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Ashton Kutcher makes taking great pictures look so easy with the handy little Nikon cameras, doesn't he?

So if you like taking pictures like Ashton + use the same camera as Ashton = you will have cool photos like Ashton...right?

The commercial sells us on the idea that all we need is a good camera to magically have spectacular photos of fabulous Hollywood parties and Aunt Sue's venture into the polar bear club on New Year's Day.

But they are wrong. A good camera can help (love me some Nikon), but it's the person behind the camera that is the difference between a "wow" photograph and a "meh" one.

YOU are behind your camera, so it all it takes is for YOU to learn how to use the tool in your hands.

Students shoot the graffiti
Students shoot the graffiti behind the silos in Downtown Washington.

My A to Z Photography Workshop is a hands on class that will begin with A, teaching all the basics of photography, all the way through to Z, saving and sharing your work.

"I knew enough to just get by, but now it was like opening a whole new world." - Kyle Quick, New Haven, Quick News Now

A to Z Workshop April 2014, Washington, Missouri, near St. Louis
A to Z Workshop April 2014, Washington, Missouri, near St. Louis

Highlights of the class:

  • aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO
  • depth-of-field
  • composition (i.e. family snapshots, kids sports, landscapes)
  • camera settings
  • post processing
  • saving, storing, and sharing
  • 2 photowalks
  • constructive critiques
  • lunch


 BONUS - Light and the Night workshop, Saturday, April 5th, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

vintage camera tote bag prize
Vintage camera style tote bag - just like mine!

Prizes include:

  • one copy of Photoshop Elements
  • one gorgeous camera tote bag
  • swag bags of lovely loot (details will be announced closer to the date, but I promise it will be good!)

"You are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, patient, and so easy to follow. You shared so many important tips/techniques that I hope I can remember all of them!!"

"You made all of us feel as if the photos we created were the absolute best you had ever seen. You gave us positive feedback as well as things to look for and try to do differently the next time - the best type of constructive criticism." - Rekke Berges, Washington

Light and the Night Workshop students
Light and the Night Workshop students, June 2013

What to bring:

  • camera
  • manual
  • notebook
  • pen

Note: Don't forget to fully charge your battery and empty your memory card.

"If you want to learn about the basics of photography, it's a great class to take and well worth the time!" - Susan Wilson, Washington

Saturday, April 5, 2014
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Downtown Washington Post Office
Washington, Missouri
Complete 8 hour class + BONUS Light and the Night

sign up now

Early registration discount and double deal available if you hurry!

Questions? Call me at 636.584.3864 or email me at

P.S. Do you receive my email newsletter? Sign up here:

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It was an ambitious itinerary for a mere two days, but I did it. I arrived at each location that I had planned and even stayed pretty close to my anticipated time frame.

Since I did do so very much in those two days, I am going to just tell you about one of the days, Chicago, and leave Notre Dame to another post.

So here is my little adventure...

Friday evening my husband and I drove into town, traveling on I-80/I-90, a toll road that looked and felt like the toll money must be lining someone's pockets instead of filling the potholes. We made it, though, coming in right when everyone else was leaving.

And, the sun was setting. Oh...the light...the sun. I was wishing we had arrived just an hour earlier so I could photograph a bit of the city in the golden sunlight, as I knew what the forecast was for the next day. But, the time was what it was. I had to content myself with glances around as we made our way to the hotel.

We stayed at Chicago's Essex Inn, directly on South Michigan Avenue. I had hoped for a room at a decent height, with a decent view, but didn't hope too high since I had reserved the room through Groupon. So, I was delighted when were given a room on the top floor, the 15th.

We didn't stay in the room too long, just enough time to drop our bags, peek out the window to check our view (we could see Lake Michigan!), and read through the list of nearby eating establishments.

View from our room on the 15th floor.
50mm 1.4 lens, ISO-1250, f/2, 1/80

Our plan when we left the hotel was to pick up our transit cards and some water from the nearby Walgreens and then get some supper. Three hours and 5 miles later...we finally accomplished our goal.

During our walk, we noticed that there was a Starbucks every other block on South Michigan. Literally. And in between the Starbucks, there were other little coffee shops as well, including Dunkin' Donuts and artist cafes. Lots of opportunities to always keep a hot drink in hand!

We finally decided to eat under the Bean, at Park Grill, while watching the ice skaters out front. Of course, I wouldn't leave the area without a few shots of the infamous mirror.

"Winter Night at the Bean"
18mm, ISO-200, f/16, 13 seconds

I didn't have my tripod with me, so I used my Jo Totes camera bag to prop my camera up at the right angle while holding it steady. Good thing about Chicago in the winter - not too many tourists. Bad thing about Chicago in the winter - it's cold!


Saturday morning I set my alarm early so I can see the sunrise. Hey, when your hotel directly faces a large lake in the east, it's just a given!

Thankfully, the rooftop (well, 4th floor on that side of the building) garden was open just a few minutes before the sun was to rise. The sun was a beautiful red, but the clouds were fairly heavy and choked out any light trying to reach the area. After watching the color fade, hoping there would be a cloud break and sunlight would stream through, I went back to the room to wake up Mike.

When we headed outside, it was starting to sprinkle a bit.

Outside Yolk, the restaurant we chose for breakfast, Mike was heralded as a gallant knight and I as his beautiful princess. It was nice to start the day off with a laugh. We filled up on plenty of protein and potatoes for a day of walking and navigating the public transit system.

Then, we set off for the day. It was spitting rain. Sigh. Well, the plan must go on, so I got my plastic camera rain cover out, and we continued on.

First, we walked past the Field Museum and to Soldier's Field. After circling the stadium, we caught a bus to the Roosevelt transit hub and hopped the green line to Cominsky Park (aka US Cellular Field) where the White Sox play.

Waiting for the green line to arrive.
Processed with Instagram filter "Earlybird."

 At Cominsky Park, we began to circle around the stadium and were stopped by a pair a gate attendants. They asked if we were there for some conference. When I told them I was just there to take photos, they suggested I head over to gate 4 and ask to go onto the field.

We were both a little skeptical, but we followed instructions...and ended up on the field. Really nice guys in the front office. I do believe they will receive a little thank you print in the mail in a few weeks. Shhh...don't tell them about the surprise!

After Cominsky, we hopped the train and then a bus to the United Center. The area was pretty empty this morning as we viewed the statue of Michael Jordan. As I contemplated my compositions, Mike overheard a guy mention that Jordan was not one of the top 10 basketball players of all time.

Yikes! What was this guy thinking! Mike immediately chimed in that Jordan was more like the number 1 player of all time. As the conversation proceeded, we learned that the folks buy ativan were from the St. Louis area as well, and we were then invited to go inside the United Center, and possibly onto the court.

We were floored!

However, Pink was setting up for her concert that evening, and no one was allowed to take photos in the arena. Any other day, and we would have been escorted on a little private tour by our new friend's daughter who works there.

Lots to do yet, so we said thank you and went around the corner to catch the blue line. After swiping our cards, we started walking down a long tunnel. It didn't seem too long...until the train we wanted to catch pulled up.

Then we started running...and kept running...when would this tunnel end??? I am pretty sure the driver saw us, as that was the longest I had seen a train sit with its doors open. As soon as we stepped inside, the doors slid shut, and we were on our way to Wrigley Field.

Wrigley was the same routine I had established by now - circle the stadium white taking photos and looking for people to talk to, maybe getting inside. No luck on getting inside, but we were hungry for lunch and decided to find some pizza in Wrigleyville.

Near the pizza place, there was a group of people in an empty parking lot. As we drew closer, they formed a ring around two men in the center...and the men began to fistfight! Two other people were filming this...and another person was walking toward us with a shallow box in his hands. The box looked like it had the word "tips" written on the front.

We quickly crossed the street.

Stopped in at Yak-Zies for their parsley infused pizza. Pretty good stuff. Ordered too much, and the soda sure hit the spot.

Next stop was the Navy Pier.

Chicago skyline from the Navy Pier.
18mm, ISO-400, f/16, 1/1000

We were cold. After trekking to the end of the pier, we found the Starbucks inside and grabbed some coffee and hot chocolate. If I could shoot photos and hold a coffee in my hand at the same time, I would have had at least 6 cups that day.

The sun was still a no show, so I was considering going back to the hotel for a couple hours and skipping a bit on my itinerary. But while I was getting some shots of the ferris wheel, the sun came out! So the plan was back on. 

