Chicago Night Photography

•May 12, 2009 • 10 Comments

If you enjoy photographing cities at night, Chicago has a lot to offer. There is an endless variety of old and new skyscrapers downtown and they all are illuminated at night.

I especially like to walk down Michigan Avenue and along the Chicago River. The water of the river greatly enhances a scene at night. The beautiful bridges spanning the river complete your image. The picture above shows the London Guarantee Building and the Michigan Avenue Bridge across the Chicago River.

Another favorite of mine for night shots is Millennium Park where the Cloud Gate, BP Bridge, and Jay Pritzker Pavilion are almost begging to be included in your pictures.

Also great for night photography is Grant Park with Buckingham Fountain. Here, you not only get a great view of part of downtown Chicago, but you also can enjoy the Light and Sound Show at the fountain. Look for more about Buckingham Fountain in my next post.

Finally, the Hancock Observatory is open until 11pm and the Sears Tower Skydeck until 10pm (8pm during winter months). They offer great views over the city, although night photography from up high can be a bit tricky. I am not sure about Hancock Tower, but the Sears Skydeck does not allow you to bring up a tripod. So you will have to improvise.

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The Chicago ‘L’

•May 5, 2009 • 6 Comments

When visiting a city, I try to find and capture its charm or character. In Chicago it struck me the second day. We were walking along the Chicago River and I noticed that the street next to us had several levels. Wacker Drive is actually a double-decked, at times even triple-decked, street. It is part of a whole system of multilevel streets and it gives downtown Chicago a very unique flair.

But these streets are not the only thing elevated in Chicago. The city also has the second-oldest rapid transit system and it just so happens that parts of it are elevated. The ‘L’, as it is often called, has become one of the symbols of the city and has helped to shape downtown Chicago into what it is today.

While walking down a street, I came across the part of the train system pictured above. Since the train is turning a corner, it was a perfect opportunity to take a picture and capture it in action.

If you want to experience the ‘L’ but have nowhere to go, ride the Brown Line through the loop and across the Chicago River. It gives you a nice idea of traveling above street level and you also get to see a number of the bridges from a nice vantage point.

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Chicago’s Cloud Gate

•April 28, 2009 • 4 Comments

Walk around downtown Chicago on a weekend and you will most certainly be drawn to the parks in the area, especially Grant and Millennium Park. Technically, Millennium Park is part of Grant Park, but to many they are known as separate sections.

Millennium Park is not only a popular hangout, it is also the site of some astounding art and architectural work.  One of the highlights in my eyes is the Cloud Gate, also lovingly called “The Bean.” During a nice day, tourists and residents alike will stop by to gaze at the reflections. As a photographer, you can have a lot of fun here. (continued below…)

Experiment. Take pictures of people posing in front of the Cloud Gate or capture their often warped reflections. This is especially fun when you walk “inside” or underneath the Bean. There are also many variations for taking pictures of the skyline: reflected as in the night shot, behind like in the day shot, you get the idea.

In the evening, it will not be as crowded, but you still will find people hanging out, especially other photographers. You can capture a completely different image during the evening hours. The most spectacular is probably the one showing reflections of the illuminated downtown buildings. The park officially closes at 11pm and you will be told to leave. So make sure you have enough time to play around with different settings and angles.

Other highlights of Millennium Park you should not miss are the Crown Fountain and BP Bridge, both great during the day as well as at night.

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Hancock Observatory – A Bird’s Eye View of Chicago

•April 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

If you ever visit Chicago, make sure to stop by Hancock Observatory. It is located on the 94th Floor of the John Hancock Building and offers a 360-degrees view of Chicago.

Readers of my blog know that I suffer from a fear of heights, so this again was quite a challenge for me. Although it was not as scary as my visit to the CN Tower in Toronto, I was still struggling. As you can see below, the observatory is enclosed, which helps. But it also means that if you want to take decent pictures, you have to lean into the windows to avoid reflections. (continued below…)

Nonetheless, it was definitely worth it all. What I appreciate the most about the Hancock Observatory is its view over Chicago’s Gold Coast (first picture). It was one side of Chicago I did not expect. If you’re lucky and you are visiting on a clear and sunny day, the view is simply stunning.

When we visited, you could listen to an audio tour narrated by David Schwimmer. If they still offer it, I highly recommend it. It really enhances the experience, you see so much more, and Schwimmer is entertaining and shares nice little tidbits and stories.

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Chateau Frontenac At Night, Quebec

•February 19, 2009 • 3 Comments

In one of my prior posts I had mentioned how deserted Quebec City got at night. Needless to say, we took full advantage of it. After we finished taking pictures on Terrasse Dufferin, we decided to look for some different angles. So we started walking, always an eye on Chateau Frontenac.

This is where we ended up and it proved to be a great choice. What I like the most about this image is the mixture of colors, perfectly illustrating the feel of the night. I find myself especially drawn to the deep green of the park illuminated by the street lights.

Quebec City turned out to be fantastic for photography and I can’t wait to visit again … and hopefully stay a little while longer this time.

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Lightning Over Montreal

•February 17, 2009 • 7 Comments

This image is the result of one of those good luck/bad luck situations. We had planned to do some extensive night photography in Montreal. Unfortunately, we only had one night to do it and rain was coming in. Nonetheless, we got everything ready and planned out the night.

We started at Parc du Mont-Royal around sunset and spent some time there photographing Montreal’s skyline. And it started raining … much earlier than we had anticipated. So we decided to head back to the car. Easier said than done … it was pouring with rain. When we finally got back to the car we were soaked to the skin. I saw all our plans going down the drain.

We decided to warm up in the car and drive around for a bit to see if the weather would change. Alas, it wouldn’t let up. We finally ended up on Ile Ste-Helene with a nice view of the Montreal skyline over St-Laurent. And that’s when our luck changed. We found a covered spot where we could set up our tripods and cameras without having to worry about the rain. And just then the most beautiful thunderstorm started. The result is one of my favorite shots of Montreal.

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Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal

•February 15, 2009 • 2 Comments

This Basilica is one of my favorite stops in Montreal. It is beautiful from the outside, especially against the blue sky or in the evening, when you can also enjoy a sound and light show.

But what I admire the most is the unusual and striking interior. The ceiling is covered with a beautiful deep blue color and sprinkled with golden stars. Everything else is an amazing combination of blue, silver, and gold tones. Intricate wood carvings and beautiful stained glass windows round out the composition.

Currently, you do have to pay an entrance fee if you want to visit the Basilica, but I think it is well worth it. You cannot use a tripod or flash inside the Basilica. A higher ISO and/or a camera or lens with image stabilization should do the trick, however.

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