Sunset Behind the City (Chicago, Illinois)

It’s been months since I’ve been out shooting in Chicago – I feel like such a lump when I’m in the city on the weekends. It is hard to get motivated to get out and shoot because the city will always be there and I see it every day when I head downtown for work (although with all the travel lately I haven’t been going into the office much lately). However, I’m always impressed when I head over to the Adler Planetarium and shoot the skyline – it really is spectacular.

Sunset Behind the City (Chicago, Illinois)

Sunset behind the City (Chicago, Illinois)

Another busy week of travel this week – two more round trip flights to piggyback off of the three from last week and three next week. Looking forward to the middle part of March when it slows down a bit before Africa.

Cold Morning on the “L” (Chicago, Illinois)

This winter, a few days after getting my new camera, I was super excited to try it out so I woke up early on a Sunday morning to head out and shoot the sunrise over the city. Before I got out to the Planetarium though I stopped at the Adams/Wabash “L” (Elevated Train in Chicago) stop and took a few pictures of the Trump tower.

Cold Morning on the “L” (Chicago, Illinois)

There was a surprising number of trains in the loop that morning – way more than I would have imagined on a Sunday morning when the loop is pretty dead (it’s dead most of the weekend down in the business area though). I captured the streaks of a passing train in this image but had to wait for awhile before getting shots of the clear tracks below because it seemed there were trains constantly moving through this frame.

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.

View from the Hancock at Sunset (Chicago, Illinois)

The view from the 360 Degree skydeck in the Hancock Center in Chicago, Illinois is one of the best in the United States. For a photographer since you can’t get up there for sunrise the best time to be up there is at sunset when you have a chance of the sky lighting up in pink and purple colors.

Of course, Chicago hasn’t always been known for being such a photogenic and metropolitan city. The nickname ‘second city’ was a slight from the New York papers around the time of the World’s Fair that was hosted here in 1893.

Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.

Carl Sandburg, 1961

View from the Hancock at Sunset – Chicago, Illinois

At sunset we sat at the top of the Hancock Tower in Chicago, Illinois and watched the sunset. The clouds lit up with some pink colors a few minutes after the sun went down and I was able to take a few pictures of the skyline with the nice sky accenting it.

A week from today we will be on the plane to Paris for a little over a week. We are both pretty excited and ready for some spring weather. Chicago just experienced the coldest February on record – beating out the 1876 February by a half of degree on average. Unlike in past years though it was a constant cold rather than extreme cold – sure we had a few days where the temps didn’t raise above single digits but we didn’t have those periods of time where the wind chills were negative for a week at a time. Of course, with the lowest average of all-time that means we didn’t have the occasional 40 degree day that we normally do.

View from the John Hancock Center (Chicago, Illinois)

One of the primary reasons I bought a full-frame camera was because of the low light capabilities and the ability to shoot at a high ISO level without the quality of the picture being compromised. I can say the Nikon D750 kicks some serious ass when it comes to this compared with my Canon Rebel T3i where the images wouldn’t have been nearly as clean. We are heading to Africa at the end of this year and I wanted to be able to shoot wildlife on the edges (when the light is poor) and keep the images sharp and not overly noisy. I didn’t think it would be useful for shooting Chicago architecture but it paid off when up on the top level (94th floor) of the Hancock Center and the images were all coming out blurry at ISO levels of 100, 200 and 400. For this picture the shutter only had to remain open for 1.3 seconds versus 15 seconds or more at lower ISO levels. I’m not sure if the building was swaying or if people were tapping the makeshift tripod I assembled (since ‘normal’ tripods are not allowed) but having the ability to capture the same quality image 13 seconds faster was a huge advantage.

View from the John Hancock Center (Chicago, Illinois)

View from the Hancock Center (Chicago, IL)

Trump Tower (Chicago, Illinois)

I woke up early on Sunday morning – wasn’t intending to but couldn’t sleep because I wanted to use my new ‘toy’ – and went out to take pictures of Chicago before the city woke up. I drove down to the intersection of Adams and Wabash and headed up to the el station. There is a bridge that goes over the el tracks and connects the two sides of the loop together. I set my camera up and waited for a few trains to go by – surprisingly the trains were coming VERY frequently so early in the morning – because the bridge swayed which each passing train.

