Icy Morning

Finally, a morning that I could take a quick run to compose some photos.  After dropping my son off at school, I drove to a nearby park at Burton Dam near AA.  The normally flowing water is now captured in a frozen mass, similar to using a slow shutter speed. 

As I walked down the path from the parking lot, I crossed a bridge over the Huron River to get some frosty shots of the trees and the partially open water.  My fingers were already feeling pain from the exposure while holding my camera and I had only been outside for 4 or 5 minutes.  I would need to make this a fast shoot. The temperature was around 6 degrees.

When I reached the other end of the bridge I came upon two people and a dog running.  I snapped a couple of photos and said good morning.  The guy mentioned something as they were beginning to run across the bridge about my lenses jumping and I didn’t understand, until I felt the wave.  The wave of them running made the bridge feel like a bouncy house.  It was kind of fun, but I have to admit the thought of the bridge snapping in two from the cold ran through my mind!

Walking back across so I could go down to the dam, a few of my fingers were so cold that I thought of going back to the van to warm up, but I stuffed them into my pockets and pursued my goals another few minutes.  Once down by the water I came across these snow masses in the water.  Looking closer, I realized they were swans.  They looked so strange, like they were frozen in the water. Sadness began to fill my heart as I thought they had frozen in place, but after stepping closer, they opened their eyes and moved a little.  Ah, I could breath again.  I took a few pix, still worrying about how cold they looked.  I remember thinking when I was a kid I wish I had a big heated barn to take all of the cold animals inside in the world when it was too cold for them.  I guess we never outgrow some fantasies.


Happy New Year to everyone!  2014 is bringing in many new and exciting experiences for us all!  To begin with, we had negative temperatures far lower than I could ever imagine, or at least want to experience (-45 wind chill – burrrrrrrrr!), which caused several days of hibernating at home for me and my family.  It was nice for a while, but by the third day we were all getting a little stir crazy in our small condo.  It’s great to get back into our daily routine.

Soon I will be sharing with you a new:

It’s something that I’ve actually done for a long time, by telling your story through photographs, but I’m pulling it all together as a package that you can make choices from AND it will help me to get to know you a little better! More details to come soon!

Blessings in 2014 to all!


ipod time



soccer fun


listening to music



reading, wherever


Thanksgivikkah in Chicago

A few weeks ago my son and I heard on NPR that the next time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fall on the same day it will be in 79,000 years.  He found this information fascinating and shared his Public Radio information throughout that weekend with any and everyone that would listen.

So my husband’s family is split on religious terms.  His dad celebrates Christmas, but his stepmom and her family celebrate Hanukkah.  As you probably know, usually the two holidays are celebrated in the month of December, but this year Hanukkah was in November, so we had a dual Thanksgiving and Hanukkah celebration, Thanksgivikkah.  Turkey for lunch and dreidel playing and the lighting of candles in the evening. 

Our combined families, that come from as far as California, has now grown to over 20 people getting together for Thanksgiving.  This year we all met at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Chicago…one of my favorite large cities.  We had a fabulous time, although unfortunately I was very ill much of the time.  I did however get in a few hundred photographs before heading back to Michigan. 

A night view from our city view room.

Cousins having fun at Shedd Aquarium.

Lakeside view from Grandpa and Grandma’s room.

Playing hide in the pillow fort in the big bed.

Thanksgiving day lunch in a private room at the Sofital Hotel.

Z chose an untraditional TG dinner, steak and French fries off the kids menu.

More Sofital.

View from the Sofitel.


Breakfast with a view.

Our hotel was so beautifully decorated for the Christmas season.

A sneak peak of the playroom.

Grandma’s fun menorah.

Cousins on their way to the famed Home Alone 2 pool.

A beautiful church across the street from our hotel.

The shops connected to our hotel…very nice.

More of the church across the street.

The famed Water Tower.

I love the horse and carriages!

Packed and time to go home after lunch.

What’s the score dad?

Inside the 900 Shops mall.

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you celebrate Hanukkah, happy, happy to you too!

