Chicago Looks Different Through a New Camera

July 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

My last post was awhile back, and talked about my recent gear upgrade.  I went from a six year old Canon T1i to a Sony A7 II, a decision that I am both still paying for but so, so, so glad I made.  My new camera body and the lenses I have invested in have been paying dividends, both in the quality of my imagery and the inspiration I am finding as I improve and develop as a photographer.

view of the chicago skyline and chicago river during the blue hour.River North Blue Hour

The above image is from a January trip to Chicago; I was able to spend two nights and three days freezing my ass off as I walked around my favorite city, putting my new gear through its paces and seeing what I could find (and I found A LOT of good stuff!).  I was also able to take another overnight visit to the Windy City in April, but you'll have to check back when Part Two of this post gets published to see those images (or just follow me on Instagram!).

The January trip was certainly refreshing - the warmest day was in the high 30's, although it thankfully didn't get too much colder during the nighttime.  I arrived early in the morning and parked and checked into the Palmer House Hilton, where I was staying.  Kudos to Hilton for doing such a nice job with their hotels, I never had hotel preferences before, but as an adult I find myself becoming more and more picky about where I spend my money and my time.

photo looking west of traffic on the highway along the blue line in chicago, illinois.  it is gray and cloudy and you can see light trails from the cars on the highway as well as a train rushing by.Tones off the Blue LineLooking West along the Blue Line, waiting for dark so I can practice some long exposures with the skyline behind me.

I spent almost two-thirds of my time during the January trip in and around the CTA system, especially the trains.  Part of my reasoning was that I hadn't done that in previous trips during nicer weather, preferring to walk around in certain areas as much as possible, but also because of how cold it was - you can see by the photo above that while it wasn't actually snowing that day, there is plenty of snow on the ground from previous storms.  Plus, I like mass transit - my hometown of Toledo doesn't have much apart from city busses, and I have always lamented that our city planners didn't try and account for some sort of train or trolley system around town.  So getting to pay $10 to ride the trains, subways and busses all day is a fair bargain in my tourist eyes!

The above photo is the view looking the opposite way down the Blue Line; I got off somewhere around DePaul University and have gone back to this spot and others near it to try and catch the city at different angles; this image remains one of my favorite from this spot.

I didn't spend all my time riding the trains; both mornings I was in the city I made sure to do some walking around to start the day, venturing out from the Palmer House in a different direction each time.  The morning after I arrived was definitely the best for photography - I spent a lot of time doing #lookup(s) at some of the amazing Chicago architecture and was never once not blown away by some of the things we as humans have created in modern times!

Chase Photomatix HDR.  Looking up at the Chase Building in Chicago, Illinois in black and white.  The building stretches towards the sky with strong leading lines that parallel one another towards the clouds.Chase Photomatix HDRLooking up at the Chase Building in Chicago, Illinois in black and white.

Another thing I found myself enjoying was practicing some different photography techniques - long exposures and manual focusing were two things I never did well on my old Canon T1i, but both techniques I found myself enjoying with my new gear and new tripod.  I especially found that I enjoyed trying to capture long exposures off the back of the trains as we raced through the city, whether above ground on the Loop or below ground on the subway.

View of the elevated train tracks in Chicago, Illinois, taken as a handheld long exposure.  The lines of the track and other leading lines are pretty clear and straight, while the rest of the city flows by in a blur.On Time IIIView of the elevated train tracks in Chicago, Illinois, taken as a handheld long exposure.

The images above and below are two of several taken handheld, on a 1/2-3" exposure at variable apertures.  The longer the exposure the more blurred the buildings get, but also the greater the chance that we hit a bump and I lose the straight lines of the train tracks.

These are definitely some of my favorite images to create, and I make sure to try out new things each time I get to Chicago and ride that fabled "L".

Below is a slideshow with a good dozen of my favorite images from the January trip; if you want to see the whole January gallery check out Chicago 2 to see all my edited images for sale.

This trip was shot with my new Sony A7 II, mainly with my Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm F/4 and my Sony/Zeiss 55mm F/1.8 - still my most-used lenses!

If you don't already, bookmark my blog for future images and yammerings, and follow along with me on Instagram as I photograph the hell out of whatever I find interesting.





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