My beach essentials: Maria Ponce

A Chicago photographer unloads her colorful summer tote.

As a native of Chicago, commercial portrait and fashion photographer Maria Ponce knows every nook and cranny of the city. So it's with great conviction that she declares Montrose Beach her favorite sandy spot. "I'm drawn to its diversity," she says, "I love the mix of people and the smell of grilled corn and BBQ. It also has the best views and isn't as much of a scene as some of the beaches closer to downtown, so I can really relax there." Which is why, when she isn't shuttling between her Windy City studio and NYC for work, you'll find her enjoying simple pleasures — think bike-riding, kite-flying and cooling off with Mexican ice cream — at the shore. A few favorite things she brings with her:

mara hoffman king tut bag

"I'm obsessed with this bag. It zips up, keeps sand out and it has lots of interior pockets for smaller items like keys and cash. It's also super bright and fun and makes a bit of a statement."
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white converse

"I'm not a huge fan of flip-flops or sandals — they always hurt my feet. So I wear my five-year-old white Converse without the laces."
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dior lip glow

"Keeps my lips moist and kissable in the hot, hot heat!"
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"I set the Pandora station on my iPhone to Gotye. It's perfect relaxation music."

kiehl's vital sun protection lotion spf 30

"I'm extremely careful to keep my skin protected. At this age [31], its more important than ever."
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kindle, fully loaded

"I love my Kindle and I love to read. The no-glare screen is essential for the beach."
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alexander wang tank

"I like a very casual, comfy look for the beach and I'm not really a sundress kind of gal, so I'll cover up with my fave pair of baggy Levi's and an Alexander Wang tank. I like to be a bit more functional, especially so I can ride my bike."
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salt sunglasses

"I'm obsessed with my polarized lenses. I always tell my friends that I wish I could see the world through the deep, saturated lenses of my sunglasses."
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lots of water

"Staying hydrated in the sun is essential."