Chicago Workshop Recap – October 2021

This is the first time I’ve ever done two Chicago workshops in one year. With covid still being such an issue, I decided to stick close to home + someone who couldn’t make this October session planned to do a private session with the exact same itinerary in August so we opened it up to others. I never really expected both to sell out but it seems everyone was itching to get out and shoot with others. A little travel + a little camaraderie, something we’ve all been missing!

Once again, I had another great group. And unlike August, everyone was either local or from neighboring states. Plus, a few people who have done workshops with me in the past. Always love catching up with those I’ve met before and who have become friends. And, of course, meeting new people!

Let’s jump into our Friday start at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies on South Michigan Ave and designed by Krueck + Sexton Architects. We started inside with the 2-story lobby and its geometric, sculptural wall. Given I’ve photographed here so many times, I decided to focus on an area I’ve neglected in the past. The zig-zagging glass gallery wall. By standing in one of the setbacks and looking up through the layers of glass, many layers of reflections and angles stacked upon each other made for an interesting composition. Even if it meant lots of cleanup from repeating sprinklers and lights.

The glass has a slight teal tint which I exaggerated in post for a nice color contrast.

Once again, we had to alter the itinerary because the main area I wanted to shoot in the Art Institute (AI) is still closed off. So, the next stop was Buckingham Fountain. While it’s a Chicago icon, I struggle to create anything new and interesting here. Instead of focusing on the design of the fountain, I decided to focus solely on the water spraying out the top for some watery abstracts. Then went very dramatic with the post-processing.

Another new addition to the workshop in lieu of the Art Institute’s interiors was to shoot from its second-floor sculpture garden for a bit of a birds-eye view of Millennium Park.

After lunch, we were off to Millennium Park with The Bean being our first stop. A Chicago icon designed by Anish Kapoor.

A couple of takes here. First, combining it with the Aon Center and its reflection in the top of The Bean. Going vertical to emphasize the great height of the Aon Center.

Because of the extreme busyness here, from the underside, I used some ICM to blur the people and create this otherworldly effect. Enhanced by cooling off the white balance.

Moving east, the Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry. Arguably, the most difficult Gehry design I’ve photographed, so many wires and speakers to deal with. A telephoto is a must. My favorite area to focus on is the curvy underside right above the stage.

We then shot Gehry’s BP Bridge but I didn’t get anything I really like or that was different than I’ve shot before. Sometimes, my creativity just stifles…

Heading to Lakeshore East, there was some nice dramatic light on Two Prudential Tower and the Aon Center. Just felt like going with an angle to create some tension and geometry to the space.

Some nice shadows on the Aon Center + some clouds in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building for a new addition to my Urban Quilt series.

Moving further into Lakeshore East, one of my Chicago favorites, Aqua designed by one of my favorite architects, Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. Been feeling the dark and moody interpretations of this lately, whether using negative space or filling the frame.

Onto her latest for Chicago, the St Regis. Two of the three soaring towers.

And, the passageway under the middle tower. Love the geometry here! This time I played around with ICM which feels a little lightening-like.

After a little break & drinks on the riverwalk, we headed to the Chicago Theater for some blue hour shots. Once again, more ICM here & intentional lack of focus, aided by shooting the theater’s reflection in the glass windows of ABC7 across the street.

What a great first day! We grabbed dinner before crashing for the night for our Saturday morning start in Lincoln Park.

Another Studio Gang site, the pavilion at the south pond. Always a favorite! First, the comparison between color and B&W in this tight shot of the exterior pods.

The contrast between an ICM take and something more representative of the ribbon-like bent wood.

And, a couple more takes of the pods & curvy wood frame. The light varied a lot while we were here. From gray and overcast to the sunlight filtering through a thin layer of clouds. It worked well in getting different interpretations of this pavilion.

Next, the Sofitel Chicago designed by Jean-Paul Viguier. Another location I’ve shot so many times I struggled to come up with something new so I tried some ICM here too.

A short walk away is the John Hancock Building designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill. This time I made a symmetrical shot from the west-facing side.

Then focused my attention on the curvy parking ramp at the backside of the building.

And saw a couple of new Urban Quilt ideas here as well!