The Great Up North

This past week my dear friend Alexis and I decided it was time, time for
that drive that we had talked about for over a year.  So we each packed
2 bags, one with clothes and the other bag brimming
with camera gear, then we headed to the great up north.

The original plan was to drive slowly throughout the trip, but as usual, we
were running late that initial bon voyage day.  As we pulled away from our
beloved Ann Arbor, we could feel all stresses being left behind.  We were
on our way to the island, Mackinaw Island.  Now we just needed to make
that last ferry of the day, or we would be losing our reservation at Mission

After driving 4 hours and 23 minutes, or 285 miles, our plan to drive
directly up 75 hailed us a front row seat (if we had chosen) on the hydroplane
ride to paradise.  Okay, so it’s not the Caribbean, but it is our island,
Michiganders little slice of the slower life.

 The first day was spent soaking up the sites, but in a quieter, slower version then a day-tripper would.  The slow walk from Mission Point to the downtown area provided us with many beautiful photo ops of flowers, a sweet old lab resting in a big chair, architecture and of course horses and the quaint fudge-filled village.  It was still early on Friday, so the weekend crowds were only beginning to arrive.  We headed down a back street and discover a new coffee place and possible job opportunities for next summer (for my friend, not me!).

Once again, we realized that an appointment made earlier was upon us, so we
dashed back to the resort to enjoy some much needed spa treatments.  You
may wonder what this has to do with photography.  Well, I believe to find
ZEN in this world, I must be in a Zen place myself.  So this was our treat
before leaving the island that afternoon. 

Onward to the Mighty Mac and beyond. Next stop the other paradise, Paradise,
Michigan.  The drive up highway 2 was stunning with the setting sun
catching the yellows, oranges and red on fire!  We were surprised at the
low availability of rooms once we arrived in the sleepy town, but finally found
a place to rough it for the night.  Let’s just say we were inside…I
think.  A quick trip to find some food and the shoreline to view
the amazing starlit sky, then off to sleep.  Another 69 miles for the

The next day was filled with a lot of travel.  We completed the 15
minute drive to Whitefish Point to catch the strong winds blowing in some nice
sized waves, then back south to view the Taquanamum falls and across the bridge
to the Lower Peninsula before a big storm was predicted to hit.

I love the northwest side of Lower Michigan.  Its beauty is like an oasis.  To end the day we traveled through the tunnel of trees, catching the sunset on the beautiful tree lined winding road.  The plan was to find a place in Petoskey to relax for the night, but we found what seemed like the entire southern half of MI occupying every hotel room in the northern hemisphere!  Sigh, this was not a part of the plan, but we are flexible, and the drive down to the thumb area just gave us new destinations to photograph the next day.

Our last day was spent touring the countryside to Port Austin and lunch in the German town of Frankenmuth.  I live in such an amazingly beautiful state, from the rolling hills and farmlands to the rocky, pine tree filled Upper Peninsula, to our gorgeous shoreline that surrounds us.  We are very lucky to have the 4 seasons and over one fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. 

Nine hundred twenty two miles and hundreds of photographs later, we arrived home with the feeling of real satisfaction for what we accomplished, along with a twinge for another road trip soon!

The Splashing Of The Stones

Sweet little Oliver recently turned 2 1/2, so we met at Mill Pond Park to capture his wonderment and play. His cautious ways were a breath of fresh air, as I’m used to chasing after many kids, including my own!  He was so inquisitive, talking in such perfect sentences.  He loved the castle-like play structure with its ins and outs, and the truck and digger in the sandbox, but I think it was the splash of the stones hitting the water that brought him the most delight!  Looking forward to seeing you again in the snow Oliver!

Viewing D.C.

After planning a family trip to Washington D.C. for years, we finally did it! It seemed there was always something that stood in our way, but this year we ventured east, to Gettysburg, then on to D.C. for a week long immersion of U.S. history.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  Our history enthusiast, our 11 year old son, soaked up every minute from the battles to the Smithsonian’s  wonders and we never heard the words all parents cringe at, “I’m bored!” 

