Tag Archives: Tower

Trump Tower Construction Time Lapse

Every once in a while, I think about something that I was working on before I started blogging and wonder whether it would make a good post or not.  Where we live in Chicago, we are very close to the Trump International Hotel and Tower.  When we first moved here, it was the Chicago Sun-Times building.  They demolished that and built the tower on the same site.

During the construction, I took a lot of pictures, first of the demolition and then the new construction.  Building the tower would have made a good blog on its own if I had been blogging then.  However, can’t turn back time!  One thing I tried to do was take pictures from the same position on a regular basis to maybe make a time lapse.  These pictures have languished for a long time.  However, since Photoshop is now a lot more useful for making video, I brought all of the files in as layers to make a video.  Since the position moved each time I took a picture despite my best efforts, Photoshop allowed me to align the layers and get tings (almost) back in register.  Then some transitions and some music and we have a video.  Hope you like it.

Trump Tower

wpid5552-AU0E5496-Edit.jpgWalking back from Navy Pier, I came back along the river towards home. Since it was getting late in the afternoon, I was effectively heading into the sun. Not ideal for taking pictures but the reflective nature of the Trump Tower ahead of me seemed to be picking up light from all sorts of directions. It seemed like a good shot to take. Shooting the Trump is something that requires some thought. It is rather tall and fitting it in the frame without making it distort too much means being quite far away. I also played with a little HDR to see if that helped and it turns out it did!


Sunrise Over Chicago

My journey to the top of the Sears was explained previously in the context of the helicopter lift that got me there.  However, while I was there, I did have plenty of time to see other things.  The job was due to start at 6:50am so we were up on the building quite early.  However, there were some delays before the lift finally got underway so we were up there for a while.  We got to the top before sunrise so I got to see the sun rise over the lake.

The sunrise has a great affect on the buildings.  Gradually the warm morning light washed across the various buildings and they glow with the early morning warmth (ironic since it was pretty chilly up there.  Watching the skyline light up around you is a lot of fun.  With hindsight, I should have set up one camera for a time lapse video but never mind.

The new Rush Hospital building looked particularly good as the sun came up but everything around looked great.  Also, while the sun is low, the shadows are long – none more so than that of the building I was standing on!  I wonder is someone a couple of miles away could see my shadow puppets!  Midway was off in the distance and we could see straight down the runway.  I didn’t take a really long lens with me so no closeups of landing or departing traffic.  However, we did get some O’Hare traffic passing overhead and, being 1,300′ up, they did seem noticeably closer!  What a way to start the day.

On Top of the City

I have been very fortunate to be on top of some of the largest buildings in the city of Chicago in recent years.  Helicopter lifting operations take me to places that are off limits to many and that provide a great perspective on the city.  However, until recently, the highest point in the city was not one I had been to.  The top of the Sears Tower (I don’t know many that use its other name) had eluded me.  The Skydeck doesn’t count of course!

This changed with the installation of the new TV antenna for ABC on top of the building.  The good team at Construction Helicopters had been contracted to install the new antenna having helped removing the old one.  We gathered early one Sunday morning for the job to commence.  This is a location that is unmatched unless you are actually airborne.  I will post some views from on high in upcoming posts.  However, the first post is an aviation themed one – no great surprise for this blog!

The aircraft used was a Sikorsky S-61N.  The aircraft was leased from a Canadian company and was actually on its last job with Construction before being returned.  They have acquired a Super Puma which I hope to see in action at some point.  The S-61N is an old design but regular upgrades have kept it as a very capable machine.  It staged out of Midway and picked the loads from down at the bottom of the tower.  The vertical climb is quite a long one but they did well, not only in placing the loads, but holding them for some time while they were secured.  Good job to everyone involved.

Looking Down on Everyone

If you thought I was suggesting I look down on others, you were right – just not in the way your thought???  Having visitors provides an opportunity to do the sightseeing things that the city has to offer.  One of those things is to go to the top of tall buildings and look down on the world around you.  We went with the option of the Sears Tower, sometimes referred to these days as the Willis Tower but not by too many people I suspect!

