hills of the irish kind

Goodness sakes. It's December 21st and this is my first post of the month. Things have been busy, to say the least. I finished my penultimate semester of my undergraduate degree, earning a 3.9 cumulatively in my 24 glorious credits. I'm never taking a legitimate double course-load again. What was I think when I signed up for that?!

Today's photoblog installment is from November 10. Jules, my best friend, and I went to the Irish Hills in southeastern Michigan. It's an area that was settled by many Irish immigrants, allegedly, because the rolling green hills reminded them of their home country. She's always wanted to go, and I'm always up for seeing something new, so we took a free Saturday and made the short trip. We were surprised at how kitschy-touristy it was. Most of the souvenir shops and "attractions" were closed, but I felt like we'd driven into a 1960s family vacation, complete with a giant statue of Paul Bunyan (not pictured) and wooden buildings labeled "saloon" and whatnot.

The area (as pictured) was beautiful. We first stopped at Wamplers Lake in Walter J. Hayes State Park, and then drove east on US-12 until we reached St. Joseph's Church, situated on the south bank of Iron Lake, and home to a memorial to the Irish Potato Famine. The experience marked an important step in my photographic experiments as I saw the advantage of using higher numbered f-stops for large subjects, like landscapes. It was cloudy, so I couldn't use the really high numbers without compromising ISO, but I was able to try shooting on 8 and 11. Since I'd mostly done sports photography with the camera up until this point, this was new and exciting for me.

Wamplers Lake
Wamplers Lake in the State Park. 1/200, f/11, ISO 200.

Swan on Wamplers Lake
Wamplers Lake. Jules and I had to laugh about the swan, because we had a hilarious experience with swans in Toronto in July. I'll share that story sometime. My short story about it is going to be published in my school's literary magazine this spring. 1/250, f/11, ISO 200.

Irish Memorial
Memorial to the Irish Potato Famine at St. Joseph's Church on US-12, east of Cambridge Junction, MI. 1/60, f/8, ISO 200.

Iron Lake
Iron Lake behind St. Joseph's Church. I love the way that the sky was reflected in the lake. It was such a beautiful day. 1/80, f/8, ISO 200.

Houses on Iron Lake
Iron Lake. I would love to live here, for about a weekend, and then I would start missing stoplights and convenience stores and highways. But it sure is pretty. 1/100, f/8, ISO 200.

Next up: probably another skating event, and then my trip to San Francisco.


michigan of the lake variety

I am so behind in photoblogging. My best friend, Emilie, updates her blog more than I do, and she's in Lesotho, without any regular internet access. Of course, Emilie is also talking to actual people when she blogs, people she will not see again until early 2010 at best. I am talking to myself. Of course, since I drive over an hour every day to commute to school and back, I talk to myself quite a bit. This is nothing new; it's just with pictures.

A few weeks ago, on my way back to Lansing from Chicago, I decided that I wanted to take photos of Lake Michigan. I got off of I-94 in southwestern Michigan and drove towards the lake. I ended up in one of those private, rustic communities, but rustic in the sense that they have a lot of "TOP SECRET PRIVATE DRIVEWAY" type of signs and strategically-placed fences, so you can't glimpse the lake for anything. I thought about hopping a fence, since most of the houses looked empty, but decided to just drive a bit further north in search of a public lake viewing area. I stumbled upon Warren Dunes State Park, a favourite weekend destination of many a Chicago-based youth group, including mine. I think I only went on the trip once, though. I'm not a big beach person. I am, however, big on photographing big lakes.

Lake Michigan
Big lake with little waves, taken while crouching down so waves look bigger. A little bigger. Maybe.

Lake Michigan into the sun
This probably breaks some rule of basic photography, but I love taking pictures of water into the sun. I love the glare.

Warren's Dune
Not the best picture in the world of a dune, but probably not the worst either. The small dots in the middle are cute kids that kept climbing up them just so they could run down. I don't think I ever had that kind of energy.

