Capture My Chicago 2010

I am thrilled to once again participate in the Capture My Chicago project. This project seeks out the best photographs made in, around, and about Chicago. The photos are voted on by the Capture My Chicago on-line community, with the best images published in a beautiful coffee table book. I was fortunate to have several images published last year, as well as being honored with an award (please see this post). I must say I would be proud to be included again this year. For more information, please visit my profile page at capturemychicago.com.

Back up on the Roof and Other Places at The John Hancock Tower

I am just thrilled that I had the opportunity to go back up on the roof of the John Hancock tower yesterday. They are doing an update to their popular Spinner for which I made the photos about two years ago (see the posts, Excitement at 1000 Feet and It Was as cool as I Thought). So up I went into the glorious afternoon sky to make the shots that will become a new souvenir piece. As if that wasn't enough excitement at the Hancock for one day, later that evening I returned to the observatory to make night time panorama shots for their new telescopes. These will be companions to the day time panoramas I made a little while ago (see Panoramas for the John Hancock Observatory). I finally saw these new telescopes in action, and I have to say they are amazing. First of all, they are electronic. Rather than a traditional telescope to which you put your eye, these are screens mounted to a base. You point the telescope where ever you want to look and the live image is on the screen. You can then zoom in or out at your heart's content. On the screen, there are boxes that pop up highlighting points of interest. To learn more about these sites, simply click a button and the info comes up on the screen. But that's not all...you can press a button and choose to see either a day time view or a night time view. So, say for instance you are up in the observatory and a cloud rolls in, you can still see precisely what is there. Or if you are visiting at night, you can click on the day view and see what the city looks like under sun shine. Similarly, day time visitors can get a feel for the marvelous views from the Observatory under the stars. I am proud to have been chosen to be the photographer that provided those day and night time panorama views for these amazing telescopes.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend visiting the John Hancock Observatory. The views are simply beautiful and can't be beat. For more information about the Observatory, you can visit their website, JohnHancockObservatory.com.

I Can't Wait for the New Season to Begin

I am excited, excited, and even more excited about the beginning of the summer art fair season. I can't wait for the weekend of the 22nd of this month when I will be at the Riverside Arts Fair in Riverside, IL. This past weekend, we walked the show in Elmhurst. We spent time visiting with several of our art friends and had a nice time just enjoying everyone's work. However, as it does every year, walking that first show just really hammers home the fact that the season is about to burst on the scene.

Sure, I have some matting and framing yet to do. However, that is a fun time for me--particularly this early in the year--because I get to see my new pieces getting ready for their debut. And speaking of new pieces, I have a lot waiting in the wings this year. Look for these, among others, at the Riverside show in a few weeks:

[caption id="attachment_2287" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Unheeded"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2288" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Yin-Yang"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2289" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Red Door, Chinatown"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2290" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lean"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2291" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lucky Cat"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2296" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="You Don't Mess with Rover"][/caption]

I hope to see you all at some point this summer. As always, I'm looking forward to a fun year!

If you have any questions about my schedule or my photographs, or if you need any further information, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail at john@carusophoto.com. You can also visit my website, CarusoPhoto.com, for more information.

Cheers!

Lots O' Learning and Pictures

[caption id="attachment_1885" align="alignright" width="300" caption=""March of the Hors d'Oeuvres" was my first photograph in my Project 365/Photo-A-Day endeavor for 2009"][/caption] With a twinge of melancholy, I bid adieu to my Project 365/Photo-A-Day endeavor for 2009. I have to say in all honesty that this project has exceeded all of my high expectations. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting my camera to my eye at least once a day, every day, in 2009. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I know for certain that 2010 will be another Project 365/Photo-A-Day year for me. I just can't get enough of it.

I entered into this project  with a notion of what I wanted to accomplish, but I had no idea of how much I would learn about photography and my relationship with it.

[caption id="attachment_1889" align="alignleft" width="300" caption=""Knotting" is a photo I might not have made had I not been making a photo-a-day during 2009"][/caption]

Through the year, I paused a few time to reflect upon the project. Here is a recap of those verbal pit stops:

To read more about what I was thinking when I started this quest, please take a moment to check out my post from December 30, 2008 appropriately titled,

"Project 365." Furthermore, if you're so inclined, you could take a look at my 50 day update, similarly appropriately titled, "50 Days? Already?" my more cryptically titled 100 day update, "Day 100...or The Last-Call, Whiskey-Soaked Plan That Didn't Die," the rather pedestrian-titled half-year update, "And in a Blink, a Half a Year is Gone…," and the verbosely titled,"A Hard Time Seeing the Trees for the Forest –or- What I’ve Been Learning these Past 300 Days."

Things I learned or confirmed:

  • [caption id="attachment_1886" align="alignright" width="200" caption=""Fearless" was just one of my 365 daily photos I made during 2009."][/caption]

    Nothing is permanent. I started off the year with two primary cameras: a Canon 40D and a Canon G9. I've ended the year with a Canon 5D Mark ii, a Pentax K-7, a Canon G10, and a Lumix DMC-LZ10 as my primary cameras.Of course, in addition to those six cameras I've used many other cameras thorughout the year including: a Canon XTi, my iPhone, several Holgas, a couple of Dianas, a few Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slims, an Olympus XA2, a Canon A1, a Canon EOS 1, a Canon EOS 5, a Vivitar V3800N SLR, a Yashica Electro 35, a Yashicamat 124G, and even a Nikon F100. (If I forgot someone, I am sure I can be forgiven.) I have a feeling that the coming year will see a few more additions to that list.

  • It's not the camera. Photography is about the image, not the camera. Sure, the camera as a tool plays a part in the equation, but of all the elements that go into making a good photograph--subject, composition, story, exposure, and focus--the camera only plays a part in final two. And even then, it's still the photographer's responsibility to make exposure and focusing choices. The best camera in the world cannot choose the right subject for a photographer, cannot correct poor composition, cannot tell a story.
  • Photography should be fun. Often, when I tell people that I am doing a photo a day

    [caption id="attachment_1887" align="alignleft" width="300" caption=""Watch Out for Those Pans Monkey Towel!" was another one of my 365 daily photographs in 2009"][/caption]

    project, their first reaction is, wow, every single day? How can you keep up with it? In fact, I don't even think of it as "keeping up" or as a chore. To me, photography is fun.

    It's something I look forward to doing every day. Therefore, doing a project 365 almost feels like cheating because it is something I would do anyway. I am excited about being able to make

    photographs, and making photographs is something I want to do  every single day.

  • Even a bad photo beats no photo at all. Sure, I've made my fair share of clunkers this year. It would be foolishto think that each and every photograph that comes out of my cameras isgoing to be a masterpiece...and that's the point. When I started this project, one of my goals was to give myself permission to make a less than wonderful photograph and share it with the

    [caption id="attachment_1892" align="alignleft" width="199" caption=""Shadow Interview" is but another one of my 365 daily photographs for 2009"][/caption]

    universe. If I am always

    concerned with making a perfect photograph each and every time I press the shutter, I find that my photographs do not get better, they get worse.I see safety in them. I see blandness. I see a lack of spirit, fun, and excitement. If I am obsessing about pristine exposure and precise focus, I don't allow myself to experiment, to have fun, to explore thiswonderful art of photography. Photography is not about cold formulas and mechanical precision. It is about feeling, emotion, and expression. And the more we avoid accidents, the more we lose out on the wonders of "happy accidents." Some of my favorite photographs would not have come about without serendipity and accident.

  • A year is a long time...and a very short time. A year ago when I made the decision to make a photo a day, I had a hard time visualizing what my portfolio would look like today. Knowing that I would have--at minimum--365 new photographs was simply a concept.

    [caption id="attachment_1888" align="alignright" width="200" caption=""Childhood Memories: Two Dollars" made an appearance as a daily photo in 2009"][/caption]

    It'svery hard to think about creating that many photographs in one chunk. But as the days went by and as the photos began to stack up, I began to realize that the year was whizzing by at an alarming rate. It still amazes me that it was a year ago that I made a photograph of theappetizers in the oven. It seems like only a month or two. Really. But when I take a moment to reflect upon the body of work I created since then, I am thrilled by what I was able to accomplish. I have revisited many of my daily posts from this year and I find getting re-acquainted with some of my work has been fun...and has been a memory jog.

So as 2009 draws to a close and 2010 knocks on the door, I can look both backward and forward to a photo-a-day. When it comes right down to it, two full years of daily photographs is quite a marvelous thing...and I'm happy to be a part of it.

CaptureMyChicago Book Launch & Signing

This is just a quick message to let everyone know that the CaptureMyChicago book release event will be held this evening, Wednesday December 9, at the Borders book store on Michigan Ave. I was fortunately enough to have one of my photographs, Down Town, selected as a prize winner from over 28,000 photos submitted. All of the winners will be on hand to sign copies of the book--which will be officially released and available for purchase.

Here are the vitals on tonight's event, from the CaptureMyChicago.com web site:

Hey folks! We have some fun news to share with you.

We are excited to announce the Capture My Chicago book release party! It's going to be the coolest book release party the Chicago area has ever seen. Everyone is welcome. Bring your friends, family and camera! It's going to be a great time for the community to come together to celebrate the unveiling of the book. It will be the first public viewing of the book, and the first time everyone gets to see who made the book. That's why we're calling it a release party, you see! Prize winners will sign books as well to make your copy even more unique!

Books will be available to purchase at the release party at the retail price. If you want to take advantage of the pre-sale discount, be sure to check our purchase page and get the book shipped free to your doorstep. Note: all books ordered online are put in queue to be shipped out immediately upon arrival of books from press. We expect to receive the press shipment the day before the release party, which means online orders will begin processing and get on their way as quickly as possible! This means books ordered online cannot be picked up at the release party.

What: Release Party When: Wednesday, December 09, starting at 07:00 PM Where: Borders Books and Music, 830 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL.

CarusoPhoto.com Redesign and Relaunch

[caption id="attachment_1777" align="alignleft" width="500" caption="Please take a moment to check out my redesigned website, CarusoPhoto.com."][/caption] I am thrilled to announce the redesign and relaunch of my website, CarusoPhoto.com. With this new site, I was able to implements some greatly anticipated features. The biggest one is the ability to order photographs directly from the site. As you peruse the galleries, clicking on a thumbnail opens up a much larger image (another improvement) to give you a better look at the photograph. Once you find one you like, simply click on the "Purchasing Options" and select the configuration you would like: print size along with the option of having your new print matted or matted & framed. Once you complete your order, you're check out will be through PayPal, where they accept all major credit cards.

Currently, I have three galleries in the portfolio: Inside, Outside, and Black and White. I will be adding new galleries in the near future, for even more photographic viewing.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback on the new site, I'd love to hear from you. Just drop me an e-mail at John@CarusoPhoto.com.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together!

A Terrific Honor

Screen Grab from CaptureMyChicago.com

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that one of my photos has won a prize in the Capture My Chicago contest.

The Capture My Chicago contest was a fun and very interesting process. Simply put, photographers uploaded Chicago related images to the Capture My Chicago website where the photographs were voted on by the community. Once the voting period concluded, the votes were tallied up and the best photographs (as determined by the vote as well as by editor selection) would be included in a hard-bound, coffee table book and an accompanying DVD. To quote their website, "The Capture My Chicago book and DVD is a really exciting project because it's a combination of your best photos, our best photos, and a democracy-style editing system. With this new approach, the book will truly be the best of the Greater Chicago area."

And since Capture My Chicago was presented by CBS 2 Chicago, during the run of the contest they also featured some of the photos on their afternoon and 10:00 newscasts. I was fortunate enough to have several of my photos make an appearance.

The book will be comprised of eight chapters: Friendly Faces; Arts, Culture & Food; Sports Spirit; Scapes of All Sorts; Recreation & Celebration; Newsworthy; Pets; and Landmarks & Architecture. I was hopeful that my work would make it into the book, but today I received an e-mail informing me that I have been selected as a prize winner. There are 18 prizes all together: a Grand Prize, a Cover Prize, and two prizes in each chapter (Highest Score & Editor's Choice). What makes this an even bigger honor is that over 28,000 photographs were submitted. In fact, according to their website, "2,480 photographers...submitted 28,144 photos," and the community "cast 2,388,443 votes to shape the Capture My Chicago book."

I will learn which photograph received the honor next month at the presentation reception.

In the meantime, the book is available for pre-order. For a limited time, Capture My Chicago is running a special offer of $10.00 off the book...and free shipping. And, along with the book, you will receive the free DVD that contains hundreds of great photos of the Greater Chicago area. To buy the book, you can click here. To learn more about Capture My Chicago, please visit their website at capturemychicago.com.

A Guy, His Camera, The Hancock Tower, Blue Men, the World's Highest Lavazza Cafe, and a Helicopter: A List I Don't Often Make

[caption id="attachment_1225" align="alignright" width="300" caption="I had a thoroughly terrific time shooting the Hancock Tower and Blue Men this past Tuesday."]I had a thoroughly terrific time shooting the Hancock Tower and Blue Men this past Tuesday.[/caption] After several false starts due to uncooperative weather, I finally was able to do my photo shoot for the John Hancock Tower, Blue Man Group, and the Lavazza Cafe in the Observatory.

Just to give a bit of an update on why I was on the roof with three Blue Men: In the wake of my rooftop shot last July (Excitement at 1000 Feet & It Was as Cool as I Thought) and my Hancock Helicopter shoot last August (Hancock by Helicopter), I was fortunate enough to be hired to do another shoot, this time in the evening.

[caption id="attachment_1227" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Blue Men on the Hancock Roof...it was a fun as it sounds"]Blue Men on the Hancock Roof...it was a fun as it sounds[/caption]

The basic run-down was this: I got shots of the Blue Man Group down on Michigan Avenue in front of the tower, then moved up to the roof to get some more shots up there. At that point, I headed out to Midway Airport to catch a ride in a helicopter which whisked us back into the city where the Blue Men were waiting atop the Hancock for us. After photographing them up there, we made several passes around the building and out over the lake to get shots of the Hancock, the skyline, and the city at dusk and sunset. Finally, after sunset, we made our way back close to the Hancock to get photos of the Blue Men enjoying coffee in the Lavazza Cafe, now open in the observatory (the highest Lavazza Cafe in the world).

Although the entire night flew by so quickly, we packed a lot of activity (and memories) into a few hours.

[caption id="attachment_1226" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="What a kick it was to lay on my back on Michigan Avenue during a Chicago rush hour as the Blue Men peered down at me and the Hancock soared up."]What a kick it was to lay on my back on Michigan Avenue during a Chicago rush hour as the Blue Men peered down at me and the Hancock soared up.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1229" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Blue Man City--I like this one because they look like kings of all they survey...or super heros."]Blue Man City--I like this one because they look like kings of all they survey...or super heros.[/caption]

For instance, there I was, laying on my back on Michigan Avenue in the middle of Chicago's rush hour with the Blue Men leaning over me and the Hancock towering behind. Then I was shooting out of the wide-open side of a helicopter, making photos of the city as dusk--then sunset-- slowly rolled from the lake to the west.

[caption id="attachment_1228" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="As the golden hour progressed, the city came alive with warm light...then transitioned into it's own illumination by so many street and building lights."]As the golden hour progressed, the city came alive with warm light...then transitioned into it's own illumination by so many street and building lights.[/caption]

On more than once occasion during the night I thought to myself, "how can this get any more fun?"

I wanted to thank everyone involved in the shoot. They were all wonderful to work with, and truly terrific people!

Day 100...or The Last-Call, Whiskey-Soaked Plan That Didn't Die

[caption id="attachment_818" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Somewhere, Three Cameras are Happy--This was my 100th Photo-A-Day/Project 365 post."]Somewhere, Three Cameras are Happy[/caption] Day 100. Sure, in a 365 day year, day 100 is a bit of an arbitrary milestone. Yet we are creatures who seek order and even-ness, and as such the number 100 carries a significance. So it is with a smile and a click of the shutter that I am happy to say that on this 100th day of my Photo-A-Day/Project 365 endeavor I am still going strong.

When I began back on January 1st, there was a sense of exuberance, a feeling of promise and potential. Yet an unavoidable sense of doubt still lurked in the deep recesses of my head. You know the feeling: that it-sounds-fantastic-now-but-who-knows-what-the-morning-will-bring feeling. It’s the last-call, whiskey-soaked plan to finally take that road trip down route 66—tomorrow!—kind of idea that too often withers under the late morning light and is unceremoniously washed away with a gallon of coffee. It’s the foolhardy commitment to take a photo a day, every day, for a year.

[caption id="attachment_817" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Bar Shadows"]Bar Shadows[/caption]

Yet today, on day 100, that killjoy morning is nowhere in sight while someone else keeps buying the whiskey…leading me to think the dream isn’t going anywhere for quite some time. In other words, I’m firmly entrenched and I have every confidence the first 100 days are merely a preamble to the next 265.

