It's that time of year for family gatherings and holiday greetings. Coming soon to your mailbox - photo cards from friends near and far.
Companies like Shutterfly and Tiny Prints make it super easy to create these photo cards and can serve as a fun keepsake for years down the road.
I've saved our family's Christmas photo card since I first started sending them out, from 1999. Back then, you had to order multiple copies of your 4x6 photo and slip them into a card sleeve.
Some handy tips for taking your family photo:
Get everyone (including parents, even grandparents) in the photo!
I know many parents simply include photos of the kids. I really want to see you, too!
Get close together, hug each other.
Don't be afraid to make your subjects laugh
Then so something fun.
Selfies work, too!
Have fun with those family and group photos!
It's that time of year for family gatherings and holiday greetings. Coming soon to your mailbox - photo cards from friends near and far.
Since the Chicago Marathon was on October 9th, I wrote this post more than a month ago.
Life got in the way (our Siamese cat, Louie, went missing around October 13 and I dropped everything to search for him. The good news - he showed back at home 8 days later).
So, better late than never....
“I have put many miles between who I am and where I came from.” - Raine Cooper
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” - Haruki Murakami
When posed the question of “what are your goals for the Chicago Marathon?”, I took the seemingly easy way out by stating “eh, I don’t have a specific time goal, I just want to get through the entire 26.2 miles without cramping”. Truthfully, I was looking forward to sharing this race – the city, its diversity, the spectators - with my running friends on a nice fall day, without the presence of rain, thunderstorms and oppressive humidity (elements we had become way too familiar with).
Sunday marked my 5th marathon and 2nd Chicago Marathon. I first ran Chicago in 2014, in similar conditions – a lovely fall day with light breezes, low humidity and ample sunshine – perfect conditions, yet cloyingly deceptive for the prone-to-cramp folks (like me). In 2014 I cramped terribly and vowed I would learn from my fueling mistakes, so this would be the test. I experienced the race much like two years ago, but this time armed with the support of running friends who ran parts of the race with me. Their support, along with virtual support from all over made the experience amazing.
|Picture Perfect Marathon Day|
|Walking to The Start Corrals with my Running Friends|
Highlights? There are too many to list – For a day, the city is transformed into a sea of people instead of cars, giving everyone involved a new perspective. There’s the start line rush of running into the middle of the street, finally freed of the congestion in the start corrals. I am always impressed how much room the runners have, with the looming buildings of the Loop above. Traversing five of the famed Moveable Loop Bridges is a highlight of the course. I took in the serene beauty of the brownstones in Old Town, its streets flanked by yellow tinged trees, then grooved to the fun vibe of Boystown.
|Running through Old Town|
The miles continued and my mind started to wander - I wondered if the asphalt just past the Gel station was poured with some special concrete mix, or if the prominent squish-squish-squish sound from my shoes was a result of gel remnants on the ground (I think the latter). I gratefully took pretzels from a girl in Pilsen as I had tired of super sweet Gatorade. I cheered on the two blind runners I passed and the double amputee running through Lincoln Park. I noticed ribbons fluttering on runners’ shirts and wondered who they represented.
As I passed mile 19, I remembered “this is where I started to cramp two years ago, maybe it won’t happen this time”. Two miles later my hamstrings knotted up twice, forcing me to walk some short distances, but luckily the cramps didn’t return. After mile 24, I knew if I could maintain my current pace, I might get a PR. Those last two miles ended up being my fastest miles of the day, PR accomplished!
|4:20:18, I'll Take It|
In the end though, the marathon is about doing what you think you can’t do, supporting those who run and those who cannot and (hopefully) enjoying the run. Getting a faster time or achieving your “A” Goal is just icing on the cake.
After this race, I decided that my next running adventure would be a little different, one that scares me. So I signed up for an Ultra Marathon! I will be running the Clinton Lake Ultra, a 30 miler close to home. I've run the 10 mile loop once and know it will be a great challenge. With that race in late March, I am considering the NYC Marathon for the fall, assuming I make it through the lottery process.
In personal horsey news, my daughter made the difficult decision to sell her beloved horse, Caesar, in order to find a horse more suitable for her desire to compete in Equestrian Eventing. Eventing entails competing in Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross country with a single horse. Caesar, while a wonderful horse, doesn't have the structure or power be competitive in Eventing and to put him through the stress of those disciplines would eventually result in injury.
We found a new family who will provide excellent care, ride him and love him as much as Erica has these last 5 and a half years. They are a well respected local family. While he's moved to another barn, Erica can go and visit him if she wishes.
