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Cruise for a Cause 2017

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C R U I S E F O R A C A U S E

Another awesome Cruise For a Cause fundraiser event by Sarah’s Inn this year! I’ve donated my time and services to this event for the past five years now and always enjoy being a part of it. Each year is a little different, which I feel is half the fun. Massive thunderstorms threatened this years event and we weren’t sure if we would be able to leave the dock, which didn’t stop us from having fun! Eventually the skies cleared just enough for us to hit the lake and witness some amazing sunset views of Chicago and the Navy Pier fireworks.

The primary focus of Hiraeth Diaries is to instill a deeper appreciation of our natural world by sharing stories of the landscape, people, and wildlife of places I visit, spreading awareness of environmental issues and the beauty this planet loses every day. I also try to make a more direct impact by donating at least 10% of my sales proceeds towards foundations involved with the conservation & rescue of the environment & wildlife around the globe. I also do my best to participate in other important causes and am proud to have been part of this annual fundraising event.

Here’s a brief look at this year’s cruise, with a link to the full gallery and more at the end of this post.

On June 14, the Sarah’s Inn Associate Board hosted the 2017 Cruise for a Cause on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. The Cruise is the Associate Board’s marquee summer event, raising awareness and funds for Sarah’s Inn, a non-profit organization that works across Chicagoland to educate teens and adults about domestic violence and to support and protect those affected by abuse. Aboard the Ft. Dearborn, a tour boat generously donated by Chicago Line Cruises, guests enjoyed a variety of finger foods, cocktails, and raffle prizes, all set against the backdrop of the Chicago skyline at sunset. Thanks to support from Chicago Line Cruises and other sponsors, all of the overhead costs were covered by donations and over $8,000 was raised for Sarah’s Inn.

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About the Associate Board

The Sarah’s Inn Associate Board is a diverse community of young professionals who are committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence. The mission of the Associate Board is to build a new generation of supporters for Sarah’s Inn and to raise awareness for the agency and its critical community services. To do this, the AB utilizes its strength as a network of young professionals to create opportunities for its peers to come together, socialize, learn more about and support the work done by Sarah’s Inn to end domestic violence.

About Sarah’s Inn
Sarah’s Inn is a community-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of those affected by domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence for future generations. Its services and initiatives focus on ending relationship violence through domestic violence crisis intervention, community education, and violence prevention programs for youth. Founded in 1981 by Oak Park residents, Sarah’s Inn works throughout the Chicagoland area.

All guests are welcome to browse and download from the full gallery, which can be found here: Photo Gallery

Full Gifyyy photo booth gallery can be found here: Gifyyy Gallery

Finally, a special thanks to all the sponsors who helped make this year’s Cruise For a Cause possible!

Chicago Line Cruises – https://www.chicagoline.com
Hiraeth Diaries Adventure Photography – https://www.hiraethdiaries.com
Euromonitor International – http://www.euromonitor.com/usa
Oak Park Area Association of Realtors – http://www.oakparkrealtors.org
Prairie Title – http://www.prairietitle.com
Gifyyy – https://thisisfeeling.com/gifyyy
Thrivent Financial – https://www.thrivent.com
Brightwok Kitchen – https://brightwok.com
Skyler Dees Catering – http://www.skylerdees.com
Sugar Beet Food Co-op – http://sugarbeetcoop.squarespace.com
Vanille Patisserie – http://www.vanillepatisserie.com

Call of the Blue Jay

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C A L L O F T H E B L U E J A Y

I was never present during the passing of anyone I’ve loved until one week ago. My mom and step dad adopted Henry almost five years ago, welcoming him into a home that was still new to us all, a home that would provide him with love and shelter and happier days. I wasn’t there when he first arrived, but I know all the stories of how that first day unfolded. His howls and manic curiosity, sniffing every corner of this new and wonderful place, running around the whole house with such excitement that shit literally flew out of his ass as his paws galloped around from room to room, and finally cuddling up next to my folks on the couch cushions as they watched tv. From that day forward, Henry was at peace.

Always the dutiful guard on top of the couch in the big, bay window, he would be there watching and waiting as I (or anyone else) pulled up to visit. Henry was always the first one at the door to greet you, requiring at least fifteen minutes of howling and excited running around before settling down. There are countless times I’ve had to travel and leave Riley at my moms, knowing she would be in good hands, sharing the queen-sized bed in the blue room with Henry every night I was gone. His snores were some of the funniest I’ve heard, and his big, velvet-like ears were too tempting not to play with. Those big, brown eyes of his would look up at you and say a million words. He was so playful and young-spirited. We thought we had so much more time with him and then the day came so suddenly.

On Friday I found out Henry had not been acting the same for nearly a week. Barely moving or wagging his tail, hardly excited, or any of the countless traits we all knew and loved. After numerous visits to the vet and test after test, the vets told me folks his spine was crushing the nerves in his neck. They gave him what he needed to manage the pain and explained that the surgical procedures to fix this would take many painful months to heal, with no guarantee of success. On Saturday, my mom made one of the hardest decisions of her life. Henry came home on Sunday to spend one final night at home, sleeping on his big, queen bed in the blue room, eating what little he could of the cheese and sausages my mom tried spoiling him with.

