Chicago Food and Travel Photographer

Chicago From Above - The United Center

Chicago is such an amazing city with incredible views from all angles. I’m patiently waiting for the summer months to get here so I have more opportunities to get out and fly my DJI Mavic Air. The image below puts Chicago in perspective of it’s size and accessibility. The grid layout creates some amazing leading lines from all over the city. I’m partial to the South and West views (the image below was taken from the West side of the city) but you will also find amazing views from the North side as well.

Chicago is filled with lush parks and green spaces but this perspective reminds us of the scale of the city. The United Center is just a handful of blocks from the city center and is a staple of Chicago.

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Chicago from Above the Clouds

I think most people that aren't photographers think that we just show up to a location one time and snap a photo and there you have it a portfolio shot. Truth be told in order to capture amazing images sometimes it takes you dozens of attempts. I've been trying to get a shot from the top of the Willis Tower looking back at the John Hancock and the Trump tower poking up through the clouds. On this particular night a few weeks ago I thought I was going to finally get the shot but as the clouds continued to roll through and the sun set, I realized that I would have to keep chasing this image. At least it wasn't a total loss. I got a great timelapse and got to watch an amazing cloud show. 

If you like my images and want to find out how to create similar images, check out my store for Lightroom, Snapseed and soon to be coming Luminar presets. 

Bill and Lauren's Chicago Engagement

When I got the call from my friend Bill telling me that he "might need my photography skills for something". I knew something was up. Bill and Lauren were dating for quite a while and I had the suspicious feeling where our conversation would go. 

During our lunch he laid out this extravagant plan which involved a borrowed yacht and a twisting and turning story to keep Lauren off the scent. I could tell he was nervous but super excited as well. We agreed that the plan was solid and he let me know the date for the magical event.

When I arrived at the boat it was just me, Bill and the captain. We figured out the layout of the boat and the most effective way for me to capture the ride without looking too suspicious. Lauren was lead to believe that we were using the boat only as a shuttle to an event. "Isn't it going to be odd that it's just me and the two of you" I asked Bill. Bill shot back "she has no idea". So I went with it. 

When Lauren got there I realized that she really didn't know what was about to happen. She was more concerned with the "event" they were going too and didn't notice too much about me. I had the GoPro set suction cupped to the top of the boat and as we took off I excused myself to the hull of the boat. 

As I headed down there Bill and Lauren headed out to the deck to sit down and enjoy the sunset and the water view. I quickly got my camera gear ready and headed back by the captain. I was glad to see that they were sitting on the deck looking out and no one was paying attention to me. I was able to get a bunch of great shots heading out of the boat slip and shots as we headed toward the lake. 

Once we got near the lake the captain turned the ship around right as the water gun was being fired and Bill got down on one knee. It was a sight to be seen. The Chicago skyline, the water gun and the sunset behind the couple. It all came together beautifully into an incredible moment. 

After she put on the ring I captured a few more candid moments of the two celebrating together. The captain then hit the throttle and we zipped off to a restaurant on the river where Bill and Lauren's family was waiting to celebrate with them. 

It was a truly incredible day and an incredible shoot with an incredible couple. I hope my images help them remember it for years to come. 

Trey Ratcliff's Photo Walk Across The USA (Chicago)

On August 10th I had the pleasure of joining Trey Ratcliff's Photo Walk Across The USA Chicago stop. The event was a great success with what appeared to be 150-200 people attending. We started with a pre-walk reception with Trey taking the time to talk with everyone and take photos. I had a few minutes with him and expressed my gratitude for his work. He has been an inspiration to me for the past 5+ years. His work has inspired me and his story has inspired me to know that we all have the ability to find a passion and turn it into a career. 

After the pre-walk reception Trey got us started with a few words about his travels and his time in Chicago. They had this traveling PA system setup so that everyone could hear. They also had plenty of cameramen to document the event including a pilot for their DJI Inspire 1. 

Once we got moving we headed west from the Adler Planetarium down the lakefront. Every 10 minutes or so Trey would stop and talk a few minutes about what he was seeing and trying to shoot. We headed west to the Shedd Aquarium and then north west to along the lake to Buckingham Fountain. At that point I decided I had enough and headed home.

You can see the highlight video of the event below. I was impressed that they had the guts to fly the Inspire One around Buckingham Fountain in the dark with people around but maybe they had a permit :). 

The Photographer's Guide To Capturing Chicago - Honeycomb

The Honeycomb is a relatively unknown Chicago landmark located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is about a mile north of downtown. The sculpture is located in the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk and is just east of the free outdoor zoo. The name of the structure is the “People’s Gas Education Pavilion”. The structure faces south directly towards downtown and provides a nice view of the John Hancock building through its arch. 

How to get the Shot 

This photo was taken at 27mm. This is considered a wide angle lens which exaggerates the length of objects and causes an illusion of exaggerated distance between images close to the lens and further away in the frame. You can see this in the image above because the front sections of the Honeycomb are much larger than the back of the Honeycomb even though the structure is only approximately 30 feet long. This image was created using my high dynamic range workflow with Photomatix Pro. I used 3 exposures to capture this image (-2, 0, +2). I took the image about 2 feet off the ground using a tripod. It was around 7 am on a fall morning. The sky was quite overcast, but it worked well for this shot. The structure is lit up with warm lights still on from the night before. 

Editing the Shot 

This shot was edited using Photomatix Pro. The 3 images were imported into Aperture first and then out to Photomatix. I usually edit or blend one of my exposures back into the HDR image to tone down the Photomatix HDR effect, but in this case I loved the image that I got from Photomatix so I didn’t do any editing afterwards. To the right you will see the settings I used to process this image. 


Other Tips 

This area is becoming more popular each season, so I suggest getting to the park early. I don’t believe there are hours of operation for this park, so the earlier the better. If you get to the park early you could get a nice sunrise in the shot as well as the city.

I would also suggest using a wider angle lens. I’ve seen other shots at this location with a longer lens and they don’t pop quite as much. Shoot low and wide and you should get an interesting shot. 

How to Get There 

This area is not that easy to get to if you don’t have access to a car. The closest El stop is Fullerton Avenue, a 30 minute walk. You could take the El to Fullerton and take a taxi or bus East on Fullerton, but if you have access to a car you should use it. There is street parking and a few reasonable lots across the street from the zoo. Try to avoid the Lincoln Park Zoo’s parking, as it’s very expensive. Try to park in the pay lot just on the north side of Fullerton across the street from the zoo’s parking lot. 

The Photographer's Guide To Capturing Chicago

This post is part of an eBook I wrote about the best places to photograph Chicago. If you enjoy this post consider buying the ebook to support my site and to get access to all the best locations in Chicago!

The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago

The Photographer's Guide to Capturing Chicago was written to help visitors and Chicago photographers find and capture the best locations in and around Chicago. The book describes various locations, how to get the shot and the best ways to access over 25 of the best locations in Chicago. Readers get access to final processed images, processing tips and maps for each location. Skip the research and get straight to shooting!

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