Some recent photos of the two of them:
And a couple of my favorites:
Need a desktop calendar for the rest of September? You've come to the right place, LOL.
I captured this pair of horses at Saint Mary of the Woods College last fall, while attending a collegiate horse show.
To download September's free calendar, click on the link from box.com:
September 2016 Horses Calendar
I have more personal horsey news to share, so if you like photos of horses, come back tomorrow!
The start of August means the end of summer (sorry to all who get your summers' off). The days become noticeably shorter, with the sun rising later each day.
This month's desktop calendar features one of those sunrises - along the water and harbor.
To download August's free calendar, click on the link from box.com:
August 2016 Harbor Sunrise Calendar
Summer is fleeting so get out there and enjoy it!
I am often asked questions and comments about my photography - what location, what camera, what settings, etc. The camera question aside (it's not about the camera, it's merely a tool of the user), I am happy to answer.
It's all about the light. The proper light for what you want to capture.
For portraits, I prefer the late afternoon / early evening light. Morning light works, too, but for some reason, if given the choice, most people prefer to have their photo taken in the afternoon.
Location - You don't have to go somewhere exotic or even scenic to get good portraits. It's all about the background and the light. I've shot great photos in my backyard, in my living room and in the driveway. My favorite photo of my daughter was shot in the early morning light in our driveway:
Notice the catch lights in her eyes - she was looking towards the morning sun, but not directly into the sun. I estimate the sun was 45 degrees from the plane of her stance. The background is a river birch tree and the side of my neighbor's house. Here's where having the proper equipment does make a difference - I used a 200mm lens at f/4. The wide open aperture coupled with the zoom blurs the background so you can't really tell you are looking at vinyl siding.
Some more examples - last week, I took portraits of some friends at the local park, in the parking lot.
Here's the set up, courtesy of my friend, Kellie. Not exactly Shang-gri-la! But the light was right, and I thought the background of prairie grasses would provide a nice canvas for these golden kids.
A few things to note:
- I had the kids stand on the parking spot berm. I did this to give them some height over the background of prairie grass and flowers.
- The light is not directly behind them, but slightly to their left.
- I am standing on a step stool because getting slightly above your subject will force them to look up slightly, which I find results in a more flattering pose. I take that step stool to most of my photo shoots because I am pretty short. It is a great tool for group shots, too.
Even though that location worked, I wanted to capture more intense catch lights in their eyes, so I had them rotate 90 degrees to their right. The kids are in the shade and off in the distance there is enough light to add a nice sparkle to those blue eyes and illuminate their skin.
But I was not happy with the background of this photo. There were too many distracting elements, especially what I highlight in the following photo:
Call me picky, but I didn't like that (part of a water treatment plant) and the big blob of dark green above the girl's head.
I did "save" the photo by cropping some of the distracting elements away. I switched to a 8x10 aspect ratio and I find the result far more pleasing:
Some more favorites from this shoot:
|Kids Sitting on the Parking Spot Berm. Sitting generally relaxes the subject for a nice casual look|
|Mom gets in the photo - in a Sea of Prairie Wildflowers - I used the step stool to eliminate the houses behind the flowers from the photo|
I was recently profiled in my running club's monthly newsletter. I'm not quite sure how I was picked, but I had fun with the question and answer style format and consider it an honor to share it with you.
Twenty (or so) questions with Shirley LeMay
by Bruce Butler
I was pleased to have a chance talk to Shirley LeMay about her running exploits. Despite having zero involvement in sports during High school and college (was and still is a music nerd), she somehow found her way to hitting the pavement. It all started at the age of 25 when the local Y closed down the gym (and fitness classes) for two weeks and she had no other way to get her workout endorphin rush.
|Running in June and July 2016|
2. Do you have a mentor that has helped? I think I learn from almost everyone
3. What’s the best advice you ever received? Trust your training, especially when it comes to those longer distance races.
4. Would you rather it be 10 degrees or 85? 10, for sure. I can always add clothes when it is cold, at 85, there’s just a ton of suffering and sweat.
5. What are 3 things every runner should know? Take time to Cross train. I consistently take time for strength classes, yoga and swimming.
Strong hips and butt = happy running life
Rest days are just as important as that long run.
