Author Archives: Kristopher Kettner

Chinatown

Chinatown

This is a picture I’ve been meaning to take for awhile, it was just a matter of getting out of the house to take it.

Chinatown is a fantastic place to visit while in Chicago. The “touristy” part is actually super-small, only stretching a few blocks down South Wentworth Avenue. The architecture is amazing and some of the restaurants are fantastic. There are also a few shops in the area carrying some hard-to-find things and, of course, a few Chinese medicine shops. Won Kow, designed in 1928, is Chinatown’s oldest restaurant.

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Expressway to Chicago

Expressway to Chicago

With the weather changing in Chicago, I’ve notice my desire of where to take pictures changing. In city views, where “summer weather” is preferred, those are pretty much gone for the season. In pictures like the one above, of traffic blurring along Chicago’s Kennedy Expressway, there really aren’t any trees to make it look like summer or winter. This picture could have been taken in 110-degree temperatures or 10-degree temps. The only real hint is I’m probably not going to venture outside on those bone-chilling winter days.

Last winter, when Chicago was frozen like a popsicle, I did venture out but that was because weather was an anomaly and worth venturing out for. So far, winter has sucked and I haven’t wanted to do much of anything. However, in the next few weeks and months I’ll start to hit some of those “indoor locations” like the Cultural Center, Union Station, a few of Chicago’s spectacular churches and some department stores decked out for the holidays.

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Union Station and US Flag

Union Station and US Flag

I *love* the vast and openness of Union Station in Chicago, and I’d like to shake the hand of whoever decided to hang the American Flag there.

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Evening on Michigan Avenue

Evening on Michigan Avenue

Chicago always provides a plethora of opportunities to make some great images. Michigan Avenue is no exception.

Several years ago I worked at the Chicago Cultural Center a few days a week shooting their jazz and classical music concerts. The shows were during lunch and we were out the door a little after one o’clock in the afternoon. Tuesdays I had classes south of the Cultural Center and Wednesdays I didn’t have anywhere to be. I’d always enjoy my walks up or down Michigan Avenue (Tuesdays to class and Wednesday to the train), even in the foul weather months. Michigan Avenue is always alive and well.

I’d stop in the various art galleries, free concerts or public art displays. I got to know every nook and cranny of “Cloud Gate” located in Millennium Park, the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago River, and the Old Water Tower near the John Hancock Center. Now, as an adult, I’d love to have the time to regularly stroll up and down Michigan Avenue without racing to get to the next thing.

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Sunsets and Lights of Navy Pier

Sunsets and Lights of Navy Pier

Sometimes the cloudy days make for crappy sunsets, but those cloudy scenes can still produce some dramatic scenes.

In July I wandered down to Navy Pier in Chicago to shoot the sun setting from their parking deck (it has a pretty decent view back towards the city). As the sun set, the clouds rolled in and things became pretty overcast pretty quickly. After the sun disappeared altogether, I walked around a bit and checked out the view from the boat docking area alongside the pier.

This is always a good place to kill some time watching the world go by with the tourists boats coming and going.

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Skyline Reveal

Skyline Reveal

I learned about this hole in the fence via Instagram and went down one evening to see what I could do.

Lately, I’ve really been into skyline pictures with some blurred traffic, and this area did not disappoint. The spot is along Chicago Avenue as the street crosses over highways 90 and 94. I’m not sure why the fence is torn open, but it makes a great place to view the skyline with traffic blurring by below. I particularly like the way the fence “frames” the city and it’s traffic.

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Goal Celebration

Members of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after Andrew Shaw ties the game with a goal against the Calgary Flames at the United Center on October 15, 2014. (1193)

In my continued efforts to learn about time-lapses, I started working on another one at this week’s Blackhawks game. I learned a few things about camera settings, but also learned it’s MUCH easier to do a time-lapse with controlled lighting.

The previous time-lapses I’ve done have all been outdoors and required a lot of time to process because of the changing light. In Wednesday night’s case, my only lighting change was the stadium lights going from “work lights” to “game lights” and back again.

My attempts at time-lapses will continue to be a work in progress, but I’m already improving over my last attempt, as my camera’s battery didn’t die in the middle of things. That’s a plus!

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Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Autumn. Is. Here.

Unfortunately the rain is, too.

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to get out and photograph the colors of autumn with the rain we’re getting. Sure, the precipitation gives everything a nice washing and pretty shine, but it’s a bitch for the way it knocks the leaves off of the trees. It’s also not the best for camera equipment. So this is a picture from last year in Traverse City, Michigan!

Yey fall colors!

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Posted in Nature Tagged , |

Water Taxi and Train Bridges

Water Taxi and Train Bridges

I look forward to visiting this same location during the day soon. We’re in my favorite season as I love the way the trees’ leaves change colors. With the recent mix of hot and muggy conditions, combined with a few days that are cool and dry, the trees should produce some vibrant colors. Last year we had an explosion of colors followed quickly by a heavy, cold rain that wiped out most everything we had.

This year I’m gearing up and looking forward to chasing colors. I’ve been checking the foliage weather maps with regularly and, obviously, keep and eye on things myself. As a bonus, with all of the travel I’ve been doing lately, I can also see the fantastic colors from above, which is always cool.

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Crashing Waves and Crazy Fog

Crashing Waves and Crazy Fog

Last night I went out to shoot the skyline of Chicago. Sunset was at 6:37PM so I left the house shortly after 5PM wearing shorts and a T-shirt, as it was a bright, sunny, 85 degrees outside. In a matter of ten minutes the temperature plummeted 20 degrees. By the time I reached the lakefront it was 65 and the fog was screaming in from Lake Michigan. Also, since I was wearing shorts and T-shirt I was happy to have a jacket and pants in the trunk of my car.

While my sunset pictures didn’t turn out to be anything like I was hoping for, it was still pretty fascinating to watch the fog roll in and engulf the skyline. It made for some pretty spectacular images, and gave me something quite a bit different than I was aiming for.

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Manhattan Skyline Over the Hudson

Manhattan Skyline Over the Hudson

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travel for work, lately. Two weeks ago I was in Laramie, Wyoming and last week found me in New York City. Quite the contrast in locations.

In New York my original plan was to explore Time Square but a friend suggested the Brooklyn Bridge Park, instead. Having been to Times Square several times, I was certainly interested in exploring something different. Fortunately the “Parking Gods” were with me and I found a fantastic (and legal!) spot near the park. While Times Square is on everyone’s “must do” list for their first time in New York City (as it should be), Brooklyn Bridge Park should be on the list for any subsequent visit.

The park offers large, open spaces, but more particularly, sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. In the morning the sun rises in a way it lights up the entire skyline, but by evening the sun sets behind the city giving everything a spectacular backlight.

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Wrigley Field from a Rooftop

Wrigley Field from a Rooftop

The rooftop seats surrounding Wrigley Field are as iconic as the ballpark itself.

The Cubs ownership are going forward with a plan to block the views from the rooftops and erect video boards and signage in the outfield. Even though they have a contract with the rooftop owners for a share of the revenue, the Cubs are going ahead with their plans and have told the owners to sue them. So that’s the basics.

To me, the most amusing part of the argument is from the Cubs, saying they need to keep their fans engaged. Walking around the ballpark the Cubs management sees people playing with their phones and aren’t watching the action on the field, and they feel a video board or two would solve this problem.

Have the Cubs management seen what happens on the field?

A batter walks up to the plate and adjusts his gloves and helmet. The pitcher throws the baseball and it’s high and outside for a ball. The batter, while he hasn’t moved, steps out of the box, adjust his gloves and helmet EVEN THOUGH HE DIDN’T MOVE. And, before you think I’m angry, the above example came from Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, on why the game needs to be sped up.

Point being: In my opinion, putting a video board in right and left field shouldn’t be done to entertain the fans, the focus should instead be improving the product on the field, like speeding up the game and making the time between pitches less than what it currently is. If that doesn’t seem to be working after a year or two, maybe then look at video boards.

The current lack of video boards and signage at Wrigley Field is what gives the ballpark its charm. There isn’t loud pop music blaring from the speakers, cheerleaders standing on top of the dugouts throwing out T-shirts, and there aren’t enormous jumbotrons in the outfield. An experience at Wrigley Field is a chance to go back and watch baseball played like it was when your grandfather took in a baseball game.