I've been a busy bee lately. I have photos from the Irish Hills to post, as well as ones from my Thanksgiving-break trip to San Francisco. I might post a few more skating ones in the near future, too.


best friends for life

Yesterday, Emilie left for Lesotho. She just began service in the Peace Corps. She'll be back in spring 2010. Lesotho, for those not aware, is a landlocked country right in the middle of South Africa. Yep, it's surrounded completely by South Africa - like a little cut-out in the middle of the country. It's far. It's also not the easiest place to get to. I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will only see Em once, at most, in the next two years and four months.

I vaguely remember meeting Em when I was young...maybe about 9 years old, or so. My stepdad was her parents' realtor. We knew them from church, but I knew her brother better, since he was in my grade. I was with my stepdad once when he needed to run by their house, and I think I played Barbies with Emilie. She was nice, but she was two grades younger than me, and that's a big deal when you're 9. Fast forward to summer 2000, after my junior year of high school.

Although I grew up in my church, I kind of missed the friends bus for a while. I had a couple of wonderful friends, but we kind of kept to ourselves, and I didn't feel like I fit in with a lot of the other kids in my youth group. In July 2000, a group of us went to a conference in Minnesota. Barbie, my best friend since 4th grade, was going, but there was a slight problem with the rooms - they were quadruples. My youth pastor and his wife were making the room assignment list, and they weren't sure what to do with Barbie and me. They ended up putting us with a couple of girls that they thought we'd get along with, even though they were two years behind us in school - Emilie and Trulie.

Em, Tru, Barbie, and I became a foursome that week. We clung to each other over the next year, until Barbie and I graduated and went away to school, but Em and Tru were two true friends and we kept in touch. Emilie was the first person to see my ring when I got engaged the next summer. She came to visit me in Miami during her senior year. I surprised her at her dorm twice - once in 2003, once in 2004.

I don't know exactly when, but sometime in there, I realized that she'd become one of my best friends. There's not anything that I can't say to her, nothing that she wouldn't understand. There have been some parallel events in our lives, giving us a shared perspective on our experiences and on faith. We're not all alike, though, and that is why she is suited for her Peace Corps placement in southern Africa, and I am not.

I'm going to have to kick it old school with the letter writing. She will probably have limited access to email, but she's not sure yet. And she might even be able to get a cell phone, so maybe I can explore this Skype thing that I hear about so often. I kind of dropped the ball when she did a study abroad semester in France, and I still feel terrible about my communication issues. I'm actually working on a Post-It note system to keep up with my letters to her, and I'm even thinking of patenting it if all goes well.

She left Chicago on November 5. I went home the last weekend of October, since it was her birthday weekend, and I had a day off for "fall break," which is really code for "Emilie's birthday, observed." We watched some of our favourite episodes of The Office, saw the latest Reese Witherspoon movie, went out for some of the best sushi I have ever had, and avoided saying goodbye at all costs. We tried, before I left to drive back to Michigan, but I kept laughing, and then I was crying, and it was too hard, so we said that we'd talk on the phone before she left. We talked a little on Monday night this week, but again, I couldn't let her say goodbye. It wasn't until she called yesterday, from the airport, that goodbye became necessary.

How do I get upset with someone for wanting to make the world a better place? How do I feel sorry for myself when my best friend is taking an extended leave of absence from the continent to join the Peace Corps? Is it acceptable to be upset that Gilmore Girls Season 7 is coming out next week, but I won't be able to watch it with her for over two years? How do I get upset over a television show when she's going to be teaching math to kids in Lesotho? How do I say goodbye to my best friend?

I just cry. That's all.

I'll get used to it, right? After a while? Of course I will.

Me & Em on our last weekend in Chicago together for quite some time



Well, I have this camera, right? And I have a lens that makes pretty figure skating photos. And...football is kind of like figure skating, right? I mean, they're both sports, and sometimes people were bright colours, but sometimes people wear white. And they...go fast. And a football field is big, like an ice rink. Okay, okay. I'm reaching. But I figured that I'd give football photography a shot, so I showed up at my school's Homecoming game a few weeks ago.

