Lake County Il Family Photographer » Susan Ryan Kalina is a Lake County Il Family Photographer Specializing in Candid Moments and Events

Views Out My Window

Every day this week, I have ridden in a car for 3-6 hours going to meet the clients of Friendship Bridge in the rural regions of Guatemala.

The country side and small towns we drove through were so beautiful, I couldn’t resist capturing a few images as we continued our journey across the countryside.Guatemala

Lunch Time

And of course, I have to include a photo of this lovely lady who made me the most delicious vegetable and rice soup. Have I mentioned that being a pescatarian is a bit tricky in Guatemala? Meat and chicken are definitely the cornerstones of most meals. And when looking for a fast place to eat on the road, everywhere seems to be a “Pollo Rapido” (fast food chicken)

Guatemala Lunch TimeGuatemala Lunch Time

I have been keeping a photo journal while traveling in Guatemala, taking Spanish classes in Antigua, and photographing clients of the amazing non-profit, Friendship Bridge.

To see previous “Susan’s Photo Journal” posts, click here, here, here and here.

Stay tuned for the next installment where I will introduce you to some of the amazing, inspiring women who have received micro loans, business and health education from Friendship Bridge.

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Pacaya Volcano

William, a member of our host family we are staying with in Antigua, offered to bring Ira, myself and another Tecun Uman Spanish student to Pacaya Volcano for a little hiking.

The Pacaya Volcano first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago. The peak is 8373 feet. It took us about an hour to make the hike. While I think of myself in pretty good shape, I have to admit I was huffing and puffing. The steep climb and altitude definitely caused me to need a handful of breaks on the ascent. Thankfully, we were protected from the hot sun for much of the hike by the lush trees.

Our guide, who had to be in his 60s, did not seem in the least bit winded by the hike. So, yeah, pretty impressive.Pacaya Volcano

We Made It

We were all pretty pleased with ourselves when we made it to the top. While you hike up very close to the top of the volcano, you can’t actually hike to THE top of the Pacaya Volcano because it is, after all, an active volcano.

After we arrived at the top, we hiked down a little ways to a rock field where our guide handed us sticks and marshmallows to roast over a hot vent in the rocks.

Pacaya Volcano

Antigua Market

We were all pretty exhausted from the hike, but it didn’t stop us from making a trip to the Antigua Market on our way home. Our host William wanted to make a big BBQ for us and several friends, so we needed to make a stop for copious amounts of fresh vegetables, meat and fish.

Antigua MarketThe colorful Antigua Market is unlike any place I have ever been. Imagine stall after stall after stall of vendors selling clothes, artisan goods, shoes, music, movies, toothbrushes, fruits, vegetables, meat, and literally everything else you can think of. Once you duck into the “interior” area of the market, you enter into what feels like a rabbit warren of vendor stalls. Thank goodness William was with us or I certainly would have been lost wandering around aimlessly for hours looking for an exit.Antigua Market

Dinner Time

William spoiled us by making the most amazing dinner of chicken, beef, fish, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables and fresh salad. Sabrina and Erin, a couple of travelers staying with William for a two nights, invited their backpacker friends over for the feast as well.

These millennials  were ravenous and seemed excited to be eating an incredible home cooked meal.

I had at least 15-20 years on all the travelers at the table. But it was still fun to hear their stories of traversing Central America for months at a time, hopping from hostel to hostel per friends’ recommendations. Maybe now I won’t be so scared if any of my girls decide to do this one day!

Antigua Backpacker Feast

I am a candid, family and event photographer from Chicago, Illinois. Want to see some of my family photojournalism sessions? Click here, here and here.

Interested in checking out my event photography? Click here, here and here.

Want to see other posts in my photo journal of Guatemala? Click here, here and here.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Susan’s Photo Journal.

Next stop, Panajachel, Guatemala!

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Antigua Street Photography

Every morning I have to hoof it to make it to Spanish class on time. Ira and I start classes at 8 am, a fifteen minute walk from our homestay in Antigua, Guatemala. But our host, William, always makes us an amazing, sit down breakfast that is too good to rush through. I love the sights and sounds of our walk to school and I am determined to photograph it. However, we have two problems – we are always running late, and the cobblestone streets are so uneven I have to stare down the entire time so I don’t turn my ankle. Hence, my version of street photography. I walk quickly through the streets with my camera against my chest facing outward. I pre-set the exposure using a high aperture so I can have a huge depth of field. And I set a high shutter speed so things will be in focus even though I am shooting while moving quickly. Hence, my version of Antigua Street Photography.
Antigua Street PhotographyI couldn’t believe how well so many of the photos turned out! Granted, I am still trying to compose and look for moments while I am walking. I am just not looking through my camera while I am shooting. So, it’s a bit of intentional shooting, and a bit of luck.

