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Dream Photo Shoot - Number 1

For those of you who have been following this list of my top 5 dream photo shoots, I apologize for the long delay between number 2 and this, my top dream photo shoot. You will soon see why I delayed it since my number 1 dream photo shoot directly ties into something that is happening in the world right now.

But first, a quick recap of dream photo shoots 5 through 2.

Coincidentally, my number 1 dream photo shoot just so happens to be one of the easiest to achieve, and is also the only one I have already witnessed in my life. (I obviously have been to tons of Blackhawks games, but never at glass level which is where that photo shoot would take place.)

Semana Santa (Holy Week) - Guatemala

Semana Santa

Time for me to be completely honest, I'm a horrible Catholic. I stopped going to church sometime around age 16. I know very little about the bible despite going to CCD classes throughout all my childhood. In fact, and this is kind of embarrassing to say, I'm currently watching the five part series on the History channel called "The Bible" because I came to the realization that I know very little about the bible. Apparently I spent my time in those classes goofing around rather than listening to the teacher. 

My sister, cousins, and I.

So why is a religious event my number 1 dream photo shoot? I've experienced it before with my own eyes, and it captivated me like no other family trip I had ever been on. My family took trips to New York, San Diego, and Disney World when I was a kid. And as much fun as I had, climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty, or seeing the Pacific Ocean, or riding the Tower of Terror, none of those really captured my heart like the 2 weeks I spent in Guatemala when I was a a little kid.

Semana Santa is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced and attracts thousands and thousands of visitors each and every year. The center piece of Semana Santa are the processions that take place throughout the week in Guatemala City and Antigua most notably. These processions consists of large floats that depict different scenes from the Bible. Unlike your traditional parade here in the states, these floats, which weigh several thousand pounds are carried by 80 men. Each group carries the float for 15 minutes when another group of 80 men take over. It is considered and honor to be able to carry these floats and residents sign up for this months in advance. The carrying of these floats is meant to resemble the pain and sacrifices of Jesus Christ, thus those 15 minutes are incredibly emotional and spiritual for the men, women, and children carrying the floats and is usually a time for prayer. There are lighter and smaller floats for the women to carry, usually floats depicting the Virgin Mary, and likewise even smaller and lighter floats for the children to carry. I have had the honor of carrying a float in one of these processions, and not until right now do I realize how lucky I am to have had the chance to do that.

Float being carried by children - Photo by Nick Botner of Nickbotner.com

My dad with his head bowed.

I still have not fully explained why this is such an amazing event to photograph. I am driven by passion, in fact I'm pretty sure the word passion has made an appearance in every single blog post I've made, whoops! Regardless, the one image that sticks out in my head of these events, is standing by my dad's side as he was carrying a float. I remember looking up at him, and seeing tears rolling down his cheeks as his eyes were clenched and his head bowed. This raw emotion wasn't just on my dad's face, it was evident that every man carrying this float feel the deepest connection with their faith during those 15 minutes. And that raw emotion has inspired me to not hide my emotions, it's a great feeling when people can see and feel what you are going through in a particular moment.

One of my favorite parts of photographing an event is capturing all the finer details that make up the scene. The music can be heard all around you, bands following each float playing religious songs greatly adds to the ambiance.  The smoke from incense fills the air and can be seen from several blocks away. The streets are crowded and the excitement on kids faces is a lasting image.

Incense - Photo by Peter Randall

But best of all are the "alfombras" or carpets for us English speaking folk. Residents of the towns spend hours, if not days, creating carpets made of pine needles, flowers, and sawdust along the route of the procession. These alfombras are unlike anything I've seen before and are truly unbelievable to see in person. Tragically, this beautiful form of artwork gets trampled and destroyed in a matter of minutes as the procession walks right over them.

Alfombra

Men waiting to receive the float

This is a family trip that has stuck with me for the past 15 years. I can't wait to have the chance to go back and photograph this event as it is something that needs to be witnessed by more people. 

