lincoln park pavilion, studio gang architects
For the second year in a row, we held our Chicago workshop in October. Our weather was quite chilly and pretty gloomy but that didn’t stop us from getting great photos. Sometimes overcast days work better for certain subjects, I’ll be sure to point out where 🙂
This year we started with a Friday morning add-on session that participants could opt in on if they wanted to explore the loop and add one more sunrise to their weekend. While I didn’t get anything I really liked from our Friday morning sunrise at the Adler Planetarium, I had better luck at the other stops Friday morning. First up was the Spertus Institute. Always love the geometry of this building’s facade. Our overcast day resulted in a very gray building facade so I took a little liberty in playing with the white balance, resulting in the blue hue you see below.
spertus institute, krueck + sexton architects
Always a favorite, the Alexander Calder Flamingo. Even on overcast days, this sculpture pops. Lately, I’ve really been liking the way this looks on gloomier days, there’s a greater saturation of color and the Calder Red color really stands out in in Federal Plaza against all those black Mies van der Rohe grids. There couldn’t be a better place for this sculpture.
calder flamingo chicago
Another workshop favorite is 235 Van Buren. A condo building just south of the loop, its south side has these great cantilevered balconies that result in fantastic repetitive patterns. This is a location that I’ve found works well in all types of light; bright and sunny, overcast, rainy, golden hour. In this instance, I like the gray sky acting as negative space to showcase the edge of the building.
235 van buren, som
Onto the Sears (or Willis) Tower and focusing on the blocks of the tower, which creates volume and depth within the frame.
sears tower, willis tower, som
Next up, Union Station. I haven’t been in here since spring since it’s been undergoing renovations and still is. Below you can see how great the renovated area is looking. It’s so much lighter, brighter and clean. Can’t wait for it to be fully finished. When we were there the skylight was still mostly covered in scaffolding but I’m sure it’s going to look amazing once completed. Because of this, I focused my attention on some of the restored ceiling details.
union station chicago
One of my favorite areas of Union Station is the hallway between the great hall and the trains. The arched ceiling and windows are beautiful. They’ve also added lighting just above the pillars that illuminate the ceiling, it makes such a difference in atmosphere.
union station chicago
A small detail of a lower ceiling just under the “To All Trains” sign above.
union station chicago
Another location where I prefer gray skies, 540 W Madison or the Bank of America Plaza. I’ve shot here on sunny days and days with clouds, which I really don’t like for this stop. Since the main way to photograph this area is looking up, the clouds add this layer of texture that I find distracting in an already somewhat busy space. I much prefer when the geometry of the space has that blank white backdrop so they stand out. While I’ve typically shot this space showing only that triangular pattern, this time I wanted to include some of the surrounding buildings and their reflections.
540 w madison, bank of america plaza chicago
The final stop of our Friday morning add-on, the James R. Thompson Center. And one of the most difficult locations to photograph. So much chaos, so many lines and patterns that creating something harmonious is a challenge. Here, I got really close to the wall of the building from the second level and shot the skylight reflection in its blue wall. The red color is the actual color of the interior structure. I did take a little liberty in saturating it a bit because the colors have faded so much that the red looks like this not-so-appealing salmon color.
james r thompson center
That wrapped up the Friday morning. We all took a break before heading to our first stop of the full workshop, the Studio Gang-designed pavilion on the south pond along the nature boardwalk in Lincoln Park. Definitely one of my favorite photo subjects in Chicago. So many ways to capture patterns. Here are just a couple takes, along with the lead image of this post. Many more where this came from and I’ll share a link with all the workshop images at the end of this post.
lincoln park pavilion, studio gang architects
Once again, an instance where overcast skies work well. Again, they create this negative space to let the undulating pattern of the pavilion shine. Plus the soft light gives the structure a softness you don’t get in harsher lighting conditions.
lincoln park pavilion, studio gang architects
We ended our evening at North Avenue Beach shooting south toward the skyline of the city. I tend to get bored by typical cityscape shots so I decided to play around with zooming my lens in different ways during the longer evening exposures. Here are a couple takes.
