Chicago Workshop Recap, August 2021

So happy to say in-person workshops are back! Given the uncertainty around a number of things, I decided to stick with Chicago for 2021. Initially, opening registration for October but then adding an August date as well. So, here we are with a recap.

Settle in, we had 3 very full days exploring so much of the downtown and the near north side of the city. We had a couple of unexpected issues…an area of the Art Institute closed off + some storms so we had a bit of improvising to do. Regardless, we saw some great sites!

Day 1

Our first stop started with a downpour, way to start a workshop, right?! lol Luckily, this stop involved both some indoor and outdoor shooting. So, we just started inside the Krueck Sexton Partners designed Spertus Institute.

We photographed from the lobby’s first and second floor focusing our attention on the geometric, sculptural wall.

The wall is white so it can be hard to grab focus and showcase the dimensions of this wall. Converting to black & white and applying a strong contrast and variances in the whites and blacks makes the shapes stand out.

Another alternative is to play with the white balance in a color shot to give it a completely different hue. Play around with intentional camera movement (ICM) to add a sense of motion to the space.

Our next stop was going to be the Art Institute but the main staircase we were going to shoot in here has been blocked off for weeks. Not sure what they’re doing but I hope it opens back up soon!

Improvisation number two, off to the Buckingham Fountain.

In this shot, I liked how the copper green color in the fountain statue matched the roof in the background.

After a break for lunch, we changed plans once again (this is definitely not typical of a workshop to have this many changes!). This time, the weather was the culprit. It was looking gray and cloudy with on and off rain all afternoon. So, I swapped Monday’s itinerary for Wednesday’s and we headed to the Palmer House for all of its beautiful staircases!

There are three fantastic staircases in here. Here’s one of them, my favorite, as a straight shot and then with some ICM.

Next up, the Chicago Cultural Center. Given I’ve photographed here so much, I focused my attention on the floors in two areas on the south side of the building + added a little ICM for fun.

Then we spent a little bit of time in the hallway connecting the south and north side. I love the geometric sculptural piece in the windows in here. Some nice lines and shadow play.

Because of all the changes we had some extra time so we checked out the Carbon and Carbide Building followed by the Hampton Inn Chicago Motor Club for its tucked-away spiral staircase.

First, a look from the top down.

Then, a detail mid-way up.

Given the sweltering heat, we took a little break and then headed to dinner followed by our evening locations. First, the Chicago Theater, again the rain was back. Luckily not too heavy and we were able to take cover under some nearby awnings until it passed.

Then, had to have a little fun with some handheld ICM.

Just around the corner is Block 37, more or less a mall. Part of the facade has these staggered, curved, stainless steel panels that reflect the neon theater signs across the street. Nice for some colorful abstracts. Made even more abstract with some erratic ICM.

Day 2

Our second day was looking better from a dry weather perspective but it was the hottest, most humid day of the workshop. We started in Lincoln Park with the Studio Gang-designed pavilion on the south pond. I’ve photographed here many times but this is the first time I’ve seen the pods of the pavilion take on this iridescent quality.

This is also another great location for some ICM. In this instance, the wood takes on this textured hair-like quality.

Now, heading to the Gold Coast and the Sofitel designed by Jean-Paul Viguier. The entrance of this hotel has this curved glass wall which makes for some really interesting reflections especially when you zoom in tight on a small segment of the glass wall.

A short walk away is the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed John Hancock Building. When the sun illuminated its facade, there was this really nice contrast between the warmth of the sun and the blue reflecting in the windows.

Shooting at an angle and placing one of the beams in the corner of the frame, a leading line is created, drawing the viewer into and through the image.

Next, we headed indoors. Whew, some time to cool off! The Museum of Contemporary Art has a couple of great staircases. The main staircase was designed by the original architect, Josef Paul Kleihues. We lucked out with no installation in the middle of this geometric spiral.

Once again, given the many times I’ve shot here, I tried a little ICM from the top down.

Time for lunch and a little more cooling-off before a bunch of outdoor locations. The first, being the Michigan Avenue Burberry store designed by Callison+Barteluce.

The facade pays tribute to the store’s signature plaid pattern with a mirrored black stainless steel. A fantastic location to get some geometric shots and interesting reflective patterns. Either from the neighboring buildings, street scenes, or nature.

Making our way south along Michigan Avenue our next stop was the Foster + Partners-designed Apple Store. The curved corners are great locations to catch reflections of the neighboring buildings and cloud reflections.

Not so different from the Burberry building other than this location is all about the curves as opposed to the rigid geometry of Burberry.

