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. “

OMG, print your pictures!

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Design, photography, Print your pictures!
2016 calendar
I pulled some of my favorite personal shots from 2015 to create a 2016 wall calendar. They’d probably sit somewhere on my computer or in cyberspace otherwise. And that’s no fun.

Sometime in the middle of the year, I realized that people don’t print out their pictures. Wha???? While I understand this trend among casual shooters (e.g. the “I shoot maaaaaybe two pictures a week on my iPhone” person), it seems like many of my photographer friends don’t print their pictures. (Wha????) I don’t have too many platforms in life, but when I do find something I won’t shut up about it. I apologize. (Not really.) So yeah, if you’re an Instagrammer or a photographer I know personally, I’m sure I’ve gone on and on about how you should print out your pictures. If you’re not in the habit of printing out your pictures, now is the time to make me understand why you’re not doing it. I’m listening.

In the meantime, let me tell you why you should print your photos…

My friend Tatyana - second from left - prints out her pictures and has done a couple of art shows. Those are all her works behind us. [Also, i stole this image off Ashelys's Snapchat. She likes me, so she doens't mind. ;) ]
My friend Tatyana – second from left – is a popular Instagrammer and captures many high-in-the-sky Chicago shots. While she could leave her work online, she prints her images and has done a couple of art shows with them. That is all of her photography hanging behind us here. [Note: I stole this image off Ashleys’s Snapchat. She -pictured second to the right – likes me, so I don’t think she minds that I swiped her Snap. And hey, I may just print this! Also, that’s my friend Elina at the far left. She’s probably heard my Printing Propaganda more times than she cares for. He he.]
So why am I all about printing your pictures? Because….

  • Your photography takes on new life in print. Yeah yeah, your pictures are pretty to look at on your phone or computer screen. But I guarantee you that there will be something striking about seeing your work in the tangible state. At the art show pictured above, there was an Instagrammer (not Tatyana) whose work I admire. It was the first time I had seen any of it in print. When I saw him, I told him what I thought. “Yeah, this was the first time I’ve printed out my photography….I really like seeing it up on the wall like that.” Exactly. You don’t have to do an art show, but just print out a couple of your best images from the last year and hang them on your fridge or on your living room wall. Heck, hang them in your bathroom. (Everyone is bound to head in there, right?)
  • Your pictures get lost on your phone. Recently, I was telling a friend about how I was revisiting photos from my travels and creating photo books from those trips. “Oh, I should have you do my honeymoon,” he said. I told him I’d be happy to do it and to send me the pictures when he had a chance. He and his wife went to Greece, so I was very excited about seeing pictures that hadn’t been posted on Facebook. “I think the pictures are on my old phone. And I’m not sure where it is.” OMG. Don’t be this guy (even if he is my friend). I am still cringing as I type this.
  • You may forget about the photos that should be remembered. When I was working on my Pacific Coast Highway photo book, I came across several pictures that I had forgotten about that should not have been forgotten about.
    Piedras Blancas
    Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

    Tell me how one forgets about a beach with elephant seals? How???? Crazy talk I tell you. So yeah, print your pictures.

  • Memories!
    My dad as a kid
    My dad as a kid

    I love coming across an album or a box full of pictures and reflecting on the time it was taken. I got nosy and found myself flipping through a few albums one night at my aunt’s house and came across pictures of my dad in his youth. I haven’t seen many pictures of him (or my mom for that matter) growing up in Vietnam, so it was pretty special to say the least. (I told him about it later, and I think he wished those pictures hadn’t been discovered, ha ha.) Print out a few pictures, put them in a box and pull them out anytime you want to reflect and reminisce. Hey, and maybe you’ll have a nosy niece who will come across and appreciate these images in a few decades.

