I don’t think I need to let you know when the Millennium Bridge was built. It had a tricky history with the initial configuration experiencing some oscillations as the number of people walking on it increased which resulted in it getting some nicknames involving wobbling. Modifications were made and it is now a great addition to the river. Since it is a pedestrian bridge that connects St Paul’s with the South Bank at Tate Modern, it is very popular.
I find the shape of the bridge very interesting. The cable arrangements that support the bridge are very cool and the ramps at each end add to the interest. While we were there, a few people were using it as a location for filming their own activities which requires them to ignore the vast number of people who are invading their scene! I like the number of people that are there since it really gives an impression of just how popular a bridge it is.
Night photography around the city is something I always enjoy. You will have seen examples of it here and here and here and probably a bunch of other posts too. This time I wanted to get out because the Chicago Blackhawks were in the final of the Stanley Cup. Whenever something big is happening, the buildings near Grant Park can be relied upon to make messages using the lights in their windows.
This was no exception. Messages exhorting the ‘Hawks to win the cup were on display and made what is already a cool skyline, a little more interesting. Of course, the result was success as the ‘Hawks went on to win the cup. I think the lights were updated to reflect that but a variety of circumstances meant I didn’t get a chance to get back out and shoot the updated view. However, this will give you a bit of a feel for what they looked like.
Millennium Park is one of the most popular attractions in Chicago so we obviously had to pay it a visit. At various times I have taken pictures of the park that I like. These show the park itself. However, one of the things I love about the place is the effect it has on people. The Bean in particular is great for people watching. They are all looking at their own reflections in the mirrored surface and it causes so many people so much fun, you just can’t help but enjoy the fun they are having.
The new Maggie Daley Park is being constructed at the moment. That cuts off a section of the park. I wonder when it will be finished and whether we will still be in Chicago to see it. I do hope so. A few other things have changed since my sister was last here including the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute. We took a walk across the bridge to see that before heading in to the loop. The Art Institute has a Picasso exhibit running and they have added his name to Daley Plaza in front of his sculpture there as part of the publicity for the exhibit. That seemed worth a look before we headed back.
As has been the case a few times recently, I was down in Millennium Park recently at night. I was there to see something else but, while I was there, I took some time to watch the ice skaters. There is an ice rink beside Millennium Park that is free to the public to use. If you don’t have skates, they are available for hire. However, if you come equipped, you are free to skate!
The rink stays open relatively late each evening and I spent some time from above watching everyone having fun. Of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take some pictures (and also some video – I figure that all of these clips will one day be part of a larger montage of Chicago footage). Since it is dark, it is time to try other techniques.
I was surprised how well lit the rink was. I could get some quite fast shutter speeds if I wanted to. However, that wasn’t really the point. I can come during the day if that is what I want. Instead, the slow shutter speeds were actually what I was looking for. The question then becomes how slow.
I was mounting the camera to the railings with a flexible arm and clamp so my motion wasn’t a problem. If the shutter speeds got too long, the blur of the skaters became so vague, it was hard to see whether they were there or not. A slightly faster speed meant they became a bit more distinct. This was what I was after. You still needed to get the larger groups of skaters to make it show up noticeably though. The perfect combination was when someone would stay totally still (or close to it) during the shot. Then you had the juxtaposition of the movement and the lack of movement. That was my favorite.
It is easy to get complacent when you have so much going on around you all of the time. I saw something in the paper about an installation in Millennium Park where there was a light field set up around Cloud Gate (or The Bean to everyone except the artist who created it!). The lights were illuminating the ground and also reflecting from the surface of the Bean itself. Sounded worth a look.
I mention it to Nancy and the following day she says the paper mentions the exhibit ends the following day. It is Sunday so I figure I had better get down there that night to see it before it goes. Of course, I am not alone in thinking this. I head down there and it is absolutely packed. There are plenty of photographers around and one of them tells me how quiet it had been the previous Tuesday. Great! I am doing well recently with people telling me how it was better sometime before but they never give me a time machine to make this information truly useful!
Anyway, the presence of all of the people has some good effects. I set up a time lapse when I first get there since it is busy and the people add something to the time lapse. Besides, having a lot of people around makes it feel more exciting. The other benefit is that, while the people obscure the light projections on the ground, they become a screen of their own so seeing the shapes play out on them can be just as good.
I hang around for a while since I figure people will drift off home at some point. It is Sunday after all. Sure enough, the numbers do reduce over time but the exhibit ends at 9pm and there are still plenty of people around at that time. The patterns of light are different on each side of the Bean. Projectors are mounted on scaffold frames and beam constantly changing patterns down. There is also musical accompaniment (although I ruin that effect by staying in my own world with my own music – philistine!).
It was certainly worth it. Someone asked me recently why to live in a city. After you had seen everything once, what else is left to do. A fair question if you don’t live in a city. However, this was one of those things that says to me why it is fun to live in a city. Something like this was happening and it was less than 15 minutes for me to walk there.
