My holidays in Chicago [a photo recap]

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in Chicago, Design, photography, Travel

Since my photography portfolio was a little bare in 2015 (I have a decent excuse I think), I’ve been trying to make up for lost time and keeping Walter by my side. If using my camera on a daily basis is a sign that I’m on the right path, then my year is off to a great start. I promise to keep this blog current….but before more time passes, let me revisit a few pictures I took over the holidays in Chicago.

Chicago architecture christmas 2015

My husband and I have a little tradition of visiting a museum every Christmas Eve. Sometimes others accompany us. Other times, it’s just us. This year, we had the little one (LO) with us and weren’t quite sure how long he’d be kept interested for so we did something a little different.

skydeck Chicago Christmas Eve, glass ledge
We went to the Sears Tower!

As soon as he went onto the glass ledge, LO lost his balance and fell forward. Nothing out of the ordinary…except that it was on a glass ledge. All the tourists up who witnessed it all let out a huge “Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhh!” But then all was fine. He got up and kept walking to to see more of the city. (My husband, on the other hand, was a little freaked out and tried not to think about the fact that he was standing 1000+ ft up in the air.)

sears tower skydeck

Skydeck chicago Christmas Eve

view from Willis Tower

I was surprised about how crowded it was (and we arrived at opening time). However, it all worked out as we were only there for about 45 minutes. That gave us enough time to experience the view (within LO’s time tolerance zone) and then head back home. (We did stop by JP Graziano on the way out of the city. Love their sandwiches. Also, if you’re a giardinera fan, my husband swears they make it the best.)

We spent the rest of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the suburbs, but the day after Christmas, we ventured downtown with my brother and his girlfriend who came in for the holidays. We started the day by introducing Jessica to Italian Beef at Al’s (I don’t think there’s a better introduction). I hope we didn’t hype it up too much for her as we kinda love Al’s around here. You’ll notice there aren’t any food pictures. I was all over Snapchat on this day, so I didn’t take any food pictures. Oops. (Jessica did though.)

Al's Beef Chicago
Squad. (This was the only picture I got at Al’s…and it was through Snapchat. Bad Diana.)

Afterwards, we drove downtown to see Maggie Daley Park. I feel like I’m the last person to visit this place (well, this and The 606 – I know, I need to get on that!), but wow, what a park.

Maggie Daley Park
Did I mention it was a cloudy day?

I cannot wait to come back when the weather is nicer.

From there, we took a slow walk toward The Bean by going over the BP Pedestrian Bridge. At this point, we thought it was a good idea to take the kid out of his stroller. He liked stretching his legs, but he kept bending over to pick up leaves from the ground (to put in his mouth, of course. Yum).


BP Pedestrian Bridge Chicago

The Bean Chicago

But don't worry, we managed to get a family selfie. :)
Of course, we captured a family selfie. 🙂

We took a quick detour to the Chicago Cultural Center to warm up before heading over to the West Loop to have afternoon tea at The Allis. It was a Saturday, and I didn’t think to make reservations. (Note: you should make reservations if you’re going on a Saturday. Duh.) But luckily, there was a cancellation so we were seated and had such a great time. I wish I had pulled out Walter, but I was occupied with Snapchat (The Allis and tea presentation were both too beautiful not to do an immediate share), stuffing my face and trying to keep LO entertained.

Afternoon tea at The Allis
Picture from my phone

A few things about The Allis:

  • The staff there was so nice, especially the hostess (whose name I, regretfully, didn’t get).
  • The Allis is a beautiful space. I want to come back one day and just pour over the photography books they have on the shelves at the front entry….while eating everything behind the glass display up at the bar.
  • I want to spend the night at the Soho Hotel one night and walk down to The Allis the next morning to drink coffee and stare into space. (Yes, I really like this place.)
  • The afternoon tea service here is simple but so great. It was fun to watch my 10-month old eat sandwiches (he never had them before) and a bit of scone. He loved everything that went into his mouth (even if they weren’t leaves). The kid is ruined. Thank you to The Allis for that. 😉

Do you get the feeling that I’ll be back? (Yes, I’ll be back.) So yes, that was my Chicago holiday in a nutshell. When my brother & his girlfriend (ahem, now fiancée) come back to Chicago, I honestly wouldn’t mind repeating this itinerary although I may just do this on my own sooner rather than later.

P.S. I pulled together another photo book recap if you’d like to see it [just click on the image below and it’ll take you to the ISSUU page).