On Monday I drove out there with Nicole and Riley, picking up Ziggy on the way, and arriving to a home that felt so very different than before. Henry was not in the window, nor was he there to greet us at the door. Each of us entered the house at our own pace, and looking up the stairs at where I needed to be sent a shattering wave through me. He seemed so at peace at first, and when he saw us all entering the room, the blanket began to thump up and down. His tail was wagging, his eyes looking up at us, his mouth curling into a smile. We all spent the time we needed with him, saying our goodbyes and sharing funny stories and even laughing at times. When the vets arrived, they mentioned how Riley knew something was wrong as she greeted them at the door. Until this day, I never noticed the rainbow sticker on window in that room left behind by the young boy who used to live there.

Henry crossed the rainbow bridge, going to sleep one last time in the comfort of his bed, in the company of those he loved and who loved him back.

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You were the biggest goofball of a dog I’ve ever known, and while you may not have been with us nearly as long as we thought you would be, you had an amazing life in these few short years. You climbed on top of mountains and hiked through woods. You tip-toed through majestic lakes and streams and leaped from rock to rock.  You sat on all our feet under the table and stole all the toys from the other dogs. You chewed on every stick in the garden and basked in the sun after a long, hard day of being a dog. You filled our hearts with so many comical and cute memories and endless love.

I took those last pieces of your fur out back and sent you off through fire. Aside from the cracking of the pine, everything was quiet on the edge of the woods in the yard. When the smoke rose higher a blue jay called out and flew overhead, landing somewhere in the trees nearby and sang its song. Your howls will echo through the mountains and woods along with all the other companions our family has shared a home with. We all miss you, Henry, and we all love you. Coming home will never be the same without you in the window out front. I will think of you and all the love you have given us and filled the walls of this house with any time I hear the call of a Blue Jay.

What is dead may never die. I’ll see you again one day when I join you in the fog and fields eternal.
Until then, Latcho drom, little one.

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The Peoples Climate Movement

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C L I M A T E M A R C H

I typically don’t get into politics on social media, and I’ve never touched any sort of political topic in my blog. I typically don’t share images with swear words, middle fingers, or even political opinions. But you know what? Fuck it. If you’ve been following my work at all, you know I’m pretty big into nature. It’s my jam, and I care a whole awful lot about it. I constantly see and document the decay of our natural world and I do my best to try and educate others on issues I am passionate about through my photographs, so it feels only natural to share some images I captured at the Peoples Climate Movement March. It’s going to be pretty obvious about where I stand politically here, but this ultimately isn’t about politics. It’s not about democrats or republicans or religion or any of that. It’s about something we all need in order to survive. WE. ALL. Every single living creature on this big, round orb we call home. This is about Earth and it’s future.

I am so grateful I was able to attend the climate march in Washington, D.C. After missing the science march last weekend, taking on a freelance job in D.C. meant flying in a few days early and joining around 200,000 people in the streets of our nations capital to protest all of the negative movements pushed by our government against the environment. It meant joining the voices of people from around the world who are all suffering from climate change one way or another. It meant giving a voice to those who suffer and cannot share their own story. It meant showing the world that we, as a collective, care very deeply about these issues, and we do so each and every day.

The healthy future of our planet and all of its natural wonders is what our future depends on. It’s what every other animal on this planet depends on. Without it, we’re all goners. This was the first protest I’ve ever been able to take part in. Not knowing what to expect, I was blown away by the number of people who came out and, more specifically, their passion of building positive change for Mother Earth. I was asked what singular word I would describe my experience with, which required some thinking at first, but after looking through my full collection of images the answer became obvious: Hopeful.

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The trains were absolutely packed and the number of out-of-towners made the metro rather fubar, but eventually we arrived at our destination, ready to hit the streets and “unfuck our world.”

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Honestly I never thought in a million years I’d like this phrase but this dude proved me wrong.

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This woman came to the march alone from what I could tell. She requires walking assistance and she still came. This is such an important topic to her that she made a sign, took her walker into the crowds of protesters so that she could march alongside us all for hours. This kind of passion is truly inspiring.

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Keep the planet green!

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Oh, hey, Leo. Thanks for coming out! I always laugh at how people bad talk this guy, and other celebrities, for speaking out about something they are passionate about. The amount of time spent bashing someone for actively trying to evoke positive change could easily be spent doing exactly what they are bashing. Saying someone should just stick to acting and shut up is like telling any other individual to just stick to doing whatever their job is and shut up.
What part about that thought process makes sense?

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It was hot. Humid and 90 degrees out. So sweaty…

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Although our species population is way higher than it should be, we are still very much endangered if action is not taken to improve the affects of climate change.

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I gotta say – this is my favorite sign. If you haven’t watched Rick & Morty, you won’t understand.

