Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Weekend Adventures: The Morton Arboretum

Glow (from my favorite spot, the spruce plot)
If you're a longtime reader of this blog or follow me on Instagram, you know the Morton Arboretum is one of my favorite places. We're having a spectacular fall here in Illinois -- both foliage- and weather-wise. I've been spending time at the arb hiking and running, trying to soak in as much fall as I can before winter sets in. 

This week, I'm planning runs on the west side, which I've neglected. I tend to stick to the east side of the arboretum, especially when I run. This weekend's long run will be on the west side, which might be a fun challenge with its...'interesting' set of hills. I'll just have to work in a few breaks so I can take photos. All in the name of art, right?

Golden Hour



The fallen

#FromWhereIRun -- yep, the hashtags everyone's tired of seeing. This was on last week's 4-mile run.


Sometimes, it's the little things.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Weekend Adventures: Open House Chicago

My first stop: The Metropolitan Club on the 67th floor of Willis Tower. This private business club offered amazing views of the city, even though it was a gray, rainy day.
I spent the better part of Saturday hustling from one location to another in the Loop as part of Open House Chicago. It was a great experience, and I'm already making plans for next year. OHC is a 2-day architecture festival that offers the general public access to over 150 buildings throughout Chicago. Presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the event allows curious people like me to go inside private clubs, libraries, hotels, skyscrapers, offices, places of worship, residential buildings, theaters, and more -- all for free, and most allowed photography. While it's not limited to the downtown area -- Chicago is full of culturally and architecturally rich neighborhoods -- I chose to stick to the Loop this year.

 I'm still relatively "new" to Chicago (my 3-year anniversary is sneaking up soon!), and always discovering new things about the city -- and OHC was a great way to learn and see even more. While architecture and indoor photography are not my forte -- I don't have a passion for them like I do with nature and landscapes -- I jumped at the chance to explore some new places and get access to the top floors of some skyscrapers. 

One of the best things about the day was how "small" Chicago has become for me, thanks to the Instagram community. I ran into people I knew at almost every venue -- and even at a busy intersection on Wacker Drive. 

I did not plan very well for my tour in the Loop on Saturday. Now that I've experienced OHC once, I have a better idea of what to expect, which types of places are good to go to, and how to plan my day better. My first mistake was thinking it was a good idea to walk all the way from Willis Tower (AKA Sears Tower) to the Godfrey Hotel in River North. Poor planning. I smartened up and took a taxi back to the Magnificent Mile. That was the best $7 (including tip) I ever spent.
The rooftop lounge at the Godfrey Hotel offered a view of Willis Tower. YES, I walked all the way from Willis Tower. I logged more than 7 miles on my Fitbit!

Almost eye-to-eye with Ceres on the Board of Trade building. Viewed from The Library on the 40th floor of 190 S. LaSalle.
My day was not without its usual comedy. As a deaf person, I'm usually careful about paying attention to what I am allowed to do in certain places. In the case of OHC, I paid attention to which spots allowed photography and which ones didn't (the OHC program had icons where photography was not allowed, and there were *usually* signs in the buildings). 

However. I did have a little run-in at the 190 South LaSalle skyscraper. After venturing back down from the 40th-floor library, I was admiring the gold-leaf ceiling in the lobby and decided to take an Instagram snap. Apparently, this was a big no-no, because a security guard (or some such official person) came rushing up to me. He had probably called out and/or yelled at me to no avail first, since I take a while to set up my shots. Ugh. It was a scene, as there was a line in the lobby; I'm sure people thought I had ignored his initial request to not take photos ("What's wrong with her, is she deaf?" Yep. Actually, I am.). I apologized and got out of there pretty quickly. 

Inside The Library of 190 S. LaSalle. 

Willis Tower -- and the neat light fixtures of The Library reflected in the windows.
My next stop was the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, just up the street.  I set off the alarm at the security scan, thanks to my cochlear implant and had to be wanded, which rattled me even further, so I ended up not taking a single photo there.  Such a shame, as the Great Hall was a beautiful space.

Looking through the hashtags #igc_ohc2014 and #ohc2014 on Instagram after the event, I'm blown away by many of the photos! If you get a chance, go check them out. I promise you won't be disappointed; there were over 1,800 photos tagged. The IgersChicago group will be announcing the winner of the hashtag contest tonight -- the winner receives a $100 gift card and membership to the Chicago Architecture Foundation. I'm curious to see who wins -- the competition is pretty fierce.

If you get a chance to go to OHC, GO. You don't have to be an architecture or photography buff. At a lot of the sites, I just ended up wandering around admiring the views. 

View from The Kemper Building's 41st floor observation deck. I gave up trying to get a good shot out the window and settled for a reflected selfie instead.

Somewhat decent shot from the Kemper!
Next year's dates have already been announced: October 17-18, 2015. I've got it marked on my calendar, and I've got a couple places marked up on my program so I remember the "must-visit" sites for 2015! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Weekend Adventures: Waterfall Glen

The weather this weekend was perfect fall weather. Picture perfect. I had no concrete plans, and decided I needed to go hiking somewhere I hadn't been yet. I randomly chose Waterfall Glen, a forest preserve fairly close by. It was a last-minute decision, so I just threw some KIND bars and water in my backpack along with an extra layer and (duh) my camera and took off. 
The main attraction @ Waterfall Glen.
 A lot of people had the same idea as I did. I did a lot of standing around (loitering!!) in order to get some of these "empty" shots. Even with other people around, it was a peaceful outing. I love being outside -- it's my way of hitting the reset button.

Played with the shutter speed to get this one! Proud that I figured it out. Part of the fun of photography is fiddling with the manual settings. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't -- that's how you learn.

Golden. (Confession: this one's my favorite.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chicago adventures

The Chicago Fire Festival

Rain and cold doesn't stop Instagramers from exploring Chicago. We just bundle up, drink more coffee, and keep looking for good shots. October 4 was World Wide Instameet day around the world, and the Chicago Instagramers group held a day-long photowalk that was probably one of the best ones I've attended. 

We started out at Chicago's Union Station, where we were treated to a preview of Open House Chicago by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Did you know there's a sealed-off room just off the Great Hall that used to be called the Women's Lounge? I didn't. Our host from the foundation opened up the room for us and let us take photos and post away on Instagram (great way to get the word out about Open House Chicago!). The combination of vaulted ceilings, decay, and shadowy lighting made for some interesting photos. 

Shadows and light in the Women's Lounge of Union Station (Edited with VSCOcam & turned out kinda grainier than I'd like. I'll have to play with it some more!)

Partial view of the Women's Lounge in Chicago's Union Station.

After Union Station, we headed to Chicago Water Taxi and took a ride over to Michigan Avenue in the rain.
Most of us stood on the top deck of the Water Taxi & in the rain -- you just can't beat the views of Chicago from the river, regardless of the weather.

One of the houses they planned to burn for the Chicago Fire Festival later that night.

Sears in the fog. (Yeah, yeah it's supposedly re-branded Willis, but whatever.)
We got to check out an amazing loft office  called SPACE by doejo, a shared working space at 444 N. Wabash. It was a great spot to take more photos, warm up with Bow Truss coffee, and recharge our phones. It's a neat space, but I didn't take very many photos, as I was busy talking to people! (I'm working on improving my networking skills and not always hiding behind the camera/phone all the time. I think it's paying off.)

A PINK taxi! I had to stop for this. The rain just set it off.

Fading daylight -- taken from the back of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Even though I had a 5k bright and early Sunday morning, I decided to stick around for the Chicago Fire Festival that was going on later in the evening. About 30,000 people gathered along the Chicago Riverwalk to see this spectacle, many of us arriving early to stake out a prime spot for viewing and taking photos. 

It was a long wait, and everyone was disappointed -- probably none more than the artist and engineers who designed the show. The houses set out on the river never really caught on fire, due to technical difficulties. I finally had to leave around 9:30 so I could catch my train back to the suburbs, which meant I missed out on the best part of the evening -- the fireworks! I'll probably go again next year -- I need to work on my night photographing skills and I still had a lot of fun hanging out with some new photography friends. I just won't schedule a 5k run for the morning after!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Access Denied

Have you ever opened up the Sunday paper or scrolled through Twitter and come across an event you just knew you had to attend? Maybe it involved a passion of yours or an author you've always wanted to meet. Or perhaps it offered you an opportunity to improve your skills in a field you wanted to work in. For most people, attending events is as easy as clicking a button and purchasing tickets. Mission accomplished. 

In an ideal world, I'd be able to do this without a second thought. But as a deaf person, I don't get anything out of attending events where there's a lot of talking unless there's an ASL interpreter front and center. It's not a luxury; it's the law. I won't bore you with the legalese, but the Americans with Disabilities Act was written with the intent to create a more level playing field for people like me.

Recently, I had two very different experiences here in Chicago. One made me love the city's library system even more than I already do. The other left me disappointed with a large-scale social media conference that takes place in the city twice a year.

The Chicago Public Library recently hosted Austin Kleon, an author I admire for his inspiration. Unfortunately for me, I spotted the event info three days before the talk -- and CPL requires 10 business days before an event to set up an interpreter. I knew it was a long shot, but I emailed the library's contact person anyways, just in case another deaf person had requested an interpreter. I received a reply rather quickly, but nobody else had asked for an interpreter so I was out of luck. Still, I was happy with the services and the communication.
I appreciated CPL's quick response and the fact that their services are so easily accessible. I'm keeping a close eye on the event calendar from now on. 

However, my experience with Social Media Week Chicago was on the other end of the spectrum. I emailed them two and a half weeks before the event, asking them if they would provide an ASL interpreter if I purchased a pass. I prefer to request services in a friendly, polite way, rather than demand them -- it's just the Minnesotan in me.

No response. 

The next week, two weeks before the event, I tweeted their @SMWChicago handle asking for a reply about the sign language interpreter and the accessibility of their event. 

No response. By a social media event. An event sponsored by Microsoft, a company touted on their sponsor page as an "industry leader in accessibility innovation."

Frustrating? Quite. I'm the social media chair of a nonprofit in the Chicago area and there were several classes that would have benefited me. I want to move into social media professionally; it's a great fit for me because it's a space where my disability does not matter one iota. I can move around and talk to people easily -- communication flows from the fingertips so much more fluently.

I'm also an active Instagram user and would have liked to attend the Instagram Masterclass presented by several photographers I admire, including Nick Ulivieri and Jason Peterson. I'm good at reading lips and often surprise people with my skills. But attending a panel where three or four people would be talking -- sometimes in rapid succession? I'd be in way over my head.

I write this blog not because I'm playing the "poor me" card, but because I refuse to let things like this get swept under the rug, and perhaps so situations like this can be avoided in the future. Education can be a powerful tool.  

And I'll repeat what I say every year as a Minnesota Vikings fan: Maybe next year.