Tag Archives: Illinois

Crossing Lights and Fast-Moving Trains

Trains always seem to fascinate me. If I had to guess, perhaps it is the hours upon hours I spent in the basement as a kid playing with my train set. Every-so-often, my father, brother and I would head to the weekend train show to see what we could find.

My train set is currently boxed up in my parents’ basement waiting for my kids to play with. I’ll be curious if they have an interest in them, and how much I play with them more for my own enjoyment than spending time with my kids.

Every year my wife and I donate a number of toys to the Marine Corps and their Toys for Tots campaign. Last year I found a fantastic toy train set and spent far more on it than I should have. I was probably reliving my childhood vicariously through someone I don’t know, and won’t ever meet.

But it was a pretty cool train set.

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Tour Boat on the Chicago River

I took this picture from a kayak on the Chicago River. Not one to put myself into danger, and without realizing, I had slowly drifted towards the middle of the river in the middle of boat traffic. I took only a few more pictures before I realized “Gotta go!” and I frantically rowed my craft back towards the side of the river.

It’s always fun to get a different view of the “same ‘ole” things, and being on a small craft on one of Chicago‘s most famous waterways was enjoyable. Just watch out for bigger boats.

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It’s a Jungle Out There

I’d like to post something profound or poetic in this space, but these are just a bunch of pretty flowers from the Chicago Botanic Garden, located outside of the city of Chicago.

As the leaves start to fall off the trees for the year, I find myself looking ahead to May in hopes of more fun foliage to shoot. Sure, there is a hearty winter between now and then which will offer a bunch of good photo opportunities. Winter will also offer a few great nights to stay inside to keep warm.

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Silently Playing the Flute

This isn’t a creepy picture at all.

In Chicago‘s Graceland Cemetery (which is said to be haunted via a number of sources), this sculpture of a young boy plays the flute for eternity. I tried to do some research on the origins of the sculpture, but instead I just came up with a number of websites talking about various hauntings in and around the Chicago area.

The haunting stories are interesting to read, but even the most skeptical person can get goosebumps when reading at one o’clock in the morning on Halloween.

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Dilapidated Pier at Sunrise

Earlier this year I made my way to Evanston, Illinois and to shoot the sun rising behind an old, dilapidated pier along the shore of Lake Michigan.

When I arrived it was pitch-black outside, which made stumbling on a family of raccoons far more exciting than it should have been. I gave the raccoons plenty of room to decide what to do as I slowly set up my tripod. Eventually the furry family scampered away, and I moved around looking for the best position to shoot the sunrise.

After some time of sitting around and shooting a few pictures, waiting a couple of minutes for the light to change, and then shooting some more pictures, the sun started to peak above the horizon.

I like the way this picture turned out, with the bright sun breaking up the image. The dark, old pier is split by the sun’s reflection, and the bright blue sky gives the photograph some additional cover.

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St. Mary’s Challenger and Chicago Skyline

Up in the helicopter shooting aerials, the pilot and I were on our way back to the airport flying south along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Passing over East Chicago, a large shipping vessel was making its way inland, so we quickly flew out and over the ship so I could snap a few pictures. I had no idea what I was going to do with the pictures, but up in the air everything looks a little bit more fun.

Once on the ground and after importing pictures into my computer, I zoomed in to see the name of the boat. I was curious what it was and what I could find out about it online. I did the same with pictures taken while at the Panama Canal, but none of the ships we saw had anything posted online about them. This wasn’t the case with the above picture.

As timing and luck would have it, the ship I took pictures of was the St. Mary’s Challenger. Launched February 6th, 1906 as the William P. Snyder, and eventually renamed the St. Mary’s Challenger (after a few other names through the years), it is the oldest operating freighter on the Great Lakes. As of now, the ship is 106 six year old and it’s endured its bit of history; among other things, the ship has run aground, rescued boaters from the water and been hit by a water spout. In a century of service the ship continues to forge on, reliably running cement throughout the Great Lakes.

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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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Cooling Power of a Fire Hydrant

In Chicago, it is frowned upon for unauthorized people to open up a fire hydrant. However, when temperatures peak at 100°F (38°C), neighborhoods come alive when someone lets the water flow.

On the first triple-digit day of 2012, I jumped in the car and drove to a neighborhood I saw several years ago with hydrants open. I was one block off from last time, but either way, the hydrant was open and the neighborhood kids were splashing through it.

Throughout the hour or so I hung around, various neighbors rolled up with a bucket of soap and washed their cars in the streets, while the kids ran and played in the cool, refreshing blast of water. Every so often, when no one was spraying down someone else, the same kid would come up and sit down directly in front of the hydrant.

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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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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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Projected Gabriela

Last week my wife and I went to see Prince perform at the United Center in Chicago. The 54 year-old musician can still rock and roll and it was easily one of the best concerts I had been to.

After the show, I was thinking about how I had gone to a handful of concerts this year, which is something I don’t normally do. For whatever reason, I’m not a big concert guy. I love music and I enjoy supporting musicians I like, but I just don’t hit a lot of concerts.

Earlier this year I had taken in Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Chicago Theatre. I brought my camera with me and easily got lost in taking pictures. The first few songs of the show, I was snapping away at pictures, while most others were deep into the music. Since then, I’ve really tried to separate things that should be enjoyed without a camera, and things where a camera should be utilized.

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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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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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Small Kayaker, Tall Building

Last week my wife and I rented kayaks and made our way down the Chicago River. We ended up paddling six miles (roundtrip) through the urban canyon that is the city of Chicago, and we loved every minute of it.

During the first hour our paddle was relatively calm. We were passed by only one boat as we approached the southern end of Goose Island, so we made our way to the side and had sandwiches while floating along the river.

Nearing Wolf Point, where the North, South and Main Branches of the Chicago River meet in the shadow of the Merchandise Mart, river traffic heavily picked up. We were constantly being passed by pleasure boaters, tour boats, taxis, enormous barges and tiny little electric boats.

Seeing one of my favorite cities in the world from a different perspective made for an extremely fun day.

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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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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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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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Sunrise from Montrose Harbor

For something different, I set out to watch the sun rise over Chicago, Illinois from a different location. Normally I try to include the sun in the image, but this time I wanted to focus on the city and not the sun.

Sometimes the sunrise can illuminate things in an unusual way, and in this case, it turned everything above Chicago a bright pink. It’s not a color one see’s often above the city. Also, this picture was taken late enough in the morning (6:30AM) that a number of people were waking up to head out for work, thus, a lot of the lights in the windows are brightly-lit, helping add additional color to the photograph.

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