Just across the street, the iconic Wrigley Building designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. On this visit, I decided to focus my attention on the facade details. Often, it’s the clock people are drawn to, and for good reason. But these details are too good to be passed up as well!

Next up, Marina City designed by Bertrand Goldberg. Dubbed the corncob towers, this location is fantastic for all of its patterns.

We had some beautiful warm light on our visit and it seems the building has recently been painted, which makes cleanup far less cumbersome!

By this point, we all needed a little break from the extreme heat and humidity. I think we had a heat index of 108 that afternoon…yikes!

After a little recovery time, we stopped by the Washington/Wabash ‘L’ stop designed by architecture and engineering firm EXP. We also shot from the pedway at the Adams/Wabash stop for some wider views like this one.

Our final stop of the day was Alexander Calder’s Flamingo. Always a favorite with that Calder Red popping against the black of the surrounding Mies van der Rohe buildings. Again, more ICM here. Surprisingly, something I haven’t done here before this.

We grabbed some dinner and then we were going to shoot this for blue hour but a nasty thunderstorm rolled in. Just one more improvisation!

Day 3

Now for the final day of the workshop and getting back to the locations we were supposed to shoot on Monday. Off to Millennium Park and Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate, or better known as The Bean.

Still a steamy day, our lenses all steamed up when we took them out of our bags after being in the AC. In this case, it made for some otherworldly shots. Throw in some ICM and white balance alterations and you get a little bit of a sci-fi vibe.

A good reminder to take advantage of those surprises and find a way to use them to your advantage!

Just east of The Bean, the Prtizker Pavilion designed by the one and only Frank Gehry. The symphony was setting up and had a screen down with some ads, which cast whatever hues were on the screen onto the underside of the pavilion. Gotta grab those fleeting moments of uniqueness whenever you can!

So, what you see here is the purple and teal hue from the ad. The pink hue is from the red seats of the pavilion reflecting on the underside of the pavilion. The pink is always here, you just gotta notice it. But it was fun to get these other colors in the mix!

Moving our way east, another Gehry design, the BP Pedestrian Bridge. At this point, it looked like a storm was rolling in so we hustled over the bridge to the Lakeshore East neighborhood but took a few minutes to capture the textured panels of the curves of this bridge.

Once again, messing around with the white balance I gave it this midnight blue hue.

We shot the exterior of Studio Gang’s Aqua for as long as we could before the rain seemed like it was going to take over. While I usually prefer this location with some sun hitting it, you just gotta work with what you have. A great time to use ICM again.

Time for more improvising. Instead of wasting time just waiting out the storm, we grabbed lunch inside Aqua. By the time we finished, it seemed like we were in the clear. So, onto another Studio Gang design with the nearby St Regis. Now the tallest building in the world designed by a woman, Jeanne Gang. Aqua, is the second tallest building in the world by a woman, also Jeanne.

It’s made up of three interconnected towers with glass panels in various shades of blue. I’ve been shooting here a lot this year so again I tried some ICM + focused on some reflections under the middle tower of the building. Don’t forget to get close to the glass to exaggerate those reflections!

Yes, some liberty was taken with the reflection shot and exaggerating the blue tones and removing the yellows. I liked the sci-fi vibe from the shape of the reflections + the tones.

We then headed to the Lake & Wells parking garage for a look down at the ‘L’ and some of the great reflections and dense urban views you can get up here. Loved the play of light and complementary colors and textures of this view.

Onto, Santiago Calatrava’s only work here in Chicago, the Constellation sculpture at River Point Park.

Since ICM seemed to be the theme of the workshop, here’s one at this location.

Off to Union Station followed by the Willis Tower and another relatively new piece of public art, the Atmospheric Wave Wall created by Olafur Eliasson. The design was inspired by the changing light on the waves of Lake Michigan.

Typically, I prefer the color shots of this location, because the blues are just so fantastic. But, sometimes the patterns and the way the light is hitting the wall, make the black & white just as interesting.

One more stop before a recovery break from the heat, 235 Van Buren designed by Perkins + Will. The south facade of the building is covered in concrete cantilevered balconies which make for great abstract pattern shots.

Our final stop of the workshop, a private hour inside the Burnham & Root-designed Rookery. This was also renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose influence is quite evident in the ornate, organic detailing here.

The highlight of this location is certainly the Oriel Staircase, especially getting that top-down view. And even views mid-way up the staircase that you just can’t get any other way.

And, that’s a wrap!

So great getting back to these in-person workshops. It was a really fantastic group, they were all very patient and accepting of all the changes we had to make due to unforeseen circumstances. Big thanks to all of them for joining me! I look forward to the next one!

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