Happy Easter everyone!!!

Dream Photo Shoot - Number 2

Running of the Bulls - Pamplona, Spain

Running of the Bulls

Most of my life has been spent within the borders of the U.S., and I'm not complaining, I love this country very much.  But the adventurous side of me is dying to get out and experience more of what this world has to offer. Sadly, mainly due to lack of money, this has yet to happen, but it's no coincidence that my number 2 dream photo shoot takes me over to Europe, and more specifically Spain. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for sympathy. I've been blessed to have visited other countries in the past, Virgin Islands as a baby, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador my freshman year of High School, and Jamaica for my honeymoon. But to be able to cross the Atlantic is a dream of mine.

So why did I choose the Running of the Bulls in Spain? I knew my number 2 dream photo shoot would be set in Europe, so after some lengthy consideration, I chose Running of the Bulls over other events like Oktoberfest in Munich and Bastille Day in France.

Oktoberfest - Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest - Munich, Germany

Bastille Day - Paris, France

Bastille Day - Paris, France

In all honesty, my dream vacation would be a summer long tour of Europe in which I get to visit Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Ireland. But when forced to choose just one country to visit, I would choose Spain. The culture is one I learned about while continuously taking Spanish classes throughout middle school, high school, and college. You try not falling in love with a culture in which a siesta is an everyday event, the one thing I want to do immediately after eating lunch everyday at work is to take a nap, and in Spain this is built into most schedules. Plus there's always the added bonus for a futbol fan like myself, to visit the country that hosts 2 of the biggest sports franchises in all the world, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid C.F.

Running of the Bulls

The Running of the Bulls is actually just one event, though most publicized, that make up the seven day festival of Sanfermines. This tradition is said to have started as early as the 14th century, when cattle would have to be transported to the market from various corrals. Men would try to speed the process using various tactic such as fear and excitement. As is usually the case with men, this process became a competition as the bravest men would race in front of the cattle and try to make it to the pens without being overtaken. Over time, this practice picked up in popularity and has led us to modern day where this is a nationally televised event across the country. Unlike the bull fights which take place later in the day, in which only professionals are able to participate, the Running of the Bulls is open to anyone over the age of 18.

Running of the Bulls

As a photographer, the one thing I am most drawn too is emotion. Excitement  trepidation, horror, and humility are just a handful of the emotions I would expect to see during a Running of the Bulls. Being able to capture such a large variety of feelings at one event, and often times being able to capture a multitude of emotions in a single photo is something I think is unmatched at any other event in the world. In fact I'd be interested to hear what other events you can all think of that would have a variety of emotions that matches this. Plus there's the added bonus of the bulls. Being able to capture the sheer size and speed of these beasts running down narrow alleyways is something that I believe would be a humbling experience and a challenge I would gladly accept.

Running of the Bulls

As always thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you enjoy my insight and please feel free to leave me ideas on other topics you think I should cover. So what is one event outside of the U.S. you would most like to witness in person?

Dream Photo Shoot - Number 3

Chicago Blackhawks Game

I don't know if I've ever fully thrown out this disclaimer, so let me do it right now. I'm in no way shape or form a writer. In fact, English was always my absolute worst subject in school. Insert funny jokes about my hispanic heritage here: __________________. But in all seriousness I sincerely apologize if my writing skills aren't up to par with all the other blogs you may or may not read. And let me continue to show my lack of writing creativity by touching on this same old boring topic again. What is better than combing multiple passions... nothing!!!

I love photography and I love sports! More specifically, I love the Chicago Blackhawks, which is why number 3 on my list of dream photo shoots would be a press pass to shoot a Blackhawks game. Heck, it's a dream photo shoot so let's make it really crazy, a game 7, Stanley Cup final at the United Center.

