Photography


I live in a city filled with over 180 years of history. First settled in 1831, the city has grown from the first 100 settlers to close to 150,000 people. The city is rich in the stories of the families who have lived here before us.

Over the weekend, my husband and I went with friends to a historical ghost tour in the downtown and historic district of the city. We thought it was a great way to start off the Halloween season and learn a little bit about the place we call home.

A few years ago, on our anniversary, my husband and I went out to dinner in one of the downtown restaurants. After dinner, we walked around and later stopped in the family owned bookstore in town. It is a great old store that smells musty, has slanting floors and still has a small town feel. I found a book in the store that night about the ghosts in our town. I was intrigued and bought the book.

Now, let me start off by saying that I do not like horror movies or Stephen King books. I prefer Casper to Freddy, Carrie or Jason. However, I love history and genealogy and this book was written about the people who lived here before me. The stories claim that many of the ordinary residents have chosen to stay on even after their death. Their reasons are usually due to a tragedy in their life.

I read the book cover to cover and told my husband many of the stories of the alleged haunted spots in town. We have been to many of them over the years – restaurants, museums, public buildings, etc. He listened with interest because of the history, but was not convinced of the ghosts. I felt that some of these stories had no other explanation.

A few months after I finished the book, I was having lunch with my dog grooming friends. I was telling them about this book because they both worked in town in a former house turned into a business along one of the downtown streets. After I told a couple stories, they told me that they had a ghost in the house they used to occupy next door to their current place. This ghost liked to bowl and they often heard a bowling ball dropped and rolling along the floor. A man in a fedora and trench coat would often show up at the front counter. They assumed that it was a customer, but when they looked directly at him, he disappeared.

It is one thing to read about ghosts in a book, but it is totally another thing to hear your friends tell you something that they saw themselves.

The tour was interesting. Many of the stories were in the book I read, but they were told that night from the firsthand experience of the ghost hunters. We were encouraged to take photos on this tour. The idea was to catch a glimpse of one of the former residents in action. We walked along the streets of the city and stopped a few times to hear a story that took us back to another time. For a genealogy buff, it was much like standing in cemeteries of my long deceased relatives. I kept thinking about how these people stood in this same place years and years ago.

My husband snapped several pictures during the tour. I just brought the small Canon camera that I carry in my purse. It is not the best quality camera and in the dark, he was using the flash. I’m sure he was looking for proof of a ghost.

The next day, I went through the photos looking for the orbs and mists that the ghost hunter told us about. One picture had an unexplained white circle in the tree next to the house. An orb?

We were standing on a parking lot next to a historic home. The parking lot was a former cemetery and the resting place of early settlers to our area. When they received a donation for a larger lot, they decided to move the bodies to the new cemetery. The only problem was that the bodies had been in the ground for 20 years in the mid 1800’s. The decay was so bad that the project was stopped before it was completed. Their resting place was disturbed and many of the bodies were only partially moved. Half of grandma remained in the old cemetery and half of her went to the new one. Not a very restful way to spend eternity.

Did we pick up the unrested spirit of one of these tortured souls or was there another explanation? I compared it online to other pictures. Many non-believers called those white circles dust. They said it was unnatural to take flash pictures in total darkness and therefore the dust in the air was caught in the light of the flash. The non-believers suggested trying to re-create it in a dark room in your house. They suggested stamping on the carpet or furniture to create dust before taking the pictures.

So I tried it. I must have a very clean house – even with three pets. I didn’t get one streak or ball of light like on the other picture. Interesting.

Did we catch a ghost with our camera? For the sake of our ghost hunt, I would like to believe we did. It is a lot more fun than a speck of dust.

Yesterday I went to a photography class that my husband signed me up for. It was on the north side of Chicago, which, even on a Sunday morning, was an hour drive from my house. I don’t go to Chicago often – maybe a few times a year. Even though I have lived here most of my life, I am not a very urban person. The neighborhood was really cute – lots of shops and churches. The classroom was on the second floor where we sat in a small studio/loft room with wood floors and high ceilings.

Our instructor was an Irishman named Will. He had a great accent and a dry sense of humor. Photography is not something that can be learned in a day, so he did a nice job of hitting all the highlights. A lot of the terms he used were ones I had learned from long ago when I worked in a darkroom. In the digital world, some things have changed, but you would be surprised how few are drastic changes.

We took some boring pictures in the classroom to see the difference in shutter speed and f-stops. We took a picture of the lights in the ceiling and learned how to trick the light meter in your camera. They don’t look like much, but we did learn something and how it can be used for photographing more interesting subjects.

We took breaks every two hours because we all had to feed the meters. At lunch time, we were given the assignment of going outside (BTW, it was in the teens yesterday) and photographing subjects using a shutter speed faster than 1/60th of a second. He said the subject matter was less important than getting the shutter speed right. I left with two other woman and walked around the neighborhood. These are some of the pictures I took.



After freezing outside, I had lunch in a local tavern with the woman I met from my class. These women were younger than me and recently married. I was the only suburbanite and the only one with kids. It was nice to get to know new people with different backgrounds and careers. Photography was our common link and that sparked our conversation.

We headed back to the classroom for another three hours of instruction. I walked out of there with more knowledge of my camera and photography in general. I have some new tricks that I can try on my kids sports shots, portraits and other subjects of interest.

All and all, it was a good day. The only bad part was the unavoidable traffic back to the ‘burbs with all the Bears fans. I highly recommend finding a day class in a subject that interests you. It was good to take a break from every day life and have some “me time”. All the laundry, paperwork, shopping and kids activities will still be there tomorrow. Or, if you are lucky like me, your husband will do it all while you are gone.

Photography has been my hobby since I was a teenager. I think I have received more cameras, lenses, cases, and photography books than clothes as gifts over the years. Last Christmas, my husband bought me another camera, this time a Sony DSC-HX1. I have taken great outdoor photos as well as action shots with this camera. It also takes an awesome sweep panoramic photo, as you can see from my new blog header.

Yesterday, he found a photography class that he thought I would like at the Chicago Photography Academy which I will be taking this winter. It got me thinking about my hobby again and I thought I would share some photos that I took this summer. Let me know what you think!