Christmas in Chicago photo book

Click: Here’s Giada!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Giada, Portraits

I wanted to try to shuffle in a few pictures I took over the holidays, but sadly, I haven’t had a chance to edit them yet. Instead, how about I take you on a little detour?

Giada in CS Modern Luxury
Giada’s first print feature!

Back in December, I received an email from a photo editor at CS Modern Luxury asking if I’d be interested in having Giada’s picture published. Let me think about that.


After a few emails back and forth, I was told that the spread would go to print after the New Year. So earlier in this week, I stopped by the closest newsstand (which I’m always happy to visit) that I knew would carry the magazine and grabbed a few copies to share with Giada.

Giada in CS Modern Luxury

I don’t think she’s quite a diva yet, but hey, it’s good to have her grounded. (Whew.)

Okay, now that I’ve posted this, let’s hope this gets me back on track. Holiday recap post next….hopefully! 🙂

P.S. If you’re reading this, CS Modern Luxury, you have brought many smiles to the household this week. Thank you!

Anna in Chicago

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in photo book, photography, Portraits

photographing in Chicago, black and white picture

After an afternoon shooting in Arlington Heights, Anna and I agreed to meet up downtown the next day. “Should we meet up at The Bean or the Cultural Center?” was the question. We went with the Chicago Cultural Center, but I was 15 minutes late and then spent about 20 minutes looking for her (because I couldn’t find the Tiffany ceiling…seriously, it’s the featured attraction there and I couldn’t find it. Oye) so maybe we should have met at The Bean!

Chicago Cultural Center, silhouette

After a few minutes there, we went out into the cold and pretty quickly stumbled into an alley filled with smoke. There was a restaurant vent that was pumping out all the smoke (coupled with a lot of food aromas). It smelled delicious and more importantly, gave the images a romantic look.

shooting in Chicago alley, photography

shooting in Chicago alley, photography

shooting in Chicago alley, photography

I got a little obsessed with wanting to shoot on the Nichols Bridgeway (the pedestrian bridge from Millennium Park to the Art Institute), so we finally got up that way.

Nichols Bridgeway Chicago

Nichols Bridgeway Chicago

At this point, I admitted to her that I needed a sugar fix as I was crashing. Ha ha. Luckily, she was down for some coffee, so we left Millennium Park. Of course, we took a few pictures on the way out.

Nichols Bridgeway Chicago

portrait in Millennium Park

Millennium Park, Crown Fountain

portrait photography in Millennium Park, Crown Fountain
The guy – who seemingly appeared out of nowhere – in the background made me laugh.
Chicago alley
Took another alley detour en route to Intelligentsia
intelligentsia coffee
This is the only picture I took at Intelligentsia. Kinda boring next to all of Anna’s portraits, eh? 😉

We sat in the crowded coffee shop just chatting and getting to know more about her. (Fun fact: she has a Vietnamese sister-in-law. I knew I liked her for a reason, lol.) It was getting late (i.e. I promised I’d be home for dinner), so we called it a day…but not before swinging around to The Chicago Theater.

Chicago Theater street photography

Chicago Theater
Happy 2016!

I’m hoping all the portraits I do for the rest of the year goes as well as it did with Anna. (Thank you, Anna!!!)

P.S. I put Anna’s pictures in a photo book format on Issuu. Click on the image below to take a look:

Lookbook on Issuu

Shooting my first model on New Year’s Day

Posted 5 CommentsPosted in photography, Portraits

Hello 2016! I’m so happy to be here and cannot wait to see what you have in store. I’m ready and antsy, so let’s get started already!

So last year (he he), I vowed to take more portraits in 2016. And on New Year’s Day I actually got to shoot my first non-family, non-friend (although it’s safe to say that we’re friends now) model Anna. We had planned to just meet on January 2, but on New Year’s Day I had texted her to confirm our meeting up. She was – and also made herself available for that day as well. Cool! She was in town from LA visiting her family. We don’t live very far from each other, so it was nice to get to stay out in the suburbs and shoot for once. (We did end up going into the city the next day though because as we all know, there isn’t a better backdrop than Chicago. Right? RIGHT??? Right.) In any case, back to meeting Anna….we met at the Starbucks in downtown Arlington Heights and then walked toward North School Park (the holiday decorations were still up and I thought that’d be a fun area to shoot). It had been cloudy all day, so I was looking forward to using that to stage the mood. But then the sun popped out. Sigh. (I was a bit bummed, but in hindsight, I’m glad it did.) We worked with it and had a fun time.

