Category Archives: Scenic

Old Pier and Rising Sun

Old Pier and Rising Sun

I recently realized I don’t have many sunrise pictures.

Getting pictures of the sunrise involves getting up early and being in position about a half-and-hour before the sun actually introduces itself.

With my schedule and desire to sleep in sunrise pictures don’t happen naturally. Additionally, I feel like Chicago doesn’t offer up many opportunities to get glorious sunrise photos. Since our city faces the East, a lot of times the early-morning images involve shooting out over an endless surface of water. Personally, I think Lake Michigan, while it can be majestic, can also be quite flat and boring. For the few places with something to include in the foreground, like parts of an old, abandoned pier poking above the waterline of near Evanston, Illinois (above), I don’t feel like going back to the same places time and time again. Sure, the sunrise changes each and every day, but I don’t want to keep going back to the same places time and time again.

Maybe one day I’ll win the lottery so I can hike deep into the wilderness and camp for two weeks to get those majestic shots of the sun rising behind a mountain range. In reality, I need to suck it up and realize Chicago has thousands of fantastic places to shoot the sunrise, I just need to stop being a brat and wake up early for a change.

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Tower Bridge and Olympic Rings

Tower Bridge and Olympic Rings

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia just wrapped up. I had been meaning to post this image when the games started but finally got around to it now — when the games ended. (I’ve been pretty weak on posting images so far this year.)

Working the Games of the XXX Olympiad was an incredible experience. I did not get the invitation this year but I had several friends and co-workers who did. They had nothing but good stories to share and didn’t have to break out of any bathrooms or deal with brown tap water. (On the final day one did have his iPad stolen, but he was pretty “meh” about it.)

My fingers are crossed I’ll be invited down to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Games. If I don’t get the call I’ll be firmly planted on the couch watching the coverage. Being at The Games has given me a new respect for the athletes, the city holding the event event and my “bothers and sisters” who are involved in getting those images out.

Speaking of images, I took the above picture on the one “off day” I had while in London. The Tower Bridge, showing the Olympic Rings, is lit up in celebration of the 2012 Olympic Games.

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Ahu Togariki

Ahu Togariki

While in London to cover the Games of the XXX Olympiad, on an off-day I traveled to see Stonehenge with a guy I was covering the Olympics with. We met a woman along the way and the three of us misfit travelers had a grand time together.

We discussed the earth and its famous “old rocks,” from the ancient pyramids in Egypt to, obviously, Stonehenge. To thank us for letting her join us on our motley adventure, JC bought Alan and I pens exclaiming “Stonehenge Rocks.” I keep that pen in my travel bag, which holds my iPod, headphones, passport and a few other miscellanious travel items when flying someplace.

While in Easter Island, I took a picture of my pen in front of the famous moai and sent the photo, along with something along the lines of “More famous old rocks!” to the gang. That collection of famous old rocks is growing, apparently, as my wife and I recently booked flights to Machu Picchu.

We’re excited about our upcoming adventure and, while it is the tail-end of their rainy season, we are still stoked about going to explore someplace new. Travel is the one thing you buy that makes you richer. Travel is like an investment in yourself. It makes you more interesting, more fun, and more understanding.

I studied the Inca culture in grade school and am excited to be able to learn more about their mysterious culture. Their ruins are fantastic, as is the mysterious history surrounding Machu Picchu. Not unlike the famed moai of Easter Island or the pyramids of Egypt, the ancient temples of Machu Picchu continue to inspire, amaze and make one wonder.

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Frigid Cold Skyline

Frigid Cold Skyline

We’ve had a crazy winter this year. If it’s not cold we’ve had a non-stop pummeling snow. Some friends and I got into a discussion about what we’d rather have, the snow or the cold. I was surprised it was pretty split down the middle with what people liked.

I took the snow.

We can shovel the snow. We can sled in the snow. We can take pictures of the snow. We can eat the snow. We can play in the snow. If it’s cold, you can’t do much but hunker down in the house and hope pipes don’t freeze.