After a few shots, I quickly realized that football is not equal to figure skating. It's more difficult to shoot a sport that I don't know as well, but at least the years I spent at the University of Miami gave me a basic understanding of the game.

Shooting our game was fun. With the length of my lens, I knew I needed to be in the stands, so I spent most of the game perched on one of the stairs, getting jostled by people making nachos runs, which led to me craving my own nachos. Something about being in a crowd of people makes me go crazy for processed cheese. I can't explain it.

This was my favourite shot of the game. A return on an interception led to Olivet's first touchdown in the second quarter, and I was at a great angle to capture it.

People always tell me to remember that there are other people at a sporting event besides the athletes. I wasn't crazy about my crowd shots, but I did get some good ones of the cheerleaders. The one on the right is Natalie, a fellow English major, and a super sweet girl.

#2 rushes
This guy was chosen as the MIAA's player of the week, or something like that. He rushed for a lot of yards, I think. This photo that I took of him, from late in the game, was featured prominently on the back page of the school paper.

Punt return
I love this lens, seriously. Even from all the way in the stands, I can get definition of a player's muscles.

Olivet won the game, 21-14, which gave us the lead in the MIAA standings. We lost the game two weekends ago, but won last weekend, which put us in a three-way tie for #1 again. The last game of the season is this Saturday, and I have no idea what happens if we win and if Alma and Hope also win their games. I think all three of us has lost to one of the others, but not both. I think Division 3 has playoffs, unlike Division 1, but I could be wrong about that, too. Go Comets!

More sports photography to come!


sometimes you just gotta skate

I had a burst of photographic activity in mid-October that started with a figure skating show called Gotta Skate. It's hosted annually by four-time World Champion Kurt Browning, and it generally has a good, Canadian-centric cast, and interesting musical guests. When I went to it in 2003, Michael Bublé provided the soundtrack to the evening. That was just as he was starting to gain popularity in Canada, and before most people in the States had heard of him. I got my picture with him when he was hanging out in the lobby after the show, and three years later, it was quite the envy of several of my friends. He also asked us for our phone numbers, but that's another story altogether. (He never called. But I forgave him.)

This year, the show was on October 10, and featured the music of Motown. The Temptations and Boyz II Men both performed. The Temptations. Boyz II Men. As a girl who grew up listening to oldies, seeing the The Temptations live was incredible, even though the lineup has changed so many times, I'm not even sure any are original members. As a girl who grew up in the 90's, seeing Boyz II Men was kind of hilarious/awesome.

I had good luck with pictures in the first few numbers, until an usher kindly told me that photography was not allowed. Fine, I know that events have their policies, and since I'd made a last-minute decision to go, I hadn't had a chance to try for a media credential. What wasn't fine was that there were people with cameras all over the arena who were not approached, and some of them were using flash. Flash photography at an athletic event, particularly at one that is staged in the dark, with spotlights, is extremely dangerous to the skaters. Plus...your tiny little flash on your measly little camera when you are 10 rows up is going to do nothing for you. So it's stupid and is it really worth making Sasha Cohen fall on her face just so you can have a blurry patch of lights that you tell people is a picture of her? If you say yes to that, then you are a meanie-poo, and she doesn't want you for a fan anyway.

Fortunately, at intermission, one of the friends that I met there said that the guy in the row next to her was taking pictures with a pro camera, and guess what - she also happened to be in the first row, and there was an empty seat next to her. I sat down, bonded with camera-guy, since we had similar cameras, and discreetly shot the second half. My lens was a little long for the first row, and it's fixed, so there wasn't anything I could do about that, but it was great practice. Some of the photos turned out well and I was pretty happy with my first experience shooting in show spotlights.

Sorry for all the babble. On to the pictures!

shae & kurt
Shae-Lynn Bourne, the 2003 world champion in ice dance, and aforementioned host Kurt Browning joined forces for a duet to "Proud Mary." They've never skated an entire number together before, and it was one of the highlights of the show for me. I wish Kurt's head hadn't been down in this shot, but I think that Shae's expression makes up for it.

pat and mary
Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon are the 2006 and 2007 world silver medalists in ice dance. They've been skating together since 1995, and I believe they have been a couple off the ice since 1996. They're very comfortable with having their relationship on display, and as a result, excel at romantic programs like this one, to a newer Temptations song. This photo was snapped when they were slow-dancing at the opposite end of the ice.

I tried to pick someone different, but I kept coming back to this picture, and besides, I knew it would still look good when I reduced the size. Here's Shae in Act 2, skating to "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, and looking amazing doing it. I feel like she has about 18 variations on this costume, but it's possible that there are only two. Whatever...with abs like that, she can do whatever she wants.

girls and boyz ii men
Well, I was going to pick another action shot, or at least one that I actually took, but seriously...how could I say no to flaunting my photo with Boyz II Men? We noticed that there used to be four boyz, but I guess that only three of them became men. Photo by Jen's mom, who learned how to use Jen's digital camera about 3 seconds before she took this. L to R: Christina, Boyz, Jen, II, Me, Men. Or something like that.

If you're interested in seeing more of my photos from the show, check 'em out here.


animals and apples!

It's been a while. The month of October has been...well, let's just say that I'm glad to see it go. The University of British Columbia will receive my application to their MFA in Creative Writing program this Friday, providing that I don't drop the ball, and then, sometime after 3.30 Pacific Time on Friday afternoon, then and only then...I will breathe. I will probably also nap. And then I will have a better November.

So while I catch up on the photos I took in October, allow me to be a little random with tonight's post. I give you: animals! and apples!

About a month ago, two of my friends came to visit another friend and me in central Michigan. We went out Saturday night, and on our walk back to my friend's house, we sort of adopted these two adorable kittens. They just appeared lost, and they were so cute! When we woke up on Sunday morning, they were still there, sleeping under a bush in her front yard.

kittens holding paws
Awww, hand holding! The kittens, since no owner was found, are now living with a friend of aforementioned friend's dad. But sometimes, when I look at the pictures, I pretend they're mine. I've never had a pet.

uncle john's
Taken from the parking lot at Uncle John's Cider Mill in St. John, MI. I'm assuming this is where the apples come from, but I guess I could be wrong. We usually go straight inside the cider barn, so I've never ventured into the...what's the word for this? Orchard? Do people still say orchard? It sounds so very "Johnny Appleseed."

minimum wage is a dollar?!
This is why Michigan's unemployment rate is so high! Who wants to work for a dollar an hour?!

Coming soon: sports. Lots and lots of sports. And maybe some music.


and so autumn begins

I celebrated the first week of autumn by taking some photos of my campus during one of my breaks. And if the past week is any indication of what is to come this semester, it may have been the first and last time for idle photography during the weekday.

I call this one Tree in Early Autumn in Midday Sun
After careful consideration, I decided that this tree, outside of the Kirk Center, was the best subject, with the greatest percentage of reddish leaves in direct sunlight.

Library with creepy outstretched branch hand
I'm not sure how I feel about this one. The library is the most architecturally unique/kind of odd-looking building on campus, but it's difficult to get a good angle with a 50mm lens, because the square is so shady. Maybe I'll do better in winter. I finally settled for using the tree branch to accent the photo, but I'm not sure about the contrast of it, and then of course, there's the fact that it looks a lot like a creepy branch hand. Don't look at this for too long if you're prone to nightmares.

South Tower of the Library
And attached to that odd-looking façade of the main door of the library is this stone turret contraption. Don't look at me, I didn't design it. But the stone turret really is kind of pretty. It took some effort, but I found a shot that wasn't ruined by power lines.

Squirrel bonus!
The weird black squirrels on campus are forever indebted to the Class of 1938's thoughtful gift of a stone water fountain that is always on. Wildly refreshing!

