Combining Passions


One of the tough things about living abroad for a west-coast American like myself is the lack of good microbrew beers. Sure, every nation has its local favorites and regional styles but sometimes I just jones for a good Pale Ale or a rich ESB and they are few and far between outside of North America... let me tell you!

I've also been looking for photographic inspiration recently and I think I might have found my new calling. Microbreweries are popping up around Estonia and the beers they're producing are fabulous!

It was a very small leap to come up my next step of blending my two passions to bring you the first in a series of reviews of the growing number of Estonian craft beers. Enjoy!

American IPA

Alcohol Content: 7%

This cloudy, copper-colored IPA opens with a pleasing fruity aroma punctuated by hops. The head is brief and light brown in color and the first sip is a delight. The flavor of this medium bodied, very carbonated IPA is bright and inviting and not at all heavy or brooding like many IPAs. This is an IPA that begs to be consumed on a summer day but don’t start too early because that 7% ABV sneaks up to bite you.

Michael’s Scores- Appearance: 8. Aroma: 10. Flavor: 28. After Taste: 19. Drinkability: 30

Total: 95/100



Tonight I had the pleasure of presenting an exhibition of my photography as part of a larger showing of works on loan from the U.S. State Department Art in Embassies Program and the wonderful oil painting of American Artist, Janie Keeler at the U.S. Ambassador's home. The invited guests were prominent members of the local art community.

The Ambassador asked me to create an exhibition that would fit into the venue and I came up with the idea of pairing similar shots from Estonia and America. I focused mainly on Tallinn and nearby locations and compared and contrasted them to shots from my native home in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. It was a real journey down memory lane as I searched my archives for appropriate pairings and in the end, I was pretty happy with my choices and was honored to be invited to show in this exhibition.

The gathering held a few surprises for me personally. A number of the guests, artists and art patrons, brought me gifts composed of prints and books of their own work. I met some fabulous artists, all of whom were engaging conversation despite language barriers and finally, was interviewed by a Russian language television crew about my project, my photography and my perceptions of life in Estonia versus life in the U.S.

Overall, the local art community was very supportive. There was a nice turn out and the event was a real success. Best of all, it was fun. Wine, hors d'oeuvres and art are always a good combination. Add in the pleasure of Dr. Indrek Laul playing an impromptu piano lead-in to the Ambassador's remarks and the lively chats with local artists and it turned out to be a great evening.

Thank you to everyone who attended and also to those reading this right now. The biggest compliment to any artist is to have someone appreciate what he (or she) does.

Jitter Day

It never fails. No matter how prepared I think I am for a model shoot, when the day arrives, I'm terrified. The closer the shoot gets, the more ideas I have, with no time to pull together all of the new aspects. It's like my creativity blossoms under pressure. Sounds good. Feels bad. I second guess myself, often to the point of questioning everything I know. I can't sleep the night before, I doubt my equipment, my experience and my ability. I do this every time I have a big shoot and yet they usually go off quite well.

Actually, in the end, they usually go not just well but amazingly well. I hit the zone while shooting and it's like that movie where the guy sees floating numbers and equations except for me they are emotions and concepts.

I return home spent but elated like I had just run a marathon. A quick look through the images only reinforces that my fears were unfounded. Time to relax.

I go through this cycle every time. I liken it to actors who are terrified of going on stage and then shine. All the nervous energy is the mind and body preparing, like compressing a spring. When the moment arrives, the action is automatic and real with no thought. It just happens. I understand this and wish it was more controllable but maybe if it was, it wouldn't work so well.

On that note, I have a model here doing her makeup in my bathroom. We've been discussing and planning this shoot for two months and now the moment is at hand. She flew here from Stockholm this morning; the costume is done; I checked all my gear last night; we have a rented castle; the lighting equipment is mostly on-site being set up; I'm terrified. Check, check, check, cheek, check, check.

*deep beath*

Let's do this!
Catch ya later.