission District of San Francisco taking pictures of the colorful murals, the sidewalk markets, and the churches when I came across this storefront psychic. I was setting up for the shot and noticed that the psychic (or someone who worked there) was sitting in the entry way. She saw me framing the shot and kept herself partly shaded by the building. I liked the mysteriousness of her just peaking out from the doorway and the harshness of the light combined with the strong geometrical elements of the gate, sign, and window. I wish I had a chance to talk to her and get some stories but this photo will have to serve as the story in itself...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Food and Weed

"Food and Weed" San Francisco 2010
Just like for most folks, the new year brought with it new resolutions for me. This is one of my resolutions - my first attempt at a photography blog. I thought it would be a nice complement to my website - a way to share pictures and stories that I normally wouldn't. We'll see... I've admittedly tried to blog before and failed miserably. My hope is that this will be a little more successful. I have no rules right now for what I post or when I post it - other than the obvious requirement of a photo. I'm looking at this blog as an opportunity to share photos that are uncharacteristic of my past work, experimental, trivial, or just easier to share in this format than on my website. (My website is cumbersome to update - I'm working on it though.)

I thought that this would be a good photo to start with because it really is uncharacteristic of my past photographs which are generally landscape or architectural in some way. I've thought about starting various portrait series at different points but this photo came as happenstance on a recent trip to San Fransisco. I am generally shy about shooting people - especially on the street - but these two were willing models and did not even need to pose! I rarely shoot photos so tightly in the frame (I usually like wide shots with a lot of negative space), but I think that it is inevitable for portrait work. I like the angle that the car makes in this photo, the skin tones, and the mood that is created by the different facial expressions that the two men display.