Photography Travels

Thunderstorms, BBQ and Vineyards

NashvilleSaturday started off quietly as James and I awoke to our iPhone alarms at 8:30. We packed up our things and made sure not to disturb Lee, Rebecca or Michael on the way out.

The beauty of Louisville shined though the gray overcast morning as we wandered the streets. Knowing our next destination, Nashville, was only three hours away we decided to take some time to explore before rolling out.

First things first we head over to the Louisville Slugger factory to get the tour. We were suprised to find they also have a mini Norman Rockwell exhibit there as well and we spent some time learning about both baseball and art.

From there we made a stop off to Cake Flour bakery for a quick bite to eat and suddenly we found ourselves caught in a torrential downpour. We watched from inside as the street began to flood and it began to look like the dead of night at 11 am EST and decided it as our cue to get out of town ASAP.

Sure enough we passed right through the storm on the road but otherwise the trip to Nashville was uneventful. Turns out the Nashville beer festival was sold out so we met up with my friend Robin and decided to grab some BBQ then head over to Arrington Vineyards for a wine tasting. We sat beneath the trees overlooking some gorgeous Tennessee hills sipping wine and talking about video production and laughing like idiots.

After some sobering up we blared some pop music and drove towards the city to show James Yazoo Brewery. Yazoo is a local Tennessee beer company with a wide variety of beers and an excellent brewpub. We relaxed there sampling beers as the sun went down sharing old stories and laughing at dumb jokes.

From there we head downtown where Robin described the damage of the flood that hit Nashville last year and we met a homeless gentleman, Ernie. He told us about swimming in the river and hopping fences. Somehow it came up that we were headed to New Orleans and he told us that is where he’s from originally, he then launched into detailed suggestions of things to do there, specifically citing that the French Quarter is overhyped and we need to make sure we explore the whole city.

After wandering the strip for a while we ended the night in a dueling piano bar off of Broadway before heading back to Robin’s place for the evening. All in all it was a laid back and carefree day. I couldn’t have asked for a better time.

We’re now solidly on the road to Birmingham for lunch and New Orleans this evening. Until tomorrow true believers, enjoy the photos!

Photography Travels

Chicago to Louisville (and Indianapolis for lunch)


About 11 o’clock this morning we set off from Chicago, south towards Louisville.  James brought along some playlists of funk music and snacks for the road and our good friend Lee had decided to join us for this leg. Coincidentally Lee’s girlfriend Rebecca is going to be in Louisville this weekend so it made sense for him to join us. The three of us relaxed and joked around on the road and it wasn’t long before we were stopping to photograph windmills and “Hell Is Real” signs indicating we were definitely deep into the great state of Indiana.

We posed the question of where we should stop for lunch to our Twitter followers and  the awesome @JennFree suggested Scotty’s Brewhouse in Indianapolis. Her pitch was compelling and seeing as how I’m on a never-ending quest to try as many different beers as possible, any place with “Brewhouse” in the title immediately appeals to me. Luckily the guys were happy with it too.

When we arrived in Indianapolis we were struck by the beauty of the city. With it’s many beautiful monuments and circles, the downtown area is simply gorgeous. We wandered around a bit, checking out a smoke shop and a vintage styled Dunkin’ Donuts. We stopped off at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument and were instantly taken aback by it’s beauty and size. The entry on Gowalla for it mentions it being comparable to anything in DC and I’d say it’s formidable by my memory. Sadly the structure is under restoration but that didn’t prevent us from enjoying it nonetheless.

Scotty’s was a very large sports bar / pub with outdoor seating and a fairly typical menu but a reasonably sized beer selection. Lee and I each tried a local brew and chat a bit before hitting the road again. Lee proposed that the city would be suitable for another visit sometime. I definitely agree. It didn’t hurt our impression though that we arrived there to our first real taste of summer weather (a refreshing change from chilly Chicago.)

From there, it was straight on through to Louisville without stopping. Upon our arrival we hit up local music shop EarX-tacy and then went for some BBQ at Mark’s Feed Store on the suggestion of the wonderful Ms. Amy Guth. The atmosphere was friendly, and the food was okay. The three of us were mostly happy to have arrived.

Tonight we are staying with a friend of Lee and Rebecca’s and tomorrow James and I will bid them adieu and head to Nashville hopefully in time for the East Nashville Beer Festival.

For now, we’re going to hit the local bar scene. Good night folks enjoy the photos!

Photography Travels

Into the great wide open.

Open on FlickrA week ago I had my final day at Apple Inc.

As much as I deeply love Apple it was one of those things where it was just time for me to move on. The constraints of working a retail job have been a challenge to my personal creative pursuits for some time so after six and a half year I’ve decided to move on (for now at least).

Today marks the beginning of something else entirely. Today I am leaving on what I hope to be the first of many road trips across the United States, during which my goal will be to write and publish a photo set daily from the road.

On this trip I will be accompanied by the always awesome and always funky fresh James Vest. The two of us will be exploring our way down to New Orleans and back over the course of 8 days.