While the main part of the shoot with Midwest was to get stills, I also took some time to get a little video footage. Nothing stunning and I doubt the Emmy will come rolling in for this but here is a quick edit of the action.
The good folks at Midwest Helicopters were recently undertaking another lift in downtown Chicago and invited me to come along. This one required two goes since the date of the first attempt awoke to find cloud base down amongst the buildings – not ideal conditions for a flight of any sort let alone one that requires weaving between the buildings downtown.
The forecast for the second attempt was considerably better. In the end it didn’t quite turn out that way with a slightly grey and overcast morning for the lift. This was a mixed blessing really. I was going to be facing east so would have had some awkward lighting angles if the sun had been strong. However, cloudy skies are not a great backdrop. This limits some of what you can get but, in this case that wasn’t too much of a problem.
Cloudy skies also soften the light in total which can avoid some of the harsher contrasts that you can get shooting aircraft. Since Midwest’s fleet are painted orange and white, this contrast on the airframe alone can sometimes be a problem. Moreover, I have a lot of pictures of their fleet. Shots against a blue sky are not terribly new but something that brings in the different backgrounds in which the work is being done are a lot more interesting.
The location for the lift was a building directly across from Millennium Park. This should be a photogenic location. In advance of the job I was pondering where a good spot to shoot from would be. Involving the Bean would be a good feature. However, if I shot from near there, I would basically have one shot and miss the rest. Getting a reflection in the Bean was another idea. However, the shape of the Bean acts as a very wide angle viewer which means getting anything specific reflected in it – especially something not too large like a helicopter – is problematic. The idea seems good but it is hard to make it happen. If we had a second lift, I would certainly give it a go but I had to make this one count.
The roof was going to be the location of choice again. This way I can get the aircraft with the park in the background, have it flying in front of other buildings, look down on it while it is low to the ground and also get some of what is happening on the roof as the load is set. This was a little more tricky since I was actually operating mainly from a slightly lower section of roof than that on which the loads were being delivered. I also had to make sure to keep myself out from underneath the path of the loads as they came up.
All in all, it went pretty well. I got some good shots and most of what I was hoping for. Sometimes you wish you could instruct the crew where to fly for the benefit of the shot but that isn’t why they are there! However, it was funny at one point to look at the images and notice that Jim, the pilot, must have just spotted me as he brought a load up since he is briefly looking directly at me and grinning! A couple of frames later and the grin is gone and he is back focused on the task – a task that requires quite a bit of concentration!
As I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes it is useful to have someone come to the city to encourage me to get out and about. A few friends had been to Chicago in a previous week to do some shooting but I had been tied up when they arrived. They were planning some evening shooting and I had been out all day and had plans for the evening so missed it. I was a bit disappointed but there you go.
Consequently, I was pleased to see that a few of them were planning to come back a few days later for another session. This time I was free so agreed to meet up. Some of the group that were coming I knew and others I hadn’t met before. I headed out to the Adler Planetarium – our meeting spot – and started taking some shots. A few guys were already there taking their own shots so I wandered over to find out if they were some of the people I hadn’t met before.
While it was true I hadn’t met them before, they were not part of our group. However, in common with many photographers, they were a friendly bunch a we chatted for a while. They had come to town from Texas and were looking to get as many things in to their trip so I suggested a few spots that they might like to try.
After a while the rest of the guys did show up – well, all but one who had wandered off on his own – and we started taking some pictures. The skyline was lovely as usual and we took some shots around the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. Then we headed across to Millennium Park. I’m becoming a regular.
Shooting around the Bean at night is good since the long exposures you need tend to make any of the other visitors disappear. You get a cleaner shot if you plan it right. We got a bunch of shots and then we started playing around with a flashlight. More of that to come!
It has been a while since I last went out and did some night photography around Chicago. I had been meaning for a while to go and photograph the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park at night when they have the light and music show. This was supposed to be a relatively quick trip out but ended up being a rather longer expedition.
Chicago at night is a great place to photograph. It is fine to walk around at night and there are usually a bunch of people out and about. However, do you do get a feeling that the city is yours and that you aren’t sharing it with the tourist masses. The night lighting is also a lot more generous to sights that look less impressive during the day. The dark hides a lot of the blemishes!
The show at the fountain takes place every hour on the hour. I got down at 8pm which was just after sundown. This wasn’t such a good plan as, even at the end of the 20 minute display, it really wasn’t dark enough to get the benefit of the lights. I figured I would try again another time but ended up taking enough shots of details around the fountain that soon it was sufficiently close to the hour again that there was no point in leaving. The 9pm show was certainly more photogenic – even if I had to take a few angles that concealed some of the construction sites on the skyline.
With some shots in the bag, I headed back in the direction of home. however, along the way were plenty of things to shoot as well. The Art Institute, the Pritzker Pavilion and the bean were all there along with the goings on of Millennium Park. It ended up being pretty late by the time I finally headed home. I have now whetted my appetite for some more night shooting so hopefully it won’t be too long before I am back out.