Architecture of the Chicago Botanic Gardens

chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
A few months ago the Chicago Botanic Gardens reached out to me about teaching a workshop about architecture. At first I was unsure this could work given it’s in the suburbs, away from the obvious architecture of downtown Chicago, and I wasn’t that familiar with the architecture of the gardens. We met to do a little scouting and determined we could definitely make it work. After-all, it’s all in taking the time to see your environment in new ways.
I ended up doing two, 2-day workshops in the same week. A weekday session and a weekend session to accommodate various schedules. Much to my surprise, we oversold both! We started the session with a presentation, mainly covering composition. Then we spent a couple hours shooting various locations around the gardens. We ended day 1 with a review of participants images and a bit about how to photograph in series.
Day 2 began shooting some of the same locations using the previous afternoon’s tips. After lunch I shared some post-processing tips and then the students had time to work on their own images in class. This way I was there to help if needed. We ended the workshop with a share/critique of everyone’s shots. Always my favorite part of any class. It’s fun seeing how everyone sees the same locations so differently.
I thought I’d share a few of my shots from the two sessions. Above you have the reflections of the birch trees on the left seemingly blending into the actual environment. The first shot below is in the ceiling in the visitor center, always on the lookout for good ways to utilize symmetry.
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
Love the morning light creating striped shadows on the ceiling in the Learning Center.
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
And this is an abstracted take on one of the bridges. We lucked out with sunny days, which created some nice variations in shadow play on our subjects. Plus, I always love this soft shade of blue.
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
More shadow play in the Bonsai Garden; balancing the irregular shape of the trees shadows against the linearity of the planters.
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
One of my favorite buildings is the Regenstein Center. The black and white shots below are detailed shots of the ceiling in the Library.
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
Just next door is Nichols Hall, which has this great wood ceiling, allowing for some nice geometric shots.
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
And the final shot of the workshop is probably one of my favorites. Simply a reflection of part of the roofline of the greenhouse in the window of the Regenstein Center.
chicago botanic gardens, chicago architecture
There are a few more shots from these two workshops here. And I’m happy to say I’ll be teaching this workshop again in the fall and will be adding an extra day downtown! Check out the Gardens site to see all their classes.

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