chicago skyline
chicago skyline
After dinner and good night’s rest, we started the morning in the Gold Coast. First stop, the Sofitel Chicago (I even have some of my photos in the guestrooms here!). They’re surprisingly good about letting a group of photographers linger outside their entrance, which is great because the curved base of the building is one of the best areas to photograph. It reflects itself and the surrounding building’s. I traveled very light this day only bringing my telephoto, 70-300mm, lens, which prevented the wider sweeping shots of the curvy base. But, it resulted in me having to look for other interesting ways to photograph this. Here are a couple favorites of the building reflecting on itself. To do this, just get really close to the side of the building and look up.
sofitel chicago
I really don’t like this black bar cutting through the image in the foreground but it’s impossible to remove…I tried for far too long, lol.
sofitel chicago
Next, the John Hancock Building. Again only having the telephoto, I focused on the lines and patterns of the facade and tried to create some depth with the angle of the lens and myself in relation to the building.
john hancock building chicago
Heading back toward the Loop and after a lunch break, we stopped by Millennium Park. I’m kinda tapped out on new takes of The Bean so no shots from me from there this time. Just east of there is the Pritzker Pavilion, always so many ways to see a Frank Gehry design, curves and lines and zooming in on details, plus a little liberty with the white balance and my favorite blue hue lately.
millennium park, pritzker pavilion, frank gehry
Same kind of thing on Frank Gehry’s BP Bridge. The underside of the bridge is probably my favorite part to photograph. Love the serpentine feeling of the shapes and textures.
bp bridge, frank gehry, millennium park
Onto the Studio Gang-designed Aqua. Something I’ve photographed so much, especially this year. It’s getting quite challenging to get something new on this but abstracting those balconies by zooming in from up close I can often find at least one new pattern. Really loved the feeling of this one, might be my favorite so far.
aqua, radisson blu aqua chicago, studio gang architects
We then headed to Chinatown via water taxi, in the rain 🙁 Guess the timing wasn’t too bad to be in a covered boat, giving us a little break. We ended our night with blue hour and skyline views from the 18th Street Bridge. Again playign with zooming my lens during a long exposure. In this one I liked the bridge repeating itself in the left and bottom of the frame.
chicago skyline, 18th street bridge
For context, an actual cityscape view from the same location.

The next morning we woke up to a lot of rain. We began by shooting from the Lake Shore Drive bridge. Well, the students did, I was being lazy in my shooting. After the sun rose, we headed to Milton Lee Olive Park for another skyline perspective. The best part about this locaiton are the marble benches where you can get the city reflecting in their surface. You just have to get really low and close to those benches. The morning’s rain added a nice element of interest. All is not lost when it rains 😉
milton lee olive park, chicago skyline
After breakfast, we stopped by Lake Point Tower. Another building that reflects back on itself as you see a bit in the curve at the center.
lake point tower chicago
Another favorite building, Burberry on Michigan Avenue. It was pretty dark that morning with how gloomy and rainy it was so the streetlights were still on. That’s what’s creating this orange glow in the facade. You can’t see as well the signature Burberry pattern in this shot, as it’s secondary and quite a tight shot, but it adds a bit of another layer to the neighboring building you see predominantly reflected in its surface. I liked how those lines being warped by the Burberry facade makes it feel like there’s motion in the image.
burberry, michigan ave burberry chicago
Onto Trump Tower. You can think what you like of our current president, but the building here is beautiful! My favorite area is the curvy walkway on the south side along the river. Great lines, patterns, and reflections.
trump tower chicago, adrian smith, som
Close by is Marina Towers designed by Bertrand Goldberg. More concrete which means lots of cracks and dirt from years of wear. Going high-key helps hide that a bit and allows you to focus on the fun patterns of the building.
marina city, marina towers, bertrand goldberg
Onto a couple of indoor locations. First, the Palmer House Hilton and its great staircases. This is a space where a wide-angle lens works well.
palmer house hilton
palmer house hilton
Our final stop of the workshop was the Chicago Cultural Center. Unfortunately, the famous Tiffany Glass Dome was closed off for a private event so we focused our attention on the north side of the building. A different dome, still beautiful, and a very curvy staircase.
chicago cultural center
chicago cultural center
We’ll be back in Chicago again in the fall of 2019, stay tuned over at Photography Unfolded. Until then, here are all the pics from the 2018 workshop!

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