Then again, the game your grandfather went to took twenty-five minutes less than a game played today.

On a side note, the above picture of Wrigley Field was taken from the 3639 Wrigley Rooftop. The overall experience of watching a ballgame from their rooftop is pretty sweet, but in addition to having one of the better views of the ballpark in front of you, there is the skyline over your shoulder and the famous L train behind you. For a rooftop experience, I can’t recommend anywhere else.

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War Memorial Stadium

War Memorial Stadium

I’ve been traveling quite a bit this fall working whatever college football game I am assigned. The first week of the season I was in Tucson, Arizona and had no time for anything outside of my assignment. The second week I made a point to get out and explore the area, which was good because I was in Laramie, Wyoming.

Laramie sits in southeastern Wyoming, essentially, in the foothills of the Rockies. Within an hour drive of my hotel I was through the rolling hills and high up in the mountains. Coming from Chicago, where everything is flat, the geography of Laramie was a welcome change.

Also, while covering the University of Wyoming Cowboys football game at War Memorial Stadium, I was able to set up and manage another time-lapse. I really like the way this one looked, although my camera’s battery died about a third of the way through.  The eleven seconds of footage I did get turned out well, and aside from failing Camera 101’s rule about charged batteries, I’m happy to be making progress on my time-lapse efforts.

The above image is a single frame from the aforementioned time-lapse.

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Airborne Skyline

Airborne Skyline

I feel like I’ve said this a couple of times before, but I’m getting ready to go up in a helicopter again soon. I’ve been going through my previous aerial images looking at settings and overall shots. I’ve also been looking other aerial images online, but it’s getting more and more difficult to look at images taken from a helicopter, since so many aerial images are taken with a GoPro attached to a personal drone.

Personally, I feel like drones have their place and can be wildly useful in so many different applications, but my complaint is “aerial photography” means something completely different at 50-yards up in the air than 300-yards. It is sort of my complaint with taking pictures from an airplane window and tagging it “aerial photography,” as well. Technically they are all the same thing — pictures taken from up in the air — but I’m just being a whiney old man and should close my pie-hole. I do think, no matter what it is called and how far off the ground the picture was taken, by and large aerial photography is spiffy. I love getting the different perspectives of the same view.

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Crashing Waves at Pemaquid Point

Crashing Waves at Pemaquid Point

I feel like I’ve had a very Chicago-centric photoblog as of late. I think part of it comes from Instagram, because I get a far greater reaction to Chicago pictures than anything else, but also because I naturally have more pictures of Chicago.

Living in Chicago I can grab my camera and head out any time to shoot some images. There have been numerous occasions I’ve taken my camera along as I run errands and randomly stopped to fire off a few stills. As with a lot of travel situations, I’m only in that location for a few hours to a maybe a week for some longer stuff. (Turkey, for example, I was only in for a mere six hours.) On this website, however, I could probably spread out the pictures more. So, the above picture is the first step in doing that.

I had never been to Maine before, so in October of 2009 I grabbed my camera and attended a weeklong photography workshop. I had a fantastic time and greatly improved on my photography, and its always good to keep learning. In addition, I was able to get out and explore some fantastic regional sights, like Maine‘s Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

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Trains and Tall Bridges

Trains and Tall Bridges

I’ve always had a thing for trains. Maybe it’s because I was never far away from a train set when I was younger.

Often I wonder if I love things (like trains) now because I played with them as a kid, or did I play with things as a kid (like trains) because there is something about me that was hard-wired from the beginning. Either way, earlier this summer I was out shooting some images around Chicago‘s 18th’s Street Bridge.

The bridge has a little bit of something for everybody. It spans a commuter train railroad yard, the Chicago River and the beautiful Ping Tom Memorial Park. Looking north, the 18th Street Bridge also has a helluva view of the city’s skyline and to the south the a hearty industrial view of Chicago. One can freely move along the bridge’s wide sidewalk and have plenty of room to shoot from (there is a devoted bike lane on 18th Street so you needn’t worry about getting picked off by a passing bicyclist). Traffic isn’t too crazy so wandering from one side of the street to the other is very easy to do.