So this, my friends, is Anna:

model for photography portraits portfolio

First impressions: she’s very cute and so nice.

What I quickly discovered: she’s really photogenic and because she is a photographer, knows her stuff and had a lot of great ideas. She was so easy to work with, and I hope our paths cross again!

model for photography portraits portfolio

model for photography portraits portfolio

model for photography portraits portfolio
I loved this merry-go-round

model for photography portraits portfolio

model for photography portraits portfolio
I loved all this blue!

model for photography portraits portfolio

model for photography portraits portfolio

model for photography portraits portfolio

model for photography portraits portfolio
Loved the light here 🙂

I had such a fun day and couldn’t wait to do it again. Lucky for me, we decided to head in the city the next day to try it again. I’ll share those images in the next post. Thank you Anna for helping me get a jumpstart with shooting portraits this year!

Photo Notebook

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Design, photo book, photography, Print your pictures!, Travel

There are a handful of people who I shove my pictures onto (“You’re going to like my pictures….or play a good job at pretending you do!“). I’m related to most of them. (Funny how that works out.) And Jessica is also one of these victims.* Sometime after we visited my brother and her in San Francisco (and subsequently, traveled together to Hawaii), I pulled together pictures that I thought she’d like and created a notebook journal for her (basically, a Blurb 5×8″ trade book printed on white uncoated 70# paper). I figured she could pull it out whenever she wants to jot down random things while looking at pictures of…my brother. Lucky girl.

I apologize for sharing this post-Christmas, but she is one of two people who reads this blog and I wanted to try to keep the element of surprise with both the notebook and Justin Bieber wrapping paper. (I’ve found that JB wrapping paper is a crowd pleaser. Ha.)

Blurb photo trade book notebook
I know you’re loving the wrapping paper too!
Blurb trade book notebook
This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in San Francisco. I’m drooling as I look at Justin it.
Blurb trade book notebook
Yeah, that’s my brother. He will call me a bully for posting this picture. 😉
Blurb trade book notebook
A silhouette of Jessica and my brother jumping during a sunset at Haleakalā National Park. (Are you still digging The Biebs’ paper?)
Blurb notebook photo book
Hawaiian luau
Blurb trade book notebook
Jessica and my brother checking out the scene underwater

I have to say that I really liked the quality and will consider using the trade book option to print a future portfolio or photography book. If I had to compare the texture and feel of it, it’s a cross between a paperback book and one of those thick artsy magazines (think Kinfolk).  Hmmm…..yeah, I think there is a trade book print job in the my future.

I’ll reconsider my wrapping paper choice though.

*I’m sorry, Jessica. LOL.

Merry Christmas from the top of Chicago!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Design, photography

Christmas Eve at Skydeck Chicago

Just wanted to drop a quick “Merry Christmas” to everyone. The family and I went to Skydeck Chicago yesterday for our annual Christmas Eve Chicago outing. I managed to get a few shots, but man, it was crowded! (I didn’t expect that on Christmas Eve.) I’ll share more pictures later, but I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope you’re having a day filled with love, joy and warm fuzzies.

🙂 Diana

Yay, my PCH photo book arrived!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in photo book, photography, Travel
travel photo book
Chicago to the west coast. Yeah,  Just a Little Road Trip 😉

My Pacific Coast Highway book arrived last week from Blurb, and I’m mucho happy with it. (Side note: the customer service at Blurb is awesome. Had an issue with the way one page was printed, sent an email and a week later a replacement book arrived. Wow. How fantastic is that? Thanks, Blurb!)

Spine of Blurb photo book
Side profile
PCH blurb photo book
Giada pawing the title page

blurb book pages

PCH photo book

Pacific Coast Highway photo book

San Francisco pages in photo book
Shift change: my 10-month old pulled the book away from me decided to volunteer his services as a hand model.

Piedras Blancas Elepahnt Seal Rookery pages in photo book

Not bad, eh? #proudmom Ha ha ha ha.

Pacific Coast Highway photo book
I had to fire the hand model at this point as he tried ripping out the pages. #momisnolongerproud

My husband loved flipping through the book. Giada was just reminded of the good times. Guess we’ll have to make more memories with her. At the moment, she’s full of Pity Parties:

Giada the Saint Bernard with a Blurb book opened to page with LA landscape
Remember when we used to have fun?” [P.S. The spots in the sky – on the right page – is the drool mark she left. Nice, eh?]

