Throwback: Chicago Photography Collective Show, Opening 12.19.2009

I used to be a member of a group of illustrious Chicago photographers called Chicago Photography Collective that existed from 2009 to 2011. It was billed as “a group of professional photographers who have come together to build a sense of community among
photographers. It started out as a group of four people having lunch once a month, and now has more than thirty members. The mission of the CPC was to provide a forum for the discussion and display of work by serious Chicago area photographers; to offer support and solidarity to photographic artists while educating and enlightening the general public about photography’s capacity as a force for both change and reflection.

Members included Paul Natkin, Ron Seymour, Ron Gordon, Sandra Steinbrecher, Eric Futran, Marc Pokempner, Tom and Marcia Palazzolo, Lloyd DeGrane, David Kamba, Patty Carroll, Emily Long, Allan Teller, Matt Tuteur, Michael Jackson, Beth Rooney, Karen Hoyt, Scott Shigley, Rosemary Warner, Rebekah Raleigh, Peter Ha, Stephen Sostaric and some others who joined later. How I got accepted to the group is still beyond me. Heck, as you can see in the pictures, I can’t even focus!

We had our gallery, first at a space now occupied by a 7-11 on Madison and Wabash, then we moved to a nicer place in Block 37.

This opening was taken in December 18, 2009, probably our second show. We used to have one show a month!

And here are some photographs of us preparing for our first show (taken November 15, 2009)

Chicago Full Moon Jam, July 26, 2018

Chicago’s Full Moon Jam season began in May but I was only able to attend July’s celebration. There are more and more participants, more and more spectators, and more and more daring acts. This is a grass root movement … it’s nice to be in a loving, non-judgmental, inclusive and safe place for a fleeting moment.

Whidbey Island – June 29, 2018

Whidbey Island is the largest of the islands that compose Island County, Washington. It lies about 30 miles north of Seattle, in Puget Sound and forms the northern boundary of the sound. According to, the island is approximately 55 miles long and 1.5 to 12 miles wide making it the 4th longest island in the United States. It is the largest island in Washington State.

As you can see in the pictures, the island’s terrain is rugged and is composed of farmlands, forests, hills and beaches. It lies between the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle Metro and is home to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The coastal towns of Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley have boutiques, cafes and galleries.

Xochimilco, Mexico City – June 19, 2018

Xochimilco is one of the 16 boroughs (alcadias) of Mexico City situated in the southeast part of the city. It is known for its canals which are remnants of the lake and waterways that connected most of the settlements in pre-Hispanic Mexico. Colorful flat-bottomed boats called trajineras ply the canals at the present time – and are popular for tourists and residents alike – to navigate the canals and artificial islands called chinampas – and eat, drink and be merry while doing so.

It’s not as exciting as other river boat rides in many cities around the world – there is not much to see along the canals BUT it is an experience to ride the trajinera – as it is not motorized, driven completely by humans using wooden poles that they thrust into the river bed to propel the boat forward. Because there are a lot of these boats traveling through the canals, it is interesting to see how they maneuver the boat without bumping into each other. There were also other boats hawking touristy souvenirs, food, and drinks and some boats that carry mariachi bands for entertainment.

According to literature, the boats float along “lined with gardens and curtains of trees” and there are gardens of flowers, vegetables and ornamental plants on the chinampas, but I saw a little of those. The area along the canals are so developed now. However what I really like are the folk art on the boats themselves and the fact the whole enterprise feels like it stemmed from backyard tourism that just took off. While the boats are of similar construction, each boat has its own unique decoration and each is named as a female!

We had lunch while we were on the “cruise,” the delicious lunch were delivered to the boat while it was moving, then while we were having lunch, a mariachi band boarded our boat to entertain us while we were eating and drinking. It got to be rowdy later on – millenials among our tour group – from South and Central America, the US and Canada – opened up singing and dancing after they had some alcohol. They had a great time! Friendships were made, FB accounts were exchanged, and promises to hook up later were overheard.

I was going to watch a mariachi band later on the night in Garibaldi Plaza, but I had my fill here so I decided to chuck that activty out.

As usual, I had the mole for lunch. I can’t get enough of mole!


Because of the canal and Chinampa system, the area has been designated as a World Heritage Site.

Museum of Pop Culture aka Experience Music Project

The last time I was in Seattle back in the mid 90’s, the Frank Gehry designed Experience Music Project wasn’t built yet. So this time around, this was really the draw for me to accept a friend’s invitation to visit her in Seattle. I wanted to see, even just the exterior of Gehry’s much applauded (and equally derided) building in Seattle especially how it compares to his Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago. (The building then known as Experience Music Project is now called Museum of Pop Culture.)

Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago lit up blue during the night

Well, it is similar – with its trademark steel fabrications that look like armadillo or pangolin armors – except for the colors! While Prizker looks like a crab nebula, this one looks like a creature that came from the sea, or as some other critics say, like smashed guitars, but the colors are wild. Pritzker is all silver/chrome while MPC is saturated with silver, copper, reds, blues … incredible. I haven’t really seen the totality of it as it is a huge building and it seems to me that there is no vantage point for photographers to take a picture of it as a whole … But it is all about details … and here they are in the short time that I was there (sorry, I am too cheap to go inside).

Pike Place Market

Flower vendor, Pike Place Market, July 28, 2018

Pike Place Market in Seattle is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States. The major attractions for me were the fish market where employees throw fish rather than passing them by hand, the farmers market with Washington farmers selling their fresh produce and specialty farm products, the flowers sold by Ilocano farmers, the buskers – different kinds of street entertainers – one even brought a piano with him – and of course the different restaurants including the original Starbucks.

I spent only a few minutes in the market because I had to meet up with a group somewhere else for breakfast (my host also didn’t realize that I needed to photograph details and kept hurrying me up). (Guess where we ended up eating – of all places, McDonald’s! It was because they couldn’t find parking anywhere, except at Mickey D’s.) But at least I got to see the market again. I’ve been there back when there were no consumer digital cameras yet. So this time, I came back with a vengeance. Well, except that I really didn’t get to spend more time. Well, maybe next time.

Mexico City from Above

Mexico City (or Ciudad de Mexico or CDMX) is the capital of Mexico and the most populous city in North America. The city itself has a population close to about 9 million while the metro area is home to about 21 million people. It is an ancient city founded by people called Mexica – dating back to the 1300 and was built on an island in the center of a lake in the valley of Mexico. It also became the capital of later Aztec civilization, after which also it became the capital of New Spain when the Spanish conquered the country.

To have an idea of the vastness of Mexico City, on the last day of my vacation in Mexico City (June 19), I went up the Torre Latinoamericana, an architecturally significant building, not only in Mexico but in the world, because it is the first major skyscraper built on highly seismic land and has survived several major earthquakes. It was the tallest building in Mexico until 1984.

Torre Latinoamericana, one of the tallest (and safest) buildings in Mexico City with 44 floors and an observation deck (Mirador) on its top floor.

Here are some views of the city from the observation deck. On this particular day, you can actually see the towering white peaks of the legendary Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes.

Overnight on the Coast Starlight: Seattle to San Jose

Cascades Mountain Lake

The Coast Starlight is regarded to be one of Amtrak’s most spectacular train routes, passing through great cities on the West Coast – Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Sacramento, SF Bay Area, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles to name a few. It also goes through or pass along the Cascade Ranges and Mt. Shasta and the lush pine forests, fertile valleys and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline. Having just known this, I immediately changed plans – instead of flying from Seattle to San Francisco, I booked a ticket on this particular route.

It didn’t matter that the trip would take 24 hours from Seattle to San Jose and that I would miss the leg that runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean. I’ve been on an Amtrak train before – from Chicago to New York – several times, and it is not that bad. The seats are wide, the leg room is spacious and the windows are huge and good enough for photography. This time though, I booked a business class ticket – to ensure I have wi-fi, extendable seat, extendable table, free bottled water, a 6-dollar voucher for food in the adjacent lounges (a cafe and a restaurant) AND a dedicated car – less foot traffic. Because the car was not full, the guy sitting next to me moved to another seat, so I had two seats that I made into a bed for sleeping.

And I would at least spend time, albeit very brief, in Oregon, a state that I haven’t been to.

Portland Oregon

The highlight of the trip really was the Cascade Mountains – we went through it at sunset – and I was at least able to capture some of its glory. The pine forests, lakes and rivers along the mountain route were also spectacular. It was just difficult to take pictures of them even if I went to the observation deck – as the views were in both sides of the train.

Here are iPhone photos of the trip from Seattle to San Jose.

Best. Day. Ever. No. 2 Part 2: Teotihuacan, the iPhone chronicles

My second full day in Mexico City, June 16, 2018 was spent touring the two holiest places in the country: The Basilica and Shrine of the Lady of Guadalupe and the Teotihuacan ruins. Here are some photos of the Teotihuacan part of the day from my iPhone. I uploaded these photos while I was on the train from Seattle to San Jose (CA) in the second part of my vacation.

Teotihuacan is an ancient mesoAmerican civilization predating the Aztecs. Their city center is in a valley about 40 km northeast of Mexico City. Teotihuacan is known today as the site of the most significant pyramids built in pre-Columbian Americans. There are two of them: the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, the latter being the larger of the two. Both are open to the public for climbing although you can only reach up to the first level of the Pyramid of the Moon. You also get the best view from the Pyramid of the Moon because it faces the long avenue called Avenue of the Dead.

While there are hundreds, if not thousands of tourists visiting the site everyday, the site doesn’t feel touristy at all (although there are trappings of modern day tourism). Here are some photos of the ruins that I took with my iPhone. Photos from my Sony A7 will be posted later.