At the end of the El Tracks, just as the train takes a turn, and across the river sits one of Chicago’s newest and best looking buildings – the Trump Tower. It is also one of the only skyscrapers in the city with its name prominently (and very tacky in my opinion) plastered on the side of it just in case you weren’t quite sure what building it was. I liked the way that the corridor of buildings lining the el track framed the main subject – the Trump Tower – in the distance. The light (pre-dawn) was perfect too because the building was still lit up so it stands out against the deep blue morning sky.

Trump Tower (Chicago, Illinois)

Trump Tower in Chicago (framed by buildings)

Honeycomb Buildings – Chicago, IL

The Marina City buildings in Chicago – often referred to as the honeycomb buildings – sit on the Chicago River in one of the nicest areas of the city. Mixed between residential and commercial use the two towers were built in 1965 by legendary architect Bertrand Goldberg. At the time of the completion of the project it stood as the tallest residential complex ever built (65 stories) and included a five story elevator. It has been surpassed now by many buildings throughout the world (and Chicago) but the unique honeycomb/corncob shape still makes it one of the most fascinating buildings along the Chicago River.

Honeycomb Buildings – Chicago, IL

Marina City Chicago IL

I focused in on the details of the building and liked the contrast of the curved porches with the darker building across the street from it.

If you want to see what the buildings look like from afar – here is a good picture of them at by Kevin Cobos

The Wrigley Building – Chicago, IL

I went downtown on a fall morning to try and catch early morning light on the buildings. The Wrigley Building at the bend in the Chicago River is one of my favorite buildings in the city. Originally, built to house the Wrigley (Chewing Gum) Company in the early 1920s and it was the first air conditioned ‘skyscraper’ in the city. The design of the building was borrowed from a historic church in France.

The Wrigley Building – Chicago, IL

The Wrigley Building at Sunrise Chicago Illinois

A few years ago the building was sold to the founders of Groupon (not sure that company is going to last as long as Wrigley did) and they have been making some pretty dramatic changes to it to make it more attractive to newer tenants – Walgreens, Fitness Center, etc…apparently the allure of simply air conditioning doesn’t do it for Chicago office workers. I work out of a much more modern building – maybe built in the 90s – and I must say the gym in the building is the best perk.

Storm Clouds over Chicago

A couple of weeks ago when the weather in Chicago finally (for one day at least) turned nice and climbed into the low 80s we rented Divvy bikes and rode from our condo to the Adler Planetarium to (discreetly) drink some wine and take some pictures of the Chicago skyline at sunset. The rain was supposed to hold off until later in the night but the storm clouds formed by the cold front pressing in (the next day it dropped into the 30s again – you have to the weather in the midwest) had other ideas for the evening. The clouds were moving fast and unfortunately blocked out much of the sunset – not to be deterred I put on my ten-stop ND filter and took some pictures of the clouds moving across the skyline. The city itself looks so tiny from this perspective but I really wanted to emphasize the clouds above the city.

Storm Clouds over Chicago

Storm Clouds over Chicago

The End of the World

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

The other night I dreamt a nice continental drift divide
Mountains sit in a line, Leonard Bernstein
Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs
Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam but neck, right? Right

It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone)
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine (It’s time I had some time alone)

Reaching the End of the World – Sears Tower – Chicago, IL

Sears Tower Willis Tower Chicago Illinois
From a warmer period in Chicago – we headed up to the top of the Sears Tower and shot the perfectly clear sunrise setting behind the western suburbs of the city. They don’t allow tripods up in the tower although I was able to sneak a GorrillaPod up there and take a couple shots that were less blurry than they would be if I had to hand hold everything. Great views from up top of the building – although I tend to prefer the Hancock Tower a little more because you get the perspective of seeing more of the downtown buildings in the skyline.