Summer in Chicago

The weather here has been pretty miserable the past few days: cold, windy, rainy. Oh, and a mid-April snowstorm a few days ago. This time of year, summer can’t get here quickly enough. This photo just screams summer to me: green trees, flowers in bloom, a warm sunset, and people congregating in the park. Those days aren’t too far away, though it sure doesn’t feel like it right now.

Chicago skyline at sunset with a park in the foreground.

Botanic garden sunset

The highlights of the Chicago Botanic Garden are the beautiful flowers, impressive bonsai collection, and the peaceful Japanese garden. While those all provide wonderful photo opportunities, the lake near the entrance to the garden isn’t bad either, especially on a calm day when the reflections in the water are clear. We just happened to be walking towards the exit as the sun set on this day, so how could I not stop and take a photo?

Sunset at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Return to the Chicago Botanic Garden

A few weeks back, I posted a photo of a nicely lit tree at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Today’s photo is also from the Chicago Botanic Garden. I have learned that taking a good photo of a flower is as much finding the right flower as it is composing the photo. So many flowers look really nice until you start to look at the details and realize that they have petals that are brown or have been chewed on by insects or have spots on them. Or the flower looks nice but is oriented so that it isn’t possible to get a photo from the right angle. This purple water lily was in one of the ponds located not far from the entrance of the gardens and it looked beautiful, especially with direction of the light and the lack of other flowers surrounding it. I usually take tighter shots of flowers but felt that the negative space in this photo helped showcase how much the flower stood out in person while viewing it in the pond.

Purple water lily at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Futuristic Chicago

HDR Photography

HDR, short for high dynamic range, is a type of photography which is used to capture a greater range of luminosity than is possible with standard photography. This is especially useful in high contrast situations (e.g., sunrise or sunset) because cameras are not able to capture the range of luminescence that our eyes are able to. So, that beautiful sunset that we see comes out with the sky looking great but the foreground completely black in our photos. HDR has been around for many years but started to really become popular about a decade ago. Trey Ratcliff, who runs the website Stuck In Customs, was the first photographer who got me interested in HDR photography. Looking back at my earlier attempts to create HDR photos, many of them have the classic “over-cooked” look that many people do not like about HDR. I got away from HDR photography for a while, partially because the software available was not incredibly user friendly, but started taking more HDR photos recently. I generally try to use HDR to capture the moment as I saw it (or at least how I remember it looking in the moment), but occasionally I go for something a little more artistic and less realistic. Most newer phones have an HDR mode built in that tries to replicate the more complex process of taking multiple photos and blending them together, but I still like the greater control of doing all of the processing on the computer.

Futuristic Chicago

I took this photo on a photo walk in Chicago, led by Trey Ratcliff. When I started processing this photo, I wanted to make it look as realistic as possible, but somehow I ended up with this result. It has a futuristic look to me, not necessarily what the city will look like in the future, but how it would look in some low budget sci-fi movie. I’m not completely sure what it is, but there’s something I really like about this photo.

Early evening photo of the Chicago skyline

See The Light

Botanical Gardens

Along with zoos, botanical gardens are a great place place to take photos. They are usually reasonably priced (and many are free with a membership to the American Horticultural Society), full of interesting plants of all varieties, and provide different photo opportunities at different times of year, depending on what is in bloom. Many also have waterfalls, ponds, and interesting architectural features.

Reflecting Light on the Japanese Tree

This photo was taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The gardens there are beautifully designed, well maintained, and the only fee is for parking (which is free for AHS members). Each of the gardens within the Chicago Botanic Garden are unique. The Japanese Garden in particular is very nicely done. The tree in this photo is in the Japanese Garden, which is on an island. As we walked past it in the late afternoon, the sun was reflecting off of the water and lighting up branches that would normally be in the shade, which creating an interesting visual effect.

Tree in the late afternoon sun at the Chicago Botanic Garden