Antigua McDonalds

I also couldn’t resist taking a cruise by the Antigua McDonalds. Everyone kept telling me how beautiful it is, so I had to check it out. Below is a photo of McDonald’s patio where you can enjoy the gardens and fountain while you eat al fresco. Yep, McDonalds don’t look like this where I am from!

Street Photography Antigua

I am a candid, family and event photographer from Chicago, Illinois. Want to see some of my family photojournalism sessions? Click here, here and here.

Interested in checking out my event photography? Click here, here and here.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Susan’s Photo Journal.

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Antigua – Day Two

I am really enjoying day two in Antigua, Guatemala.

We started our day like every day we will this week, with four hours of one-on-one Spanish language lessons at our school, Tecun Oman.

Ira is working hard at conjugating verbs and pronunciation with Edgar. I am spending my time hammering through the different reasons you use estar and ser (plus lots and lots of vocab) with Catalina.

Antigua, GuatemalaHeading to our “Home” in Antigua

Every day at noon when Spanish lessons end, we walk 15 minutes to our homestay, the home of Doña Maria Lopez.

First, we head to our room to relax for 45 minutes (pushing your brain that hard for four hours of language study is hard!). Ok, I relax for 45 minutes and Ira checks work email.

Antigua, Guatemala

Then, we have an amazing home-cooked meal made by the family cook, Jaunita. As part of our homestay, we receive three meals a day. I can honestly say I have never eaten this well on vacation in my life. Homemade tortillas, soup made from scratch with fresh, organic ingredients, incredible, fresh papaya and pineapple. I wish Jaunita lived in Deerfield and could cook for my family every day too. But then, my children would never move out, so maybe it’s good they are stuck with my culinary skills.

Antigua, Guatemala

Cerro de la Cruz

After our lovely mid-day meal, we head back to our school, Tecun Oman, to go on another free guided tour the school arranges each day.

Today we walked 300 steps up a hill to Cerro de la Cruz, a gorgeous overlook of Antigua with a huge cross.

Sadly, I didn’t shoot too many photos today. The walk was incredible, but I had to keep putting my camera away because it kept raining on and off. Antigua, GuatemalaAntigua, Guatemala

Heading “Home” Again

And then we were off down the hill and through the town to go do our Spanish homework and wait in anticipation for our next amazing meal.Antigua, Guatemala

I am a candid, family and event photographer from Chicago, Illinois. Want to see some of my family photojournalism sessions? Click here, here and here.

Interested in checking out my event photography? Click here, here and here.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Susan’s Photo Journal.

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Guatemala Here We Come

Planning a trip to a foreign country using the internet is always a leap of faith. Can I trust the websites? Are the reviews accurate?
After scouring Guatemala365.com, the student review site of Guatemalan Spanish language schools, I booked Ira and I a week at the Spanish immersion school Tecun Uman. We decided to stay with a host family, believing it would give us the most authentic Guatemalan experience and force us to speak more Spanish.

We arrive in Guatemala City

I wasn’t convinced someone would actually be at the airport to get us last night, but lo and behold, the son of the owner of the spanish school, Fernando, was waiting with a sign with our names on it when we came out of the airport.
Fernando was so friendly and easy to talk to. I peppered him with questions about Guatemala while we made the 35 kilometer drive to Antigua.

Antigua, Guatemala

The house we are staying in is lovely. You walk in the front door into what feels like an “inside/outside” home. The kitchen, living space, stairs and bedroom are all around an open courtyard in the middle.
Antigua, Guatemala

Tecun Olam – Spanish School

Ira and I spent nearly four hours with our individual teachers this morning working on conversational Spanish and conjugating verbs. My brain is a bit fried with this new information! The funniest mistake of the day was when I accidentally said “tengo hombre” (I have man) instead of “tengo hambre” (I’m hungry). My teacher Cathy had a good laugh at that mixup.
Antigua, Guatemala

Ira and I at Tecun Olam Spanish school.

Walking Tour of Antigua, Guatemala

Tecun Olam organizes free outings for their students every afternoon. Even though Ira and I didn’t get much sleep last night, we still wanted to go on the guided walking tour of Antigua. Our guide, Christina, humored us with Spanish and English descriptions of the interesting sites.

I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful town. And the people are fascinating. But not being a seasoned street photographer, I felt pretty goofy taking photos of random strangers around Antigua. By the end of our walk, I finally forced myself to start approaching people to say, “Puedo tomar una foto?” (May I take a photo?) Everyone I approached was very gracious. I will try to be less of a fraidy cat tomorrow.

Antigua, GuatemalaAntigua, Guatemala

I am a candid, family and event photographer from Chicago, Illinois. Want to see some of my family sessions? Click here, here and here.

Interested in checking out my event photography? Click here, here and here.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Susan’s Photo Journal.

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