Chicago Food and Travel Photographer

Chicago Botanic Gardens

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a hidden gem on the north side of the city. It's a 385 acre plant sanctuary that is brimming with life all year round. The garden is a favorite place of mine that I like to visit yearly. Each visit is very different and I like to explore a different part of the park. They have everything from vegetable gardens to bonsai trees. I love how they plant the vegetation in patterns so that it's as much an art installation as it is a botanic garden. 

On my recent trip they had a bonsai exhibit on display that was very interesting. I've dabbled in the art of bonsai growing in my past so I was very impressed seeing all the mature bonsai trees. The park is worth a visit at least once a year just to relax and stroll through the park. They also have a photography society that meets once a month to explore the garden.

Michigan Avenue Tulips

The city of Chicago does an outstanding job each year decorating the streets with seasonal plants and flowers. One of my favorite times of year is in the spring when the planters down Michigan Avenue are full with blooming tulips. The plantings go on for a couple of miles and stretch the Magnificent Mile all the way south to Roosevelt St. I've wanted to shoot the tulips for a couple of years but they are only in bloom for a week or two at the most and depending on the spring, they may not all bloom at the same time which makes for less than ideal photos. 

This year I finally got the perfect opportunity and I took it. We had a wonderful spring so all the tulips were open at the same time and I had a week day to get out and shoot. This cut down on the tourists that normally flock to the area and I was able to shoot for an hour uninterrupted. It's hard to explain what miles of fully bloomed tulips look like, but if you ever take a spring trip to Chicago, you won't be able to miss them. 

Chicago Botanic Garden

A few weeks ago I decided I was going to take a photo adventure outside of the city of Chicago.  With all the great places and events in the city it's hard to remember that there are other very cool places just an hour outside of the city.  For this adventure me and my friend headed over to the Chicago Botanic Garden.  The Chicago Botanic Garden is about 40 minutes outside of the city and at 7 am on a Saturday, it takes even less time.  The park opened at 8 am and we were there ready to explore.  Neither of us had been to the garden before but we had done a little research in the days before the trip so we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to see.  As we were leaving the city there were huge storms all around us.  We decided to roll the dice and head out anyway.  As we got to the garden the rain was just finishing up and even though it was 8 am we got a great soft light through the cloud cover.


The Chicago Botanic Garden is an amazing place to explore.  They have one of the most finely manicured properties that I've ever seen.  The property includes all sorts of plants and trees.  They even have multiple different orchards you can walk through.  Because of the rain, all the plants had perfect drops of water all over them.  The rain drops made the close up shots of all the flowers and plants look perfect and there was no faking these drops (some people will bring water bottles with them when they shoot in locations like this).

For the first 30 minutes I tried using my Tokina 11-16mm lens and it just didn't do the scenery justice.  So I switched to my Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens and that enabled me to capture the flowers and plants and produce shots with beautiful bokeh.  Most of the shots in this post were shot with my Nikon 50mm 1.8.  That lens is quickly becoming my go to lens.  It is sharp and produces beautiful images.  The shot below was the one shot that I took with my Tokina 11-16 that I really liked.  The garden has a waterfall section with multiple waterfalls.  This was the largest waterfall of the group and there was a little bridge right in front of the fall.  I was able to squeeze in to the right and snap a pic of the fall.  I didn't bring my tripod due to laziness and not knowing what we would discover.  Good thing my friend was prepared with his.

After I got this shot I tried a few more with the Tokina 11-16 but I really wasn't happy with the other shots. This place has such scale but the wide angle lens just wasn't doing it justice.  After a few more attempts with the Tokina I headed back to my trusty Nikon 50mm lens.  This final image is one that I'm really happy turned out because when I saw this bed of flowers I knew that this would be an amazing photo if I could capture it.  I'm considering having this one printed and hung up in my house.