Sunset Over the Windy City (Chicago, Illinois)

I don’t know why but I don’t shoot as much in Chicago as I do when I go on vacation or am traveling for work. It seems like I take this beautiful city for granted most of the time – I find excuses like the clouds aren’t perfect, it might rain, it’s going to be warmer tomorrow, etc…I just think it is one of those things that we all do when we procrastinate and put off things for tomorrow that we would otherwise do today.

Thankfully, I got off my lazy ass on Saturday and took a trip down to Lake Shore Park – near the Magnificent Mile – to take some shots of the Hancock Tower before walking over to the lake front for sunset. The clouds in the sky during the day were moving pretty fast so I grabbed my 10-stop ND filter before heading out of the house because I wanted to do some long exposure photography to smooth out the waves in the lake and catch the motion of the clouds behind the city. Unfortunately, by the time that sunrise came the clouds had largely cleared off and were to the west but there were still a few stragglers that I was able to pick up the motion in and the sunset wound up being pretty nice so the colors in the sky turned out well.

Sunset Over the Windy City (Chicago, Illinois)

Sunset over Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

Want to see what the photo looked like straight out of camera? Check out the link below – the camera is important of course but the post processing is important as well and I think I did a good job with the colors here. Unfortunately, the ‘standard’ wordpress site doesn’t support before and after viewers so you’ll have to click the link below to see it.

Link to the Before and After Photo

The ‘before’ photo is straight out of camera – before ever touching it in Lightroom (which is an amazing program although the most recent download is really mucking up my computer for some reason – the lag man the lag for Christ sakes…I spent almost my whole weekend troubleshooting it trying to get it back to ‘normal’ but to no avail) and bringing it into OnOne Perfect Effects for the finishing touches.

Ultimately, I think the colors turned out amazing and if my sensor wasn’t so damn dirty I would print this out and hang it on my wall.

Dock to Nowhere (Caye Caulker, Belize)

As we head into the (US) holiday weekend I hope that everyone can take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the freedoms that those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country have granted us. As I look around at the oppression brought against people in other areas of the world I cannot feel more blessed that I have the freedoms that I do. So as you sit back and “find your beach” somewhere this weekend – just make sure you remember why you have the ability to do the things you do and thank a soldier.

Dock to Nowhere (Caye Caulker, Belize)

Dock to Nowhere (Caye Caulker, Belize)

The Louvre Pyramid (Paris, France)

A large glass and metal pyramid, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, lies in the main courtyard of the most famous museum in the world, the Louvre in Paris, France. The large pyramid was built in the late 1980s and serves as the main entrance (you know that by the thongs of tourists standing in line outside of it).

The Louvre Pyramid (Paris, France)

The Louvre Pyramid (Paris, France)

The pyramid created a myriad of controversy when it was designed and unveiled. The futuristic design clearly looks out of place with the historical Louvre Museum around it. However, the old entrance couldn’t handle the uptick in traffic so something had to be done to handle the daily volume of visitors.

I took this picture a few different times in attempt to line up the symmetry perfectly and capture the reflection of the pyramid in the fountain pointing straight back at me. It was a challenge to get it just right since I was hoping to not have to crop anything out of the frame in post processing. Ultimately, I succeeded in getting everything perfectly center and just had to lighten it up a bit in post processing.

Mount Chephren over Waterfowl Lakes (Banff National Park)

Rising 10,000 feet into the clear blue sky – Mount Chephren (originally named Pyramid Mountain) – rises over the Waterfowl Lakes just off of the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. This viewpoint is literally sitting at the parking lot – all you have to do is pop out of your car and step to the shore of the lake and there you are. I think this is the reason that Banff is one of the most loved national parks in the entire world because it is so accessible – whether you are desiring to hike or are just interested in visiting via automobile.

Mount Chephren over Waterfowl Lakes (Banff National Park)

Mount Chephren over Waterfowl Lakes (Banff National Park)

I crouched low to catch the reflection of the mountain in the foreground and desired to make it as imposing in the image as it looked during the drive from Banff to Mistaya Canyon. The lake wasn’t on my radar as a stopping point but it certainly caught my eye and forced me to pull over and take the shot.

Long’s Peak Under a Lenticular Cloud (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Long’s Peak is a prominent mountain peak in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Topping out at 14,269 feet it is one of 30+ 14k peaks in Colorado (I think that is the most of any state in the US…probably has something to do with the fact that they ‘cheat’ in Denver by starting over a mile above sea-level to begin with.

I had spent the morning at Dream Lake taking sunrise pictures and was hiking back to the trailhead when noticed a huge lenticular cloud forming just above the peak. Lenticular clouds are sorta lens shaped clouds that look to me like UFOs. I’ve got several pictures where you can see the full formation over the broad peaks of the mountain. However, I liked the look of this tight shot where the peak seems to be emitting some sort of flame like dragon creature. With Game of Thrones on tonight maybe I’m just seeing Drogon everywhere though?

Long’s Peak Under a Lenticular Cloud (Rocky Mountain National Park)

Long's Peak under a Lenticular Cloud (Rocky Mountain National Park)

The Grand Hall in the Paris Opera House (Paris, France)

The Grand Hall/Grand Foyer in the Paris Opera House (Palais Garnier) is a magnificently ornate hallway located on the third floor. To me it rivaled the more famous, Hall of Mirrors, located in the Palace of Versailles just from the standpoint of jaw dropping-ness (technical term). In order to capture this particular shot I had to stand in this one place for awhile. This is actually a composite of around 20 pictures taken a few seconds/minutes apart from one another in an effort to clear the people out the best I could.

You see we toured the Opera House around 2 in the afternoon and there were a lot of people with a similar idea that afternoon so the place was pretty packed. I’ve learned that in places like that patience pays off (in the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors I was unable to use this technique because even with thirty/forty frames there were still no clear spots).

The trick is you have to focus on various quadrants of the photo while taking it – so for example focusing on the window on the left hand side and as soon as you get a clear shot of that window you hit the shutter. Then maybe you focus on the right entryway to the seats and then click another shot. After that you move a little farther out in the frame and try to focus on those portions/doorways being clear….knowing the whole time that ultimately you are going to take all the frames into photoshop and stack them ontop of one another before painting the individual people out using the layer above or below in order to get what was behind the people standing in front of that individual doorway/area of the picture.

It takes some time to get right but in the end is well worth it because you wind up with a shot that is (mostly) clear of people which believe this hallway wasn’t – it was jammed with thirty – fifty people at all times.

The Grand Hall in the Paris Opera House (Paris, France)

The Grand Hall in the Paris Opera House (Paris, France)

Duomo by the Moonlight (Florence, Italy)

“I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.”

– Caskie Stinnett

It’s been about two months since we left for Paris and for most of April I was in Chicago so needless to say I’m getting a bit antsy. The next month or so I’ll be on a few airplanes but no real big trips planned so I’m starting to get stir crazy. Of course we are trying to buy a new condo right now so we’ve slashed our travel budget but I’m certainly finding myself needing to get away for a bit and explore the world – if for nothing else but to break the routine and monotony of day-to-day life…Maybe a quick trip back to Italy would cure that itch!

Duomo by the Moonlight (Florence, Italy)

Duomo at Night (Florence, Italy)

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower (Il Duomo) is the main church in Florence, Italy and really the focal point of the cities atmosphere in the evenings. Our hotel overlooked the square and thus we had a phenomenal view of the action down below from the window. The exterior of the Basilica is decorated with marble panels that are unlike anything normally seen in Italy where the cathedrals are much more classical in design.