I found the location by accident as I was driving along one day. The retaining wall of the bridge is just high enough where a driver cannot see over it easily (probably for the better to avoid distractions). On a hunch, I grabbed my camera gear and beaded back. I was not disappointed, and  came away with a number of pictures I really enjoy.  I still go back frequently because I love watching how often the skyline changes.

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Evening Waves Along Lake Michigan

Evening Waves Along Lake Michigan

Several weeks ago I wandered around Chicago and took a few pictures near Fullerton Beach of the setting sun. I spent about an hour watching the sun set and the lighting get closer to what I was looking for. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the sky turned a very dark blue and that’s what I was waiting for. I enjoy how the lights of the buildings “pop” and the sky still has some light so there the viewer can still see where the buildings end and the sky starts (versus all-black of a late-night sky).

For the image above, I waited awhile, got the lighting I wanted and then moved around. I took a few pictures zoomed in, zoomed out, different angles, etc. One of the last pictures I took before heading to the car was from standing on the tops of the old dilapidated break-wall. With a long exposure the waves of Lake Michigan smoothed out and everything looked so calm and flat.

I ended up taking about a dozen pictures as I headed back to the car, and I really like all of them (especially this one). I’ve been incredibly busy on other projects lately and haven’t been able to make it out as much as I did earlier this summer. I really need to be careful however, or next thing I know summer will be gone and there will be ice formed on these very same rocks.

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Salzburg, Austria from Hohensalzburg Castle

Salzburg, Austria

I’ve been really, really, really into evening photography lately.

That small window of time from after sunset to when the sky is completely dark is called blue hour. Photographers love blue hour because the sky is extremely rich in a wash of blue. It can be a light blue or extremely dark blue, depending on the time the image is captured.

Going through through potential images to post for today I came upon this one of Salzburg, Austria. The picture was taken from Hohensalzburg Castle, and I’d love to go back to take the picture again, but this time — during blue hour, or shortly after sunset.

I have examples of “blue hour photos” posted here, here and here. Salzburg, Austria during the day is cool, but I think a fun, European city during blue hour would be a fantastic addition to my image library.

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Soldier Field and the Chicago Skyline

Soldier Field and the Chicago Skyline

For years I had peddled my bike along Chicago‘s lakefront and enjoyed the various views the ride has to offer. Many times I’d bring my camera along and document the various things I’d see. This particular location south of Soldier Field and north of McCormick Place perked my interest because of the boats, the view and the inclusion of the Soldier Field.

It’s taken a couple of years, but I finally made it back to that location for a Bears night game. Because I wanted to avoid getting tangled in game traffic, I ended up parking two-and-a-half miles away and hiking with my gear to this location. The sunset — just off camera to the left — was spectacular, but I couldn’t find away to accurately include it in the image you see above. To my immediate left was a large group of trees, and if I went any more to the right I’d be swimming.

I still like how the image turned out. I wish it was a slightly more accessible location so it would be more enticing to give it another go on different nights. Realistically, I’ll probably throw my bike in the car and do it again. Having some wheels will help me cover some ground and mix up my locations a bit.

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Respect and Admiration

I have always had a tremendous respect for fire fighters.

Aside from the simple fact they are running into buildings as everyone is running out, you rarely hear of fire fighters using their position of power for personal gain. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never seen or heard of it. (If it does, I’m sure it happens far less than the ratio of police or other government officials.) I have, however, been around people who were being jerks, and when asked “What’s with you? Do you think it’s your birthday?” Said jerk proceeded to pull out his police badge and proclaim “Sweetie, every day is my birthday.”

Fire fighters carry their basic equipment with them on family road trips in case they come across an accident. Fire fighters are in shape and work out regularly. Fire fighters carry an abundance of gear high into the burning hills to tirelessly work to eradicate a forest fire.

Now, I’m not saying police officers suck, because they don’t. They work just as hard and, in most cases, deal with situations you or I could never even dream of. In both cases they are woefully underpaid.

So please don’t think for a minute this is a post bashing police officers. It’s not. It is, however, a high-five to fire fighters. Be it rescuing cats from trees or running up the steps of a burning building, they answer the call of duty with nary a complaint, and they finish their job and quietly dissolve back into the night. The next morning they may even wake up early to wash their fire truck.

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