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It’s true. Just one person has the ability to create change – don’t ever doubt your ability to do so.

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Go check out The Climate Ribbon – this art installation was near the Washington monument. Each ribbon had the writings of thousands of people sharing what they love and hope to never lose to climate chaos. I filled out two after asking what Nicole would like to share since she was unable to join me here. After tying up our ribbons I looked around for one I wanted to take home with me. The secondary part of this project was optional, allowing you to choose and remove a ribbon to take with – essentially carrying the concern of another with you as well. Without reading anything before grabbing onto one, I reached out for a red ribbon, and what I found written on it made my choice easy.

Nikky from Syracuse, NY wrote, “I don’t want to lose the amazing creatures on our planet.” Neither do I.

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Someone just landed in a helicopter. No idea who, but folks lined up to share some thoughts from afar.

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It never ceases to astound me how so many people who enjoy nature, and speak up about it, still do this kind of shit. I find evidence of litter bugs all the time, even in forest preserves and state and national parks. Why? I don’t get it. I also can’t think of something more ironic than showing up to a protest march about improving our planet and simultaneously leaving all your protest materials and plastic bottles behind, in the trash. The trash. 95% of the items I found in or near the trash cans are either compostable or recyclable. Get with it, people.

And even though there was negative aspects of todays march, I still feel I’m able to walk away from this experience feeling hopeful. Hopeful because even though not everyone who attended may not know how to properly dispose of their waste, and even though so many members of the administration seem so opposed to the well being of the earth, there are still many who will continue to resist ignorance, spread awareness, and fight for what everyone deserves.

Earth day is every day, and every single thing we all do as individuals has a cause and effect, good or bad. That effect is multiplied by the billions. Think about what you can do to help create a better future. Sometimes it’s as easy as not doing something anymore. We need to fight for our planets future so badly. Every living thing on this earth depends on that fight.

There is no planet B.

The Amazon Trail

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T H E A M A Z O N T R A I L

What started as a joke ended in one of the greatest traveling experiences I’ve had. Actually, it started as a dream, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Sometime in the year 2014 one of my best friends was sharing an idea she and her brother had of gifting their parents a trip to Machu Picchu, a place they had always wanted to visit. The trip would include a few days in the city of Cusco, a train ride for a day in Machu Picchu, and then a flight north to Iquitos where they would follow the Amazon River into a remote region of the Amazon Rainforest. They would spend over a week in the jungle before flying back to the states.

I jokingly offered to be their travel photographer and she immediately invited me to join. This part of the world had always felt like a mystical land to me – a place I dreamed of exploring as a child, a place I never thought I would visit, a place I always jokingly advertised as being “the place where everything can or wants to kill you and I’m never going there.” Of course, this was a joke after all, not everything there can or wants to kill you, but I did truly believe I would never go. Many people will remember the popular computer game “The Oregon Trail.” Any school with a computer lab had a copy of that game, and it was an easy(not really) and fun(not really) way to kill time during a free period in school. I found way more entertainment in the Amazon edition of the Trail series, and spent countless hours taking turns with a neighborhood friend identifying wildlife, collecting gifts for the Inca King, evading hazards on the river, and avoiding wildlife attacks.

Beyond the general gameplay of “The Amazon Trail,” I believe I connected with this game as much as I did in part from previous history and science lessons about the Amazon rainforest throughout grade school. My initial interest in this region started after reading “The Great Kapok Tree,” followed by just about any book I could find in the library that covered the Amazon. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would one day step foot on a boat in one of the most fascinating river systems in the world, zip line through the canopy of a Kapok tree, canoe up and down a tributary of the Amazon in search of anaconda, or follow the tracks of a jaguar in the wild. But there I was – September 2015 – smack dab in the middle of my childhood dream.

Amazonia Expeditions delivered a life changing experience for me and many others, I’m sure. The ecotourism company has two rustic lodging locations along the Tahuayo river basin, both offering different experiences for tourists, scientists, photographers, and filmmakers. I ate some of the best meals here, second only to moms home cooking. I met a lot of really awesome people here, staff members, other tourists from around the globe, and a few researchers living there for months on end while working on environmental projects in their fields. And while I didn’t see any of the wildlife I came here hoping to see, I saw instead an abundance of other animals just as beautiful and humbling.

There is a chance I will make a few more in depth blog posts about this entire journey, but as it’s already been over a year since this trip and no posts about it yet, I figured it was about time to share at least a glimpse of this inspiring adventure.

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Waking up early was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Apart from one of the staff and myself, everyone was sleeping and it felt like I had the entire place to myself for a little while. It felt like home.

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I have wanted to return to the jungle ever since I left Peru. Meeting all the staff members and researchers here really inspired me to do more meaningful work with the next journey. That inspiration took me to Sumatra in February 2017 where I joined Photographers Without Borders and international award winner Kristi Odom – one of my photographic idols. It was here I experienced and felt the story of deforestation in Sumatra, and visit the wildlife and people affected.

