October was a very busy month. With two major trips planned including one from my bucket list, I was hard pressed to find a quiet moment to write about my exploits. The last time I was in Chicago was around 7 to 8 years ago. It was some time in the spring. I did quite a bit of photography on that trip with my original 7D. I had just started figuring out what my Chasing Sunsets series would look like. Unfortunately as my workflow and archival processes evolved in their infancy, I lost the RAW image files. As a matter of fact, I am unable to locate photos from that trip. Needless to say, I was extremely frustrated when a major magazine catalogue contacted me asking for high quality skyline and cityscape prints of iconic American cities, especially Chicago.
Since then I have been meaning to get back out to Chicago just to photograph it at Sunset for my limited edition collection. Early October presented my only opportunity to accomplish this before winter and the end of the year. I searched extensively for a hotel, apartment, condo, and property with a decent view of the skyline. My main plan was to capture the city from the Observatory which extends out into the lake and offers a clear unobstructed panoramic view of the city. However as always with the weather in Chicago, it was severely overcast all day Saturday, my only full day in Chicago for this trip. This was especially frustrating. I was prepared to weather the rain for my shot but the low cloud deck covered half of the skyline all day.
So after exploring he city up close via the CTA metro system, I resigned to my hotel room and hoped the cloud deck would lift just enough to clear the sears tower around sunset so I can get my shot of the skyline. Finally just before the sun set, Chicago revealed herself. At this point I had already had a couple glasses of wine to calm my nerves and ease my frustrations at the prospect of making the trip to Chicago from Sacramento and still not being able to capture the skyline.
The hotel room offered unobstructed views through glass walls floor-to-ceiling. It was the perfect backup scenario. I immediately went to work, sorting through the various obstacles and challenges, such as water droplets on the hotel room window, ghosting, reflections and distortions. I shot primarily with the Canon 5DsR and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. My trusty Manfrotto travel tripod handled the task with ease. All’s well that ends well. I shot through the sunset keeping the room as dark as possible to avoid reflections. I tracked down every light source inside the room and masked it with dark socks, towels, scarves, and garments. You’d be surprised just how many point light sources you can find in a dark hotel room.
After the sunset I went down to the bar in the lobby for a some dinner and a celebratory drink. I eventually ran into an engineer from Apple who had just landed from China. He happened to have his camera with him and really wanted to capture the skyline as well. So after a few more drinks, and with clear skies, we teamed up and headed out to the Observatory at midnight…
…to be continued.