Category Archives: Scenic

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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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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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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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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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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Hancock Sunset

Hancock Sunset

A few weeks ago I went on a 12-hour photo-binge. I started by shooting the sun setting from the Navy Pier parking garage, then moved on to the shores of Lake Michigan and the various boats coming and going from the city’s most popular tourist destination, before moving on to the Chicago River and Lower Wacker Drive. The next morning I got up and shot more pictures of the sun coming up.

As spectacular as a sunrise can be, I love being able to watch it set one day and then watch it rise the following day. There is something that much more majestic about seeing the sun disappear behind the earth and then reappear.

This picture is from that photo excursion. The sun is just peaking through two of Chicago’s taller buildings before “going to bed” for the night.

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John Hancock and the Evening Skyline

John Hancock and the Evening Skyline

I’ve been getting out and taking pictures a lot lately. I’m trying to do it at least once a week. I’ve really started to explore deeper parts of Chicago and find new angles to view the skyline, and I couldn’t love it more.

Early in this summer’s endeavor I wandered down to the lakefront to look for some different angles to shoot the skyline. From North Avenue Beach, I was able to walk along the water’s edge with the various break walls jutting out from the shoreline, and they gave a nice ability to seemingly walk out over the water.

This picture is also one of the first where I, seemingly, became addicted to “blue hour.” It’s the time of the night when the sun is very low (or has set) and the sky has a beautiful, deep, rich blue color to it. I love the way the sky is light enough to see the detail in the buildings, but dark enough to still see the twinkle of the lights.

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Lower Wacker and Trump Tower

Lower Wacker and Trump Tower

Last week I went out to shoot some images of Chicago and found myself running so late I was chasing the light and scored some images I wasn’t too excited about. This week I gave myself the correct amount of time and really made myself happy.

Starting at Navy Pier I wandered around looking for things to shoot. With a great vantage point of the city and a beautiful sunset, it wasn’t too difficult. Once the sun set I wandered down to the edge of Navy Pier and shot boats coming and going. Once that light faded I wandered up to the river and shot the Chicago River with Trump Tower in the background. Having just taken that a identical photograph last week, this week I was able to wander around and try some different things, which brings me to the image above.

While driving to the dog beach earlier in the week I looked over my shoulder and realized a strong potential for a picture. It was in a weird place where Wacker Drive and Lakeshore Drive meet, and I had never seen an image from there before. (So often with Instagram I see a lot of the same pictures, over and over and over and over again.) I was in this location for awhile, shooting from a few different locations (sometimes even standing in the roadway when the traffic light was red).

I like the blurred lines of traffic whizzing by, and the sky isn’t completely black so the buildings can still be easily seen. It’s something that sort of came together with tinkering and experimenting and I’m pleased with the result. I wish I had time to do it last week, but without last week this week wouldn’t have had as much fun.

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Trump and the Chicago River at Dusk

Trump and the Chicago River at Dusk

The last few times I’ve gone out to take pictures in the evening it has been clear skies. Earlier this week when I went out the skies were filled with clouds and I mis-judged how quickly it would get dark. I found myself scrambling to get to where I wanted to be.

By and large, when I go out to shoot the city of Chicago, I think about weather, timing and what I’m looking for. Instead of being someone who shoots all over and comes home with a handful of shots, I like to focus on one thing and capture it as best I can. On Monday night, that one thing was looking down the Chicago River at Trump Tower.

As has been the case for the last few weeks, sunset was scheduled for 8:30PM. Normally the skies are dark enough for what I’m looking for about 8:45PM. With the heavy cloud cover, that time was about 8:31PM. Since I left the house later than I wanted and was going to a more difficult place get to, I was nearly sprinting to reach the Lakeshore Drive bridge.

I did get the picture I wanted, but think the river is missing something. I’d be nice to have a big tour boat filling the foreground, so I’ll try my picture again in a few days. This time, however, I’ll be much earlier to the location.

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Wrigley Building and the American Flag

Wrigley Building and the American Flag

Several years back I came across a picture of an enormous American flag hanging from the side of Chicago’s Wrigley Building. I loved the picture and I loved the idea of a nine-story tall American flag. Since I was never really sure when the flag was erected, I decided this was the year I’d figure it out and snap a few of my own images.

Earlier this week I went downtown to take some pictures along the Chicago River. As I marched along the riverwalk, I came around the corner and saw the mighty flag was hanging from the side of the Wrigley Building. Finally. While my intent was to photograph other things that night, my new focus was all about the American flag and the Wrigley Building.

I ended up spending about two hours shooting pictures in all forms of light (sunset, twilight, dark skies, etc.) before calling it a night. Yesterday, while the sun was high in the sky I went back for some more images, but this time in the daylight. With the tour boats out, a few clouds here and there, it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day. I spent another couple of hours shooting before heading back home.

This probably isn’t the best picture from the nearly four hours of shooting, but given I now have a couple hundred photos to work through, this is one of the early discoveries I really, really like. With the flag, the boat traffic and the bright blue sky, it seems like a fitting image to celebrate Independence Day in Chicago.

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Quiet Night

Quiet Night Inspired by Instagram, I’ve been having fun going back through my pictures. Normally I take a handful of pictures on any endeavor and move on to the next round of image-making. In doing so, I leave any number of pictures behind on my hard drive which I don’t think twice about.

With my recent resurgence on Instagram, I’ve been able to go back over pictures and folders once used in blog posts and post another picture on the social media site. Sometimes, like with the image above, I realize I really like the picture and not just let the image die a slow death on my hard drive.

And I think Instagram is kind of weird in that way. I think it’s not uncommon to see a lot of “meh” photographs pop up on the site. No, I’m not referring to selfies and other shitty photographs, but specifically I’m tired of seeing building reflections in puddles. Not to rip into my own picture, but I think the above picture is fairly “meh” as well. I’d love to take the image again but with the sun setting versus total darkness. I like the boat passing by but think the exposure might be slightly too long. On Instagram, however, it isn’t a close-up of food or a building’s reflection in a puddle. When I posted it yesterday, the picture did fairly well for me and I think that’s pretty cool.

It’s nice to have good quality stuff as much as possible, but along the way there are bound to be B+ images, as well.

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The World’s Greatest Skyline

The World's Greatest Skyline

I’ve begun to work my way back through “forgotten” pictures.

For example, after I went up in a helicopter I pulled about thirty of my favorite images from the pile of pictures I took. After a couple of years have passed, I’ve gone back into that folder and found a number of images that are still quite good but didn’t make that first official cut. There is nothing wrong with them. There is nothing unappealing about them. However, next to the A+ pictures the B+ pictures didn’t make the cut, apparently.

So, I’ve begun to go back through photographs, spending about an hour a day, re-examining my folders. The picture above is from the day in a helicopter. Last week I found a picture of Buckingham Fountain in Chicago that is a damn fine picture, but it didn’t make the cut. Same with pictures from the Galapagos Islands and from South Africa and all points in between.

You’ll see a few posted in the coming days, as well as hopefully I’ll have another day up in a helicopter soon.

This time, however, I’ll check and then double-check my pictures right away. No need to discard the Bs and Cs just to make way for the As.

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Bikes and Buildings

Bikes and Buildings

This image is from last night and it is not the image I was going for.

Last evening I went out to shoot some pictures of the Chicago skyline. After spending a half-an-hour hanging out waiting for the right lighting, I got the picture I liked and made my way back to the car. I may have taken about 50 pictures while I was standing at the original location, but took only one of this guy on his bike.

I’ve learned I need to keep my camera out of my bag until I reach the car. Sometimes an image develops beautifully and my camera is in my bag and my tripod is strapped on as well. More often than not, out of sheer laziness, I don’t take a picture because I don’t feel like taking off my bag, unzipping it to reach for my camera inside, detach my tripod from the bag and extend the legs to then compose a shot. It’s a lot of work when one is feeling lazy. So, to make up for it I just don’t put my camera away.

So last night, towards the end of my photo expedition, this guy peddled up on his bike and admired the skyline. As I passed behind him I opened the legs of my tripod up (I had the entire tripod and camera ready to go except I closed the legs) and fired off only a single shot.

That single shot turned out to be my favorite picture of the night.

 

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Eye-Level Skyline

Eye-Level Skyline

Earlier this year I cut back on doing blog posts to focus more time and energy on making money with my photography. Part of that effort has been increasing my stock photography portfolio, and a smaller part was participating in an art festival a few weeks back. Both have produced wildly different results.

The stock photography sits on a website (in my case, iStockphoto) and waits until someone sees it and thinks enough of it to purchase. Selling at the art festival was slightly more work, but far more rewarding. It was nice to interact with people, answer questions, and make a few bucks.

In both cases, the money I earn doesn’t produce enough to retire on. I’d love to sell a picture or two and cover all of my bills for the month, but I know that isn’t too realistic. It is nice, however, to make a couple of bucks to offset all of the various parking fees and such.

When I drive someplace (Michigan, for example), there is a price paid for gas and tolls. If driving to Navy Pier I have to pay for parking (although this year I’m really working hard to not pay for parking anywhere). Or, in the case of the image above, there is time and fuel cost for climbing into a helicopter.

Aerial photography has become one of my favorite things to play around with. I love the different views associated with getting a couple thousand feet off of the ground can. I think it is always nice to see the “same ‘ol things” but from a different perspective, and I think it’s a hearty challenge — on my end — to produce a quality image.

Originally I passed over the above image. I thought I had come up with some better stuff that day, and while I think that is still true, I really like how there isn’t anything wrong with this image. I’m glad I went back to take a second and third look through my aerial shots.

I’m planning on another helicopter endeavor a little later this year. My goal is to go up and shoot around sunset, which should produce some stunning colors. To offset the cost of the helicopter fuel, I’ve tucked away a few dollars from my art festival and stock photography sales. Like I said above, I’m not looking to retire with my photography, but it is nice to not be losing money with it, either.

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Tour Boats, Tall Bridges and Tall Buildings

Tour Boats, Tall Bridges and Tall Buildings

Starting this year off, I was pretty uninspired towards photography. It didn’t help that our temperatures were miserably low and I didn’t even want to leave the house — let along go take pictures. That feeling of “meh” even carried over to Peru when I spent nearly a week at Machu Picchu but took very few pictures.

Now that the weather has warmed up I’ve been trying to get out as much as I can. The city of Chicago is fun to explore and, contrary to what one may find on Instagram, there are always new places to shoot.

I think finding those new and different places has been helping me to enjoy shooting again. So far this year I’ve gone out a number of times to shoot, but haven’t repeated anywhere. As many times the skyline has been captured from The Planetarium, it has lost its luster for me. That’s nobody’s fault but mine, so it was time to kick it up a little bit.

Last weekend I parked on the near-West side and walked along the river. As many times as I’ve photographed the Kinzie Street Bridge, it was nice to see it from a slightly different perspective.

As I was playing around with settings seeing what I liked best with the lighting, I found five seconds was the best exposure time for what I was looking for. However, such a long exposure meant whatever boats were passing along the river looked like a tremendous blur of nothing. Then along comes the tour boat above and it stopped halfway down the river, turned around, and headed back towards The Loop. In doing so it came to a near-complete stop, which let me take the picture I wanted without having to change any settings and gave me exactly the picture I was looking for.

Thanks random boat captain; you completely made my night!

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The Many Moai of Rano Raraku

Moai of Rano Raraku

I’m surprised I haven’t posted this image of Easter Island before, considering my wife and I spent nearly an entire day walking around Rano Raraku (a.k.a. “The Quarry”)  and have many pictures.

The Quarry is where all of the moai on Easter Island were carved from. Many of them were carved from the rock of the hillside, then “walked” down the hill where they would slowly make their way to their final destination. No one really knows how long it took to completely carve a moai, but if they broke during transit, the moai were left in that location and work was began on another carving another back in The Quarry. Obviously it was a very labor intensive project.

For the sake of experiencing The Quarry as the sun rose, my wife and I were the first ones to the location. The lighting was brutal for photographs, but the stillness and silence of it all made the early-morning trip worth it. As we were leaving, we began chatting with the ticket attendant and she told us her shift ends at three o’clock. If we come back before then she’d let us back in without having to pay — a total sweetheart move.

What was nice about going back the second time was the majesty of it all was still pretty cool, but it was easier to focus on taking some pictures. And, by the time its all said and done, “tourism” on Easter Island is far different than “tourism” anywhere else on earth. It is such a remote and difficult location that even their “busy” season is nothing like many other places on earth. Going early to get there before the crowd isn’t really necessary. It was still fantastic to experience the stillness of The Quarry without tour groups and such, but The Quarry was large enough we could easily avoid them once they were there.

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