Thursday, March 6, 2014

Costa Rica Photos Available!

Chicago's extra snowy weather this weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity to edit photos from my trip to Costa Rica this summer! 

It is such a beautiful and unique part of Central America, and the people are amazing! There was more wildlife just out walking around than anywhere else I have ever seen besides going to a zoo! A full album is available on my photo website at Hope you enjoy!

San Jose, Costa Rica

Friday, June 22, 2012

Chicago PASS Program Graduation

It was such a blast taking pictures and hanging out with students and CPS staff from the Chicago PASS program graduation last week! The students had very inspiring stories and who doesn't get excited when it's officially summer break?! Check out this group while they "bust a move"! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Big Fat NATO Wedding

Finally, I'm getting around to pulling up pictures from a wedding shoot that was in downtown Chicago during the NATO conference. I anticipated absolute chaos for this event. I was cringing when I heard each news report and hype about street closings, and I so fretted for this event as there was no limit to what logistical mishaps were potentially possible for ruining the happy couple's big day.  

There was absolutely no street parking, no parking in garages, and no bags allowed on any CTA or Metra public transportation. I was scheduled to meet the groomsmen at the W Hotel on West Adams St. by 11:00 a.m. to snap a few shots of them getting ready, and thankfully I had no problems with the cab ride in to get there and made it in 20 minutes early. :)

Prior to the conference, I looked up the media requirements out of curiosity. NATO events were happening along Lake Shore Drive and I couldn't resist day dreaming about getting a once-in-a-a-lifetime picture of a bride and groom touting peace signs and posing with a handful of well-wishing world leaders in front of their motor brigade.....that didn't happen. 

There was no hustle bustle of crowded streets on a nice summer day. In fact, it felt more like a ghost town. Police officers and national security officials we're clustered on corners every two blocks throughout the downtown area. We went to our next location on the Wacker.- LaSalle St. bridge to take a few more photos of the guys at the river walk and "first look" shots of the bride and groom. 

The only problem was that there were so many officers on bikes that they kept riding through the back ground of the pictures.  This was pretty intimidating. During these wedding events I have no problem asking people to move and directing them out of the shot, but seriously now, what photographer do you know is going to ask patrolling cops to move while they are on duty, during NATO? No way! That's what Photoshop is for! 

All in all it was a beautiful couple and a beautiful wedding. They had a lot of fun and NATO's events and protestors were hardly noticed. We we're shuttled out of the city by 2:00pm so that they wouldn't get caught in  the fights and rants of the 2,000+ protesters that demonstrated. Now that was smart planning!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring Unfolding

Just call me optimistic, but it has been a fantastic spring for all things photography! 'Tis the season to grab your camera of choice and walk around outside. Get back in shape by shooting-on-the-fly and walking to your destinations where possible. What have you been doing to challenge yourself? Maybe you've been able to take advantage of Chicago's light "winter" and schedule photo shoots outside unseasonably a few months early, maybe you spent an extra hour exploring a new corner of town to use as a future backdrop, or maybe you've been getting to know other photographers and attending gallery openings and other creative events. Either way, if you are interested in wiping the dust off your lenses and getting out there, these have all been good places to start for me!

In March, I wanted to take advantage of the still crisp early evenings and city lights and this year did a two hour shoot outside! Thankfully it wasn't too chilly and I'm pretty happy with the way that everything turned out! It was also nice that it wasn't too crowded because less people were staying outside. We had plenty of time to set up poses, keeping in mind composition and coloring. Everything went so well that we were able to do one outside shoot and one indoor shoot. Let me know what you think!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Updates on the Horizon!

London, fashion, photo shoots and competitions. These are all topics to be discussed in the next blog post - so stay tuned for updates! I've been wanting to write about these for awhile, but I've been editing or shooting pictures, which is a GOOD thing! :)

In the meantime, if you are on, see daily updates to the Chelfoto pin board.

Also, a BIG thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Chicago's 100 Days of Chicago challenge. My photo submission is one of the finalists that will be judged again this summer!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Haiti: Still the Pearl of the West Indies

In January, 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the heart of Port-au-Prince, Haiti and killed 300,000 people. As a result, fundraising began and volunteers were sent. I joined a team of 50 from my home church in Omaha, NE and brough my camera along to share in a gallery opening/fundraiser for an orphanage and the ministry that we worked with.

