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Chicago Food and Travel Photographer

Chicago From Above - The Field Museum

I’ve been really enjoying my DJI Mavic Air this past year and I’m working on some more interesting aerial shots of Chicago. Attached is an image I took over by the Field Museum on a nice summer day. I can’t wait to get the drone back up in the air to see what else I can capture in this amazing city I call home!

Moab Utah

I recently took a trip to Moab Utah with the Out of Chicago crew. They put on their second annual travel workshop and Moab Utah was on my long list of bucket list travel locations. The drive from Salt Lake was long but extremely scenic. Leaving Salt Lake and heading into the mountains of Utah reminds me of how much I miss the mountainous terrain.

When I left Chicago it was 70 degrees and sunny. As I headed to Utah the forecast was for rain all week. Not good. The day I arrived was perfect desert weather. Dry, clear and perfect. I had a night shoot scheduled for my first night in Moab. This was lining up to be a perfect night for star shooting.

For those of you who don’t know Moab is home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Both parks are just minutes from downtown Moab. As I bundled up for my night out the weather looked like it would be perfect. Clear skies, cold and no light pollution. Moab is out in the middle of nowhere, the skies are pitch black but apparently there are darker areas of the country. I really can’t imagine darker skies that what I experienced in Moab.

As we got out of the car our guide told us to look up. “See that?” he asked as we all looked up. “That’s the Milky Way. Give it a few more minutes and your eyes will adjust and you’ll see it as clear as day”. He wasn’t wrong. I don’t remember ever seeing the Milky Way in my life but it was soon as clear as day.

As we walked through the arches I have only seen stars like that in Monument Valley. But in Monument Valley I didn’t get to see the Milky Way. Being out there was like sitting in a planetarium. So vast, and so many stars. It really gives you some perspective of how small we are in this world and how incredible this world is.

I left that night with some incredible shots of the Milky Way and left even more in love with the beauty of the southwest.

How to Support My Site

I love photography and giving back to the community. If you like this site and want to support it I would greatly appreciate using the links to purchase any of the products in my posts. I also sell a book "The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago". If you want an easier way to replicate the shots in this post please consider purchasing my Lightroom presets using the link below. Thanks for stopping by and supporting my work!

Lightroom Presets

The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago

18th Street Bridge

62mm - f10 - 1/200 sec -  ISO 400

62mm - f10 - 1/200 sec -  ISO 400

The south side of Chicago provides arguably the best views of the Chicago skyline. 18th Street is littered with these picturesque photo ops. Between Clark Street and Canal Street is a raised bridge that provided the view in the image above. There are also good vantage points further west toward Canal Street which shows the train tracks leading toward the Willis Tower. This half-mile of road is worth exploring and the park in the foreground of the shot above is Ping Tom park which is also worth exploring.

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How to get the Shot

This photo was taken on the 18th Street bridge between Clark Street and Canal Street. I took this shot about an hour before sunset while some large cumulus clouds rolled through the city. From this vantage point you can see the 3 brother towers of Chicago (Willis, Trump, Hancock) and the rest of the skyline. This shot was taken on my 28-70mm f2.8 lens. I shot this particular photo at 62mm. This focal length was chosen to help “flatten” the image and make the bridge look closer to the buildings in the background. I also took the shot at this length because it provided the best framing for the image.


Editing the Shot

One of the nice features of shooting digital is how much flexibility you have in editing your photos. I still carry some neutral density filters in my bag but I find I use them less frequently than before due to the dynamic range I have with my Nikon D800 and the ability to bring back detail in Adobe Lightroom. 

My edit for the photo above consists of a neutral density (equivalent) filter being applied in Lightroom and a few tweaks to the “Basic” and “HSL” tabs. Let’s start with the filter first.

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Above you can see that I used the graduated filter tool on the upper right and held the shift key while pulling down from the top of the photo. This tells Lightroom to make sure that the filter is straight. Once I had the filter where I wanted it I reduced the exposure of the sky. Most of the time when you shoot at sunrise or sunset you will have much different light from the foreground of your image to your background. By reducing the exposure of the sky I get more consistent light throughout the image and what I consider a more appealing photo. After I reduced the exposure I also added a touch of saturation to the sky which brought out the blues and the orange in the clouds.