Space Camp Botanical Gardens

So this year I decided to drive my son from Michigan to Huntsville, Alabama for one of his summer camps.  What? Am I crazy?  Okay, yes I am a little crazy, but this was Space Camp!  I just knew he would love Space Camp and this was the first year that I was able to send him.  Along with my son I took another dear friend, who is like family to attend with him.  This was family week, so having a 19 year old attend with an 11 year old was totally cool.  As a matter of fact, their roommates were a retired FBI agent and his grandson!

Here is a photo of the retired space shuttle Pathfinder.  The next photo shows the shuttle’s rocket boosters and its fuel tank.  This tank is so large that you cannot see the actual space shuttle that’s on top of it from this angle! Let me just say, when you walk underneath – you suddenly feel like an ant!

While the boys were playing astronaut, I decided to check out the local botanical gardens in Huntsville.  I was so impressed, I bought early Christmas gifts there and a membership (that I can use at over 200 other gardens).  It was beautiful!  I must have been there over 4 hours taking photos, even so I am certain I missed some of the trails. 

Note, I should have used something in the photo to give a better perspective, because the colorful chairs are so big, that an adult gets lost in one – like the one that Lilly Tomlin sat in while playing Edith Ann back in the 1960’s!

My favorite place in the gardens were the hammocks. 

In this wonderfully shaded area they had a circle of hammocks, with a long string of them, looking like little boats tied together.  I just had to try one out!  It was so relaxing and fun listening to the little ones squeal with delight as their parents pushed them in their own swinging pillow under the trees.

After leaving the gardens, I drove to the Huntsville historical district, where I photographed many old homes.  It was very humbling to look at the historical signs that read over 100 and sometimes 200 years old – wow!

At the end of the day, I realized that Decatur was only a 15 minute drive from my hotel. From the map I could see there was water, which possibly meant good views for the sunset.   I dashed over there, to capture the remaining 10 minutes of that days light.  It was beautiful.

  I don’t know about the boys, but I think this Space Camp idea was pretty cool!

Travel Photography – Chicago

I LOVE VISITING CHICAGO.  Its bustling pace, endless opportunities and grande views take me in every time I’m there.  Our most recent visit was quick, but even after a lifetime of visiting the windy city, it still surprises me.

This time my son and I explored the Chicago river on an architectural tour.  I now question why I didn’t do this much sooner.  The history of this city and even its buildings, rich with famous architects fills your senses and makes you feel proud to be a part of it…even if you’re not a native. 



Then there are the museums.  Which one to peruse, but honestly, how many times can one go to a museum?  Well, as true museum goers know, as many times as one wants!  We finally bought the family membership at the Museum of Science and Industry with friends (who live there), so we can go again and again and again.  This time we experienced Animals Inside Out.  It was quite amazing and I would recommend it highly.

Of course there’s the food.  During two other adventures, my Yelper-app-happy husband discovered Yolk and Frank and Dawg’s  These were two of his most advantageous finds, along with Girl and the Goat, but I’ll save that review for another time.  All I can say, go hungry and don’t be afraid to try something out-of-the-dog.

To top it off, I snuck out of bed after midnight, gathered my Nikon, reset my speed and ap, and shot away at the beautiful city scape while hubby and son were peacefully sleeping. 
Ahhh…my kind of getaway!

Charity of the month for May – SUICIDE PREVENTION

As with many of the charities that I donate or become involved in, this one is very close to my heart.

On December 31st, 2012, my beautiful cousin Justin took his life. His ever smiling face (below, right) is missed by family and so many friends, still hurting deeply from their loss. Justin’s brother Jeremy Howie will be participating in an over night walk in Washington DC on June 1st to raise money for awareness, education and prevention of suicide. 


If you have lost someone to suicide or just feel the compassion to support those who have, please donate for Jeremy, our family and many others, who all thank you from deep within our hearts. – Janice Nelson – Z.E.N. Photography Lifestyles