Author Archives: Kristopher Kettner

Gullfoss Iceland

Two tourists are dwarfed by the size of Iceland’s Gullfoss. (4325)

It seems like forever since I’ve posted anything in this space.


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Posted in Nature Tagged |

Coming Down for the Restart

The field of NASCAR race cars exit turn four to take the green flag during the Geico 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. (9325)

Since the Daytona 500 was supposed to be this past weekend, I thought maybe this would be a fine image for today.

This image was taken at the Chicagoland Speedway’s 2011 Geico 400.  The race was rained out on Sunday and pushed to Monday, instead.  While pushing the race back a day sucks for pretty much everyone involved, I got lucky because I couldn’t make the original date, but I was able to make the makeup day.

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Posted in Sports Tagged , |

Catedral de Segovia

Catedral de Segovia

Built in the mid-1500s, the Segovia Cathedral sits in Plaza Mayor, the town’s main square. Amusingly, because the style is “Gothic,” most of Europe had moved on from that architectural style by the time the Roman Catholic cathedral was completed. Nothing like your project being out-dated before its even finished.

The fun part about the town of Segovia, aside from it’s centuries old — and still functioning aqueduct — is it said Christopher Columbus convinced the King of Spain to fund his trip West to find an easier trade route. Instead of finding India, Columbus and his ships stumbled upon the New World.

The Catedral de Segovia (as the locals call it) was also the first time I sought out a location to shoot some stock photography. Normally I shoot what I shoot and then post whatever I like to my stock photography portfolio. However, before going to Spain I had done a bunch of clicking around and found no pictures of the cathedral at dusk. So, for the first time ever, I packed a tripod along with my camera gear. I’m glad I did because I really like the way this image turned out (and it has turned out well on my stock sales, too). Also, and perhaps the most enjoyable part: ordering a pitcher of sangria and sitting in Plaza Mayor to wait for the sky to reach the right color.

The waiting may have been my favorite part of this picture.

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Posted in Travel Tagged , |

Monkey Business

A monkey reaches for the camera at the Alas Kedaton Temple in Bali, Indonesia. (6540)

A friend recently shot me a message asking for some tips on how to take “amazing” photos. Another time we can debate the definition of “amazing photos,” but here’s what I told her:

I think the biggest misconception is your picture is only as good as you like it.

As an example, while I was traveling through the Middle East, a woman staying on the same boat showed me her favorite picture from all of Egypt. It was a blurry picture of her sister dancing. And her sister was half-missing from the image. But it was her favorite picture, and that’s what’s important. Never mind the pyramids of Giza, the sphinx, Luxor or any of that, it was her sister dancing. Point being: Any picture is only as good as long as you like it. A few of my favorite shots barely move the meter for other people, and then some shots I totally blow off as crap seem to get the biggest responses. I haven’t figured out “the masses” yet, but I plan on working on them as soon as I figure out “what women want.”

That being said, I have picked up a few photographically-based things which may help on your journey:

Shoot with the sun over your shoulder. A camera, like the human eye, usually grabs on to the brightest thing it sees and exposes for that. If you shoot into the sun your camera will freak out over the giant ball of light and may underexpose what you actually want to take a picture of. If the sun is behind you everything will be bathed in light.

Try to stick with the rule of thirds. Somewhere, a group of people much smarter than you and I realized the eye thinks things shot with the rule of thirds is sexier. Divide the screen of your camera into three equal parts and frame the shot accordingly. If you don’t have an easy “three” things to frame up in the shot, keep the subject to the left and right thirds or “use” two of the three.

The early-morning and late-afternoon sunlight are your friend. It’s called “Golden Hour” because the sun is lower in the sky and everything it touches has a sexy, golden look to it.

Before you go, check out other pictures of where you’re going on Flickr, Instagram, Google Images, etc.; not to the point of “stealing” other people’s shots, but at least having an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Before Ireland I was able to find enough pictures of the Cliffs of Moher to discern which direction the famous shoreline faced, and from that what time of day to visit. (Fun fact: to not shoot into the sun I knew to visit in the afternoon.)