Part of this trip allowed me to help purchase 5 hectares (roughly 12.5 acres) of land to create the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary, which borders the Gunung Leuser National Park in northern Sumatra. I look forward to sharing more stories in hopes raise awareness to issues around the globe, to help build a stronger appreciation for this planet we and many, many other beings call home, and to inspire others to do their part in caring for this home. It’s the only home we have.

Be sure to visit my print shop as well, as 50% of proceeds from sales help fund and purchase more land for the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary. Normally 10% of proceeds are donated to one of the foundations listed in my Give Back section. Learn more about my trip to Sumatra, the stories I captured there, and Help Build Habitat in Sumatra

Hiraeth Year One

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H I R A E T H Y E A R O N E

For over a year I’ve been working on a side project that explores a region I hold very close to my heart. Ever since I was young my family vacationed to Conover, Wisconsin to spend a week in a cabin on Upper Buckatabon Lake. Canoeing across the crystal clear water, diving under in search of supper clams, swimming with the family dog, wandering through dense, quiet woods, climbing boulders, and visiting various waterfalls in the area were all parts of what became a home away from home. After a very long absence, I returned to this sacred place in the fall of 2012 in the company of friends. This was my first visit to this home without family, without a furry companion, and without the presence of summer. It was, at the time, everything I needed.

Upon arriving, I instantly felt at ease. Everything was so familiar. The sights, the sounds, the smell. It was like everything was exactly how it was the last time I had been there. Driving up the dirt road amidst the light fog whistling through the trees, we pulled up to our cabin and settled in. No one else had booked a cabin during the time we were there so we had the entire place to ourselves, making our time there even more special.

As of December 2015, I learned they no longer allowed dogs on their resort. This was deeply saddening to find out as it ultimately meant the end of my time here, at least with any canine companions. If you’ve been following my stories you’re likely familiar with Riley. I take her on any trips I can drive to. She hasn’t been around to join me on a journey up north, and now I fear she will not. At least not to this place, where I always imagined she would one day see. Out of the grief for a home I now feel is lost, I planned on creating a book that revisits this place, both from images I’ve already taken and ones from at least one last trip I hope to take here.

From the very birth date of this idea, I knew the title of this project would be “Hiraeth.”

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Near the end of 2014 I knew I wanted to rebrand my business. The process is daunting and I didn’t have a name yet. When my desire to create a book on Hiraeth grew, I began to dig into the meaning of that word more and more and eventually realized that it applied to generally all the work I’ve been doing over the past few years. There are some that feel hiraeth has a dark and sad undertone to it, but I do not share this thought. To me, hiraeth is a sense of timelessness, an aspect ever strong in the art of storytelling, and more and more I see myself less of a photographer and more of a story teller.

The past is what has made us who we are today. History is only something we can reflect on and learn from. There are moments in everyone’s lives, people who have come and gone, places explored now changed, missed, or vanished. That is not necessarily something inherently sad. We often look back at times we cherish; Celebrations, vacations, accomplishments, reunions with family and friends, the list goes on. Photography is, after all, one of the most common forms of documenting our past.

HummingBear Studios will remain in the past, with Hiraeth Diaries covering the lives of other people, places I visit, projects I am passionate about, and the stories those adventures create. The world is constantly changing through the impact we as a species leave behind. Hidden places lose their secrecy and youth. Ecosystems are being destroyed through climate change, deforestation, and natural and man-made catastrophes. Thousands of species lose their homes and their lives. My goal in doing what I do has always held the hope of elevating the appreciation of our natural environments, to spread awareness, and create change for a better home. Earth is our home, and we share that home with billions and billions of other beings. It’s up to all of us to make sure this home lasts for generations to come – to maintain its beauty, to make it better, to create a healthier future for all of us.

Looking back at this full collection, there are a lot of things I wish I photographed that I didn’t, or ways I would have photographed some things differently than I had at the time. There is a great deal missing from this trip, a fact I find only strengthens the sense of the title. I’ve come a long way in how I approach a story since this adventure, so it pains me to some degree that I may never return to this specific place. Wandering through the early morning fog, breaking the mirrored waters by canoe and into hidden coves beyond the reeds, sharing stories around the fire, and laying down on the pier at night to watch shooting stars; these are all    fleeting memories I am glad to have captured, even if the full story feels incomplete. Maybe I won’t return to this specific place again, but the north woods in the great lakes have so much more to offer.

I might still create this book, or I may incorporate some of this collection into a larger book covering more of my work. For now I move forward, continuing to grow and learn and love, and hope that in some form what I share helps at least one other do the same.

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Blume Kaboom

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B L U M E K A B O O M

AJ a few years ago: “We should get married and buy a house and make babies.”
Rachel: “We should TOTALLY do that.”
Check. Check. Check.

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Before I get into that quote, let me first explain something else real quick. As a photographer who is passionate about capturing both natural elements and documentary moments, it’s hard not to spend a lot of time behind my camera. I’m one of the worst people to hike with because I constantly stop to photograph things that catch my eye, spending minutes or half hours at a time in one place depending what the subject is. “I’ll catch up with you” is a frequent phrase of mine when on the trail with company. At social gatherings I’m constantly yelled at to put my camera[s] down and enjoy myself, or asked whether I’m working or having fun.

First of all, work and fun for me are not mutually exclusive. A lot of people feel differently about this, usually saying how being behind a camera detaches a person from truly enjoying a moment and being present for the experience. I tend to agree when it involves people just standing there and staring at an entire concert or wedding through their cellphone or iPad, etc. But as an artist I feel that capturing moments with my camera is just an extension of my experience through art.

So why do I bring all of this up here? Because as a storyteller who has documented so many chapters of two peoples lives – people I am so fortunate enough to call friends – I’ve heard these very same things said to me at two major events; their wedding day and their first major house party this past fourth of July. On their wedding day, Rachel was adamant that I put my camera down and join the party at their reception. Once I officially stopped working, I did just that, but it wasn’t long before I picked up my camera again, almost immediately being yelled at by a drunk-Rachel on the dance floor. On the fourth, another friend jokingly asked if I was being paid for this.

When Rachel and AJ came to me years ago to capture their wedding, I never imagined telling their story beyond that day. Their Journey session before the wedding, the wedding day itself, their bump session last fall, yet another Journey session to introduce Penelope and Florence, and finally their backyard party on July 4. It is, for me, such a surreal feeling to play the role I’ve had for so long now. I had a hard time choosing whose party to go to for the fourth this year, but I am so glad I chose to spend this years fourth at the Blume’s. Tons of good food & good booze, water balloon fights, bags, beer pong, fireworks, dogs, and great friends – what more could you ask for? Even though many folks at their wedding weren’t at the party, and some folks at the party weren’t at the wedding, in some ways they felt one in the same. The amount of change that has happened in everyone’s lives since then is crazy to think about. By blood, by marriage, by the bonding of friendship, and even people I barely know, what made these two events feel the same to me was the sense of family that existed because of everyone there.

Family has changed quite a lot since their wedding. Relationships have altered, “home” has changed for some folks, some have gone, and others have joined the ranks. Rachel and AJ got married. They bought a house. And they made babies. I’m curious and excited to see what the next chapter is for them – for all of us.

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And just in case you were wondering, I wasn’t behind a camera the entire time and managed to play with the other kids in the yard.

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See more of their Journey here: Blume Kaboom!

Bonus! Check out the hilarious gallery from the Gifyyy Photo Booth at their 4th of July party here: GIFYYY FUN!

Engagement & Wedding images are copyright This Is Feeling Photography

10 Years of Riley

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T E N Y E A R S O F R I L E Y

Rilee Louise Persephone Dibblee Wenninger Talladen. That is her true, full name. We’ll get into that soon enough. She turned ten years old today on June 28th, 2016. Sometimes I look at this girl and have a hard time remembering the early days of her and her brothers and sisters in a make shift pen. Half of my friends’ air conditioned garage taken over by her mother, Sweetie, and her ten puppies in a caged in area complete with newspaper, towels, and a kiddie pool – if I remember correctly. It was a space large enough for us to enter to play with the puppies and still have room for them to run around. Sweetie’s family, Tim, Amy, and Alex, had a scuba diving trip on their calendar very shortly after the puppies were born. In their absence, I was one of the many volunteers who stepped in to care for the dogs. She was the runt of the litter, finally delivered hours after the 9th pup was born, she came into this world after doubts she would make it, hence her initial name of “Survivor.”

At the time I was living in the same house as two other friends; Sue Dibblee and Deb Wenninger. We all had different names in mind for her – so many I forgot almost all of them. I remember one of the names I proposed was Midnight. Before all these names were thrown around, the puppies were all given a color. Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, Silver, White, and Yellow. Six weeks after the litter war born Alex named White Rilee. After adopting Riley, we had planned to rename her but ultimately chose not to since she had been responsive to Rilee from the start. And so the combination of our chosen names, last names, and first name became her full name and title. Rilee Louise Persephone Dibble Menninger Talladen. Wow that is long. Everyone just calls her Rilee, and somewhere along the line I just started spelling it Riley.

It’s been a wild ride over the past decade. Riley has experienced so much and has made so many friends in that time. Between being trained side by side with puppies on their way to become service dogs, to joining a frisbee league, to changing households, and going on road trips, this gal has had a hell of a life so far. And I say that in human years, so I can only imagine what goes through her head in dog years. Going through all these old photos feels absolutely crazy to me. I barely remember the days where she was small enough to fit inside my hands. After rapidly reaching her peak size, it became hard to physically notice her age. It wasn’t until she was maybe six or so that the white fur began to appear on her paws, muzzle, belly, and even her butt. And even with arthritis and lack of stamina, she still acts like a puppy – always wanting to play fetch and get her paws wet whenever she can. She’s definitely more stubborn in her old age, but ever loyal and loving. I keep her off-leash as much as possible, and on hikes that she is free, she runs or lags behind quite frequently, but doesn’t stay too far and always checks in on her pack.