Next time: kittens! Then I'll finally be caught up and I'll have to actually start taking new pictures. Or posting old ones.


experiments in mirror photography

First, I must give you a proper welcome to my photoblog. I apologize for not having done that earlier.

In my house, a hearty "Bonjour!" is the greeting of choice. This is because I love speaking French much more than the average American. This has to do with the fact that I like Canada, I like France, and my mom was a French teacher for most of my life. My French is fair enough to get by, although I haven't studied it in a few years. Now, I mostly use it to gossip with my mom when we're on trains in Chicago, and to order cole slaw at the St-Hubert in Boucherville once a year.

Now, with that out of the way, onto mirror photography.

It's my reflection!
It took a few tries, but I was fairly pleased with how this came out. As for the Québec and British Columbia flags that hang behind me...it's a long story. The abridged version is that I think they're pretty, and that I've always been kind of fascinated by flags.

Fancy mirror photography
I tried getting fancy with the self-portraiting after that. Some ideas worked better than others, but the general consensus is that I'm not good at holding the camera steady with only one hand.

Not so sharp fancy mirror photography
See? Fancy, but not so sharp. I also cut off my forehead, but who needs that anyway?

Next time: leaves beginning to change on campus.


things that i did not do this weekend

I'm in my last year of undergrad as an English major. I am taking 24 credits this semester, in order to graduate in May. Three of these courses are English courses. This means that my weeks are very busy, and that I am always reading. Always, always, always reading. I cherish my weekends. However, since the semester started at the end of August, I have noticed that I always overestimate my weekend productivity, and then when Sunday night rolls around, I realize that I did not do much to ensure that the week will be pleasant and stress-free.

Here's an account of last Sunday night's inventory:

Unopened and unsorted mail
I did not go through my mail.

Bug-killing vacuum
I did not vacuum my carpet. Of course, I did not even get the vacuum out of the closet in order to clean the carpets. I got the vacuum out of the closet so I could suck up a spider, but I didn't get the spider either. By the time I retrieved the vacuum, it had disappeared. That was four days ago. I still have not found the spider, and it was gigantic. I also have not spent any extended amount of time in the living room since, because I am scared.

Messy shoes
I did not move my shoes from the floor by my front door to the floor of my closet. I didn't even straighten them. My little cousins would be so disappointed in me. Their shoes are always tidy.

Forgotten books
Sadly, I did not even remember to put my books in the car for class. I went to my 8am class without any books for the whole day, and had to come all the way home after it.

This weekend, two of my dear friends are visiting from Toronto. I'm sure that even less will get accomplished, and I'm so excited.


an exercise in studying

Civilization Studies I and II are required for graduation at my school. I'm graduating in May, ergo, I must take these courses. Here's the deal: I love history. I do not love studying it when I am surrounded by people who do not love it. I've taken European History and Asian History at the college level. Somehow, this still does not add up to Civilization Studies I and II. So...I'm taking World Civ I online from the community college. At least I don't have to sit in a class, but my book was written for ninth graders. It has bold "key words" and everything. But, every Sunday, I have to submit a lot of busy work. Here's how the process usually goes:

Studying with a Furrowed Brow
The furrowed brow is an effort to keep myself awake.

Studying...sort of
But sometimes, my nails are more interesting than the textbook.

Not really studying so much
And sometimes, I just can't take it anymore.

My secret
Bolthouse Vanilla Chai gets me through the evening. My assignments, due at midnight, are submitted by 11:48, and I close my book until next week.

disco lights

Giving credit where credit is due, the title for the blog shares its name and takes its inspiration from an Emm Gryner song.

"Give me disco lights, while I've got dishes on repeat, you're forgettable like 1993."

I went through a phase when I was determined to make "forgettable like 1993" my new insult. It lasted about a week, but then I probably saw something shiny, and forgot all about it.

This is primarily a photo blog. If you want to read my deepest, darkest secrets, I am sorry to disappoint you. Feel free to do a psychoanalysis of my personality from the pictures that I post, though.

First photo post coming soon!