Finally, break all of the above tips as often as possible, as rules were meant to be broken. Some of the best pictures you’ve seen are crazy silhouettes taken directly into the sun, pictures that put the subject in the center of the shot, and pictures taken while the sun is blasting the most light it can onto something.

Those are probably the most basic things I can try to give you tips on. Most is based off of what I’ve read and been told along the way. What I really do know and can tell you about photography is bring at least one more memory card than you think you need, keep your batteries charged and send home a couple of postcards. Everyone loves postcards.

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Posted in Travel Tagged , |

Chicago’s Skydeck

Trump Tower and the John Hancock Center tower over the city of Chicago, as viewed from the Willis Tower Skydeck. (3698)

Last night I was given the spectacular opportunity to head up to the Sears Willis Tower’s Skydeck to enjoy the view of Chicago from 103 floors up — and I was strongly encouraged to bring my camera.

The City of Chicago’s Tourism department, Choose Chicago, invites a select few of us to a few functions around the city with infrequent regularity. This week was the Willis Tower, last week was the Shedd Aquarium, last summer was a architectural boat ride up and down the Chicago River.

It’s sort of a win-win-win for everyone, as the city gets all of us tweeting, Facebook-ing and Instagramming images of the city to our followers, they get fresh content to re-tweet to the masses, and (in this case) the Willis Tower Skydeck gets some free advertising.

The group of us who have done these have started to get know each other a bit. We’re quite the motley bunch, but after a few times of seeing each other, numbers are swapped and plans to grab beers are floated. If nothing else, its a fun evening of image-making, and I truly appreciate the opportunity.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Looking Up at Calder’s Flamingo

The bright colors of Alexander Calder’s Flamingo are a stark contrast to the buildings surrounding it, in Chicago, Illinois. (2719)

Alexander Calder gave his Flamingo sculpture it’s bright red color to be a stark contrast to the dark office buildings surrounding it. In an area defined by gloomy-colored buildings and tight spaces, this piece of art is colorfully loud in a large, open plaza. I’ve been meaning to get some pictures of it for quite some time, and finally made my way down to Chicago’s Federal Plaza.

It really is a wonderful piece, and on the Thursday evening I took this, the entire area was empty except for a very few random folks wandering about. In a city of 2.6 million and an metropolitan area of 9.5 million, it is always fascinating to find myself nearly alone at a (normally) busy intersection.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Objects in Motion Stay in Motion

Objects in Motion Stay in Motion

During the summer I drive past this few several times a week. I’ve always been tempted to stop, but the chain-link fence is such that I didn’t think I could get a picture. This weekend I noticed part of the fence was bent, and I thought perhaps it was big enough to poke a lens through. It wasn’t.

However, I did discover if I carefully place my lens up near the fence — almost uncomfortably close — I can get a shot off without having the fencing appear in the image.  And that’s just what I did.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Curved Lines Around Chicago

Curved Lines Around Chicago

I’ve wanted to shoot around this area in Chicago for quite some time, and last week I finally made it. The shoot turned out better than expected because there are so many fun angles to go after.

From above the Dan Ryan Expressway, the blurred lines of cars racing by help spruce up any image, but then incorporating so many other elements makes it an even more fun area. From entrance ramps to elevated train tracks, there are so many different angles to shoot.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

LaSalle Street

LaSalle Street

For the first time in awhile I finally got out to snap some images of Chicago.

Having the day off, I planned an entire day around going out for sunset pictures. I specifically wanted to capture the image of boats going down the Chicago River, from on or about the Franklin Street bridge. To my dismay, upon arrival I found the bridge’s sidewalk closed down so there would be no Chicago River pictures for me.

Not wanting to waste a good opportunity, I kept wandering around and found LaSalle Street looking down towards the Chicago Board of Trade Building. It’s an iconic view of Chicago any time of day, and I was happy I head home with a few images I really, really liked.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Blurring into Chicago

Blurring into Chicago

With the weather finally warming up and my schedule slowing down, I finally got out to take some pictures over the weekend.

I’ve been driving along the Eisenhower Expressway in and out of Chicago and noticed all of the overpasses have tall chain-linked fences flanking each side. Only a few of the bridges have the fencing start a little way in so I could get a camera closer to the middle without shooting through the fence. It’s a picture I’ve wanted to take for awhile, and since I was going to be in the neighborhood around sunset I threw my camera in the car to take some pictures.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Ice Skating Under the Skyline

Ice Skating Under the Chicago's Skyline

Winters in Chicago may get brutal, but they can also be lovely. In the new Maggie Daley Park, within Chicago’s massive Grant Park, is The Ribbon.

The Ribbon is an ice skating loop allowing up to 700 people to glide around under one of the greatest skylines in the world. Yes, we already have a few outdoor rinks in the city, but this design is more like a “lazy river on ice.” Instead of just skating around a never-ending circle, the design is a meandering loop. If someone isn’t the strongest ice skater there are railings on *both* sides to hold onto. Also, doing anything more then just aimlessly circling is nice.

Regardless of the design, more outdoor public spaces to play are never a bad thing.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Skyscrapers and Boats

Skyscrapers and Boats Along the River

It’s been pretty cold in Chicago lately — winters are like that — but there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The dog is starting to lose her winter coat, the “cold” days are in the twenties (versus below zero), and in a matter of days pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

Before long, we’ll be back to hot summer night, oppressive humidity and garden fresh vegetables. In the meantime, I have pictures like the one above to help me look forward to summer in Chicago.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Wendella Under Raised Bridges

I have taken numerous pictures of the raised Kinzie Street Railroad bridge, but mostly from the other side (looking back towards where this picture was taken), but on this day I was photographing something else and the whole scene with the Wendella tour boat passing by caught my attention.

There are seemingly an endless possibility of things to photograph in Chicago, and then throw in a spectacular sunrise or sunset, or maybe some crazy fog rolling in, or the Wednesday night “Beer Can Races” in Lake Michigan, and it’s a pretty spectacular place to live.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Long and Winding Road

Long and Winding Road

The other idea I had for a title to this image was Everyday is a Winding Road, but choosing between the Beatles and Sheryl Crow is an easy decision.

This is another image from the Valley of Fire State Park, about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas. Considering the amount of people that descend on Sin City daily, I was surprised to see so few people on my drive through the desert. Once I got back to Las Vegas, it occurred to me that the crowd in Las Vegas isn’t really the “state park crowd.”

That being said, this was my sixth time to Las Vegas, and the first time I’d ventured off of The Strip. My rental car was something even my grandparents wouldn’t be caught in, but the sights were amazing none-the-less.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Dallas Skyline

Dallas Skyline

I’ve just returned home from a week-and-a-half in Fort Worth, Texas. I had some grand plans to get out and shoot a boatload of pictures during my stay, however schedules being what they are, it didn’t happened. I only made it out to take pictures twice, and the second night really didn’t produce anything I’m too thrilled about.

This is a fun picture from the first night, in Dallas, Texas. There is an obscure road crossing over I-30 just west of the city. It has a spectacular view of the skyline, and since I’m addicted to the trailing lights of passing cars, it was a perfect spot.

Amusingly, I’m glad I brought along a few different lenses because I ended up surprising myself. My “go to” lens is the 24-70mm, but for this picture I just couldn’t zoom in close enough to the skyline. I tried the 70-200mm and really liked the results. It was all a matter of time before the sun dropped below the horizon and I got the deep blue sky I desired.

For spending so much time in one place I really wish I could have gotten out more, but with the weather being cloudy, cold and super-overcast most every day, plus my other commitments for why I was actually there, I didn’t get out too much. Had the weather been twenty degrees warmer (like it was supposed to be the following weekend), or the clouds not been choking the city, I would have certainly come home with many more images.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Freezing Cold Skyline

Freezing Cold Skyline

In my calendar, marked a year ago on this date, the ambient temperature was 16 degrees below zero. The wind chill was 42 degrees below zero. Not surprisingly, both were records in Chicago.