What struck me most was the strength and hospitality of the Haitian people and their resilience to overcome the difficult circumstances around them due to the earthquake. No one can describe this better than Mr. Almando Jean Louis, a lifelong Haitian and friend I made along the way, who works at Praying Pelican Ministries in Port-au-Prince. We've been reflecting on the two year anniversary of the earthquake, hoping that it's recent occurrence started many of the right conversations in the media and that more volunteers would be motivated to go to Haiti. Almando shares his thoughts as we look forward to the city's new improvements and rebuilding!   

  1. Hello Almando, what is it like to live in Haiti today? What positive changes have you seen?   Living in Haiti has always been both the sweetest for those who are able to afford their daily needs and a struggle for those who can’t. It is still the same today. This year is called the year of reconstruction and I am so excited to see the roads that are being built, parks that are cleared off the tent cities, lots of hotels and new buildings... I am looking forward to seeing the rebirth of tourism in Haiti and the growth of our resorts, new infrastructure and stuffs.
  2. Haiti was once called the "Pearl of the West Indies", do you think this is still true? What should we know about the Haitian people?  Haiti was called the Pearl of the West Indies and is still is though it is not called like that anymore. The news and some criminal or wicked journalist that are making money off their lies on Haiti and the politics of the super power to prevent the sons and daughters of the country that are investing in their country from coming back and invest in their country, tend to focus on the poverty or the dirty parts of Haiti to show how poor and small we are but our sun, our mountains, our beaches, our productions remain original and outstanding. As far as the people is concerned, besides being the first independent black nation, Haitian people is laborious, happy, friendly, passionate for the Lord and grateful towards and for life, despite of all.
  3. What areas in Haiti still need help? Do you think more volunteers are necessary?   The whole country needs help in different ways. I am positive that we have enough fish but don’t have enough means to catch them (don't know if you know that Chinese proverb) teach me how to fish instead of giving me a fish. Haiti needs developers, more of the new technology, investors, guides and visionaries and no more rice, tents or expired or used stuffs. We do need volunteers J .
  4. What is your favorite phrase, proverb,or saying in french or creole? (please translate) Men anpil, chay pa lou. That means literally " with a lot of hands the load is light. I truly believe that together, we can do immense things.
  5. Do you think a picture is worth a thousand words? If you took a picture of Haiti right now what would you want it to say?  Yes a picture means a lot, It has more impact than a words have. I have been asked if Haitian have house, radio, tel, tv... Those people who have asked me those questions saw pictures of Haiti that show them bare foot and naked kids playing with trash. Only negative things and those kind of stuffs is a whole description of Haiti in their minds. If I had to take a picture of Haiti today I would picture the whole land coming out of an egg. Or Haiti as a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. What would that mean to you. I would actually draw something cause there is no where I could take such a picture.

BIG thanks to Almando and everyone involved with this initiative!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tour de les Cultures Destination 3: Indian Gold

There is little one has to say to convince about the beauty of this Indian engagement celebration; the colors speak for themselves! At engagement parties like this, the groom-to-be, with his family and close friends, meet for a celebration at his house while the bride is with her family and friends having their own celebration at the same time in her parent's home. 

When I first arrived at the brides house, she was still getting ready in her bedroom and surrounded by seven of her closest girlfriends. Bangle bracelets, other shimmering jewelry pieces and a palette of eye shadow and lip color spread across her light oak dresser as she looked into the mirror straightening her hair. Other guests came into the house, removed their shoes and  waited for her appearance in the basement where the floor was covered with an array of soft, velvet pillows to sit on.  "I'm ready now," she said and that was my cue to set up at the end of the stairs and photograph her escorted 'decent' to begin a three hour festival just for her. 

She came out of the room with a yellow veil draped on her head and all seven friends with small female cousins to hold a sheer orange banner of fabric high as a long canopy over them. Family members came back to the entry way snapping pictures and followed her into the basement. A loud cheer began upon her entrance to join her family sitting in the front of the room and there was so much excitement! 

I quickly hopped through open spaces on the floor to get to the front. A prayer was said and each individual came with a kiss, a gift, and to feed the bride a piece of fruit and rub her chin before giving her a hug. This was a Muslim engagement party and people rotated through the long line or waited eating chicken, rice and other delicacies for the next two hours. 

This was one of my most difficult events to photograph because the continuous flow of people and every greeting with the bride happened simultaneously to others greeting their family. "Do not miss a moment," the bride's mother said to me and made sure that she saw my flash light the room with every single piece of fruit offered. It was important to keep fresh batteries in my flash so that it could cycle quickly enough. I recruited a young family member to assist me by running through the crowd to my equipment so that I never had to leave my post. After the long line procession, there was a family portrait and the men went upstairs while the women started singing and dancing and my services were no longer needed. The excitement was very fun to be apart of and it was great to see "a village" rally around this young couple. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chicago Thanksgiving 2011

Chicago Thanksgiving 2011

In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, I'd like to pause and reflect on celebrating the season's change! I pray that your friends and family were nearby yesterday and if not, that you were able to take in rest, peace and an appreciation of this life happening around us right now! 

To see more photos of Chicago, click here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Destination 2: Go GREEK or Go Home!

Hello Blog Readers,
It is wonderful to be back after a slight absence to typing thoughts and exciting photos from the cultural happenings of wedding photography! There are so many new "destinations" to show and I can't wait to start "traveling" with you again! 

To come back with a BANG- there is no better place to begin with than visiting a Greek wedding! With so much music, dancing and tradition, you will easily find more to say than just "Opa!" Even though I have yet to attend a reception that serves flaming cheese, take a look at the photos below and you will see that the energy lasts until dawn! 

A bride is welcomed into the family with a chair dance.
Weddings are great for bringing family together--and many Greek families are BIG families with many members in attendance.

Blessing and prayer before dinner. This was done by the bride's brother and he gave a 30 minute speech about the families' history and how the she grew up to be a beautiful bride. Both the bride and groom came to the front to take communion together with their parents. 

Elbows up in the traditional style, EVERYONE is dancing!

 You get the idea- 
Go "Greek" or Go Home Baby!

If you would like to see more wedding photos from Chelfoto Photography, click here.

If you would like more information about Greek wedding traditions, click here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Les Culture Destination 1: Irish- Walking Down an Emrald Isle

For anyone wishing they had the luck of the Irish on their wedding day, I couldn't agree more!

Of the many cultures in Chicago, the Irish are inescapable! Whether you know this from the long reign of the Irish American Mayors Daley, the South Side Irish parade, or dying the river green every March, there is a large population of Irish-decended inhabitants. After reading through the Encyclopedia of Chicago, it is interesting to find that it emerged as the fourth largest Irish city in America by 1860.

The Chicago "ChIrish" are here to stay and they are a 'loud and proud' bunch! Going to an Irish wedding is definitely a must. While shooting this wedding in the photo on the left, the D.J. and Reception Coordinator where actually afraid that the floor was going to break through from all the dancing! One of the glass light fixtures as seen above actually fell from the ceiling because of the shaking! I was in my very own Irish bouncy-castle and the experience was very surreal!

It was also fun meeting cousins and relatives visiting from Dublin. Their accents are fantastic!  There are fantastic hats and family style galore, and many women in the crowd are wearing sparkling green jewelry to show their family pride. 

Even meeting an adorable grandmas named "Poppy" was a hoot because she had some of the best stories!I would love to take pictures at a British wedding and see which is the louder crowd!

I love being a photographer at weddings because it is such a whirlwind! Check back for a photo tour of the next culture destination!

I'd love to tell your family story! If you would like me to come and photograph your special day, click here to view my wedding portfolio! There is always lots going on at so check back for more events and happenings!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weddings: Les Tours de Culture

Okay, okay, we all knew this day would eventually come right? I have now taken pictures at over 20 weddings and I'm going to spend the next few posts talking about weddings, but not just weddings, their culture and that's my trump for keeping this blog topic about travel! :) To talk about weddings without focusing on the wedding itself and more about my interacting with every "Dearly beloved" day as a whirlwind of cultural documentation. 

Think about it, when else do you get to meet total strangers, find out how they met/fell in love, meet their entire family and extended relatives, share a meal with them, hear their favorite dance music, know their religious background, and meet each one of their best friends- all in ONE day?!! 

These occations included Greek, Italian, Irish, Indian, and Polish cultures. I am excited to reflect on their cultures with you- it has been quite a ride!