If I am traveling and can’t bring her with, she generally stays at my moms with her basset hound-beagle mix, Henry. Whenever my sister visits for the holidays or when I visit her mountain home in North Carolina, Riley gets to play with her wolf-like dog, Yuma. And when Riley and I are out for a walk or at a dog park, she is constantly making new friends – human and dog alike. I always look forward to the next adventure, the next hike, the next house party, the next local shop that allows dogs inside. Whether it’s a road trip to the mountains, a weekend at the beach, or an evening at a brewery, any chance I get to bring her with me, she’s there. Here’s to many more birthdays with this precious loaf of Ryebread.

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Happy birthday, Riles. You are everything.

Cruise for a Cause 2016

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C R U I S E F O R A C A U S E

HummingBear Studios’ primary focus is to instill a deeper appreciation of our natural world, sharing stories of my adventures, and donating 10% of all sales proceeds towards foundations around the globe involved with the preservation & rescue of the environment & wildlife. I also do my best to participate in other important causes and am proud to have been part of the annual fundraising event, Cruise For a Cause, for the past four years. Here’s a brief look at this year’s cruise, with a link to the full gallery and more at the end of this post.

On June 23, the Sarah’s Inn Associate Board hosted the 2016 Cruise for a Cause on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. The Cruise is the Associate Board’s marquee summer event, raising awareness and funds for Sarah’s Inn, a non-profit organization that works across Chicagoland to educate teens and adults about domestic violence and to support and protect those affected by abuse. Aboard the Ft. Dearborn, a tour boat generously donated by Chicago Line Cruises, guests enjoyed music from a live DJ, a variety of finger foods and cocktails, and raffle prizes, all set against the backdrop of the Chicago skyline at sunset. Thanks to support from Chicago Line Cruises and other sponsors, all of the overhead costs were covered by donations and over $15,000 was raised for Sarah’s Inn.

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About the Associate Board

The Sarah’s Inn Associate Board is a diverse community of young professionals who are committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence. The mission of the Associate Board is to build a new generation of supporters for Sarah’s Inn and to raise awareness for the agency and its critical community services. To do this, the AB utilizes its strength as a network of young professionals to create opportunities for its peers to come together, socialize, learn more about and support the work done by Sarah’s Inn to end domestic violence.

About Sarah’s Inn
Sarah’s Inn is a community-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of those affected by domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence for future generations. Its services and initiatives focus on ending relationship violence through domestic violence crisis intervention, community education, and violence prevention programs for youth. Founded in 1981 by Oak Park residents, Sarah’s Inn works throughout the Chicagoland area.

All guests are welcome to browse and download from the full gallery, which can be found here: Photo Gallery

Full Gifyyy photo booth gallery can be found here: Gifyyy Gallery

Finally, a special thanks to all the sponsors who helped make this year’s Cruise For a Cause possible!

Chicago Line Cruises — http://www.chicagoline.com/
Dogs Deserve It — http://www.dogsdeserveit.com
Family Horizons Counseling, LLC — http://www.familyhorizonscounseling.com/
Gifyyy — http://www.gifyyy.com/
Goldberg Kohn — http://www.goldbergkohn.com/
HummingBear Studios — http://hummingbearstudios.com/
Loulee Cleaning, Inc.
MB Financial — https://www.mbfinancial.com/
Midwest Post-Acute Care — http://www.mpac-llc.com/
My Boy Elroy — http://www.facebook.com/myboyelroymusic/
Oak Park Area Association of Realtors — http://www.oakparkrealtors.org/
Olive Garden — http://www.olivegarden.com
Prairie Title Service — http://www.prairietitle.com/
Purcell & Wardrope — http://www.pw-law.com/
Vanille Patisserie — http://www.vanillepatisserie.com/

The Southwest Coast

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S O U T H W E S T C O A S T A L C O L L E C T I O N

Over the past few years I’ve had a ton of amazing opportunities to travel through my photographic career. Whether it be through educational conventions, photographing weddings, or representing at conferences, California has been the most frequently visited state for me thus far. Any time I travel somewhere for work I make a point to stay a little longer so I can explore new areas, or revisit places I’ve enjoyed in the past. I’ve selected a handful of photographs taken during my travels along Highway 1 and added them to the print shop in the Southwest Coastal Collection. As part of my goal to help our planet, I donate 10% of all proceeds to various foundations around the globe who focus on conservation of environment and wildlife. The foundations I support can be seen here.

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Point Dume in Malibu, has been the most revisited location for me. I love climbing to the top for the view as well as climbing through the jagged rocks and waves at the base of the bluff to get to Pirate’s Cove. The cove always seems so empty and peaceful, with little tide pools full of sea anemone and mussels – a rather drastic contrast to the public beach on the main side of the bluff. On the last visit to Point Dume, I took two friends of mine who had never been. We had just left Photo Field Trip and bumped into some folks at the top. Travis and Lindsey were kind enough to let me photograph them while their two friends stepped in front of fellow adventurer Hannah Cohen’s camera. I was so glad they agreed to this random and awkward request from a complete stranger, because look how epic this lovely duo is!