When we had the blast of cold temperatures earlier this year I did wander out to take pictures. I was too busy trying to keep pipes from freezing to get out during the coldest temps, but once things settled down I did make it out. This was one of the images from that endeavor. When it gets super-cold and the air temperature is colder than the water temperatures, Lake Michigan emits a faint steam.

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Carousels and Ferris Wheels

Carousels and Ferris Wheels

This image, of the ferris wheel and carousel of Navy Pier in Chicago, is very much an “Instagram picture” to me. Pictures as wide, expansive scenics don’t seem to pop up on the photo-sharing site much, but close-up pictures of food, a city in all its glory, or detailed images like that above seem to dominate my feed. (I follow about 100 people on Instagram, from friends and their personal images to professionals and their current projects.)

I’ll be curious in the years to ahead where photography goes. In the past ten years film photography has all-but-died. Now Nikon and Canon — the two big players in the industry — are pushing bigger, sexier cameras. Their iconic cameras run for a couple of thousand dollars, as does the lenses that go with them.

As society evolves and cameras get easier to operate and smaller to carry around (nearly everyone’s phone has a camera now, and that they carry in their pockets each day), will more people shy away from spending $2,000 for a camera, when a $300 will do just fine? Will only a few old timers carry the big, bulky cameras and their cumbersome lenses, while the kids have the quick and fast pocket cameras? At one point do those kids become “old timers” and still use the small, inexpensive cameras?

While the legacy camera manufactures make fancier gear (36 megapixels, anyone?), will they ever get into a situation like film has become, where no one is buying their product because it’s easier and cheaper to get something dramatically smaller and lighter? Will Nikon and Canon adapt, or will they go the way of Kodak?

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Duct Tape

Duct Tape

More often than not, when I’m out running around and I see something I want to come back and take pictures of, for one reason or another, it doesn’t work out.

It can be the colors of leaves during autumn and later that same day wind or rain comes through and wipes them out, or maybe a colorful sunset which disappears in seconds. Like I said, more often than not, it doesn’t work out to come back (which is why it would be good if I started carrying my camera around with me more often).

So all of that being said, the above picture and all of the small pieces of duct tape on a wall was one of the few things where it did work out. Driving through the Chinatown neighborhood in Chicago, I saw the duct tape covering a wall as I was driving through an intersection. For obvious reason I couldn’t stop at the time, but a couple of days later I made it back and got the shot I was looking for.

I’m not sure of the origins of the tape or even the purpose, but I think they’re certainly interesting enough to grab a picture of.

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

After last week’s Christmas Skyline image, I wasn’t planning on doing another post until after the New Year. Christmas got the better of me, so I’m posting this simple picture. 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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Christmas Skyline

Christmas Skyline

The city of Chicago’s skyline is decorated for Christmas.

This that magical time of year where I take a couple of weeks off from photoblogging. Well, I don’t take time off, really, I just do other things. For example, the week between Christmas and New Years is traditionally slow for myself as far as image-making. Every year, as a result of the “down time,” I fill out the appropriate form and ship pictures off to the U.S. Copyright office. The process of copyrighting takes maybe an hour from start to finish, but it’s well worth the time and energy later on if something comes up.

The first year I sent pictures in for copyright, I feel like the process took forever. That’s mostly because I had no clue what I was doing. Now, several years later, I have an extremely streamlined process and I’m done before I know it.

If you’re interested: I use Form VA each year and it costs $65. I’ll go into Adobe Lightroom and export all of my pictures taken in any given year to a folder on my desktop. The file size doesn’t have to be spectacular; just enough to show your picture is indeed your picture. That folder is then copied to a CD-ROM and sent via UPS overnight to the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington D.C. Yes, I am well aware there is a cheaper method available ($35) and it involves simply uploading images via their secure server, but there is also a 60-minute window where you can upload as much as you can upload, and that’s it. If you go past that 60-minute window you’re out another $35. For me, it’s easier to just ship the images out on a CD-ROM and be done with it, plus I receive confirmation that it was received and signed for (the government is VERY slow to cash checks) and I also make an exact duplicate of everything I send in.

One additional note is the first year I used a couple of DVD-Rs to send my images in for copyright. One of the nice things about using the mail-in method is I sent in a boatload of images spread across several disks. In my labeling, all I needed to do was “Kettner 1 of 3,” “Kettner 2 of 3,” and “Kettner 3 of 3” all for the one price of $65. If copyrighting music, movies, paintings or pictures, it is nice to have the flexibility of more than one hour and more than a 11.3MB file.

So while I do plan on getting out and taking a few more pictures before the holiday, I also plan on getting my images copy-written. One of the pictures I plan on taking is similar to the image above.

Shortly before Christmas a few years back, some of Chicago‘s buildings were decorated for the holidays. I remember it being one of the coldest nights thus far as I tromped around in the snow. This image was captured well after sunset, and I’d like to take it again, but this time with a little brighter-sky.

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Two Branches Meet

Two Branches Meet

This is Wolf Point in Chicago.

Since I’ve taken this picture in 2010, the spot in which I stood has been completely reworked and the railroad company is building something fancy. Also, as I was taking this picture, over my left shoulder are a number of high-rise condos with a spectacular view down the Chicago River. At Wolf Point (the tiny tree-filled knoll on the waters edge, to the left of the image), a development company has decided to pull out its parking lot and build another high rise condo — thus blocking the view those over my shoulder have. Everyone has decided to go to court and sue to slow things down (or kill projects all together), but I’m glad I was able to sit and spend an evening watching the sun set down the river.

A year or two later  went back for sunrise hoping to get an image of the sun blazing down the river, but my calculations were wrong and the sun perked up between some buildings. I never made it back to try the picture again, and if I don’t go soon, my chance may be lost forever. As long as I avoid the ongoing railroad construction, of course.

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Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest

I’ve been slowly posting images for sale to the website Fine Art America. I like them because, I feel, their markup is minimal, but more importantly they offer a bunch of different options from fancy mental printing to small, custom greeting cards. I make no secret that I like producing images but don’t like sitting in front of a computer editing, and I especially don’t like the business end of it. That’s where Fine Art America comes in. If someone wants a photograph, there are seemingly countless options available. Instead of myself and an interested person e-mailing back and forth about size, mattes, frames, shipping, etc., Fine Art America takes care of everything — and shows the customer what they’re getting in real-time.

The reason I bring this up, is with the holidays around the corner, I have received a few e-mails from people looking to buy prints off of my blog. That makes me happy for a couple of reasons. The first is the obvious selling of images, but also because people are seeing my images and liking them enough to shoot an e-mail about buying them. It’s been a nice couple of weeks, and while I’m not about to retire or buy a new camera with my spike in sales, it’s a nice “self high-five” along the way.

Now, the image above has nothing to do with selling pictures, Fine Art America, or even the upcoming holidays. It’s just a picture of Mount Everest, towering 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above the Earth’s surface. Flying from India to Bhutan our plane flight right alongside the mountain. Somebody up above was smiling down on us because we had the best window seats ever on the correct side of the plane for both flights to and from Bhutan.

As we were soaring high above the mountains, I looked out the window occasionally at all of the mountain peaks standing tall as far as the eye could see. One peak in particular caught my eye. I told my wife, “For some reason, I wonder if that is Mount Everest.” I recalled Everest having a double-peak, and for whatever reason it looked vaguely familiar to some of the pictures I remembered seeing. No sooner did we finish our discussion then the pilot click on his microphone and told everyone that Mount Everest was out the plane’s left side. To this day, I’m still damn proud of myself for recognizing Everest randomly along the way.

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Tribune Towers Over Regeneration

Tribune Towers Over Regeneration

On the Michigan Avenue bridge spanning the Chicago River, there are four sculptures on each of the four bridge houses. One represents discovery, one represents the pioneers early to the midwest, one represents defense in the 1812 Battle of Fort Dearborn, and on the Southeast corner, Regeneration depicts life in Chicago as the city rebuilds following the fire of 1871.

One of the fun footnotes of this bridge is the Southwest bridgehouse has been converted into a museum, which allows people to learn the history of the Chicago River and its bridge houses. Somewhat nifty is one can climb to the top to see the size of the workspace and down to the bottom to view the gear room.

During the spring and fall, when the bridges are raised to allow boats to travel up and down the river, tourists can also sit in the gear room to watch everything work as the bridge does its thing.

I’ve been in the museum and it is a fun-yet-quiet history lesson of Chicago in the middle of one of its most crowded areas.

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Magnificent Mile at Night

Magnificent Mile at Night

Every-now-and-then I like to head into the city of Chicago and shoot some images. Sometimes I’ll get out and shoot at sunrise, other times at sunset.  I like taking the train around when I do this because I can wander the streets and head home when I’m exhausted, and not have to somehow make it back to my car (once I remember where I parked it).  The downside of this, is I carry nearly a ton of gear with me, since I’m not sure if I’m what I’m going to need whenever I end up where I end up.  That’s always good for the back, I’m sure.

Anyway, with this particular picture, I’m in the median underneath a traffic light shooting north up Michigan Avenue.  I always feel odd doing shots like this because people sit and stare at you while they’re waiting for the traffic light to turn green. One of these days I’m going to wear a gorilla mask while I’m taking pictures just to really give people something to stare at.

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Blasting Waves and Setting Sun

Blasting Waves and Setting Sun

A few weeks ago I traveled to Northern Michigan to explore the area and make images of the autumn colors. It was right around the “peak” time where the leaves of trees offer the best they have to offer. Amusingly, one of my favorite pictures from that journey isn’t of trees or leaves.

Arriving at the Point Betsie Lighthouse near Frankfort, Michigan, a storm was rolling across Lake Michigan several miles away from shore. As the massive storm cloud blew itself North, the setting sun was revealed behind it. Since the thunderstorm had kicked up the waves, it made for quite an unique experience of a bright sun setting below the clouds, but still these harsh waves slamming against the shoreline.

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Sunshine, Dog Walking and Chicago Skyline

Sunshine, Dog Walking and Chicago Skyline

The temperature has plummeted here in Chicago. When we first got our dog it was late-June and the temperature was damn-near perfect. Throughout summer it was easy to take her for a walk, as my biggest decision came with deciding between wearing a baseball cap or not. Now, with winter temperatures blasting in, the morning walks with the dog are slightly more complex.

My wife and I picked up one of those jacket puppy can wear, not to mention I had to find some gloves and hats for myself, as well. The first day puppy and I went for our morning walk in the 30-degree temperatures, I’m pretty sure she didn’t like the frozen blades of grass. So there we were walking along the sidewalk; puppy was in her jacket and I’m dressed up like “Nanook of the North.” It made me think back to the above picture of two women walking a dog along the shores of Lake Michigan. The skyline is slightly obscured because there is so much haze in the air. I don’t recall the exact temperature, but I do remember it being super-hot on the day I took this picture.

After a couple of cold morning walks, that super-hot summer day seemed so long ago.

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Autumn Grass

Autumn Grass

This weekend I wandered around the area near Traverse City, Michigan to explore the various colors autumn had to offer. From the Sleeping Bear Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan to the vineyards high atop bluffs, it was all quite beautiful.

In a year where I feel I didn’t get out to shoot pictures much, it’s nice to devote an entire weekend to exploring all of the colors Mother Nature has to offer.

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Colorful Tree

Colorful Tree

This has been an extremely strange autumn. In years past, the colors of the leaves seemed to peak around the first weekend of October, but we’re fast approaching week three and those colorful leaves still seems a few days away.

Last week I drove up in to almost Northern Wisconsin from Chicago and it was beautiful to watch the trees go from green, to a little colorful, to extremely colorful during the course of the five-hour drive. However, this weekend I visited my parents in rural Wisconsin and the trees there went from green leaves to leaf-less almost overnight. The southwest corner of Wisconsin struggled through a hearty drought, while the midwest portion of the state got steady rain throughout summer. The result was some places have colorful trees this fall, while other regions fall into the “not so much” category.

To gauge colors, I’ve been using The Weather Channel’s “Fall Foliage Map” for the last few years. The website seems to be only updated weekly, but it still gives a good idea of when to expect the trees to present their best colors.

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Angkor Wat Sunrise

Angkor Wat Sunrise

It was well before sunrise when our driver picked my wife and me up at our hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Our plan was to watch the sun rise behind the temple of Angkor Wat.

As we made our way towards the temple in the comfort of our small van, I was amazed at the different modes of transportation used by everyone to reach the same destination. It was like a ridiculous version “Cannonball Run.”

On the road in the dark where horse-drawn buggies, bicycles, tuk tuks, mopeds, people walking and plenty of cars. (There may have been a couple of donkeys in the mix as well.) When we pulled up in the lot across from Angkor Wat, it occurred to us that we had no idea where we were going. It was pitch black at the ancient temple and the best we had going for us was to follow the crowd. That’s not really what anyone wants to say on their vacation.

Slowly the light from the sun started to make its way above the horizon, which helped us tremendously see where we were going. As my wife and I got closer to the temple, various people were lined along the reflecting pools (one pond was on the left of the walkway, another was on the right) and we assumed a position near the left pool.

As the sun got closer to the horizon, the crowd started to fill in. I was glad we arrived when we did because there were a few people lined up behind us snapping photos as my wife and I stood enjoying the beauty of the sunrise at mystical Angkor Wat.

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Lakeshore Drive and Chicago Skyline

Lakeshore Drive and Chicago Skyline

Last week I went out late in the day to shoot some images of Chicago‘s skyline at “blue hour”. Blue hour is the period of time after the sun sets but before the sky goes black. It is usually a window of less than an hour after sunset, when the sky turns a wonderful dark blue. (The same effect happens in the morning shortly before sunrise.)

For awhile I had wanted to seek out a location for trying to show some “motion blur,” in this case cars driving by on Lakeshore Drive. Several years back I took pictures from this same location during the Chicago Half Marathon, and thought it would be good this time around.

Turns out, it was. The pedestrian bridge at 35th street is just the right height and not encased in chain-linked fencing. I had a platform that covered eight lanes of traffic and five or six lanes of railroad tracks, both offering unique looks at Chicago‘s skyline.

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Willis Tower at Sunset

Willis Tower at Sunset

Chicago, Illinois has one of the best skylines in the world. Part of why it’s so good, is the Planetarium provides a fantastic viewpoint that every TV show, news crew, tourist bus and photographer stop by on occasion. You could sit there every day for a week and see seven amazingly different sunsets, and people of all walks of life.

Part of the fun while hanging out there is watching everyone bustling around you while you sit. For this image, there were segway tours, photographers, lovers, walkers and the kids all running around watching the sun set (well, the kids were playing tag, but everyone else was watching the sun set).

Chicago is a beautiful city, and opportunities like this really enhance the experience.

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Autumn at Anna Ruby Falls

Autumn at Anna Ruby Falls

Hello Autumn. Nice to see you again.

Asking a photographer if they enjoy autumn is like asking a small child if they want another piece of chocolate cake.

“Yes.”

Since adopting a dog from a rescue shelter, I’ve learned a lot about the local forest preserves around my house. A few years back I would have planned some massive (and money-consuming) road trip to some remote location to shoot colorful trees of fall, but my puppy has taught me a lot about what is local.

Once a week my wife or I take her to woods near our house. We go on a three mile trail along a river and passing under a railroad tracks. The last couple of trips I’ve brought my camera, which has made it as fun for me as it is for puppy. Those same forest preserves are exploding with color. As a bonus, since they’re located in a heavily populated area, the deer are docile and I’m able to get within twenty feet of them. Growing up in Wisconsin that’s almost unheard of.

So while looking for a picture for today, I stumbled upon this image from Georgia of Anna Ruby Falls. Several years back my wife and I attended a friend’s wedding and went down a couple days early to explore the region. We rented a cabin and I, of course, brought my camera. We missed the autumn colors by a couple of days, but it was more fun to get out and go for a couple of hikes than anything else.

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