We’ll be reaching out on Twitter to crowd-source the things we do in each city and others are welcome to meet up with us if they so choose.

I have to cut this short as I still have a few things to take care of before hitting the road. Expect another blog later today but in the meantime here is how you can follow us:

Twitter | Flickr | FourSquare | Gowalla


Focal points Photography

A friendly walk through Ravenswood

I’ve mentioned before that although I am typically a Canon shooter, I love my Panasonic GF1. I first learned about the camera from my friend James. Since that purchase, almost all my photos on this site have been using this camera and its fixed focal lens.

Recently I was introduced to James’ friend Bradley, a passionate Leica shooter. The three of us swapped ideas and opinions on our respective cameras. We decided it would be fun to spend a day wandering a neighborhood together and shooting to get three different perspectives on the area.

We met at noon right after James got off air from CHIRP radio and started walking right from the CHIRP offices in Ravenswood, an area most of us were not very familiar with.

For me, this was a good opportunity to learn. Although I consider myself a very experienced street shooter and technical photographer, I always love taking the opportunity to pick the brains of others. Walking with my two friends was something I found challenging at first as very often the three of us would wind up shooting the same thing, and it was important to me to have some originality. However, as I walked I noticed I was taking significantly fewer photos than the two of them. The question I then began to ask myself was, why?

The problem with street photography is that, over time, there are only so many stop signs you can shoot before you bore your audience and yourself. I suspect that my shooting was more conservative because I’ve developed more of an eye for what interests me. Ultimately this means there is less I am attracted to, but the photos that come out, as a result, are stronger because I’m not wasting shots on things I don’t love.

Selectiveness is a discipline and a skill that is not to be taken lightly and one that it has taken me years to develop. In the age of digital cameras and nearly functionally unlimited storage, I believe we’ve lost the selective process in the craft. In the days of film we would be limited to 24-36 exposures, and that would be it. As a whole we were forced to be much more selective with our shots and it taught us to be better photographers. Now we can simply throw away bad shots. I like to limit myself to a number of exposures as if we are limited to a single roll of film. This is something I will explore more in the future.

As we ventured through Ravenswood, we found a good mix of parks, restaurants, and industrial spaces. This diverse mix caught our eyes and intrigued me. What follows are my photos from that day—all shot on my GF1. I will try and get Bradley and James to share their shots as well, as I find it particularly interesting that we often shot very similar subjects with very similar cameras and wound up with very different results.

Focal points Photography

Guest Post: Reflections – Part 2

Hello dear readers. This week I am out of town on a road trip with the gentlemen of Long Pork for Sketchfest NYC. I will return with a new post on Wednesday 6/16. In my absence my good friend James Vest has submitted two amazing entries for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Recently, I became a finalist for what I consider to be my dream job. I have been working two jobs almost continuously since moving to Chicago in 2005. One job pays the bills, and the other is what I love to do. This opportunity would be for the company I currently work for, but by moving to California, I would be doing exactly what I was born to do. There are really few drawbacks. Sure, it’d be hard work, but hard work to me is as satisfying and rewarding as a farmer standing in their field.

If there is one thing I would miss, that would be living in Chicago. I have spent the majority of my time residing in Lakeview. I haven’t had a car in so long, I would expect insurance companies to run a special background check to confirm I’m not under some kind of DUI lifetime driving ban. Admittedly, I am afraid of the unknown. What if there’s no good places to eat? What if there are no places to walk to? What if the buses don’t run?

I bought a camera a few months back. It’s the first really good camera I’ve ever owned. I took it on vacation and took a bunch of pictures of blue sky, purple flowers and white sand. When I came back to Chicago, I continued to take similar pictures, except these natural shots were of red brick, gritty cement and marooned bicycles. The city is beautiful. If you don’t believe me, take a look at some pictures.

I have always fantasized about taking pictures of strangers, but I am a coward. I am fascinated by the expressions on people’s faces and the subtleties of character that reveal what’s inside one’s heart. I try to memorize everyone I see on the street. I can close my eyes and see young women grinning from behind large sunglasses. People wearing matching baseball caps, walking their optimistic and grateful animals. I see thirsty homeless men sitting with empty cups, casting long stares.

What I photograph are pictures of objects that look back at me, that speak with the same, subtle character. All I have to do is think of the streets for the people reappear in my mind. Maybe it’s because my father is an architect. Whatever the reason, for people like me, a picture of a building is all that is needed to remember what’s inside.

Chicago will be here forever. No matter where life beckons me to go, I don’t think that I will ever live in a place with so much character that it can be seen stacked in the bricks and paved into every street. Wherever I live, these pictures will place me back on the sidewalk in the heat of the afternoon, or next to the rainwater pools of the morning.

I take very few pictures of myself. All I need is to remember my surroundings for all the memories of these years spent in Chicago to captivate my mind, and retrace, step by step, the path back home. Whatever happens with my work, I will always remember my time in Lakeview fondly.

James Vest is a writer and video editor living in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. To see more from his life, visit his website,