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Photographing Chicago

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

A family trip to Chicago allowed me to explore the city, take pictures and learn that city living probably isn't for me!

Chicago Theater, Bryan Ferry
The iconic Chicago Theater. It lights up the entire block! I took this probably around 9 pm. I was wandering around while everyone else was back at the hotel room.

Summer is closing fast so we decided to do something with just our family. Go to Chicago. Many decisions. Take the train? Drive? Stay downtown? Many discussions led to driving and staying downtown. For someone that isn't unfamiliar with big cities but absolutely prefers the laid back lifestyle, it did provide an opportunity. Take photos. I try to balance family vacations. If I go around looking for "the perfect shot" I'll forget my wife and kids exist. I love them more than photography, I swear. I don't do it on purpose, I just get focused on getting the shot that's in my head! So I try to balance.

Museum of Science and Industry

I specifically didn't take my camera here. Photos everywhere, i just wanted to enjoy being with my family. Alex (my son) and I went here with his 5th grade class last December and slept there. Yes, slept. I slept on the floor by one of the Wright brothers. He was a good dude although pretty quiet, didn't wake me up at all.

It's an amazing place. If you've never been, you need to put it on your list. Hands on exhibits, huge Tesla coils, old mines, farm equipment, human body displays, an entire U-boat. You'll find something that fits your interests. Go, you wont' regret it. #ScienceandIndustry

Getting to our Hotel and a chance to walk around

Trying to reach your hotel driving literally right downtown at 5 pm. Not smart. I think it took us about 30 minutes to go 1 mile. We did learn another language though! Horn. Beeps and Honks every 2 seconds. I think people enjoy it. I didn't. It's insane, if you don't jam your foot on the gas immediately, you get the honk. Sometimes gentle, other times the "that must of hurt your palm you smashed that horn so hard" kind. I saw people laughing at me as they passed us by on their rental bikes. Rental bikes everywhere. People on them that look like they just learned how to ride a bike too. Not savvy riders.

DIVVY bikes Chicago
These things were everywhere in the city. I didn't get to try one out, but if I was alone, I probably would have ridden around.

Once we settled in, had some dinner at TGIFridays, it was my chance to escape, er get out and take some pictures. First mistake I made was wearing a sweatshirt. I thought it was going to be a little cooler once the sun went down. It was, by a couple degrees. I didn't factor in that I would be walking around so much. Yeah, I'm not that smart sometimes. Anyway, I digress. I needed to go to #thebean right? It's official name is #Cloudgate. Who knew? Everyone needs to get a picture of that! Did I mention that #Lollapalooza was this weekend? I found this out once I saw that absolute droves of people headed for the park. For a few minutes I thought I was walking through a haunted house getting hit in the face with spiderwebs. Except the haunted house was city sidewalks and spiderwebs were clouds of weed vape. It was nuts. People were having a good time. I definitely did not fit in as a 4o year old dude with a camera sling on, but the best part was, absolutely nobody cared. If I ever go back to Lollapalooza though, the shorty shorts and mini tank are coming too! After a contact buzz or two, I managed to capture a 2 shot panorama of the bean and one that I captured underneath the thing itself, which is way bigger than I thought it was.

The bean, Cloudgate, Chicago, Illinois, Millenium Park, Black and White
Even at 35mm I had to stich two photos together to get it all in back at the railing. I wanted to get the cityscape in the reflection. That's why i chose this side.

The bean, cloudgate, chicago, illinois,
Underneath the bean! It's more abstract than anything, but it looked really interesting with all reflections going everywhere!

Leaving the park, I saw a moment that would be pretty awesome to capture, The L going past some buildings with the sun behind it, showing the business of the city. If I'm going to be completely honest, I should have switched to my 100mm lens. That will be on my list when we go back. As it turned out, I cropped in on this shot. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

The L train, Chicago illinois, Millenium park
Tough to capture this image as the setting sun was still bright and all the buildings were in shadow. After some unapologetic editing, I'm really happy with how it turned out though.

I was going to go back to the hotel and that's when I remembered the Chicago Theater sign. So I walked a couple blocks to Walgreens to pick up a few snacks for my family, I'm standing on the corner, I put Chicago Theater into google maps, it comes up 300 ft. I literally turn my head to the right and it was staring me in the face. Sometimes it's better just to look around and not try to rely on technology so much. Oh well, nobody except you and me know. I went up the stairs to the train entrance to get the following shot. The shot at the top of the blog was also about the same time.

Chicago Theater Sign
A shot of the the Chicago Theater. It's such an iconic sign. Another tough capture as the bright lights from the sign either look lifeless or blown out completely. After a couple different attempts and some editing, I struck a good balance.

2nd Day and the Ledge!

After a typical hotel night sharing a bed with your son, getting hit in the face by a random fist or two and waking up every hour because the elevator I'm pretty sure runs on jet engines, it was time to go shopping.

We shopped, well at least Macy and Janis did. At the American girl doll store. This place is enormous. Like an entire world dedicated to dolls and their back stories. I would be lying if i said it wasn't cool. Especially to watch my daughter be inspired and reinforced that girls can be anything they want.

Alright, it was time to walk. To the #Willistower we went. I had no idea that it wasn't the sears tower anymore. Does Oprah still live there? Anyway, after about 25 "my feet hurt" and another 15 "where is it's" we got there. I purchased tickets before online so we got right in line. Once at the top the view is breathtakingly awesome. Worth the money? That depends on you, but for us it was. So when you get up there, they have a glass (acrylic probably) that you of course have to wait in another line to go out on. I should say, I'm not a huge fan of heights. I had to bribe Alex with V-bucks (fortnite money) in order to do it. But I had a picture in mind. I happened to get both kids. Janis, by the way, wasn't having it at all.

The Ledge, Willis Tower, Chicago
The first step is probably the weirdest. After that it really wasn't that bad. Alex did great!!

The Ledge, Willis Tower, Chicago
Macy wasn't sure if she was going to do it, but one Alex and I were out there, her hesitation vanished.

After the 60 second ride back down the elevator, we wandered around town a little more, had some necessary beverages, and made our way back to the hotel. Sore feet and tired legs didn't stop us from wanting to go down to #Navypier. Honestly, we were pretty tired when we got there and just kind of checked everything out. The temp out was great, and the smell of lake Michigan was amazing. I wanted to try a long exposure of the Navy pier ferris wheel, which I also learned is called the #Centennialwheel. One problem. No tripod. I didn't bring it on purpose to be honest, it can become a hassle, especially on a family trip. Oh well. I found a ledge. Results were better than I thought. A little motion blur, but overall pretty steady and really like the results.

Centennial Wheel, Navy Pier, Chicago Illinois, Ferris Wheel
The Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. This was a 10 second exposure on a ledge. It's not perfect, but turned out what I had in my head!

Shedd Aquarium

3rd day, on our way home, we wanted to go to #Sheddaquarium. This place also can be photographed in many different ways, so again, I tried to be selective and balance photos and family. What I ended up with was realizing that I love jellyfish. Like, a lot. They really are fascinating. If you even go to the aquarium and have the luxury of changeable lenses, make sure you have something fast. Like really fast. I had my 35mm 1.4 and was pretty much at 1.4 the whole time. It's dark in most areas and you need the most light you can get. Take a peek below to see my newly discovered love of jellyfish!

Really this trip was about my family. I love introducing my kids to new things, having them be curious, ask questions, learn about others, create, be kids. To be able to take some pictures along the way and share them with others is just a bonus.

Shedd Aquarium, Chicago illinois, pacific dolphin
There is nothing better as a parent than watching your kids be excited about something, especially when it involves learning. This is my favorite picture from the trip for obvious reasons.

Thanks so much, if you've made it this far. Until the next journey......

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