This is the most popular one for tourists visiting the city so an early start is advisable if you want to avoid some very lengthy lines.  Early morning also means the sun is over the lake so is not too bad from the point of view of grabbing shots away from the lake.  All of this is helped if the windows are clean which, sadly, they weren’t this time but what can you do?

A more recent feature of the Skydeck is the glass cubes that extend out over the Wacker Drive side of the building.  Having the chance to stand over the street below is amusing to lots of people and a little scary to others.  A school party of teenage girls resulted in lots of squealing but I guess that is par for the course.

It is fun to see how people react to the chance to stand in space.  Most people are with others and you get a lot of interacting.  Others take it as a lonesome moment and just look out.  You have to make the most of the moment since the next group will be with you before too long!

Up a Big Pole!

Today we have a bit of a flashback.  Regular readers will know that I shoot a lot of helicopter operations.  Midwest Helicopters is the large local operator so they do most of the work in the city.  However, there other operators that undertake similar work and some of them will work in Chicago at times.  This is often a function of the weight of the loads to be lifted.  Construction Helicopters of Howell MI are one such operator and their S-61N aircraft can lift 10,000lbs – a big increase over the 4,500lbs of the S-58T.  If you need even bigger things lifted, Erickson Aircrane are probably your people!

This piece, though, is not about the helicopter so much as the people it was working with.  A few years ago, the Trump International Hotel and Tower was built here in the city – in fact just across the street from us.  We had the best seats to watch the demolition of the old Sun Times building and the growth from a hole in the ground to 92 floors of building.  It was fun to watch, even if it did take a chunk out of our view!  The building was topped off with a spire.  The parts for the spire were lifted to the roof by the construction cranes before they were assembled but it was going to be significantly higher than the rest of the building so those cranes were not suitable for assembling it.  The pieces would be lifted into place by helicopter.








The first attempt at this was unsuccessful as the winds were so strong that keeping each piece in place long enough to secure it proved impossible.  There was a long wait before the second attempt but the job finally went ahead.  The heroes of this story are the guys on the tower.  If you think that the tower itself is over a 1,000′ tall and the spire is a significant (and flexible) structure above that, you can see that this is quite an exposed location to be working.  From talking to the team that assembled it, the most senior guys are the ones at the very top – they want to be there.








Three guys were on the spire at the top.  As each section was brought into place, they grabbed the tag lines and pulled it into position.  When they had located it, they would put in a bolt in each corner.  Then, one would climb up the new piece to release the lifting line.  The other two would follow while a second group came behind them to insert the additional bolts to finally secure the section.  While they were finishing that off, the next piece was coming in.








To add to the fun of this, the spire narrows as it gets higher so the working space gets progressively more limited.  All the time you are dealing with whatever wind conditions there are at this height combined with the not inconsiderable down-wash from the helicopter and trying to make sure you maintain your grip and don’t drop anything on the team below you!

The job ran a little long but they did finish it off and put the final cap in place.  They seemed to do a great job but were so far away from anyone else, I suspect that very few people appreciate exactly what they had done.  It was only recently as I was culling a bunch of old images that I looked again at them as saw exactly what they were doing.  I feel guilty for paying more attention to the helicopter operations when I first shot the job so decided to give them a little publicity now.  Well done everyone.


Look Down on a Cloudy Day

While we had our friends in town, we asked what they wanted to do.  One of the things they had in mind was a trip up the Hancock Tower at the end of the day to see the city before and after sunset.  Sounded like a good plan.  We headed up that way with some time in hand and got to the ticket line.   It was quite short and we thought we were in luck.  However, a quick peek through the window to the line for the elevators revealed a different story.  The line was very long and there was no way we were going to be up the tower until long after the light had gone.

We decided to save this for another day.  Sadly, that day turned out to be the one with the best of the weather.  When you only have so much time at a place, you have to go with what you can get so we made a second trip.   This time a lot of the tourist had gone home after the holidays but the weather was more cloudy.  At least this made for a short line.

The view from the Hancock is a good one.  The light can be tricky since you spend a lot of time looking south but with more cloud that was less of an issue.  However, the cloud did obscure some things and the moisture in the air made it harder to see things in the distance.  There were still some nice things to see though so it was worth going up.  Just a shame we didn’t manage to be there when the conditions were at their best!