When camped out at a picturesque St. Louis spot—from an old barn to the iconic Arch—Brian K. Owens sees more than just the opportunity to take a pretty picture. The fine-art photographer and owner of STLPhotoArt grasps for stories in each of his photos, stories that he seeks to bring to his clients through commercial shoots and instill in his students during photography classes. The shutterbug guides beginning shooters through Forest Park and the St. Louis Zoo, dispensing photography know-how along the way. Owens also lends his talented eye to elegantly capture moments at weddings, engagements, and knight-christening ceremonies.
Xtreme Xperience was founded by a pair of car aficionados who understand the thrill of commanding a $253,000 piece of four-wheeled poetry in motion, like the Lamborghini LP560. They know that exaggerating the pronunciation of Porsche is only half as fun as horsewhipping its 530 horsepower from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 3.3 seconds. They realize that the Ferrari F430's supercharged Launch Control console button is too irresistible not to push coming out of every red light and into every dark, quiet, and hopefully vacant train tunnel. The smooth, spaceship-esque aluminum body shell of the Audi R8 makes them appreciate how discreet something like 782 rivets, 382 self-tapping screws, and more than 300 feet of welding can be. The people at Xtreme Xperience love supercars, and they love matchmaking them to other car enthusiasts who live to cruise across the great, oil-stained arteries of the American interstate-highway system.
Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure places novice passengers alongside professional drivers for ride-along experiences on Talladega Superspeedway. At 2.66 miles around, Talladega Superspeedway is the largest oval racetrack in the Sprint Cup Series and is well-known throughout motorsports. Passengers circumnavigate the speedy circle at speeds of up to 175 mph aboard real racecars once owned by such drivers as Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip, and Bobby Labonte. Before embarking, riders receive safety training and suit up in a full fire suit complete with a helmet with facemask and Hans Device, the same head restraint used by professional heavy-metal guitarists. Talladega Superspeedway is located next to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, which is open daily to visitors.
Jennifer O'Faoláin-Bartley has been dancing as long as she can remember. “I was itty bitty when I started,” she says. “Just four.” The young Jennifer began learning the fast-stepping footwork of her heritage at the urging of her Irish grandparents, and once she started, much like an obsession with capybaras, she never stopped. Today, certified by the An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, Jennifer helms The O'Faolain Academy of Irish Dance, where she shares her love of jigs and reels with students whose ambitions range from just having fun to joining the ranks of competitive foot flickers. The academy welcomes pupils old enough to buy lotto tickets or young enough to eat them, teaching feet of all ages how to move rhythmically while also building self-discipline and self-esteem.
The Needlepoint Clubhouse supplies inspiration, a wide selection of materials, and needlepoint classes that gather small groups of students for hands-on learning. The store?s rainbow of thread skeins shimmers with metallics and gleams with silk, canvas unfolds in an array of thread counts, and magnifying lamps spare eyes or uncover hidden hovercrafts woven into ancient tapestries. Sectioned tote bags ferry projects about with ease, and frames and expert frame-finishing services ready masterpieces for display. Savvy stitchers, including a master teacher, helm classes, the subjects of which range from needlepoint basics for beginners to advanced decorative stitches for those with thimbles welded to each finger.
Capturing True Emotion is driven by a dynamic band of instructors who rove across the continent with cameras and teaching skills in hand. By fusing their narrative, tech-savvy minds together into one oversize head, the educators provide comprehensive guidance on both camera operation and creative visualization, giving participants complete control over all of their camera settings. During the hours spent in the company of other pupating shutterbugs, students convene at a tantalizing location to practice skills such as controlling depth of field by adjusting the aperture, composing a family portrait so there's not always a burning zeppelin in the background, using alternative angles to avoid red eye, and other techniques.