September continued my on-going slog with work and lest I sound ungrateful for being busy this time of year, I'm not. I started my sales rep business 9 years ago and I know that it's the best job I've ever had. While the distinct seasonality of my industry makes August-September-October (and February-March-April too) a busy and difficult time of year, working from home in my jammies for the rest of the year and traveling for my photography during the "off-season" makes it more than worth it.
One of the early highlights of September was heading to Arlington Park with racehorse owner and fellow photographer Margaret to capture images of the racehorses being exercised on both the main track and the training track in the wee hours. It was a peaceful morning, and we were treated to good light as the sun broke through the clouds and rose above the treeline.
Mid month I invited a group of Chicago-area photographers to join me at the Barrington Hills Polo Club Kalaway Cup so that we could all try our hands at photographing a polo match. The day dawned with torrential rains, gale force winds and very chilly temps but by 11:00AM, it was sunny, clear and drying. All of us who had braved the early morning weather to snag a seat in the general admission area were glad we'd made the effort. There were so many opportunities to make images: from the polo ponies being groomed and tacked to the spectators and their fantastical hats. In addition to two fun polo matches, there was a half time "show" with the Fox River Valley Hunt dogs who swarmed photogenically all over the polo field. Fingers crossed that there are no conflicts with my work travel schedule, I will for sure be attending again in 2017.
Late this past September as I headed off on a two-week business trip I optimistically packed my Canon 5D Mark III and 24-105 f/4L lens, along with my tripod, extra batteries, memory cards and hard drives. This is the one picture I took while I was out of town. Traveling for business when you're a sales rep is not glamorous.
A pretty big piece of news for me in September was that I was hired as a staff writer for Digital Photography School, a site that is ranked as the 4th best photography blog by Feedspot. I'd applied in May, heard back from the editor in June, published my first article in August and was accepted as a paid writer in September. You can check my dPS profile to see everything I've written on the site and, if you ever feel like commenting on or sharing these articles, I'd be more than grateful.
For Columbus Day weekend I treated myself to a western Michigan roadtrip. Now I know that not everyone celebrates Columbus Day and I also know that Columbus was sort of an ass but it's always nice to have a 3-day weekend so we took full advantage. That weekend also coincides with my mom's birthday so my extended family piled into my Explorer early that Saturday morning with plans to stop along the way to a weekend rental house in Saugatuck, Michigan. We spent two nights in Saugatuck and then headed home again late on Monday.
Our schedule each day was very full because I'm a very detail-oriented travel-planner and frankly, I just can't help myself. These were some of the favorite places we visited:
- St. Joe Lighthouse. It's just a few dollars to park and then you can wander around on the dunes and beach area as well as walking out onto the pier for a few photo ops of Lake Michigan and this tiny lighthouse.
- The Mason Jar Cafe in Benton Harbor. Yum! Excellent farm-to-table menu with options for GF, vegan and vegetarian diners. This lunch was our favorite meal of the whole trip. I had corned beef hash and goat cheese and grits "cakes" that were divine.
- Karma Vista Winery in Coloma. I was determined that we were going to taste, buy and drink Michigan wines on this trip but after our first stop, I seriously doubted we'd be able to make ourselves drink much more of the sweet, syrupy wines we'd been served. Luckily our next stop was Karma Vista which was a hipper place altogether and the wines were tasty too. We bought a few bottles. If you like sweet wines, Contessa might be a good choice for you. We heard Fenn Valley was good too and we stopped in on our way to Crane's. Fenn Valley had ice wine and it was good so I bought a bottle. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay long because the place had a terrible septic-tank sort of smell to it.
- Virtue Cider in Fennville. Because when I think about western Michigan I think about apples and cherries and delicious fruit, I knew we had to stop in at a few orchards and cider houses. Virtue was fabulous and I'd go back - even though a bee stung me on the chin as we were leaving! We all bought a generous tasting flight of eight 2 oz pours of all of the ciders that Virtue brews. These ciders weren't too sweet which I really enjoyed but some of them had a very organic farm-y taste to them. Not everyone in my family liked those earthy flavors all that much. Still, it doesn't get much better on a beautiful autumn afternoon and if you can, spend an hour tasting ciders at a picnic table in this orchard's courtyard.
- Crane's Pie Pantry in Fennville. Stop here and buy pies. Don't think, just do it. My family bought apple and cherry and said they were wonderful. I bought a GF cherry crisp and it was wonderful too.
- Salt of the Earth in Fennville. I was given a number of restaurant recommendations for western Michigan and frankly, most of them were just OK. My reservation experience with Salt was a little prickly but the farm-to-table menu was excellent and the service was solid. I'm picky and I'd definitely go back here.
- The Chocolate Garden in Coloma. If you've driven east on 94 towards Detroit, you've seen the billboards for the Chocolate Garden. I'd been before but this time when we stopped, we did an official tasting. It's expensive but worth it. Every single one of us spent a fortune on chocolate truffles.
- Fruit Acres in Coloma. I always stop here on my way home from Michigan because it is conveniently right off the highway. They also have the best catnip in the world. If you have a catnip-loving cat, stop by and pick up a catnip pillow or two. Oh, and they have excellent produce for humans to eat too.
Next up for me in November was a trip back to Mesa, Arizona to photograph the Salt River wild horses for the second time this year. After that I was off to Cumberland Island, Georgia for my first experience photographing one of the East Coast herds of wild horses. Stay tuned for more details on both trips...
I hope that your September and October were as fruitful (hah, punny!) and busy as mine were. I'd love for you to share in the comments what you've been up to too.