Another favorite is the MCA and the two staircases inside. The original, by Josef Paul Kleihues, is the star of the museum. Over the 20+ years I’ve lived in Chicago, it’s been very rare that the center of the staircase is free of some kind of art display.

I took advantage of that by lying down at its base to get a straight shot up. I love how the skylight has this slight blue color, a favorite color combo with the black & white of the staircase. I did remove the ambient warm tones given off by the lighting inside to keep the focus on these three colors.

Then for some ICM of the Johnston + Marklee two-story staircase that has been recently added to the back of the museum. This time looking down from one of the second-floor corners.

After a great lunch at Beatrix, where I discovered they have these massive and very delicious cookies, lol. I highly recommend the salted caramel one I had ;) The regular food menu is very good too!

Back to the architecture, our next stop was the Burberry building designed by Callison Bartluce Architects and Solomon Cordwell Buenz. Endless reflection and geometric shots to be made here! This was my favorite of the day. A bit moody from the gloomy day we ended up having.

We then shot the Foster + Partners Apple Store, another location I just couldn’t come up with something new this time.

Across the street, time for one of Chicago’s historic gems, The Wrigley Building by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. At this point, it was pretty clear and then this nice soft layer of clouds floated into the scene.

Some details…

Then to Trump Tower (Skidmore Owings & Merrill) and Marina Towers (Bertrand Goldberg) and I was stuck again. One of the students wound up talking to someone that lived in Marina Towers and he took us up to the rooftop. How fun!!!

It was pretty gloomy by this point and it actually started raining pretty hard. But I did manage this one shot, another perspective of Two Prudential & the Aon Center.

After a break, we headed to the Washington/Wabash CTA stop for the newish station by Exp. The weather was still pretty gloomy and kinda dark so the trains had their lights on. I decided to try a bit of a wider shot and with intentional lack of focus for fun.

Our final stop of day 2 was Alexnder Calder’s Flamingo for sunset and blue hour. I haven’t spent a lot of time photographing details of architecture or sculpture at this time of day but it definitely offers a new perspective on spaces I’ve been to many times. Much more saturation and intrigue. Here are a few favorites. Some straight and some ICM.

After a nice group dinner, we called it a day.

Our final day started with a favorite of everyone’s, a private hour inside the Rookery and time to ourselves on the Oriel Staircase. The original design here was by Burnham and Root and was completed in 1888, Frank Lloyd Wright did a redesign of the 2-story lobby in 1905.

The staircase, especially from the top down since it’s rare to get this vantage point, is where we spent most of our time. Here are a couple of details.

Another location I’ve shot a lot so finding new perspectives is getting tough. But these next two are new for me. Always exciting to find a new way to see something I’ve shot many times before!

We had another gloomy day but sometimes that can work just fine, creating some nice even light on our subjects. Like you see with the Perkins + Will designed 235 Van Buren.

A new addition to this year’s Chicago workshops, the Atmospheric Wave Wall, a sculpture created by Olafur Oliasson on the south side of Willis Tower. It’s this great, concave 2-story piece of art with tones of blue and pops of red that he’s said are inspired by the changing light on Lake Michigan.

Another location I did a bunch of ICM shots. The first, a comparison between color and B&W to showcase the differences you notice between the two.

In the color image, of course, the first thing you notice are the colors. In the B&W, it’s the patterns and shapes. Both work, they just convey different moods.

This next one is probably my favorite of the wall and it’s a very drastic crop.

This next shot is the actual shot made, where the previous shot is cropped from the very top right corner. Often I’m asked if I crop in post, here you see how drastic it can sometimes be.

Back to some more historic architecture, Chicago’s Union Station recently restored by Goettsch Partners and originally designed by Daniel Burnham.

I decided to angle the lens, to create triangles/geometry, at the corner of the Grand Hall with one of the cornices in the foreground and the ceiling and skylight layered in the background. Plus, there’s the nice warm/cool color + old/new contrast.

After a lunch break, we headed to the Cultural Center, Palmer House, Lake & Wells Parking Garage & Calatrava’s Constellation. Here’s the one shot I got that I thought was worth keeping, a detail of my favorite staircase at the Palmer House. Just love its curves!

I look forward to seeing the student images! Stay tuned for their shots in the next blog post!



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