For those of you who get the chance to see a game at the United Center anytime soon, here's a little tip for you. During the pre-game skate, they let all fans down into the 100 section to take in the warm-ups regardless of where your actual tickets are. I am not sure of how unusual this is around the league, for all I know, every NHL team might allow this. But i'm used to other venues like Wrigley Field where you are not allowed to venture anywhere other than where your ticket specifies you belong. As much as I enjoy my seats up in the 300 section, there is something magical about sitting along the glass and seeing your favorites standing just a few feet away. The interaction between hockey players and their fans is something truly unique and something I've never seen from any other professional team. Just ask my sister how much she cherishes her puck she had flung to her from Tomas Kopecky.

AP Photo - Ross D. Franklin

If you were to ask me, "Chris, if you could have any profession in the world right now, what would it be?" I think my answer might just be a photographer for Sports Illustrated. Sports is something I connect with in a very spiritual way. The ability to capture the blood, sweat, and tears of a professional athlete from the sidelines, from the glass, from just a few feet away, would be exhilarating.  

The split-second moments that make up life undoubtedly just mesmerize me. And to me, in sports, this sentiment is just magnified. I remember going to a Cubs game with my best friends back in high school and I captured this photo on my little Sony point and shoot.

Sammy Sosa

What makes this photo so special? Would you believe me if I told you this split-second capture was the exact moment the ball connected with Sammy Sosa's bat on it's way into the left field bleachers? Because that's exactly what happened on this swing.

Or what about this moment. Jonathan Toews raising the Stanley Cup above his head as the Hawks rode down Michigan Avenue, one of the single greatest days of my life!

Stanley Cup Parade

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a Chicago sports fan in general, and I would gladly take any opportunity to photograph the Bears, Cubs, Fire, or Bulls. But the Blackhawks have always been the one team that I had a true connection to since I was a little kid.

Having the chance to photograph actual game action from along the glass, not just warm-ups, would be a dream come true. And that is why it comes in as my number 3 dream photo-shoot and somehow, the only dream shoot in my top 5 that involves sports!

Dream Photo Shoots - Number 4

Dispatch Concert - Red Rocks

I don't think it's much of a stretch to claim music plays a large part in almost all of our lives.  I myself couldn't imagine my days without it. Sitting in my cubicle at work, running on the treadmill at the gym, or driving around town are all much more enjoyable with some tunes flowing into my ear drums. My life without my favorite bands and artists wouldn't be the same.

Is there truly anything better than combining any number of things you enjoy into one massive heap of greatness? Ever since I could drive I remember going to shows at various venues across the Chicago area. Metro, House of Blues, and Aragon Ballroom are where my love for "live" music really blossomed. And as soon as I got my first point and shoot digital camera you could be sure that was stashed in my pocket ready to capture all the great moments.

O.A.R. - Summerfest 2004, Milwaukee, WI.

Now that photography has captured my heart the way it has, being able to capture a live show from the photo pit and/or stage would have to make my list of top 5 dream photo shoots. The excitement and emotion of not only the band on stage, but the pure enjoyment on the faces of those in the crowd are what would really interest me.

So of all the live shows I could possibly attend, why would I choose a Dispatch show?  First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Dispatch, "We've been called the biggest band nobody's ever heard of," says Brad Corrigan, one of the 3 members that make up Dispatch. They are a funk, reggae, jam band whose music has made them one of my 3 favorite bands of all time. They band had broken up in 2004 but recently got back together for a summer tour in 2011. Jen and I witnessed one of the best shows that summer at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park. Now instead of going into detail about why there music is great, I'll just leave this video for you to check out on your own and make up your own mind, I've learned that trying to force what I think is good into other peoples hearts really doesn't work well.

Instead I rather focus on the other stuff this band does aside from it's music, which would be my motivation for choosing them for my one dream concert photo shoot. Dispatch have always been very passionate about giving back, as an Indie band, their main focus has never been on making money. In fact, these guys played a free show for file-sharing activist in Washington DC in 2001, this was around the time file sharing programs like Napster started coming under heavy fire from Congress. So the same group of people that are supposedly "killing the music industry" are being supported by Dispatch. This may seem odd to you, but Dispatch never relied on labels to promote their stuff, in fact they partially credit the growth of their huge fan base thanks to file-sharing sites like Napster. These guys also heavily support organizations that provide relief for children in the harshest areas in this world. They played 3 sold out shows at Madison Square Garden in 2007 to raise awareness for the people of Zimbabwe. On their most recent US tour in the summer of 2011 their efforts were focused on the US, as their website describes it here:

They chose to focus on America’s education crisis. For too long, a child’s zip code has defined their educational destiny. Through DISPATCH’s multi-faceted and collaborative Amplifying Education campaign, band members and fans alike are discovering together how small actions can make a big difference in the lives of children across the country. 
Dispatch - Photo by Steve Rosenfield

Dispatch - Photo by Steve Rosenfield

As for why I would want to photograph a set at Red Rocks. Does it really need any explanation? Red Rocks Amphitheatre is located right outside of Denver Colorado, and every image I see of this venue is simply amazing. 

Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Colorado

I apologize if this post really had very little to do about photography and a lot to do with Dispatch, I'm not naturally a writer and my ability to stay on point may not be that great. But regardless, I'd like to hear whose concert you would love to photograph and in what venue? Please list your responses in the comments section below. Have a great weekend everybody.

Dream Photo Shoots - Number 5

Photography is always on my mind, and this past week the thought of dream photo jobs came into my head. I decided to make a list of the top 5 photo shoots I would love to have. Now I rationalized this by combining both places and events.  So in short, if I was granted the wish to photograph any one location or event, on any given day, on any point on this earth, without the worries of cost or credentials, what would I want to photograph. I will break down my top 5 into five different posts over the next week or so. 

Number 5 - Yosemite National Park

Ansel Adams - Moon and Half Dome

Set photography aside for a second, I'm not much of an outdoors man.  I love to bike and run, I grew up playing outdoor sports like soccer, and I actually do love my yearly camping trips up to Door County and to Ludington Michigan. But in no way would I consider myself an outdoors man. I don't fish, I don't climb mountains, and I wouldn't be able to tell one kind of tree from another. That one looks like a pine tree... and that's a tall tree with leaves? 

Now photographically speaking, landscape shots are something that have never really interested me as much as portraits or event photography. I think in part the reasoning for that is out here in the Chicago area, where all the land is flat, I don't find too many compelling landscape views other than shots of the beautiful Chicago skyline.

Mount Dana - Yosemite National Park

So why Yosemite National Park? Back at Bradley University I once did a project on a man named John Muir, a naturalist and one of the first advocates for the preservation of the wilderness in the United States. Of all the things I learned at Bradley, this was one topic that always fascinated me... weird how that happens. He basically is the reason why we have "National Parks" in the U.S. Then for Christmas this year I got a book on Ansel Adams from my wife's grandparents. Ansel Adams is a photographer most people have heard of even if you don't have an interest in photography. His images are all over the place in calendars, textbooks, and websites. Ansel Adams was also an environmentalist who is best known for his black and white landscape photos. A large majority of his time was spent around Yosemite National Park. And these images, like the black and white one above and below are simply unbelievable to imagine for a guy like me from the Midwest who has not spent a lot of time near mountains.

Mount Ansel Adams - Yosemite National Park

So yes, if I had the choice to travel anywhere in the world to photograph one single landscape, I wouldn't go to far. I would head to our West Coast and photograph Yosemite National Park. Please list the number 1 landscape you would love to visit under these same guidelines in the comments section below.

Bonus - People I would like to photograph

Just for fun, i'm also going to attach the top 5 people I would like to photograph at the bottom of each of these posts without to much of a description

Number 5 - Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum - Photo by Brian Bowen Smith

Channing Tatum - Photo by Brian Bowen Smith

Now before you go writing me off, hear me out. If I had a portrait session with Channing Tatum and posted those pictures solely on this here blog... I think I would be guaranteed a 1000% increase in traffic. That's good for business. Plus I'd make my wife's dreams come true.