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Views of Chicago Downtown

November 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

On my most recent visit to central Chicago, 28 October 2016, I walked as usual for several hours along the streets taking photos of buildings, the river and the people. This collection is mostly about the architecture and includes several different interpretations of the same scene in a number of cases. 

Whenever I visit any place I always remind myself that local photographers are likely to know it much better, can choose varied lighting conditions, and can shoot at different times of year. They also have a better grasp of the people and which types of photography are acceptable. I just hope that there is some advantage to an outside view on scenes that may be so ordinary for residents that they no longer see them as photo subjects, or perhaps don't see them at all. Still, I just report what I see and help my own memory of the experience. So here is what I saw followed by comments on some of the images.

At first, I resisted taking a photograph of the opera building as seen from the opposite side of the river because so much of it appeared as a blank wall. Then I looked more carefully at the fine detail of the building and took several shots. The first presented below still looked rather flat on my basic edit so I decided to use Topaz Impressions 2  with an overlay that added painterly texture. I like this version much more, even if it is less accurate.


I walked a little further and took the building from directly opposite, showing it rising almost out of the water. I'm still unsure about that large featureless area at the core of the image, but I do like the contrast with the complex frame that the rest of the building provides.



Stopping a short distance in front of the Madison Street bridge, I liked the line of receding buildings, but not so much the natural daylight colours. So I have posted two other versions which may appeal in different ways. It was a chilly, windy, dull morning and this I emphasized with a somewhat desaturated grungy look from Topaz Textures 2. 

Chicago by the riverChicago by the riverTT2 Desaturated portrait grunge

A warmer look that hints at an old print provides a radically different version. 

Chicago by the riverChicago by the riverTT2v dirty sunset

Photographing buildings raises the problem of how to deal with converging lines when you have to tilt the camera to take in the whole building. As in the previous image it is often best to avoiding covering too much. In the previous photo I only had to introduce a minor perspective correction in software. Sometimes correcting the perspective produces severe cropping and elongated buildings that look unrealistic and unattractive. in the next shot this was indeed the case when I tried to correct it. It is not outstanding in any way but the image I have included is the best I could achieve. As with several others, I decided to make a key central line vertical and accept an unrealistic but reasonably pleasing overall effect.

Chicago Oct 28 2016 6 1Chicago Oct 28 2016 6 1OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I quite like the following photo of people walking in a street of mixed older and modern architectural styles. However, my eye is drawn straight to the women wearing the neon green jacket. As an alternative the toned monochrome image (Topaz Textures 2) restores what should be the main focus of the street scene - the mix of people and styles with no strong domination of any part.

Chicago streetChicago streetOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chicago streetChicago streetTT2 Oh so dramatic

Black and White processing is abstract and valuable for many purposes, including occasions when I want to emphasize structure and texture. 

Chicago RiverChicago RiverOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I enjoyed walking the path along the Chicago River as the city looks different from that level. In this shot (below) I used Topaz Texture 2 and the spotlight preset to turn the dull day into something much warmer, perhaps romantic.

Image Date (MMM dd yyyy) Chicagoland 163Image Date (MMM dd yyyy) Chicagoland 163TT2 spotlight

35 East Wacker is a building I have photographed several times and always with disappointing results. I almost threw this one away until some cropping, straightening and clarity applications produced what is now my favourite image of the day with its detailed stonework and abstract window reflections.

WackerWackerTC exterior texture

Countless photographs must have been taken on the Michigan Avenue bridge. Mine captures people with something on their mind - and the inevitable cell phone conversation taking place. The Cubs were yet to comeback and win the world series. Perhaps the people were more upbeat a few days later.

Chicago Oct 28 2016 17Chicago Oct 28 2016 17OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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