6. Trails or roads? I like them both, roads are more convenient, but the trails are better for me as a runner.
7. What’s your go-to shoe right now? Altra Paradigm 1.5
8. Best running book you’ve read? Of course, Born to Run, but I also enjoyed What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Murakami.
|Running in May - Abroad in the UK and at Home|
10. What’s the worst running injury you’ve had? While not technically a running injury, tearing my ACL while playing soccer in 2012 put me out of running commission for 5 months and delayed my first marathon attempt. I had it reconstructed and ran my first marathon 2 years later.
11. What is your second favorite race, behind the Illinois Marathon? The Chicago Marathon is a great race with tons of crowd support and gives the runner a unique perspective of the city.
12. Which PR are you most proud of? When I was in my 20s, I ran a 4 mile night race in 29 minutes. But, since those really fast years are long gone, I am happy with any “good time” nowadays.
13. Are you a supporter of wearing compression clothing? Yes! For my calves.
14. Favorite running app? I’m on Runkeeper because I have data back to 2011 logged, and it is fun to see the progression over the years. Through the magic of app integration, my Garmin data automatically syncs to RK. I also like to take photos when I’m out running (#shirleyruns) and RK allows the user to upload those too.
15. Current running watch? The Forerunner 220.
16. Would you rather watch a live sporting event or go on a 12 mile run? 12 mile run
17. I’ve heard others talk about how difficult mile repeats are. Any particular workout you dread? I really don’t like speedwork. At. All
18. Can you get yourself out the door without a group or running partner? Yes, I ran alone for many years and still enjoy running alone. The key is to get into a routine / schedule and not to think about it until you are out the door.
19. Average weekly mileage? When I’m not training for a marathon, 25-30 miles
20. What’s the earliest you’ve ever started a run? 5am, but would start earlier if need be.
21. Longest run on a treadmill, or will you just run outside regardless of the weather? I call it the Dreadmill for a reason. The longest I’ve ever managed is 5 miles. I’ll run in almost any weather with the exception of lightning.
22. Longest distance where you put the word “just” in front of it when telling your friends how long your run was? 14
23. Ever lost a toenail? Yes…that was an interesting experience...
24. Biggest mistake you ever made in a race? I struggle with calf cramps. I think I under estimate how much I sweat, and it has impacted a few of my recent long races.
|April Running - Culminating in the Illinois Marathon|
Somehow, I’ve convinced a bunch of people that it would be “fun” to run each Wednesday morning at 5:30. The group meets at the local YMCA and we run a 6-8 mile loop in the surrounding neighborhoods. I live close to the Y, so I run from my house and meet the group on the road.
The group originally consisted of members from a Wednesday morning yoga class. The class was moved to Monday, so the Wednesday 5:30 spot was now “open” for other endeavors and I suggested a group run. We’ve invited friends, co workers, people we’ve connected through 2nd Wind and the Marathon training groups. The group started last September and continued all winter long, through the dark, the cold, some snow and rain.
Participation averages around 5-6. We’ve had as many as 10 people and as few as 1 person (um, yeah, that would be me, running in a pre-blizzard). We generally run 9-10 minute / mile pace, but have some speedier and slower folks that morph into casual “pace groups”.
26. Describe your ideal running conditions. An ideal temperature for me is between 45-50 deg, warm enough for shorts and a tee shirt. Add in a crisp fall day with the leaves turning along the route or a vivid sunrise and that is running perfection.
I also enjoy running after or during a gentle snowfall. The snow dusts the trees, softens the impact of the road and muffles ambient noise. You can’t run as fast, but in those conditions, it’s just nice to be out there in the snow globe.
And as Jimmy Buffet sings, “Go fast enough to get there, Slow enough to see”.
There's still plenty of July left to download this month's free desktop calendar.
I know what you are thinking - wow, she's posted three times this month! Yes, I am on a roll, hopefully it will continue.
July's calendar features a playful dolphin we encountered on a fishing excursion in Florida. The captain of the boat saw the dolphin, then sped up stating "let's see if we can get the dolphin to jump the wake". The dolphin happily obliged, much to our delight. They are amazing creatures.
To download July's free calendar, click on the link from box.com:
July 2016 Dolphin Calendar
I'm back, this time with an update from May.
Erica competed in the Intercollegiate Horse Show National Competition in the “Horse Capital of the US”, aka Lexington, Kentucky, held at the Kentucky Horse Park. The event was held in the Alltech Arena – a world class facility. She hit the big time!
Scenes from Kentucky Horse park, simply idyllic with the gently rolling hills and green pastures, speckled with horses (of course):
We made friends with this big boy:
In this shot of the arena, the course is set up for the jumping events and gives you an idea of how big the place is.
The staging area for the horses looked like a mosh pit of horses...
While she didn’t place in her event, this experience as a freshman in college means she’s going to work harder to earn another chance to compete at the National level. I am super proud of my horse loving daughter!
Trip to the UK (London and Cardiff)
The day after Nationals, I got on a plane and traveled to the UK to run a training session for work. Highlights – I got to visit with my sister and her family in London and the weather was sunnier than normal.
...so sunny and warm that ice cream with a chocolate flake was in order for the kids. The flake pops out of the top of the ice cream like a straw. I ended up buying a box of it on my way home.
As usual, we made our way down to the Thames.
The wisteria was in full bloom, adorning all the doorways.
The training session I ran was held in Cardiff, Wales, about a 2 hour train ride to the west. I was able to explore the city of Cardiff, Wales via the lens of daylight (the last time I was there in the perpetual darkness of winter), met some new running friends and ran some cool routes.
|Cardiff Castle Along my Run Through Bute Park|
|The Pierhead Building at Cardiff Bay|
|Along Waterfront Park|
|Wales Millennium Center|
On the “Dimmer” side, I managed to catch the intestinal bug my sister was harboring and well, that was not fun. Fortunately, the brunt of that hit mid-week; I delegated sections of the training course to my work colleagues and quarantined myself to the hotel room. The hotel was quite accommodating, supplying me with complimentary room service and whatever else I wanted (Yeah, I get that they didn’t want me wandering the halls and spreading this to other guests). I only missed one day of the training and didn’t have any issues traveling back to the US.
Scott and I celebrated our “last birthday” before the big 5-0. My friend, Jill, had extra tickets to see James Taylor in concert, so I got a special birthday gift from her. It is amazing that he is almost 70 years old, still performing on tour and sounding great.
|And I'm 49|
The kids officially wrapped up the school year and settled into their summer routines - May was gone in a flash.
Yeah, it’s been so quiet here on the blog, so much so, I bet you all figured I just stopped taking photos, and disappeared into the abyss.
While not 100% true, life has certainly been busy and I’ve gotten lazy about taking photos, getting them up to flickr (heck, even my auto publish from Instagram stopped working for two weeks) and posting all those mundane details about them. My parents even noticed my lack of activity and called me out on it!
So, here’s what I’m dubbing the “Highlights” and “Dimmer Lights” of the last several months, and this is April's installment. I have more written for May and June (since it is now July)!
I am purposefully not using the term “Low Lights”, as I really have nothing in my life that truly warrants a “Low Light” category.....
Equestrian Zone Competition - Erica and I flew to Amarillo, TX so she could compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association’s Zone 7 competition. She is an active member of Illinois’ Equestrian Team and qualified to compete at the Regional level in March. At the March competition, she won her Regional event (Novice Flat Equitation Class), which allowed her to compete at the Zone level, in Texas.
The event was hosted by Western Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX.
Highlights – the weather was warm, I got to see some friends who recently moved to Amarillo (yeah, kind of random). The event was a great experience for Erica, who attended with another rider from the club.
Announcing the winners - In a process akin to a beauty pageant, the competitors line up and the judges announce the placements in descending order until there are only two left.
So the excitement mounted when Erica's name was not announced.... three left, two left and wow, she's the winner!
The biggest highlight of the month - Erica winning this competition, which meant she advanced to the National Competition!
Dimmer Light that weekend – I set off the Airport security machine and then proceeded to fail the next level of testing (swabbing my hands, clothes for bomb producing chemicals). Yeah, I had to be taken into the “back room” and personally searched. No big deal, just a little humorous (Sorry, no picture, I know you are disappointed).
Running - I ran Marathon number 4 at the end of April. Highlights: This was my best marathon training cycle to date. With the exception of a slight quad tear early on, I executed all the runs, didn’t get sick and went into the race feeling great. I hit my target pace of 9:30/mile up until mile 20. That’s when “Dimmer Lights” started in the form of calf and hamstring cramps. Darn those cramps! I got them when I ran Chicago, too. Race day was a complete slog, with rain throughout the race, somewhat reminiscent of last year, but not as bad. Even with the rain, I was cheered on by so many people I knew - that makes a big difference and really makes this race special. I ended up walk – running the last 3 miles and as a result, wasn’t tired after the race. No PR either. Oh Well.
|The only photo I got, after the race, with my running friend, Sandeep.|
And that's a wrap for April. Tune in again for May highlights - more horses, travel to the UK and a fun concert.