My 10 favorite pictures from 2015

Posted 5 CommentsPosted in photography, Travel

I’m currently working on a 2015 photo book to include my favorite shots from this year. I will say that 2015 might have been the year of 1,000,000 photos (no thanks to the little addition to our family), but I can’t say it was the year of my best work. But hey, I did what I could. If it weren’t for the Choose Chicago events my friend Nycole organized, my Instagram friends for getting me out and our family trip to San Francisco/Hawaii, this year might have been a [photography] bust.* (Thank you to everyone who made those things happen!)

So without further ado, here are my favorite 2015 pictures in the order they were taken:

Walking with Giada during a snow day last January
Walking with Giada during a snow day sometime after the start of the new year
Shot at the top of the John Hancock Building during the Worldwide Instameet hosted by Chitecture and Choose Chicago last March.
Shot at the top of the John Hancock Building during the Worldwide Instameet hosted by Chitecture and Choose Chicago last March. That sunrise light….gah!!!
Crystal during a sunrise meetup at the Sears Tower hosted by Choose Chicago
Crystal during a sunrise meetup at the Sears Tower hosted by Choose Chicago
Capturing Chicago
Capturing Chicago
My niece at the Shedd Aquarium when she visited this past summer
My niece visited this past summer to meet her new cousin. We spent one day at the Shedd Aquarium.
Summertime vibes in my friend's backyard
Summertime vibes in my friend’s backyard
Enjoying Maui
Enjoying Maui
Such a simple shot of a pool float at our condo in Maui. I wish I could keep my style this consistent. Always.
Such a simple shot of a pool float at our condo in Maui. I wish I could consistently keep this as my photography style (i.e. colorful, vibrant and fun). One day….
Waikiki Surf Lockers
Waikiki Surf Lockers – we first saw this at night and I was pretty insistent about coming back during day time hours. Glad it worked out. 🙂
This was taken during our November snowfall. I'm bummed that we haven't seen snow since.(Giada is too.)
This was taken during our November snowfall. I’m bummed that we haven’t seen snow since.(Giada is too.)

For 2016, I’m hoping to do more portrait work (which I mentioned in the last post…and er, jump started this with Giada, lol) and to get working on a photo project that came to me sometime last week. (I’m still organizing my thoughts on that one. I’ll share as soon as it becomes a real project – or at least something close to it!)

If you’ve taken pictures you’re proud of this year, I want to see them! Leave a comment, send me an email, Tweet me…whatever. Direct me to them! Seriously, I want to see them. Show them off already! 🙂

*Outside of photography, I have to say that 2015 has been the best year. It was so great that I’m hoping for more of the same in 2016!

Saturday with Giada

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Giada, photography

It’s been busy around here the last few weeks, so this weekend’s pace was purposely planned on the slow side so that we could all regroup. So naturally, that meant that as soon as The Kid went down for his morning nap on Saturday, Giada and I hit the 14-degree air and drove to a forest preserve near the house. I wanted to throw something into Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Project pool, which I did (meh) and in the process, came across this amazing account. (Pst, Anna Jones, you’re currently my photography crush.) In any case, I took Giada out and she was excited that it was just her and me (“That baby always gets in the way,” is what her eyes always seem to say). When we got out of the car, and she kept running in circles with excitement.

Until she had to poop.

[No, I didn’t take a picture of that.]

I wasn’t even thinking that was a possibility (but who am I kidding? That’s always a possibility) when we left the house that I didn’t bring any bags. (They were sitting in the stroller pouch, which I obviously didn’t have with me. FYI – it felt pretty liberating.) Luckily, I found a grocery bag in the car (without holes! Do you know often my grocery bags come with holes?). I returned to the scene of the crime….and couldn’t find the poop. I drove myself crazy for about 20 minutes, but did eventually find it. Sheesh. 

[That was my side story for you. I’m sorry for making you lose 2 minutes of your life there.]

Once that was out the way, we started shooting. Well, it was more of me putting her at the end of the shaky pier and her freaking out and running back toward me. She just didn’t trust the process (or pier) yesterday. I don’t blame her…

Giada running off the pier
“Did you get your shot?”
Giada running on pier
“Let’s go!!!!!!!”

On that note, I think 2016 will be the year I work on portraits. So yes, I got a jump start here with Giada (LOL):

dog portrait
“I’m a model.”

Happy Sunday!

dog laying down on pier
“This is how it should be. “