Category Archives: Scenic

Boats and Trains of Chicago, Illinois

On the day I took this photograph, I was wandering along the Chicago River shooting various things and reached the point where the river branches north and south. As I looked back towards the city, two CTA trains rattled along on the tracks while a tour boat passed underneath. It was potentially a cool picture, however I was in an awful position. I walked to the other side of the river to get into a better position to photograph and waited.

And waited.

And then waited some more.

At some points trains would pass overhead but not with any boats on the river. Other times, boats would pass without trains. I have one picture of a tiny electric boat floating along with the train overhead. (The boat is so small it looks like a spot on the lens.)

Finally, after quite a long time of waiting, a tour boat floated by on the river as a couple of CTA trains passed above it. I didn’t have a lot of patience when I started photography, but it’s moments like this where I’m glad I’ve picked some up along the way.

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Fire Boat and the Chicago Skyline

In June of 2012 I boarded a tour boat and wandered up and down the Chicago shoreline shooting pictures. As we approached the Southern end of the Columbia Yacht Club, a fire boat went flying past us, then proceeded to open up its hose and do a little display. I’m not sure if the fire department was putting on a show or just cleaning out hose or something, but it was fun to see none-the-less.

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Complete Chicago Aerial View

I spent part of yesterday in a helicopter over the city of Chicago. It was some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and it was great weather for picture taking.

Angelo, my pilot, and I fit snugly into a small helicopter as we buzzed our way around the city for awhile. We approached from the south and went as far north as Evanston. Some of my favorite things were just hovering above the city looking down. So often we see the same angles and views of Chicago, that it’s nice to see the same things from a different perspective. (Including hovering eye-level with the Willis Tower Sky Deck.)

I posted a few of the pictures on Facebook. Clicking here will take you directly to the album of photos, and eventually I’ll get a few on this website as well.

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Montrose Harbor Sunset

Yesterday morning I went out to shoot sunrise pictures. For the first time ever, I didn’t take a single picture.

The cloud cover was so heavy, I couldn’t see when the sun actually rose. About a half-and-hour after the sun supposedly made its way into the sky, it was noticeably brighter outside. By that point, however, I had given up and made my way back home.

As the sun dipped lower in the sky at the end of the day, I decided to grab my gear and head back out for sunset. There weren’t many clouds in the sky, so I knew I wouldn’t get any crazy-bright colors, but I hadn’t been to Montrose Harbor in Chicago to take pictures at sunset before.

It was a quiet and peaceful night, and I only took about a dozen pictures. It was nice to get out, however, and make up for the morning’s lack-of-photos.

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Changing Trees

Autumn is here and it is in full swing!

Earlier this week my wife and I drove up to rural Wisconsin to visit some family. It is a beautiful area and I’ve done it enough times that I have a route I take past a few abandoned houses, picturesque fields, produce markets and turn-of-the-century water mills. Even if I’m going up for the most trivial thing, I’ll bring my camera along.

So in driving home, I checked on Hyde’s Mill to see how it looks with the fall foliage, but en route we passed by a field exploding with color.

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Old Cannons, Great Wall

It is things like the Great Wall of China that make me want to travel to the country and spend every day for a month or two making photographs of the ancient fortification. Sunrise, sunset, snow, rain, clear skies, etc.: shoot it all.

The Great Wall has stood the test of time, even with the hordes of tourists visiting on a regular basis, it is still an amazingly powerful place to stand and look around.

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Punta Suarez Blowhole

Located on Española Island within the Galapagos Islands, Punta Suarez is a popular traveler destination for its variety of bird life. Among the sites — including a species of bird viewed nowhere else in the world — is a lava-created blowhole blasting water high into the air.

Centuries ago, the lava solidified and left an opening just right for waves from the ocean to crash into it. As the pressure from the waves hits the back wall of the tunnel, the water shoots the only direction it can go: high into the air.

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Bright Star, Tall Bridges

There is something about this picture that makes me feel like it was taken down south somewhere along the Mississippi River. It’s not, however, as it’s the tour boat “Bright Star” ferrying passengers down the Chicago River.

On weekends there is heavy, heavy boat traffic on Chicago‘s most famous waterway. There are several companies offering tourists a ride up and down the branches of the Chicago River, all the while giving information on various things located throughout the city. Most tours take about an hour and are a unique and fun way to learn about the city in which I love.

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Varied Heights

Last night I was driving home from U.S. Cellular Field and was gazing at  the Chicago skyline. I truly love our city’s buildings, their varied heights and the individuality each one has.

Viewing the skyline at night is a completely different experience than viewing during the day. Even viewing the same piece of real estate from the ground is dramatically different from ten floors up, as it is even more dramatic from a rooftop.

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Overlooking the Valley of Fire

In the Valley of Fire State Park, there are a variety of different rock colors and formations. Not far from the main road, towards the back-end of the park, is the “Fire Wave.”

It’s not nearly as spectacular as the stunning wave located on the Utah/Arizona border, but it is spectacular none-the-less. The park’s entrance is located about an hour from Las Vegas, Nevada, and even then, one has to drive another half-an-hour into the park before the scenery gets good.

For this picture, I set the camera on a tripod and then brought with me the tiny remote control to trip the shutter. Yes, I am my own model in this picture. I have about a dozen pictures of myself here, ranging from jumping up in the air to “sitting in reflection.” Additionally, I have a few pictures with no one in the shot, but I like the inclusion of a person to help show the sheer size of the wave.

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Chicago Skyline and Bolts of Lightning

Gentlemen: Good things come from meeting your wife for lunch.

A few years back I was going to meet my (then-girlfriend-now-)wife for lunch. Her lunch break fell at a strange hour and later in the evening I was heading to a bar to see a friend’s band play at a bar. Before leaving the house, I realized I wouldn’t have enough time in between to go home, but I’d have too much time to go directly to the bar. So I threw my camera bag in the car and figured I’d wander around to take some pictures in between.

Fortunately, as I headed out after lunch the skies darkened and the front edge of a storm rolled in. Not a drop of rain fell but the cloud-to-ground lightning was incredible. I sat for an hour taking picture back towards the Chicago skyline as lightning bolts lit up the night sky. For nearly an hour I sat by myself watching the fantastic display of colors.

Two other photographers eventually showed up. One came peddling up on his bicycle and he frantically set up just before another gentleman arrived with his camera already on a tripod. The two sat to my right clicking away for less than ten minutes before the rain began to fall.

My camera was covered with a waterproof rain bag, but the two other shooters weren’t as fortunate. As the intensity of the rain falling grew harder and harder, they tried to protect their gear as best they could. I had already captured my favorite shot of the night (viewable in my portfolio) and made my way to the car.

I ended up getting to the bar a bit later than I originally wanted. My friend’s band was still on stage, but the lightning was so good I couldn’t pull myself away. (The rain certainly helped in my decision of when to leave.)

Sitting there by myself for so long, I really like knowing I was the only guy hanging out for so long. The other photographers who showed up, I’m sure, captured a few quality images, but I was happy to have spent so much time sitting along the water’s edge watching the storm roll in. I was even happier to capture some quality images of the Chicago skyline along with some incredible bolts of lightning.

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American Flags Fly

Just outside of Richland Center, Wisconsin is the American Legion Veteran’s Memorial Park. It is a quiet park not far from the main road out of town, but too many American flags blow in the wind.

The reason I write “too many” is each flag signifies a veteran from Richland County, Wisconsin who has lost his life in battle. Also located at the park is an enormous M60 A3 Tank. It was purchased for nearly $1.3 million but “will never equal the price paid for freedom.”

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Hidden Treasury

In the early 1800s, I couldn’t imagine stumbling upon the famous rock-cut architecture of PetraJordan while wandering through the deserts of the Middle East.

In 1812 the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt did just that.

Burckhardt was living in Syria at the time and had heard locals talk of an ancient rose-colored city not far from where he was. In 1812 he set out and “discovered” the ancient trade mecca which had been forgotten about for nearly 1,000 years. Given the sheer awesomeness of walking up to the historical site now days, I couldn’t imagine doing it then. We have all seen pictures of the ancient city carved into the side of a mountain, or we’ve watched movies (Indiana Jones comes to mind) which were set there as well. However, in 1812, being the first European to walk down the narrow Siq and see The Treasury unveil itself had to be a pretty spectacular experience.

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Olive Park Tree Canopy

Olive Park in Chicago, Illinois is one of those places within the city that can make a visitor forget where there are.  Just a stone’s throw from the chaos of Navy Pier and Lakeshore Drive, Olive Park is a small oasis lined with trees and bordered by Lake Michigan. The park is mostly passed-over by people rushing around, so the numerous benches give several opportunities to sit and watch the world go by in near-silence.

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Setting Sun Over Curno Italy

Curno, Italy is a funny little town. It sits next to historical Bergamo in Northern Italy. Bergamo, because of its conservative nature, frowned upon shopping malls, multi-plex movie theaters and general big-city things. The city government of Curno said “Hey, over here!” and the building boom began.

By comparison, Milan (located about 30 miles/45km) to the southwest has 1.3 million people in the city itself, while Bergamo has 120,000 residents and tiny little Curno has 7,500.

While Curno has seen an influx of residents and shopping malls and such, it still manages to keep its small-town Italian charm with, among other things, the foothills of the Alps a short bit away. In the above picture, from the balcony of where my wife and I were staying, the sun sets on another day in this charmingly small Italian town.

Charming small Italian town with shopping malls.

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Skyward Reaching Boats and Buildings

After spending a number of long days in London covering the Olympics, my wife joined me towards the end and we got away for a bit to Italy. Somewhere along the way, I realized I’ve spent nearly two months of this year out of the country — and it’s only August.

Earlier this year with three weeks in India, Nepal, Bhutan and the United Arab Emirates, and then several more weeks in the aforementioned England and Italy, the time added up quickly.

As much as I love city of London and country of Italy, there really is no place like home. Chicago has so much to offer. While other cities have spectacular views and terrific food, there is something extra appealing to me about the city in which I call home.

As good as Chicago can be, however, it doesn’t have the charming British accents.

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City Life in Kathmandu, Nepal

When my wife and I travel, we try to keep with local customs and traditions when it comes to appearance, eating at restaurants and the general way of life. So in the markets of Kathmandu, Nepal, where bartering is a way of life, we struggled a bit.

Walking down one of the streets, a navy blue “Nepal” T-shirt caught my eye. I hadn’t seen the shirt anywhere before and it was our next-to-last day in the country. We went into the store to ask about price and size, and the shopkeeper threw out a price that was, and I’m not exaggerating, US$5.12. I realize that bartering is the way of life, but I couldn’t bring myself to haggle him down to something equivalent to US$4 or $4.50. That extra dollar will mean a lot more to the shopkeeper than it will to I, but it’s difficult because I don’t want to be a “big, dumb tourist” and get taken advantage of. Also, however, I can’t argue with a guy over $1.12 difference on a T-shirt.

It is a cool shirt, though.

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Water Taxi and the Michigan Avenue Bridge

A few weeks ago I had wandered down into the city to shoot some pictures of a hotel for a project I was taking part in. It was an overcast day, which was perfect for the pictures I was trying to take. (When not including the sky in various shots, overcast is actually better for images. In my case, I didn’t want the harsh shadows directly sunlight can produce.) The problem, however, is by the time I got downtown, the sun started to peak through the clouds and was throwing sunlight and shadows perfectly on what I needed to shoot. So, I waited for the sun to dip low enough that I could do what I wanted to do. While I waited, I wandered up and down the Chicago River, even taking a water taxi ride for a bit.

It’s nice to have such a fun city to kill time in. Sitting along the river watching boats go by I was surrounded by workers on break, school groups, love birds and tourists. The city of Chicago has a fun vibe to it, and the traffic on the river certainly helps.

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Bus Blurs By Big Ben

Before coming to London, England, I had read a few photography-themed blogs written by guys from the Associated Press, Getty Images and such about shooting the Olympics. All of them mentioned “constant shooting” and “energy bars.”

Boy, where they right.

Covering the Olympics is like the movie “Groundhogs Day.” My assignment is wrestling and I cover (on average) forty matches a day. The wrestling starts at 12:45PM and continues through 8:30PM, with just over an hour break in the middle. During that time off I crush food like Garfield the Cat eats lasagna (by shoveling it in) and then I make my way to the ExCel Centre’s Hall N2 for more wrestling. It really is a lot of wrestling, but after awhile it becomes oddly enjoyable.

I’ve enjoyed recognizing the different athletes and picking favorites throughout the day. I’ve enjoy the crowd getting into it. I’ve enjoyed the Japanese woman winning a gold medal and the ENTIRE audience singing along to their countries national anthem.

The Olympics are a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. To get through the day, my “weapon of choice” is an energy drink versus the aforementioned energy bar; having one definitely helps getting through that last twenty wrestling matches.

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Young Woman Under Prayer Flags

Climbing to the Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan was a fantastic experience. The higher we’d climb in the mountains the less tourists we saw and the more spiritual it became.

Our guide was a delightful young twenty-something woman who had been up and down these mountains several times, and has done it all with a great deal of patience. She had told us some treks involved scampering up the mountain trail as fast as the she could go, and other times she would spend all day climbing only to reach the lowest observation deck. She would trek at her clients’ pace, so we were proud we were able to keep up with her experience and energy.

As we approached the Tiger’s Nest, the prayer flags blowing in the wind became more and more abundant. With the next turn revealing the holy site, our guide stopped to wait for my wife and I so we could experience our first viewing together. With my wife only a few steps behind me, I saw our guide quietly standing under the prayer flags enjoying the fresh air of the cool mountain breeze.

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