Originally, when I started this, one of my goals was to stretch myself as a photographer. I wanted to look “for ways to explore my creativity, sharpen my eye, and define my aesthetic.” One hundred days into it, I feel I’ve begun to do just that. The best part is that a lot of the exploration and evolution of my aesthetic has come in surprising ways. I had no idea that toy cameras would play such a large part in my Project 365. Shooting with toy cameras has really given me a new perspective on my photography, in much the same way as shooting film compliments digital work. By shooting toys and eliminating many of the exposure and focusing decisions, the process of making a photograph is stripped down to subject, composition, and anticipation of the “toy camera effect” (vignetting, light leaks, etc.). This concentration on subject and composition has truly enhanced and complimented my “regular” photography.

Also when I started, I wanted to be able to open myself up to new photographic possibilities. I didn’t want to “end up with 300 photos of the dogs and 65 of the back yard.” Happily, I feel that hasn’t happened. Knowing that I don’t have to create a masterpiece each and every day is very liberating and frees me up to experiment with different subjects. Consequently, I don’t have all dog and backyard shots. Furthermore, I know that in order to keep this project interesting, I need to make interesting photographs (well, at least interesting to myself).

[caption id="attachment_819" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="John At The Empty Bottle in Chicago"]John At The Empty Bottle in Chicago[/caption]

As I look back on these past 100 days (which, incidentally, have thoroughly whizzed by!), I am so glad that I started this project. I’ve made some photographs of which I am very proud. I’ve also made some which I don’t really care for at all. But that is the beauty of this exercise: produce, and the possibilities begin to open up. So pour me another whiskey and let’s howl at the moon because inspiration is here to stay.

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To read more about my on-going quest to make a photo-a-day, every day, in 2009--my Project 365--please take a moment to check out my post from December 30, 2008 appropriately titled, "Project 365" as well as my 50 day update, similarly appropriately titled, "50 Days? Already?."

It's Never Too Early To Start Thinking Of Show Season

Even though the snow on top of the snow hasn't even thought of melting yet, and even though the temperature has been graciously rationing mercury, it's never too early to start thinking about show season...and I must admit that it has been much on my mind of late. One reason is that I've been working on a lot of new photographs that I can't wait to share. Another reason is that application deadlines for several shows have either just past or are soon about to. I'm happy to say I already have four shows confirmed, two shows that are "hopefuls," two that are "maybe," and three that are "wouldn't-that-be-cool-if-I-got-in..but-I-don't-know." As soon as I hear more on those vaguely adjectival ones I will update the site accordingly. [caption id="attachment_410" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="This was my booth last September in LaGrange. I can't wait to get it all set up again this year."]This was my booth last September in LaGrange. I can't wait to get it all set up again this year.[/caption]

For now, however, I'm delighted to say that I definitely will be returning to three of my favorite shows as well as adding a new venue in 2009. In May, I will once again be at the Riverside Arts Fair in downtown Riverside, IL. Last year was an absolute treat and I know it'll be just as great again this year. In July, I will be returning to Orland Park for the Orland Park Art Fair which has been a very nice and solid show over the years...and the people of Orland Park have been great (I even was honored to have a solo gallery showing at their library last year). Then in August I will be venturing out into a new show for me: Art in Your Eye in Batavia. I've heard a lot of great things about this show, and am excited about being a part of it. I'm also honored to have been invited because all artists who participate in the show must have won at least one show award in the past three years (thank you Orland Park & LaGrange!). This brings me to the fourth of my confirmed shows thus far: The West End Art Festival in LaGrange. I'm thrilled to be returning for a third year to this show. I've always had a terrific time there and the people of LaGrange have been very supportive of my work.

As I hear back from the other shows, I will certainly make a point to update the website and this blog.

I can't wait to get out there once more, put up the ol' tent, and jump headlong into some wonderfully art-filled weekends. I am excited about seeing all my artist friends again...and to making new ones along the way. I am chomping on the bit to share all the new photographs I've been working on since last season. But most of all, I can't wait to spend time with all the visitors, both familiar and new, talking about art, photography, and just nothing in particular. Because for me, art show season is so much more than simply schlepping some pictures out to a town, slapping them up on a tent wall, and hoping to make a buck or two. No. Show season is about celebrating the art. It's about making connections with people. It's about sharing thoughts, feeling, and reactions to what we see. Sure, I'm there to sell my work--and I'm very thrilled and honored when someone likes what I do enough to purchase it, to own it, to bring it home and enjoy it for years to come. But I also love just talking to my booth visitors about what they see, about what I see, and about how we all see things in different yet intersecting ways. There is something special about the way I feel at the end of a show day. It's a giddy mix of exhileration, exhaustion, and satisfaction. It's a feeling I've missed since September. And I can't wait to feel it again in a few months.