We hopped a bus back to Cloud Gate (aka the Bean).

Had to do a standard "tourist shot" with my phone.
Processed with the Instagram "Rise" filter.

From the Bean, it was time to walk again...all the way up South Michigan on the Magnificent Mile until we got to the last stop of the day. 

An alley off South Michigan Avenue.
18mm, ISO-400, f/8, 1/100

The end of the walk was the John Hancock Observatory. We arrived a full 30 minutes earlier than I had budgeted in my plan. Not too bad! Usually I am behind in my time estimates.

View from the observatory.
Processed with the Instagram "Inkwell" filter.

At the observatory, We had a seat and chilled. I kept my eye on the sky, hoping the clouds would break for the sunset, but it didn't happen. So instead, I set up for shots during the blue hour.

According to the rules posted on the observatory website, no tripods are allowed due to the safety of visitors. However, I guess I was the only one who read the rules. Oh, well.

I set up my camera on the ventilation grate at the bottom of the windows and folded my camera strap underneath my camera body to create a downward angle. {Wish I would have snapped a pull back shot with my phone!}

I then proceeded to capture some long exposure shots and eventually made my way around all four sides.

One of the shots from the observatory, looking north.
18mm, ISO-200, f/16, 47 seconds

We were at the top for about 2 hours by the time I felt I got enough shots. We were tired. After exiting the tower, we crossed the street to catch bus 3 straight back to the hotel.

We ended up getting freaky fast Jimmy John's delivered to our room so we wouldn't need to go anywhere else that night.


So how many clicks were there in the whole weekend? I took 820 with my camera and 17 with my phone, for a total of 837 shots.

The closest guess was tgrammer with a guess of 843. Way to go! Email me at with your address to claim your prize - choose any of my prints, including the new Chicago ones above or even a new "For the Love of the Game" print that will be released shortly. Size will be an 11x14.

Thank you for reading about my adventure! Note that all the above images are available as a gorgeous matte print, an amazing metal wall hanging, or even an awesome canvas. Contact me to order one for your wall today.

And if you want to learn how to create photos like these, I will be teaching more workshops in the near future. Sign up here for my newsletter so you will be the first to know when I get the fun scheduled!

Tyann Marcink
documenting life


Road Trip!

I have written down all of your requests for my "For the Love of the Game" series, and next month I will be begin checking them off while you get a chance to win one of my new prints!

My first stop will be the home of the Fighting Illini at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. I plan to check out Memorial Stadium and the Red Grange statue for sure.

Unfortunately, there won't be time to stop at the University of Illinois. However, I did find out there is now a tour inside the Notre Dame Stadium!

Stop two one will be the home of the 
Fighting Irish at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Here, I plan to have an extensive tour of the campus, increasing my shutter count immensely.

I am sure it will be nearing the end of a long day by this time, but we'll end our day in Chicago. I'll spend the next two days traipsing around the city, clicking my camera at all the spectacular architecture that Chicago has to offer.

I plan to use the public transportation to get me to Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, United Center, and Soldier Field so that I can add the Chicago teams to my "For the Love of the Game" series.

Do you know of a location or two during my trip that I shouldn't miss? Let me know in one of four ways:

  • Leave me a comment below
  • Email me at
  • Tweet it to me @marcinkdesigns
  • Send me a quick text to 636.584.3864

I want to know what you want. :)

Ok, so on to the giveaway!

The person with the closest answer will win their choice of an 11x14 "For the Love of the Game" print - you can choose a current piece or even one of the brand new pieces in the series. Here are the details:

1. Leave a comment with your guess as to how many clicks of the camera I will take during my 3 day trip (only one guess per person, please).

That's it! After my trip in early March, I will let you know my shutter count and announce the winner.

Don't forget to share this exciting news and contest with your friends! Seriously - please share.

Stay up-to-the-minute about my exploits and adventures here:

In other news, that is super exciting as well...

April - Las Vegas (hello, people watching)
May - Arizona (speaking engagement at the HomeAway Summit for vacation rental homeowners national convention - woo hoo!)

Hope you have a wonderful day, and don't forget these words of inspiration:

"You don't take a photograph, you make it." - Ansel Adams

Tyann Marcink
documenting life