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After photographing my friends Mark & Helen get married in Long Beach, I made my way to Crystal Cove State Park to catch the sunset. The texture of the cliffs here were wild, tide pools full of life, and the sun lit up the waves before some serious hunger kicked in, forcing me to leave before the sun’s final act.

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El Capitan State Beach will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve attended Photo Field Trip two years in a row now – a place where hundreds of other creatives gather to discuss, educate, learn, play, and share photographic experiences. A sort of educational retreat, if you will, where I’ve made some great friends, learned a lot about my craft and myself, helped others, and became inspired in so many ways by so many great people. This beach was just down the road from the camp ground in the canyon, and a daily visit was a must. Some of us swam in the morning haze, some skipped rocks, some took portraits of fellow Field-Trippers, some shared bottles of booze, and some just came to bask in the beautiful California sun.

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Big Sur had been on my radar for so many years and I finally had the chance to make the trek to the ever famous McWay Cove. I was working in San Jose in the first half of October in 2015, with the intention on driving down to the Big Basin Redwoods on my final day there. A last minute decision was made the night before, which meant waking up at 3am to drive two hours or so to beat the sunrise at Big Sur. McWay Falls definitely lived up to the hype, and I cannot wait to go back to see this cove at sunset, as well as camp and hike through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. I stayed stayed here for roughly four hours before heading back up the coast to make my way inland for the redwoods.

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Northbound on Highway 1 I made another stop to take in the coastal views of the Bixby Creek Bridge. Parking on the south side of the bridge was a lot less crowded and I was able to enjoy the scenery alone for a good twenty minutes while the north side was packed with tourists. While the view of the bridge itself may have been captivating, I found the cliffs below – just south of the bridge – much more breathtaking. Sitting on the edge of a small hill just off the side of the road, the breeze along the cliff kept me cool in the sun of high noon, and the sounds of the ocean muffled out the traffic behind me.

I had a really hard time selecting which photographs to use for the Southwest Coastal Collection because I feel there are so many great images in my archives from these trips. And while some of the images in this blog aren’t even included in that collection, I believe the ones I have chosen are really the heart of what I’ve seen and felt along these shores so far. Perhaps some of you have already explored these areas, and some of you may still be dreaming of the adventures you will have here – whatever the case, I hope you enjoy this collection. And if you choose to purchase some of my prints to hang in your home, I thank you, and look forward to donating part of your patronage to causes I believe in.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico

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O N C E U P O N A T I M E I N ME X I C O

Here’s a very late blog post. In August of 2014 I took my first passport-required trip, on assignment for This Is Feeling to photograph the first of a two part wedding. Many of the grooms family and friends could not travel to the U.S. for the wedding in Chicago, so we all planned to meet in his hometown to celebrate. This landed me in a small, hilly town called Guanajuato City – right smack in the middle of the country, about 4.5 hours northwest of Mexico City. Landing first in the city of Leon, Ben and I hoped into a small van and cruised along the highway, watching the flat, open valleys grow upward into large, mountain-like hills. Oh yeah, Ben came with me for the first two days. Ben, my friend and boss, who made this trip possible.

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The road from Leon was pretty flat and open, but as we grew closer to Guanajuato, hills began to replace the horizon and the landscape became more green than brown. Eventually, we passed through a narrow gap in the hills that opened up to the view above. Colorful, multi-leveled businesses and residences sprawling all over the hills, separated by alleys, walkways, and roads winding in every direction. The city was once described to me as “a town you can’t make four left or right turns and end up in the same place.” For the most part, they were totally right.

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I saw this vague map of Guanajuato on the side of a building near my hotel. It served little in the way of directional help, but still worth taking a photo of. We had a tourist map to keep in our pockets that helped a lot. A lot of the exploration was unplanned and the chosen paths were done so at random, or purely because one direction looked more interesting than the other. I find that I explore things in this fashion very often, and even though I end up getting extremely lost at times because of this, I think it’s the best way to travel – at least for me.

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We found this little place called Tic-Tic while wandering down Avenue Benito Juarez – one of the few places with Wi-Fi that we could use. Here we caught up on work emails while supping on tacos and washing them down with juices and teas. Once we had finished working and cleared off the last crumbs of our breakfast  it was time to continue on.

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I took every chance to discover the secrets behind as many alleys and stairways as I could. Many lead to dead ends, but when given the choice – climb and follow. The things you see if you keep climbing…

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Unlike some of the dead ends we ran into, this particular stairwell lead us to one of the best views in the city. Barely anyone else was up here. The narrow passages going up and through the residencies eventually opened up to this overlook. I remember leaning against the stone railing, warmed in the sun, feeling the breeze that whispered over the rooftops while carrying the muffled sounds of city life below.

