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.


18 thoughts on “Sunset Over the Windy City (Chicago, Illinois)

  1. Wow, this is a class act image ….. sell it!!!!! Put it out there. Now I want to go back … tonight. There is no city like Chicago, but I told you that probably 100 times by now. Have to check the link.

    • Haha! I’d love to sell it. I did have to spend quite a bit of time cleaning off all the dirt from my sensor which really shines through when taking a picture with a four minute exposure. I want to print it out in Panorama format to see what it looks like and to see if I was successful in cleaning up all the junk that popped through. If the link isn’t working here’s the website ( Thanks again and hopefully you make it back to Chicago in the near future – it is so beautiful in the summer!

      • I checked out the … link before and after … and I like them both, so different … but same class. There is website that you can put out your images on and you never know what can happen – there is companies that are looking for images. I have only visit Chicago during summer months … I think I will stay away during the winter, because you have worst winters than us. Once excellent job!

  2. What a great image – I’m always afraid of over saturating my images in LR but I think you found a healthy middle ground and created a truly beautiful moment. Nice job!

    • Let me know if you want some advice on locations to shoot – or if you have a sense of what you like to shoot I can help you plan. It’s weird since this is my city but I don’t shoot here as much as I should. However, I still know some decent locations for sunrise/sunset and throughout the day. Enjoy the journey – photography (combined with travel) is amazing!

      • Thank you! I am so sorry I haven’t responded sooner. Leaving for Chicago today, if you’ve got any suggestions on places to shoot please feel free to share. Thanks again!

      • If you are still in the city – I’d suggest the Adler Planetarium (down by the lake front) to get the skyline of the city, the John Hancock Tower if you are looking to get great views over the city (IMO the views are better than the Willis Tower), the bean (i.e. cloudgate) early in the morning at sunrise before the other tourists get there, buckingham fountain is a popular spot but I never seem to get it right. Another recommendation is to take an architectural tour which will get you inside of a lot of amazing buildings that aren’t open to the majority of the public.

        If you’ve already gone home I hope you enjoyed your visit. Did you happen to see the Grateful Dead play? Any Cubs games? Wrigley is one of my favorite places

      • I’m home already. Time flew in that amazing city! There really is so much to do and see. Thank tou for the really going to need another trip there to see and do more but we were able to cram a lot into just a few days. Hancock, Willis, architecture tour, helicopter ride(saw the grateful dead from above -pretty neat!) and of course ate a ton! I was able to get some photos and wrote a little blog about it but I’ll definitely have to go back for more!

  3. Absolutely beautiful!! It’s really interesting to see the original photo, as well. I was wondering what were some of the effects/tools you used in LR for this? The colors are incredible. I’m a little new to the software and would love to know more specifically how you edited it.

    • Sure – I do have a few videos that I’ve created of me producing images (but that was before I did 75% of the editing in Lightroom which IMO is the BEST single editing program available).

      The steps I go through each time are:

      1) Choose Camera/lens combo – this minimizes lens distortion and vignetting
      2) Check the box to automatically remove chromatic aberration
      3) Set the White Balance (this only works when shooting in RAW)
      4) Tweak the exposure either up/down
      3) Then I go up to the main panel and do the following:
      a) Move the Blacks to left or right until I start to gain/lose detail
      b) Move the Whites to the left or right until I start to gain/lose detail
      c) Fix the Contrast/Clarity
      d) Tone the image using the saturation/vibrance sliders – I prefer vibrance over saturation but I liked the blues on this image so I bumped the saturation up a bit

      From here I typically pull it into OnOne Perfect Effects and take care of additional editing and addd a vignette.

      Hope this helps – if not check some of the videos. I’ll try to make more now that I do less HDR (blending multiple images) and stick primarily with the single image.

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