  • For photographers: it keeps you going in your photography. After my son was born, using my camera became a low priority (unless it was taking a picture of him). Because I was reviewing my past work (for a few photobooks) I felt the desire to pick up the camera again to continue adding to my portfolio. Basically, printing and then seeing these pictures in a tangible format made me (gasp) proud of my work. And then, a funny thing happened: that feeling of pride made me want to continue share my images (“Hey everyone, I took these pictures!!!“). Printing took on a snowball effect & made me want to distribute my work outside Instagram and to be more active with Tumblr and Flickr. (Going beyond Instagram is one of those things I’ve been trying to do…and it’s probably another one of those issues I ramble on and on about although I’m a tad more gentle when it comes to this subject. I think.) So yeah, I would say seeing my images physically in front of me made me want to continue sharing my work and in turn, built up my digital presence though this is still very much a work in progress. (Print out a few of your pictures, and tell me if it inspires you in the same way.)
  • If nothing else, your mom will like them. Trust me. If you haven’t found a Christmas gift for her yet, print out an simple 5×7″ photo you shot and give it to her. If she doesn’t react, she has a cold heart. (I kid, I kid.) On a similar note, I’ve heard from at least two people that they enjoy telling their moms about their assignments and then sending them pictures later. See? Moms love your work. So print them out for her.

So enough of that rambling. Tell me again why aren’t you printing your pictures? There are so many resources out there that make it easy for you, and you should have them out there for people to enjoy IRL. Come on, join the Print Revolution. I know you want to. 🙂

"Woof!" (Giada is an advocate for printed pictures.)
“Woof!” Giada is an advocate for printed pictures. (Don’t mind my son’s stuff that you see sprinkled throughout our toy play living room here.)


Indianapolis Museum of Art [photos]

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in photography, Travel

Love sculpture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Last Saturday, two of my roommates and I went on a little road trip to visit our friends in Indianapolis. (Giada stayed behind…and probably wasn’t too happy with us. We owe her many, many walks.) It was a short trip, so I don’t have much to say except for these three things:

1. I was a little bit on the hangry side when we arrived at the Indianapolis City Market – where we were meeting our friends for lunch – that I didn’t take any pictures. (I did capture a handful of things for my Snapchat account….but I didn’t save any of the snaps. By the way, my username is “ditakespictures” – what’s yours? And do you have any recommendations on accounts I should follow?)

2. It’s always nice to see friends.

Escalators at IMA
Especially when they set up a shot for you (and you not having to ask)

3. I loved the Indianapolis Museum of Art and cannot wait to see it again. (I feel this way about Indy in general though.)

book installation at IMA
My bibliophile heart loved this. (The kid probably didn’t care.)

art sculpture at IMA

motion art at IMA
In a trance
There are many kid-friendly areas at IMA, including the Star Studio. Here, I was impressed the museum had a camera lying around (I am considering buying this model now).
There are many kid-friendly areas at IMA, including the Star Studio. Here, I was impressed the museum had a camera lying around (I am considering buying this model now).
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Collaborate (and listen)
Lilly House at the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Lilly House at IMA
Christmas tree art installation at IMA
I was fairly infatuated with this tree at Lilly House
Lilly House IMA
Hanging out

If it wasn’t a three-hour drive each way, I’d make an effort to go more often because it’s a great city. Oh, and the people are nice too. 😉

An evening in Los Angeles [photos]

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in photography, Travel

After spending the day as tourists in LA, we decided to head to our hotel to check in and rest up a bit. (Have I mentioned how much we adored Hotel Palomar? It’s always a relaxing and beautiful experience for us – and Giada!) Before we knew it, it was getting dark outside and we were ready to find a place to eat. The three of us hopped into a car and drove down Hollywood Boulevard, thinking we’d find something in the area.

Saturday night traffic in Los Angeles, bokeh
In the car, looking for food 🙂

I don’t remember where we ended up, but we were outside checking out the menu of one restaurant when an older businessman with either his assistant or handler came up to us and asked a million questions about Giada. He then offered to buy us dinner. We declined. The handler stood to the side, smiling politely but looking like she wanted to end the whole ordeal. As they walked away, Sparky whispered, “I bet he has an important job in Hollywood.” Maybe. We’ll never know….[And I’ll say it again: there is no other city that loves Giada as much as LA!]