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After adjusting the graduated filter I moved on to the “Basic” panel. For most of my photos, I like to bump up the vibrance and clarity sliders. This photo was no exception. I moved the vibrance up to +15 and the clarity up to +35. Due to the lighting, I felt that the exposure needed to come up slightly. With the exposure increase, I decided to bring down the highlights which impacted the sky and brought the exposure more in line with the foreground. For my latest photos I’ve started using the command key while increasing/decreasing my blacks slider. This replaces your photo with a clipping mask. As you move the slider more of the image is shown as black pixels. What this shows you are the sections of the image that are absolute black and that have lost detail because they are too dark. I like to have some of the image as absolute dark because I believe it adds to the richness of the photo. This slide also works with the white slider.

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Screenshot 2018-08-17 21.37.15.png

When I was finished with the “Basic” panel I   moved on to the “HSL” panel. The sunset that I saw when taking this photo was nothing compared to what came out of the camera so I wanted to add back some of the oranges and reds to replicate what I saw that day. To do this I used the “target” looking circle in the upper left portion of the screen shot to select the color I wanted to increase / decrease. Once you have clicked the color on your image you can click and drag your mouse right to increase the saturation of that color or drag your mouse left to decrease the saturation.  In the case of this photo, I picked the clouds and the orange in the sky to put more color back into my shot.


Other Tips

Pick the best light for this photo. I had the luxury of catching this shot during sunset with great clouds moving through the city but I’ve taken this shot a half dozen other times with bad light and no clouds. A good sunset or sunrise and clouds make the world of difference in this shot. If you have the luxury of time, keep an eye on the cloud formations an hour or two before sunset and head out when you think the sunset will be special.


How to Get There

This particular area is perfectly in-between two El stops so it’s not as easy to get to as some other locations. I would suggest taking the number 29 bus (State Street) if you have access to it. Get off on 18th Street and walk west a couple of blocks and you will be at the foot of the bridge. If you need to get down to the area in a hurry hop in a cab. Your cab fare should be less than $10 from the Loop.

 

How to Support My Site

I love my photography and giving back to the community. If you like this site and want to support it I would greatly appreciate using the links to purchase any of the products in my posts. I also sell as well as a book "The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago".If you want an easier way to replicate the shots in this post please consider purchasing my Lightroom presets using the link below. Thanks for stopping by and supporting my work!

Lightroom Presets

The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago

The Second City

16mm - f11 - 1/60 sec -  ISO 200

16mm - f11 - 1/60 sec -  ISO 200

Chicago is filled with hidden gems noticed by only a select few that walk and pay attention to the city. This location is one of those hidden gems. There are only a number of El stations that have a crossing over the tracks and this happens to be one with a great view. The building at the end of the tracks is Trump Tower and the symmetry of the tracks and the platforms lead your eye directly to the building.


How to get the Shot

This shot was taken on the Madison and Wabash “El” platform in the Chicago loop. This particular station has a bridge that crosses over the tracks to connect the two platforms. It is from this perspective that you can see directly north down the tracks toward the Trump Tower.  I shot this photo with the Tokina 11-16mm lens. This particular image was shot a 16mm. The wide-angle lens helps to exaggerate the leading lines of the platform and the tracks. This image is a high dynamic range (HDR) shot that I then used Silver Efex Pro 2 to turn into a black and white image.


Editing the Shot

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 After you have shot your bracketed photos open Photomatix and import the images. I used the settings to the right to create an image with a ton of contrast and “grit”. Grit is what I call the micro detail that is brought out when using the HDR technique. When you pair this detail with the Silver Efex Pro High Structure (harsh) settings you get an incredible amount of detail and you create images that people can’t seem to look away from. 

The original HDR photo before the B&W conversion

The original HDR photo before the B&W conversion


Other Tips

Don’t go during peak hours. The Chicago Transit Authority has a no tripod policy so if you avoid crowds you will be better off. If you want to shoot this shot with a tripod go on a Saturday or Sunday morning when the crowds are sparse. Once you get to your spot shoot quickly. You may or may not get bothered by the CTA about your tripod but plan on setting up and shooting quickly. There is nothing illegal about shooting with a tripod but once you are asked to put it away it may be best to stop shooting with it.


How to Get There

Getting to the train station is pretty easy considering it is right on the El tracks. This station sits on the Brown, Pink, Green, Purple and Orange lines. You can take any of these train lines toward the loop and you should arrive at the Madison station within 20-25 minutes from most areas within the city.

 

How to Support My Site

I love my photography and giving back to the community. If you like this site and want to support it I would greatly appreciate using the links to purchase any of the products in my posts. I also sell as well as a book "The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago".If you want an easier way to replicate the shots in this post please consider purchasing my Lightroom presets using the link below. Thanks for stopping by and supporting my work!

Lightroom Presets

The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago