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Focal Points Photography

Guest Post: Reflections – Part 1

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!


In 2005, I moved to Chicago for work. I lived alone in a 175 square-foot apartment in the Gold Coast without air conditioning and walked down Rush Street every morning to get to my job. In the spring, there were little baby roaches and by winter there were older, wiser roaches. I had a fantastic view of the Sears Tower and made up for not having a counter top by preparing all my meals on a wooden board laid on my bed.

In 2007, I reluctantly moved to Lakeview so my girlfriend could afford a parking space. I wasn’t sure what to make of Wrigleyville back then, considering  the only experience leading up to that point was the nostalgia of walking down Clark Street as a fresh-faced 15-year-old on vacation, witnessing for the first time a woman urinate on the sidewalk. Still today, there is an anything-goes spirit on Clark, but it’s one I still embrace as a local. I mean, what else does a neighborhood need? A mall? No thank you.

We moved into a place on Addison the first week of November. I remember spending the first two months mostly indoors, eventually braving the frigid tunnel under Lake Shore Drive so my girlfriend could take my picture holding up one ice-blue finger to commemorate our first walk to the lake front. I know for a fact it was New Year’s Day. To prove our shut-in nature, the previous image on the camera roll was of a half-eaten Lou Malnati’s deep dish next to a half-empty bottle of champagne.

The following spring came and though I can’t recall the first walk that we went on, afterwards I must have made a pledge to be outside as often as possible. Over that summer, Lakeview changed me. I bought some running shoes and ran along the trails until they ended, and then deep footsteps through sand and back again, across the tops of stoney walls.

Everything had to be explored. As a couple, we walked in every direction from home; down Broadway, over to Halsted, across Clark and up  Southport. We walked mostly in search of the three universal truths: breakfast, lunch and dinner. And though my food expenses take the form of Pacman on Mint.com, I am proud of being able to recommend almost any kind of food in a two mile radius with enthusiastic pride.

Yet it was the walks themselves that are held close in my memories. It’s always the first thing I think about doing when I am too tired to be entertained and too bothered by work to stay inside. Lakeview has been a womb I have expanded within, a home where I have grown, in relative peace. So it was quite a shock when I found out that I might be leaving soon.


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

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Focal Points Technology

A New Toy and an Evening Walk

Last Tuesday a coworker and I grabbed dinner after work at “Goddess and Grocer” downtown. It was a nice night out so after eating our meal outdoors she suggested that we walk back to her place in Lincoln Park where she would then drive me back to my apartment in Wrigleyville.

My legs were still mighty sore from ‘Journey to the End of the Night‘ a few days earlier but I figured the exercise would do me well and give me a good chance to shoot some photos.

In preparation for ‘Journey’ I purchased a new camera: the Panasonic Lumix GF1. I am normally a devout Canon shooter but when James started talking about the GF1 and ultimately let me try his; I was swayed.

My normal body is a Canon 5D Mk II and it is hands down my favorite camera I’ve ever owned, however it’s a bit bulky and expensive to be carrying around day to day. What caught my eye about the Lumix was it’s small size, excellent low light performance and it’s compatibility with a variety of micro 4/3 lenses. It’s the perfect camera to throw in my bag and have on me at all times which made it the perfect camera for ‘Journey.’

The opportunity to go for a walk on this particular night was an opportunity to further test out my new toy. What follows are the shots from that night.

Categories
Focal Points Photography

Journey to the End of the Night 2010 – Part 2

(This post is a follow up to my first entry found below or here. So If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go read that and this.)

I was introduced to Journey To The End of Night last year by my good friends Aki and Mark. They had participated in the inaugural Chicago running of the event in 2008 and when they told me about it I nearly died with excitement.

This year we were joined by my friends Lee, James and Kat, all who were really excited to participate.

James is an experienced runner and one of the most creative people I know so when I told him about Journey it was right up his alley and he brought along his always awesome girlfriend, Kat Carolan. Then there is Lee. Lee in addition to being one of my closest friends is he a member of local sketch comedy group, Long Pork. So naturally with his theatrical roots, Lee had to do something unique and ran the event in a suit.