After dinner, we walked to the Chinese Grumman Theatre, which I guess is called TCL Chinese Theatre now. All I remember from this night was that it was incredibly crowded and that there was a gathering around Robin Williams’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (He had passed about two weeks prior.)

Robin Williams' memorial on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
RIP Robin Williams


By the time we navigated the crowd, I was tired and ready to go back to our room (did I mention I was about 16-weeks pregnant at the time? My energy level after 6PM was typically nonexistent). When we got back, I stood at the window and kept staring and staring….and staring…at the city view.

View from room at Hotel Palomar

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so mesmerized by a night view. [Oh wait…]

View from room at Hotel Palomar
Yup, still staring…

It was a nice way end our time in this beautiful city. Ahhhhhhhhhh…..someday, we’ll spend more than 24 hours in Los Angeles. (Any locals want to navigate us through La-La Land next time?)

Photos from Los Angeles

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in photography, Travel
In an LA prop shop, Hollywood sign
Lights. Camera. LA!

In the last post, I mentioned I’d share pictures from our 24 hours in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles
Our first glimpse of the city

When we arrived, the first thing on my mind was food. And because I kept hearing about it, we headed straight to Pink’s Hot Dogs.

Pink's Hot Dogs
Pink’s Hot Dogs

Since there was a long line and it was a hot day, my husband stayed in the car with Giada while I waited in line. (Not that she was allowed to be in line since it leads into the restaurant.) We were here on a Saturday, which probably contributed to the 40 minute wait. From what I could tell, the person who takes your order is the one who assembles and completes it for you, which allows you to customize your order (cool) but doesn’t provide fast food speediness (hopefully, you’re not in a rush!). I left with a chili dog, the Giada De Laurenttis dog (of course), the Rosie O’Donnell Long Island dog, fries and onion rings. The food went down fast. If there hadn’t been a line, I probably would have gone back and ordered more.


Pink's Hot Dogs

Pink's Hot Dogs

In case you’re wondering, I thought the Rosie O’Donnell dog was better than GDL’s dog. (I know, I can’t believe it either!)

After we ate, we headed over to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to check out the outdoor art installations I had heard about.

Urban Light at LACMA
Giada enjoying some Urban Light

dog at urban Light

I assume that dogs are allowed on the grounds because the security people either nodded and smiled or actually came over and petted Giada. There were a lot of other people who wanted to pet and get their picture taken with her as well. My dog needs an agent. Ha!

People in LA love Giada
Giada on tour!

When I was able to get Giada away from her fans (ha ha), I got to see one more installation:

I was also a fan of Penetrable . When I came back to Chicago, a white version of this installation appeared at the Art Institute. I was pretty excited about that.
I was also a fan of Penetrable. When I came back to Chicago, another version of this installation appeared at the Art Institute. I was pretty excited about that.

We also checked out La Brea Tar Pit, which is not a part of LACMA but they share a campus. I must have been tired at this point because I can’t find any pictures of it on my hard drive. And the next series of pictures included the view from our hotel room, so I assume that was the point we went to check in and relax. 🙂

A few from the Hotel Palomar (it's dog friendly!)
A view from our room at the Hotel Palomar (it’s dog friendly!)

Wow, this post has more pictures than I thought I was going to share. Since this is getting long, I’ll include photos from our evening in LA in the next post!

Photos from Highway 1

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in photo book, photography, Travel

With the PCH photo book done, here are a few more images from our Pacific Coast Highway road trip last summer:

dog on road tripShe loves hanging out the window. I must have 100+ pictures of Giada like this.

road trip
On the open road. I wish I had gotten a picture of one of us running down this. 🙂
Redwood National Park
Beach area in Redwood National Park
Seagulls with Alcatraz in the background in San Francisco
Seagulls with Alcatraz in the background.
Presidio of San Franciscco
A wedding party at The Presidio of San Francisco. We were here on a weekday, so I was surprised to see this. (Maybe it was a photo shoot…although I’m doubting that.)
Along PCH
Along the coast
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz. Makes you wish you were here today, doesn’t it?
Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara
Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara
San Diego Waterfront Park
San Diego. I think this is Waterfront Park. That’s the Maritime Museum in the background.

