Raised Bridges

After several years of putting the early Chicago River bridge raises in my calendar to “keep an eye on,” I finally had a day where my schedule, the weather and boats all cooperated.

I’d been wanting to shoot images of boats traveling under bridges for quite some time, and finally had the chance to make the trek to the river last week to watch. Slowly — very slowly — boats traveled along the river getting help from the Bridge Division of the Chicago Department of Transportation. The process reminded me a lot of ships traveling through the Panama Canal; it was a very slow moving process, but very fun to observe. (I often tell people watching boats go through the Panama Canal is the most exciting boring thing you’ll see in your lifetime)

I had set the day aside to head downtown to watch the bridge lifts, but I’m pretty sure most (if not all) of the motorists downtown were caught off-gaurd. When the lights would starting blinking and the bells would start making their noise, motorists would mash the gas in hopes of making it through the gates before they were stopped. On more than one occasion, I witnessed a brief shouting match between a cab driver and a bridge attendant.

It made for an enjoyable, but long, day. My quest started at half-past nine in the morning, and at two o’clock I made my way back towards home. Running a few errands later in the day, I heard the radio mention the last bridge was just on its wait down, snarling traffic on Lakeshore Drive. Hearing this, I found myself smiling knowing the dozen or so boats made it to their home for the summer.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Marina Tower Tulips

I finally got out to shoot some pictures. Between my schedule, the weather, and a few other things, yesterday was the first day in a very, very long time I went out with the purpose of taking pictures for myself. It was such a fun day.

My goal was to head downtown and shoot the bridge lifts. Chicago has eighteen bridges along two miles of the Chicago River, and while I’ve wanted to shoot some pictures of them for the last few years, something always seem to come up and I never made it. This year I was determined to make it, and I was so enthusiastic, I was an hour-and-change early.

While I waited for the sail boats to make their way into Chicago‘s Loop, the tulips near Marina City caught my eye.

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Chicago’s Willis Tower

Yesterday I was listening to a photography podcast I regularly enjoy (On Taking Pictures), and the two hosts briefly mentioned how one of their photographer buddies went up in a helicopter and shot some some spectacular video from above an old military base. The two hosts quickly discussed how technology has advanced so much that it is now possible to go up to shoot aerial images for an amount one can, basically, put on their credit card. Twenty years ago it would have cost someone about $50,000 to do the same thing — if it was even possible at all.

It got me to thinking about my recent adventures into aerial photography (something I very much enjoy). I admittedly started exploring it when it became dramatically cheaper and much easier to do, technologically speaking.

Cameras now are far more advanced, so I can easily go up in a helicopter without thousands of dollars in support gear. I can shoot two hundred images without having to stop to change a roll of film every 36 shots. I can bring the images into my computer and do a lot of minor adjustments that, as a whole, were difficult to do ten or fifteen years ago.

So the image above is a result of that whole discussion, and how I could affordably head up in a helicopter to shoot some pictures far easier than even the greatest photographers could have done ten or fifteen years ago.

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Cliffs of Moher

Located in County Clare, Ireland, are the famous Cliffs of Moher, and while planning our trip to the Emerald Isle, a trip to the 300 million year-old “bird sanctuary” was high on the list. The site receives nearly one million tourists each year, but is home to an estimated 30,000 different birds, covering about 20 different species. (The birds live in the countless nests that are perched along the wall, and come and go freely, without much fear of predators.)

Traveling through Ireland, my wife and I didn’t plan any “set in stone” itinerary, except for the last couple of days. I knew I really wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher in the afternoon, and hopefully with clear skies. While we worked out our schedule, I saw what day the weather was supposed to be clear, and to the Cliffs we went.

The Cliffs of Moher are amazingly dramatic. One could drive past them one hundred times and never know, on the other side of the hill, is a straight drop down 700 feet (214 meters) to the Atlantic Ocean below.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged |

Fond du Lac Lighthouse

Built during the Great Depression, the Fond du Lac Lighthouse has become an iconic part of the city, being featured in the city’s logo, on signs throughout town, and (the obvious) marking the entryway to the Fond du Lac Yacht Club.

Inside of the forty-foot lighthouse is a winding stairwell offering visitors an opportunity to climb to the observation deck on the top (weather permitting) and get a full 365-degree view of Fond du Lac‘s Lakeside Park and Lake Winnebago.

During the winter months, the town places an image of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the top of the lighthouse, using the beacon as Rudolph’s nose.

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Framed Taj Mahal

It was getting bright out as my wife and I arrived at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

We started our trek to the famed historic site shortly before sunrise, from about a mile away. After we purchased our tickets, we paid the extra couple of dollars for a rickshaw ride to the entryway. The entry line was long and I remember thinking “This is the best time to be here?”

Turns out, it was.

Later in the day, as my wife and I went back to the banks of the Yamuna River to watch the sun set, we saw the line for the Taj Mahal seemingly went on for ever. I was really glad we spent a few hours in the morning with the smaller hoardes of people, because I’m sure going later in the day it would have been far more chaotic than I would have liked.

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Buckingham Fountain

I recall the day I took this picture as one of those “perfect temperature” days in Chicago. One could have worn shorts and a T-shirt, jeans and a sweatshirt, or anything in between and have been comfortable. Later in the day, however, it rained. And by “it rained,” I mean “it poured.” Buckets and buckets of rain fell, with blinding lightning and roaring thunder. It was a good afternoon to spend inside going through pictures from earlier in the day.

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Waves Crashing at Pemaquid Point

Located in Bristol, Maine, the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse was first built in 1827. However, because the builder used salt water in his mortar mix, it didn’t survive the elements very well, and a new light was built in 1835 (this time, without the use of salt water).

Over a century later, more than 100,000 people visit the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse annually, and the light is featured on the state’s quarter.

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Looking Out From Wrigley’s Scoreboard

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a television show to use my previously posted image from inside of Wrigley Field’s scoreboard. It was a nice e-mail to receive and it made me think about other pictures I have from inside the iconic landmark. Hence, this image.

As you can probably figure out, this picture was taken from inside the Chicago Cubs’ famous manually operated scoreboard, looking out at a quiet Wrigley Field before a game later in the afternoon.

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Posted in Sports Tagged , , , |

Cricket in the Park

If you’ve kept up with my photography blog over the last few months, you’ve probably noticed it stumble along here and there. About mid-December I stopped posting images altogether, only to throw a couple up in January, one in February, and by the end of March, get back to posting with some sort of regularity (albeit, twice a week).

I like the new system, although I’m not sure what “system” it really is.

Over the last two years and posting an image a day, at times I felt I was handcuffed because it became a “quantity over quality” issue, and I really didn’t like that. Additionally, I had a lot of things I’d rather be doing, but never got around to them, as I had to keep up on blog posts. One of those things was posting more of my images to my stock photography archive at iStockPhoto.

I hadn’t updated my stock portfolio in awhile, and since my blog makes no money, and stock photography provides a little, I wanted to post a few images there. (“Stock Photography” is where a photographer will sell an image to whomever wants it for whatever they want it for. Sometimes the image is for a national advertising campaign; other times it is to be a corporation’s cover for their annual report. I feel like most stock photography goes toward other people’s blog posts, since the images can be licensed for a few bucks here and there. There isn’t much money is stock photography. The true money comes from having a plethora of images available for license.)

Stock photography is pretty particular because they don’t allow any company logos or recognizable faces. Some images, like the aerial photos of Chicago I took in October of 2012, do well as stock images; pictures like the one above don’t because you can make out the kids’ faces.

Regardless of whether the picture is “sellable” or not, I really like the image above. My wife and I sat for about an hour in the park of Delhi, India chatting with children of all ages playing cricket. I snapped a few images of them playing cricket, and they kindly offered to allow me to play with them. While it would have been awesome, I was terrified of completely making an ass of myself and politely declined the offer.

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Posted in Travel Tagged , |

Home Run Fireworks

Today Major League Baseball begins yet another season of play.

While I wouldn’t mind it if the sport picked up the pace of play a bit, I do appreciate the “boys of summer” representing just that: Summer.

About the time of year when all of us get “Cabin Fever,” Spring Training begins and before you know it, it is opening day. Summer, at that point, is just around the corner. Sure, it is still cold through mid-June, but even then, we’re getting a hearty dose of hot, sunshine-filled days.

With the picture above, I remember it being a hot day at U.S. Cellular Field as I purchased a ticket and wandered around the ballpark with my camera. About the time the sun got low in the sky, I made my way to the upper deck because I was hoping for a picture like the one above. I remember the wind was blowing “in” really strong and thinking no one was going to hit a home run.

For whatever reason, the home run balls were flying that night, and as a result so where the fireworks. When A. J. Pierzynski launched a ball that just cleared the right-field wall, I started shooting as the fireworks launched high into the sky. At the time I was afraid the sky was too bight to achieve the picture I wanted, but once I got home I realized it was pretty close to what I was going for.

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Beautiful Beach Seating

As my wife and I travel, we seem to “Go! Go! Go!” to explore and experience all we can. As a result, by accident, we found a new tradition in our travels that we’ve really come to love: Finishing at a beach.

Ending our three-week trip through Asia, we finished with the adventure with a three-night stay in Bali. It was beautiful temperatures and we got a nice, toasty sunburn before heading home.

After spending two weeks in India, Nepal and Bhutan, my wife and I stopped for a few nights in the United Arab Emirates. It was fantastic to spend a full day at the beach making every effort to avoid another sunburn for the trip home. (It didn’t work; I still got burned.)

As we plan our next two-week adventure for later this year, we’re exploring beaches in South America that we can wrap up our trip at.

Hopefully this time I really do avoid sunburn!

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Water Taxi and Tribune Tower

Last year my wife and I spent most of the day kayaking on the Chicago River. It was a lot of fun and pretty cool to see the city I love from such a different perspective. All of the buildings seemed a lot more taller floating along the river and looking straight up. Additionally, it was enjoyable to float along under the numerous bridges watching traffic scurry along above us.

Before we put into the water, we got a warning from the guy at the kayak place telling us about the water taxis — they’re just like real taxis in that they’re more likely to plow threw you instead of go around you. We took his warning seriously, so we had no issues.

It isn’t difficult to see the Chicago water taxis, however. They have the same bright yellow paint-job as traditional road taxis, and it certainly helps in keeping out of their way.

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Posted in Travel Tagged , |

John Hancock and Lakeshore Drive

One of the highlights from last year was going up in a helicopter to shoot some aerial images of Chicago. I’d been meaning to do it for a few years, but for one reason or another, I never got around to it.

During autumn of last year, I chartered a helicopter and spent an hour buzzing around one of the world’s greatest cities.

The way a place looks from above is dramatically different than the way it looks from ground level. Maybe that’s because, in my opinion, 50% of all good photography is showing people something they don’t normally see. If we all looked at Lakeshore Drive “over the shoulder” of the John Hancock Building, we’d be bored with the above image. However, because most of us see “Big John” from the ground up, this image has a little bit more “Oopf” to it.

I’ve already made plans to go up again this year. Perhaps I’ll aim for early morning sunrise, or more likely, some evening where the Cubs or Sox are playing at their respective ballparks to grab an image of the stadium with the skyline in the background at dusk.

No matter what, however, an hour in the air with a helicopter at one’s command is pretty awesome.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Old Pier Supports

It’s been a very long time since I’ve done anything with my website. I’ve done a handful of blog posts in the last couple of months, but the website as a whole, wasn’t working very well. I neglected to do an update so a lot of the images weren’t loading in the various galleries, which was a problem. Luckily, an hour of updating, downloading and clicking cleared everything up.

I’ve also been going through and cleaning up the blog posts. As I’ve written them over the last couple of years, there have been spelling and grammatical errors, not to mention the occasional broken links. It’s time consuming, but it’s also nice to comb through images again.

It has been quite some time since I’ve gone through images, and it seems like an even longer time since I’ve posted some online. Unfortunately, with the exception of attending some friends’ wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I haven’t even picked up my camera.

All of that is about to change, however, as better weather is fast approaching and my busiest time of the year is now behind me. I look forward to getting out and capturing images again, and getting back into more regular photoblog posts (at least more frequent than one or two a month).

All of that being said, I picked today’s image because of the bright — really bright — colors. Last year I went up to Evanston, Illinois and waited for the sun to rise over an old, dilapidated pier. Turns out I was super-early for sunrise, but I didn’t mind because I captured one of my favorite images while I waited. I also scared the heck out of a family of raccoons, but they scared the heck out of me so it was an even trade.

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Posted in Scenic Tagged , |

Sailing

Last weekend my wife and I attended two friends’ wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They eloped for a variety of reasons, and we were honored to be part of the select few invited along for their adventure. Aside from U.S. Airways not understanding geography and sending my bag to Turks and Caicos instead of the U.S. Virgin Islands, it was a fantastic stay. It was also the first time I’ve gotten my camera out in awhile.

With the recent move, I haven’t had much opportunity to get my camera out for some image-making. Whenever I get a moment or two, the time is spent unpacking boxes or hanging up a shelf or building some crazy contraption for a closet.

As it was my second time to the U.S. Virgin Islands, I didn’t get my camera out much. Sure, I shot some images at the aforementioned friends’ wedding, but beyond that, most of my time was spent lounging on the beach or frolicking in the water. My wife and I thought about getting up one morning to go out at sunrise, but it was more enjoyable to lay in bed under the covers and listen to the waves crash onto the shore.

Now that we’ve finally received some snow here in Chicago, it’ll be nice to get out and capture some images of a snow-covered Windy City. Although, if it gets too cold, images like the one above will seem farther and farther away from recent memory.

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Posted in Travel Tagged , |

Elevation

It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted an image.

For the last two years, I posted a picture online nearly every single day, and now I’m barely squeaking TWO in for the month. I have a few good reasons for falling behind — namely moving — but it still makes me kind of sad.

In the future, my goal for this space is to not post one picture every single day, but instead, post a group of photos from one excursion. In the case above (with Koji Kraft performing stunts during the 2010 Dew Tour in Chicago, Illinois), I think I’ve posted less than a half-dozen pictures from the day. In reality, I have about 50 on my hard drive worth noting, but in the future, I’d like to post about 20 of them online after the fact, instead of slowly drawing those twenty images out over the next five years.

So that’s my goal. I’ve had it in mind since September, but now I just need to take a break from moving and unpacking to get out and take some pictures.

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Posted in Sports Tagged , |

Lion Cub Watching Its Mother

It’s been awhile — a long while — since I’ve posted an image to this space.

Somewhere towards the beginning of 2010, I decided to regularly post an image to my website. It was nice getting a lot of varied images off of my hard-drive and up on the website. My site’s traffic went from one  or two page views a week to nearly 8,000 page views last month. The biggest reason that number appeals to me is that, last year, nearly 15,000 visitors checked out my images.

That’s pretty cool.

If you follow me on Facebook, I recently posted a picture of greeting cards in a few UPS Stores. It’s nice to know that someone likes my photography enough to buy it and send it to a friend or family member. It’s also nice to know the images have gotten off of my hard drive.

That all being said, towards the end of last year I decided I was going to scale back my photoblog. Somewhere along the way I realized I was working harder on content than quality. I was trying to pump out an image a day, and instead of getting up early for a spectacular sunrise, I was staying up late working on blog images. Ask any photographer, they’d much rather take pictures than write about them.

So I’m scaling back my photoblog. Things are busier now more than ever, which isn’t a bad thing, but I’m going to take a bit of time off from photoblogging, then occasionally I’m going to post a blast of photos at a time. Instead of one photo a day, I may post five or ten at a time, a couple of times a month.

Please stick around for the journey. I truly enjoy photography and hope you’ll enjoy what I produce. Some images are good, some images suck, and some images even take my breath away. Hopefully changing up how I do my photoblog produces more breath-taking photos.

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Posted in Nature Tagged , |

Cable Car Outbound

Having my camera and nothing much to do in San Francisco, California was a pretty good way to spend a few days. I wandered all around the city taking pictures, eating at In-N-Out Burger, and watching the fog come and go.

Cruising from one location to the other, I passed through an intersection with a famous cable car rolling off into the distance, and thought it’d make a nice picture. Circling around for parking was no easy task, but I evetually found a meter and hung out for a half-an-hour shooting images of one of the world’s more famous public transportation systems in action.

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Posted in Travel Tagged , |

Bell Tower Traffic Circle

Our hotel in Xi’an, China was well-priced ($40US per night) and had an absolutely fantastic view of the city’s historical Bell Tower.

The tower was built in the 1300s and, as legend has it, was used to tame a dragon living in the nearby river to keep the city from enduring earthquakes. Several centuries later, the tower still stands tall and is open to tourists.

The bell tower also serves as a massive traffic circle.

From our hotel room, I could easily sit and watch traffic in the city. The Chinese (as a culture) have no sense of “personal space,” and that holds true for their driving, as well. Every few seconds, watching from the comfort and safety of our hotel room’s window, I was certain I’d see an impending death of a bus versus scooter. Miraculously, I didn’t see a single incident, which may be a strong statement to the Chinese driving style: Challenge other drivers right up to the edge of death, and only then maybe back off a bit.

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