“Travel Like a Local”

Elaine Kessler is a Gilbert resident, photographer, business owner and ambassador for the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce. Her business, Elaine Kessler Photography, opened in 2010, and she has pursued digital photography since 2004.

Elaine loves the small business community culture on which Gilbert has been built and believes that the climate of the town is perfect for business owners. You will be seeing Elaine featured here offering her perspective about Gilbert and the hot photography spots in and around town.

Gilbert is happy to have two residents interested in sharing their perspective on Gilbert

Michele Renahan is also a resident who has no eye for photography, but tries her best to snap a decent shot when she remembers her phone. Michele has two dogs she is obligated to walk at least once a day, though they’d prefer twice. With a full-time job at the Town of Gilbert, she does her best to get it all done. Michele will share some of her walking adventures with Ricky—her crazy terrier—and Lucy (aka LuLu)—the spoiled mini dachshund—from around Gilbert so hopefully you will be inspired to venture out a little bit.



Holiday Cheer is in the Air

Happy HolidaysThere are so many things going on in downtown Gilbert and throughout the area, it is hard to know where to start.

First, the Heritage District begins its holiday celebration, Thursday, November 17th. This will begin at 6:30 at the Water Tower Plaza with Cisco and the Racecars playing live music. Bring the family and a blanket, and enjoy our beautiful evening weather. After the concert, the “lighting of the water tower” will welcome the beginning of the holiday season.

Second, come out and see how the merchants throughout the Heritage District are decorating their windows. You can vote on your favorite, too. This is a very competitive group and they are all vying not only for your praise, but a trophy and bragging rights. Visit for more info.

Explore Like a Local & Find the Hidden Gems

I live in Gilbert and have for the past 22 years. I have my favorite places, like Flancer’s for lunch on Friday. Not sure what it is, exactly… the homemade bread for the sandwiches, the atmosphere when you walk in as Greg and his great staff greet you immediately, or the incredible specials, which never disappoint.

Ricky and LuLu Out for a Stroll

Ricky and LuLu Out for a Stroll

Usually after lunch, I have to justify eating so much so I typically take my dogs for a walk through Riparian Water Preserve in the evenings when it cools down. Lucy is a mini dachshund and the other, Ricky, is a mix of terrier and a ball of energy. Walking them through Riparian and down the canal never fails to exhaust them. There must be a million smells as their legs and noses never stop.

Carl's at Riparian Preserve

Check Out Carl’s Array of Pets

A great hidden gem in that area is “Carl’s Damaged Pet Warehouse.” The name is lovingly given, as Carl is an animal lover who has adopted unwanted pets. He has ducks, chickens and geese, donkeys, pigs, goats, sheep, and tortoises. He even puts pellet food out for anyone who wants to feed his castaway pets. They literally come running as soon as someone comes up to the gate to pay attention to them.

I’m a little embarrassed to say I know most of their names too: Knuckle-head the goose, Patrick the donkey, and Buttercup – Patrick’s mom, just to name a few.

Start planning your adventures. This heat can’t last forever!

It’s Hot Out? Not a Problem in Gilbert

Enjoy the Views at Agritopia

Enjoy the Views at Agritopia

So, I’ve lived in Gilbert for a while. 22 years to be exact. I’m not quite sure how a Florida girl whose high school was on the beach and spent every weekend at the beach ended up in the desert, but I’m here and I absolutely love Gilbert.

At times, I still miss the seaside breezes and dipping my feet in the ocean. But I certainly do not miss frizzy hair and trying to figure out how could I have just taken a shower and now am so sticky and sweaty that it sure doesn’t feel like it. With that in mind, I’ve spent some time discovering Gilbert and looking at ways to stay cool.

My first discovery was Agritopia. You’re saying, “Obviously, it is Joe’s Farmhouse Grill.” Definitely a great option, but there’s plenty more to see here. I do this area a little differently.

I have a terrier named Ricky. If you have any kind of terrier, you know they’re full of energy. So, I take him and his cousin LuLu, a mini-dachshund, to Cosmo Dog Park. LuLu is not so energetic and is easily intimidated by other dogs, so she stays close to me. Ricky gets to run around like crazy, find friends and play. LuLu and I hang out under a tree or ramada and have a nice time relaxing.

After Ricky has his fun, we can take a short stroll via the sidewalk over to Agritopia. The sidewalks are tree-lined and shady, and the homes are really fun to look at since they’re very different from the “typical homes in AZ.”

Enjoy Cosmo Dog Park

Enjoy Cosmo Dog Park

My final stop is The Coffee Shop for a refreshing iced coffee or tea drinks – a sweet treat doesn’t hurt to keep you going, either. The Coffee Shop has won awards for their cupcakes on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, but I tend to go for their homemade granola and fruit, or a waffle. They’re dog friendly, too, so Ricky and LuLu can relax and catch their breath and cool off on the shady patio. I love Agritopia and all of the great exploring you can do there. Plan a visit to Gilbert soon and check it out for yourself.

District Second Saturdays

Downtown Gilbert is brimming with amazing food and beverage these days. One group is trying to add a little arts to the flavor of Downtown Gilbert. District Second Saturdays is a self-guided, site specific, art tour through the Heritage District of downtown Gilbert taking place on the second Saturday of each month.

District Second Saturdays local artist

Handmade art at District Second Saturdays in Gilbert

Partnering heritage district merchants with artists is a recent grassroots endeavor that a couple of local businesses have undertaken. Elaine Kessler, of Elaine Kessler Photography, and Jenny Satcher, of Behind the Scenes Execs, are the current coordinators of District Second Saturdays. Together they find local artists and pair them with Gilbert venues to encourage people to experience the artistic talents of our community.

Various heritage merchants are participating or have participated, including Art Intersection, Bergie’s Coffee Roast House, Saint Xavier University, Flancer’s, Gilbert Road Self Storage, C&J’s Antiques and Garden, and the Gilbert Historical Museum.

Artists have included musicians April Anne, and Katelyn Snyder, poet LaKisha Jeans, painter Anessa Matthews, dancers of Ballet Folklorico – Quetzalli, Ministry band No Other Name and performance art students in Gilbert schools. Artists demonstrate their creativity by painting, dancing, singing, etc. on a specific merchant’s property.

A map is posted to the Facebook page so community members can visit the various artists across varied locations. In addition to the map, bright orange cones are placed at the venues featuring art/artists. The time frame is 4 – 6 p.m. until June when the time frame become 5 – 7 p.m.

To make the tour a little more interesting, the coordinators invite participants to take a selfie with the art/artists in the background and hashtag it #DSSGilbert on Facebook which enters them in a raffle to win a gift card to a downtown merchant.

Live music at District Second Saturdays

District Second Saturdays in Gilbert features live music

The intention isn’t to sell artist’s wares but to share in our community’s talent and expressions of creativity. While artists are invited to display some of their work that may potentially be for sale, the intent is to share a working artist’s process and or product. The hope is that more artists and more merchants and more community members will step forward to help celebrate Gilbert’s uniqueness through the arts.

Depending on the current month’s sponsorships, artists may receive stipends for showing their work. There is no fee for participating though artists are selected based on compatibility with the participating merchants.

Get To Know Gilbert Passport


In celebration of National Travel & Tourism Week 2016, the Town of Gilbert invites you to take this Passport on a fun-filled adventure around town the entire month of April. Whether you are a local or visiting Gilbert, we want you to get out, have some fun, and tell your friends about Gilbert’s relaxed but vibrant atmosphere.

Here is how to use this Passport around town:

  1. selfieDownload and print your passport at or pick up a copy at one of the hotels listed.
  2. During the month of April, take a selfie doing something fun in Gilbert. Show us how you have fun hiking, biking, eating out, playing golf by yourself or with your friends, shopping, or just relaxing at the spa.
  3. Post the selfie on any of your social media accounts using the hashtag #DiscoverGilbert.
    Visit one of our 5 local hotels and show them your posting and have them sign/stamp in the boxes on the right side of this card. They will reward you with a “Think Gilbert” bar glass filled with one of their available beverages.
  4. If you want additional glasses, visit the other hotels and show them your selfie.
    Stop by our Gilbert booth at the Gilbert Farmer’s Market on May 7th between 7-11A to meet the Discover Gilbert team. We will be having fun and you can pick up some more great swag and drop off your prize entry.

Glasses subject to availability. Beverage subject to hotel’s availability. No substitutions will be made and no rain checks will be given should glasses not be available during the entire promotion. Drawing to be held at 90 E. Civic Center Drive at approximately 12 Noon on Thursday, May 12, 2016.


Click here to download the contest entry form for the 2016 National Travel & Tourism Week.

Downtown Gilbert’s Heritage District

The Heritage District in Downtown Gilbert is a fan favorite for photography. People love the character and charm. On any given day, you might find a photographer in the Heritage Annex or stopped along the corridor on either the east or west side of Gilbert Road.

The various backgrounds with multiple colors, textures and vibes make for a one stop shop for head shots, couples, and families. Just along the west side of Gilbert Road from Liberty Market to the American Legion are stone facades, weathered wood, a green background and brick. On the east side of the road are columns, steps, benches, arches and wonderfully large light posts.

