Chicago has arguably one of the most distinguished and photographic skylines in the world. This is partially due to the geography of the area and Lake Michigan blocking development to the East. Chicago’s views are best captured from the West and the South of the city, both of which provide full views of the skyline. This particular image was taken from a few miles West of downtown.
How to get the Shot
This shot was taken from the top of the Rush Hospital parking lot just west of Chicago. The photo was taken just after dawn on a partly cloudy summer morning. This shot is a combination of 7 bracketed exposures and merged into an HDR image via Photomatix. Rush Hospital is located approximately 2.8 miles west of the center of Chicago (LaSalle St and Madision St). It is directly along the 290 (Eisenhower) expressway. Before I captured this shot I took a few shots prior to the sun breaching the horizon. The glow of the morning sunlight made the clouds a mixture of orange and pink. These photos were very beautiful but I wanted an image of the sun coming through the buildings. About 20 minutes after sunrise I captured this image. Sunrise in general is an amazing experience and this was no exception. If you have the chance to witness a sunrise from this spot I highly recommend it.
Editing the Shot
The final image above is a high dynamic range photo which combines 7 exposures into 1 final photo. The trick is creating an image that has more dynamic range than a single image without making the image look over processed or fake. I did this by creating an image in Photomatix and then blending in one of the original exposures back into the HDR image. The Photomatix settings I used for this particular image are shown in the screenshot to the right.
Once I created the HDR image in Photomatix, I re-opened it in Adobe Photoshop and laid the most evenly exposed bracketed image on top of the Photomatix photo. From there I changed the opacity of the original exposure to soften the HDR effect and to help remove any unwanted halo affects. This helped create a realistic HDR photo which retains many of the great characteristics of HDR while not looking over processed. This process created an image that is closer to what I saw while taking the photograph than either of the two images alone.
Get there early. The sun is sneaky coming off the horizon and depending on the time of year it comes up pretty quick. Use an app like The Photographer’s Ephemeris or similar apps to time your arrival. This app will also help you to pinpoint the the sunrise and sunset and will show you the angle of the sun to the city.
How to Get There
Although Rush Hospital is right along the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate 290) there aren’t a lot of public transportation options to get there. There is a Green line stop at Ashland and Lake but this stop is about 8 blocks from the hospital. I also would not feel comfortable recommending anyone walking through this neighborhood if you don’t have to. Really your best bet is to drive to the parking structure and to pay for an hour of parking. 30 minutes of parking will cost you $8 while an hour will cost $9.75. This is by far the best way to get to Rush if you have access to a car. If you have to take a taxi you can go that route and when you are ready to leave you can have the information staff call you a cab to get home. Cab fares should be less than $15 one way from most places within the city.
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