New York City

For Kirk’s dad’s 60th birthday, Kirk’s mom organized a surprise trip to New York City. Kevin knew he was going on a trip, but he didn’t know where, and didn’t know his kids and their significant others would be there to meet him. At La Guardia, as Kevin and Val descended the escalator to baggage claim, Kirk, me, Maureen and her boyfriend, Will, yelled “Happy Birthday!”

It was my first time to NYC. Since its identity is so built up in movies, magazines, books, photos and news, I was looking forward to getting to see it for myself.

Roosevelt Island Tram
The tram spans the East River and connects the Upper East Side of Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. It’s a short 3-minute ride, just over 3000 feet from one end to the other. We started off our first sightseeing day with city views from a hundred feet above ground.

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Battery Park City
From the southwest end of Manhattan, we caught the closest view of the Statue of Liberty we could get.

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9/11 Memorial
Peering into the giant fountains, the feeling of tremendous loss was unmistakable. I was sitting in chemistry class my sophomore year of high school when the planes hit. Can’t imagine, in the slightest, what it would’ve been like actually being in Manhattan.

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Brooklyn Bridge
Photo-op of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Manhattan Bridge is just behind it.

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South Street Seaport
On our way back to the subway, we stumbled upon South Street Seaport, a designated historic area with some of the oldest architecture in Manhattan. Turned out to be one of my favorite spots.

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Financial District
Also an old part of Manhattan, streets in the Financial District are narrow, and instead of the typical grid pattern, run in all different directions.

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The Subway
By this point, we had rode the subway everywhere and thought we had it figured out. Turns out we’d misunderstood how tickets transferred, and so attempted to get clarification from a MTA employee. After a half minute of escalating discussion, she looked me and the rest of our group over.

“You’re not from here, are you,” she declared gruffly.

“Well, obviously not,” I retorted. Or else we wouldn’t be asking you for help. This was only our second day in NYC, and already my Midwestern congeniality was tiring of the brusque New Yorker temperament.

Kirk and Val jumped in, smoothing things over. The employee opened the gates to let us all through, sans tickets.

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Times Square
We stopped for about 10 minutes in Time Square. No matter it was noon and the sun was at its zenith, the screens seemed to overpower the sky.

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Grand Central Station
Only two things made up my NYC-must-see list: B&H Photo and Grand Central Station. Nearing the entrance, I felt like a kid about step onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. I’m a sucker for trains, stations, platforms, travel, movement, always coming, always going…

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Empire State Building
It was raining and visibility was reported as poor when we planned to go to the top of the Empire State Building. In a now-or-never situation, we bought tickets and rode the elevator up, hoping for the best. We got lucky: The lights of the city managed to shine through the low clouds.

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My sister lived in New York City while attending grad school from mid-2010 to early 2012. Her plan was to complete her doctorate there; but, after a year and a half and a change of heart, she decided to take a break from school and move back to Wisconsin. Thinking she’d be there 5-6 years, I hadn’t yet visited her; I’d lost my chance.

My favorite way to see a new place is with a local. Preconceived notions are easily shattered when you get to see through an insider’s perspective. And NYC? It’s a tough nut to crack. After years of learning about New York City through secondhand sources, I knew it would take a good amount of firsthand experience to develop my own opinion. After this 4-day trip, I saw a lot, checked off many tourist attractions, ate lots of good food and had a lovely time — but still I don’t feel I know the city at all. If I had regrets, not visiting Kelly in NYC would be one. “We’ll take a trip there, you and me,” she says. I’m holding her to it. ☼


Real Estate Photos: Seaside Vacation Rental at Sunset in Encinitas

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Although I’ve shot at sunset in the past, I’ve never had to deal with the sun streaming directly through the windows into my lens. Fortunately, with some strategic tripod placement I was able to block it with a door frame when it was still too bright. Then, when it became a pleasant orange ball on the horizon, I grabbed the outdoor shots. And, oh, they turned out lovely. ☼


Cody Lovaas at Carlsbad Village Theatre

Back in August, I had the opportunity to photograph Carlsbad local Cody Lovaas performing at the Carlsbad Village Theatre.

The sixteen year-old singer-songwriter has already gained quite the foothold in the music industry. Last year, Lovaas signed with Bill Silva, manager of Jason Mraz.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out of my comfort zone with photography. Even though the stakes were zero (no one was paying me for these photos), a little shot of nervousness zipped through me when my friend Tim — who had invited me to the concert and suggested I bring my camera — said, ‘Cody’s dad would love to see your shots!’ (Tim, who seems to know everyone in Carlsbad, somehow knew Cody’s dad.)

Despite the venue’s severe lack of lighting and my definite lack of portrait/action photography experience (especially in low light), I managed to snag some decent images. Oh, and after seeing Cody perform… Yep, this kid is incredibly talented. Check out his music here. ☼

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Real Estate Mogul In Training

Last month, Kirk closed on investment property #2, a beautiful 2/2 condo on Farwell Ave in Rogers Park, Chicago. This property is only a couple blocks away from his first property, the condo on Lunt Ave where we lived in 2008-09.

Kirk’s investment/retirement plan is to purchase a rental property every five years. Since he purchased his first property during the summer of 2008, he’s now on track with property #2, and planning on the purchase of #3 as soon as possible. The next one might even be a flip.

Lucky for Kirk, his fiancé just happens to be a real estate photographer. I shot these for the craigslist ad. ☼

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(The unit is the second from the top.)

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