Most everyone is pretty familiar with the sights to behold around the iconic water tower and along Gilbert Road between Page and Cullumber. Many people use these areas to capture subjects. What about along the north end of the heritage district though? There are some fabulous new amenities along the trail that make for incredible backdrops.

Just south of the trail on the west side of Gilbert Road is a small patch of artificial turf with a curved wall. This spot is perfect to capture a picture with gorgeous bistro-strung lighting and the water tower. You could also use the artificial green as a “lush” backdrop when the rest of Arizona wrestles with being green.

Since the background is to the south, ideal times to shoot would be early in the day and late day to capture the soft low lighting in the sky. Use an online calendar or app to determine first and last light and aim to shoot within the hour of each of those for optimum lighting.
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Along the trail are interesting water features that offer playful and promising possibilities for posing. These features are made of stone, rusted metal and concrete so they have a rooted, quirky, industrial feel to them. The posing possibilities are endless. There is a little wall around one of the water features where subjects can sit, stand, jump from, etc. There is a water feature on both sides of Gilbert Road with running water that can be interesting to have a subject pose against. Try to shoot in even shade if you’re photographing at times not affording that beautiful first/last golden light.

The top of the parking structure is a great spot to capture the water tower and the San Tan Mountains. I suggest taking the elevator so subjects don’t get “glisteny” by the time you get to the top floor. If you take subjects to the top of the parking garage be aware of where the light is. You don’t want it too bright and harsh and you don’t want them looking directly into the light, causing them to squint.

Discover Gilbert Blogger Elaine Kessler

Discover Gilbert Blogger Elaine Kessler

I’m a big fan of finding unique little niches and enclaves for portraiture. The stairwell in the parking garage is perfect for capturing a family. When you shoot in the late day, you can shoot into the light and have the western light filter softly through against their backs.

Even in a place as busy as downtown Gilbert with photographers, you can always find your own take on the environment and the north part of the heritage district is a terrific place to start.

See more of Elaine’s photography at

The Riparian Preserve

The Riparian Preserve, located at Greenfield and Guadalupe, is a delight for both adventurers and photographer. With interesting trees and plants, desert landscaping, water features, meandering trails, wildlife, an observatory, a bridge and a park, there are plenty of aspects to photograph in and of themselves.

For a portrait photographer, these aspects create interesting and dynamic backgrounds for a variety of subjects. I often photograph people at the Riparian Preserve, as it is a fun little oasis in the middle of Gilbert that provides unique and attractive backgrounds.

Visit the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert

Visit the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert

The Riparian Preserve is a popular spot for photographers seeking to capture wildlife in addition to people. It’s a natural environment safe for any age, and entertaining for all. With multiple entry points to the Riparian Preserve, photographers can work simultaneously without worry of being in each other’s frames. Because of its variety of features, the Preserve offers photographers diversity in their portfolios and tremendous possibilities in their posing.

While there are plenty of paved pathways at the Riparian, be prepared to possibly go “off road” in your journey to find neat places to photograph. Wear covered shoes made for uneven terrain. You may even find some places that you might get wet.

One way to photograph people is to make the background a blur of colors. This is a look achievable with any consumer grade DSLR camera, although there are some neat accessories to mobile devices that might make this look possible as well.

Another way is to photograph so the background is more readily apparent. This look is easily accomplished with mobile phones and professional grade cameras. What you choose is completely up to you and your subject’s aesthetic. I personally like offering a mix of the two to my clients.

A basic tenet of portrait photography, for the novice and professional alike, is to try working during the golden hours: the first hour at sunup and the last hour before sundown. There are multiple websites and apps that can make determining this time frame quite simple.

When the light is low in the sky, fewer unflattering facial shadows are cast and the light is warm, pretty and soft – perfect for portraits. If photographing during the golden hours proves impossible, look for even blocks of shade to capture subjects within. This will prevent unseemly shadows and create a nice smooth look for portraits. Avoid mottled lighting – that mixed lighting that branches off a tree or a sparsely flowering plant might cast.

The Riparian Preserve has a wealth of shade, so if working during the golden hour proves tricky, finding even lighting shouldn’t be too problematic. I recommend scouting your locations beforehand at the time you intend to shoot so that you may work efficiently and successfully when you are photographing your subject. The Riparian Preserve is quite large so be prepared to discover many gems in this lovely Gilbert location.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

2757 E. Guadalupe Rd. | Gilbert, AZ 85234
Phone: 480-503-6200
Park open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Habitat Area open dawn to dusk