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From our perch we can see the top of a great, iron clocktower – the beacon of what was meant to be a major train station. The project eventually failed, though the structure was turned into a grand marketplace called Mercado Hidalgo. I came back to this spot a few times after Ben returned to the states, staying for a half hour or so each time I did. Counting the number of dogs sunbathing on rooftops and examining the city from above, I would try to plot my next route.

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After taking in the sights up high, we found our way back down and ended up in a plaza by the name of Jardin Reforma – one of many spots I would return to each day during my travels. If I recall correctly, the image above is of Ben attempting to view a satellite map of the area, looking for the proper route to the famous statue of Pipila, which overlooks Guanajuato from the hilltops in the South.

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The view from Plaza de San Fernando facing Avenue Benito Juarez. Plaza de la Paz and another of Guanajuato’s major landmarks, Cathedral Basilica Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato, were a few blocks away to the West.

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Within the shadows to the right is a small cafe that Ben and I stopped at for coffee and enjoyed the view of Plaza de la Paz as the crowds passed by.

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A quick look back on Plaza de la Paz from the steps of the cathedral before following the road further East, to the left in the photo above.

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A group of musicians wait on the steps of the Juarez Theater as we pass by in search of the way up.

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Caught a quick glance of the statue just before discovering how to get there.

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This funicular offers visitors to the Pipila statue a way up and back down. Ben and I took it up since neither of us had ever been on one before.

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Needless to say, the view was spectacular.

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Opting for one of the narrow paths back down allowed for various other views of Guanajuato from above. Nightfall was approaching, and so was a storm. Passing wild lime trees and following the long staircase downward, we stopped for one last look of the sunlit city before finding a place to eat.

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Juarez Theater at dusk.

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The thunderstorm didn’t stop us from joining in on street-side snacks with other locals and travelers. Even though we had already eaten, Ben and I grabbed two or three of these delicious empanadas each. We were so full but couldn’t help but order more. It was, after all, Ben’s last chance to grab some street food before his flight back to Chicago the next morning. After his departure I would have two days to explore the city alone, with no idea what I would do, and that suited me just fine. It meant more aimless wandering, more exploring, and more food to devour on my own.

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After Ben left for the airport I headed into town with the notion to take my time with everything and allow myself to purposely become lost.

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Passing through the Hidalgo market once again put more food in my already full stomach. I also bought a few donuts on my way out because how could I not?

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I remember this day being particularly hot. Stopping in Jardin Reforma to sit in the shade for a bit turned into an hour or so of just soaking in the atmosphere. I watched passersby, let the breeze cool my skin, listened to the ripples in the fountain, and of course chowed down on those donuts.

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Stopped into this art gallery and purchased a limited print of what I believe is an Intaglio Etching,  hoping it would survive my flight back home. Luckily it made it safe and sound, and just like this blog post, it took me ages to finally get around to hanging on my wall.

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I wasn’t the only one watching the band set up for the afternoon show in the plaza…

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I saw this dog multiple times throughout my trip here and would talk to it when I passed by it’s home, receiving curious tilts of it’s head.

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Any time I passed a group of kids when my camera was up and ready, they always took advantage of becoming a lot more active, hoping I would take their photo. I had passed this alley a few times, normally turning left, but this time I went right. Finally reaching unfamiliar territory, I got myself good and lost, taking random turns any chance I got. The labyrinth of color was intoxicating.

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I got a little more lost than I had planned on [can you really plan on this?] and it took a while to find my way back to familiar ground, and then back to my hotel to grab my tripod. I had hoped to make it back earlier and be able to reach the Pipila station while there was still some light in the sky, but unfortunately I was late. Taking a cab to get up there as fast as possible didn’t help, either.

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The quickest way up was through the tunnels that travel around, through, and under Guanajuato and surrounding mountains. Many of these tunnels seemed to be one way. As we finally emerged, I grabbed this shot of my driver and watched the last bit of sunlight fade away. I managed to grab a shot of the statue with some of the blues still in the sky, but that was lost before I could do the same for the overview of the city.

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After grabbing a few night shots of the city, I walked back down. I took my time and got myself a little lost again. After all, this was my final night here, so I might as well soak up as much as I could. Stopping for one last meal in Plaza de San Fernando, I got sidetracked by a callejoneda, so of course I snuck into the crowd of followers and snagged some shots before grabbing a table and ordering a beer.

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My final morning was spent on the balcony of my hotels restaurant, eating breakfast and sipping coffee, watching the sun paint pink tones on the clouds as a massive storm rolled in. This rainbow appeared for a brief moment, just before the downpour fell. It was time to gather my belongings and check out. Back to Leon, back to the airport, back to Chicago.

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Grabbed that wing seat for the stereotypical “photo of a plane wing” with the sunset over Mexico. All in all it was an amazing trip, full of great food and a ton of much needed solo adventure. I made a couple friends on the trip as well [man pictured above not one of them], and while there’s no guarantee I’ll see them again, those are friends that are out there, and I think that’s really cool.