This year’s Journey started off at Eckhart Park on the corner of Chicago and Noble. There we found Aki, Mark and their friend Alyssa waiting for us. There were over 400 people waiting in the park eagerly for the game to start. We picked up our maps and our arm bands, tying on our red bands symbolizing our starting status as ‘runners’ and putting the yellow ones in our pockets hoping never to need them.

Huddling together with our maps we began to formulate plans of how we would get to our first checkpoint. We had six stops to make and we knew we wouldn’t all survive but we were going to do our best to make it through. Before we knew it it was 7pm, the race was on and everyone was dashing east through the Chicago Avenue traffic.

Immediately we saw one of the “staff chasers” on a bike aggressively coming towards us. He managed to catch Kat soon after and unfortunately we had to leave her behind. Our little group got split up almost immediately but we stayed in touch and managed to reconvene at the first checkpoint on the corner of Hickory and Haines down on the South East side of Goose Island. Clearly the planners of the event had made some intelligent decisions. There are only 5 roads that enter or exit Goose Island meaning at some point every participant of the race would need to cross over one of them leaving them exposed for attack. At the first checkpoint we found people in robot costumes, they signed off our maps and gave us our clue for the second one.

We made some new friends on the way but eventually found ourselves split up and with myself, James, Lee and another guy Joey, being chased through an industrial waste management facility and almost back where we started. By the time we got our bearings we had hopped a fence into an industrial parking lot on the corner of Halsted and Division and did our best to avoid contact with other participants. When we got to the second checkpoint we caught up with Aki and Mark again but soon found that Alyssa had been caught. From there we made a pretty easy run through the third and forth checkpoints ending up in Oz park near the Tinman statues. There we came upon a giant scrabble board and tiles where we needed to create words in order to move on.

Aki and Mark were pretty beat at that point so we tried to figure out the most direct route to the 5th checkpoint, the park on Diversey Harbor. Quickly after leaving the park a female chaser came out of nowhere tagging Mark and then Aki and going for more of us. Aki took the opportunity to argue with her the legality of her double tag sacrificing herself to buy the rest of us time. The rest of us (Lee, James Joey and Chris, another guy we picked up along the way,) cut deep into the park along the zoo and managed to make it over to checkpoint 5. However, some of Chris’s friends were waiting there with yellow bands on and made it clear they planned to follow us out of the park. Chris took one for the team and lead them off in one direction while James, Joey, Lee and I ran off to the far end and managed to catch a bus up the Lakeshore drive to Rosco Street.

From there it would be a straight shot to the finish-line, The Town Hall Pub on Rosco and Halsted. We were extremely cautious as we got closer and closer. At the last minute I spotted a girl with a yellow band who saw me and then suddenly shouted “RED!!!” at the top of her lungs and charged at me. It was now 11:50; the event was ending at 12 and I had been walking almost non-stop for 5 hours. There was no way I was going to give up now. I dashed down Rosco as fast as my tired legs would carry me and lost her in a crowd outside of a bar successfully making it to the finish line where James, Lee and Joey would soon join me.

We celebrated for a bit outside before going into the bar to enjoy some music, comedy and a pitcher of sweet sweet victory. We had completed the journey and although we were all very tired we were immensely proud of what we had accomplished.

Epilogue:

It’s been almost a week now since Journey to the End of the Night and I am still covered in mystery bruises and aches, and every time I notice them I smile and think of what a great time I had. The most profound thing for me though was something I noticed while driving to get a haircut yesterday. I was driving down Halsted Avenue in Lincoln Park and suddenly knew exactly where I was and what was around every corner. Journey has given me a deeper appreciation, understanding, and excitement for Chicago.

In the two times I have participated in it I have learned more about Chicago than in all of my three years living here. It’s made me fall in love with this city in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise had I just continued to go about my daily life commuting too and from my job.  I hope you find this conveyed in my photos, it’s definitely given me some ideas about where I’d like to go back to and shoot on future days, or maybe just hang out.

(For the first set of photos please check the first entry, found here.)