I wouldn’t recommend waiting a year before revisiting vacation photos, but I did enjoy looking back and having my memory tested. 🙂 Luckily, there were a few notes in an accompanying Word document that helped. Next time, maybe I’ll blog about my vacation in real time, so that the stories are fresh and have more detail. (I liked this post I saw on The Travel Hack about why you should keep a travel blog although I think this applies to anyone who wants to blog on a topic that is most interesting to them, i.e. your blog doesn’t have to be travel focused.)

Since we spent more than 24 hours in Los Angeles, I will share a few of those images in a future (next?) post. And on that note, I wouldn’t mind a vacation in the near future. 🙂

Write On

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Design

DIY notebook design

I’ve been at my current job for two years, and at the last two Christmas office parties, I’ve neglected to bring holiday cards for everyone there, which seems to be the thing to do. (I don’t fight tradition, especially the good ones!) I always felt bad leaving the office post-party with a stack of cards and accompanying candy. This year, I’m finally on my game and created a fun little gift for each of my coworkers. Using InDesign to create the pages and Blurb to print them out, I’m giving each of them a 204-page notebook with motivational quotes and a place to write down whatever they feel like writing down. (Although I hope they don’t see this article I saw late last week. Ha ha ha ha, I guess it would just be a bad reflection on me. 😉 )

front cover of Write On notebook
Front cover






Travel Photo Books: What To Include?

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Design, photo book, photography, Travel

I finally finished the Pacific Coast Highway photo book last week. About time! So obviously, I’m feeling like I’ve become somewhat of a pro in travel photo books. (Ha!) I mentioned in a previous post, I had taken about 2500+ pictures during our weeklong trip (because I’m that photographer). How did I whittle that down to 200 pictures to fit in a 136-page book? Here are a few things I took into consideration:

I included images that….

I was proud of

Angry cows in Utah
Aside from my dog, I don’t shoot too many animals. So when we saw these ladies, I asked my husband to pull over (this was somewhere outside of Salt Lake City). To say that they were not happy to see me is an understatement. I nearly crapped in my pants, but I was so happy with how it turned out. (It was the first picture on our trip that made me go, “Yes! YES. YES!!!!”)

Brings back fond memories

Family portrait in Utah
Another random stop in Utah. I liked the scenery and how quiet the road was. I was 16-weeks pregnant and thought I would use this picture as some sort of Facebook announcement (“There are four of us in the picture!”), but I chickened out. (I did share the picture, but without the announcement.)
Prada Marfa
I saw a sign for “Marfa” while we were headed home and it immediately clicked that the Prada Marfa installation was (miles) down the exit. It was a 40-minute detour, but we took it. This is one of my favorite pictures of the three of us ever.

Is a place that I’d be happy to revisit and see over (and over) again

Giada enjoying a little taste of San Francisco
San Francisco – need I say more?

Triggers some sort of emotion

Salvation Mountain
We are not a religious family, but something about being at Salvation Mountain was moving and spiritual. And with this being our last stop as we left California, I knew that next time we returned that there’d be another family member with us.

I just felt like including…no other reason (it is my photo book after all!)

Giada the Saint Bernard in Berkeley
I can’t get enough pictures of Giada. 🙂

On the flip side, I excluded pictures from the book when:

I had no reason to add them other than feeling like I had to include them.

Big Sur
I did include this picture along PCH. But I must have taken about 1,000,000 images along the coast – all of which I considered adding to the photo book. But I decided to be selective and added the pictures that highlighted the areas we saw.

They fit the “embarrassing images” category. [If you think I’m showing you an example here, you’re crazy.]

I didn’t feel feel like I needed to share with others (e.g. my pregnancy bump pictures. But who wants to see those pictures anyway?). While your photo book is personal, people will (want to) see it. Keep that in mind before including pictures that you don’t want others to see.

What about you? What would you include or exclude from your travel photo book?