There were a lot of fantastic images captured from the bitterly cold temperatures — none of them by me. It was too cold to venture outside, so I stayed in the house and kept the dog entertained. (Even she was only allowed outside to “take care of business.”)

As brutal as the temperatures were, it was kind of cozy. Sure, it was all hands on deck, and yes the temperature in our house was slowly losing ground to the frigidness outside, but it was still cozy. Day one I did laundry and let the faucets drip. Day two wasn’t as cozy as I was starting to get a little “cabin fever”, so I bundled up and ventured outside to take some pictures.

By the time I made it outdoors, the steam rising from Lake Michigan had settled a bit and the chance for the more dramatic images had passed. Regardless, it was nice to get out of the house for a bit.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Trains, Tracks and Towering Buildings

Trains, Tracks and Towering Buildings

18th Street, near Canal Street, in Chicago is a great place to park and walk along taking pictures. The Metra Railyard, Chicago River and Ping Tom Park, all within a quarter mile of each other. The evening I took this picture I was planning on heading to Navy Pier right after work. Traffic was brutal so I wasn’t sure if I’d make the sunset, and I really wasn’t interested in paying a bunch of money just to park for an hour or so. 18th Street was my “back-up plan,” and after realizing the two aforementioned issues, 18th Street became my “better plan.”

As luck would have it, the bright orange BNSF locomotive was parked with its lights on and engine running. The brightness of the train would help putting some color into an otherwise darker part of the picture.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

The Nutcracker



Tis the season!

Last year we had a million feet of snow by Christmas (slight exaggeration, perhaps) but this year we’ve had only a trace. I was really hoping for a good amount of snow by this time so I could get out and take pictures of snow-covered landscapes, holiday lights and the Chicago skyline. But not-so-much. So, the other alternative is grabbing pictures from inside and around the area, like this little guy: a nutcracker illuminated by lights of a Christmas tree.

Wherever you are and whatever you believe, have a wonderful day. And year.

Give the people you love a hug and let them know they matter.

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Posted in Scenic

Soldier Field and Chicago Skyline

Soldier Field and Chicago Skyline

I do love the Chicago skyline. It looks pretty damn cool from any angle.

A few months back I wandered down to Soldier Field so some pictures of the stadium during a Bears game. I was going to go last year, but the night I chose was during Winter and close to record-setting cold temperatures, so I stayed home and drank hot tea, instead. So, in August, I wandered down and took some pictures.

For the craziness a stadium of  61,000 can have, it can be relatively quiet in the right place on game day. East of Soldier Field is the lakefront with the bike path and Burnham Harbor. I would think the bike path was quiet because most people who would go out running know it’s a Bears game and turn around when they get close. Sailboats moored in the harbor don’t create a whole lot of noise, either.

Add in the faint roar of the crowd when something exciting happens, and it can be a great place to lay out with a picnic basket. Or a great place to wander around with your camera.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

In an Attitude of Defiance

In an Attitude of Defiance

Whether you’re ready or not, the holidays are here. Thanksgiving has come and gone. Hanukkah is fast approaching. Christmas. New Years.  Then shortly thereafter the hangover sets it.

Personally, I enjoy the holidays and like how so many difference places decorate. There are videos online of people going “all in” on their houses with lights and music, and then there are places like the Art Institute in Chicago who simply throw a wreath and bow on their lion statues standing out front.

By the way, the title of this post is the name of the picture, “In an Attitude of Defiance.” That is the name of the bronze lion pictured. Both of the statues in front of the Art Institute have unofficial names given to them by their sculpture, Edward Kerneys. The north lion is named “On the Prowl” because he looks like he’s, well, on the prowl. The south lion — pictured above — is named “In an Attitude of Defiance” because he looks as such.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |