The Flamingo

So there’s this famous public art installation smack in the middle of Chicago’s Loop called The Flamingo. You may have seen it featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Or maybe you just came across it wandering around the Loop. It’s hard to miss.

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Cameron, Sloane and the Flamingo. The Red Wings colours clearly aren't Calder Red.Cameron, Sloane and the Flamingo. The Red Wings colours clearly aren't Calder Red.

Cameron, Sloane and the Flamingo. The Red Wings colours clearly aren’t Calder Red.

Created by noted American artist Alexander Calder, is a 16m tall “stabile” (as opposed to a “mobile” that would move with the wind) located in the Federal Plaza in front of the Kluczynski Federal Building. It was commissioned by the United States General Services Administration and was unveiled in 1974, although Calder’s signature on the sculpture indicates it was constructed in 1973. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Notable for its wonderful red colour (“Calder Red”), it stands beautifully juxtaposed against the black steel and glass of the modern and minimalist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed Kluczynski Federal Building.

What’s remarkable about this statue, apart from it’s sheer size, shape and striking colour, is how it changes with the light. When I visited two weeks ago, there were fair-weather clouds blowing through the troposphere (I had to look that one up) above Chicago that were changing the light on a minute-by-minute basis.

Here are three images of the Flamingo shot in quick succession—no more than 50 seconds elapsed between the 1st and last image—and you can see how the quality of the light changes from soft to harsh. And that Flamingo still glows. (My personal favourite is the first one, mostly because of the composition, the slightly more muted tones and softer, less distracting background light.)

It is a challenging subject to capture; installed in a relatively confined space, surrounded by tall buildings, the light doesn’t always hit it quite the way you’d want it to. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter.

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Without Lightroom's perspective correction, this would look very different indeed. Where'd the light go?Without Lightroom's perspective correction, this would look very different indeed. Where'd the light go?

Without Lightroom’s perspective correction, this would look very different indeed. Where’d the light go?

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Photo Essay #14: Looking up in Chicago

You can’t visit Chicago without marvelling at the architecture. It’s tall, it’s diverse, it’s modern, postmodern, art deco and everything in between.

I really developed a kink in my neck two weekends ago when I visited. It was worth it!

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Photo Essay #13: Sunday morning in Chicago

A little over a week ago, I had the privilege to spend the weekend at the Out of Chicago conference (hazard a guess as to where it’s held). Chicago is one heck of a city, and its buildings and people are as photogenic as they get.

On Sunday morning, I wound up getting up very early. My body clock decided that 6AM was time to get up and go. So when the sun is shining, and is still low in they sky, what else could I do? I went for a little photowalk before the day’s proceedings got going.

Here we are on the State Street bridge over the Chicago River. On the left are the iconic Marina Centre towers. At the base of the eastern tower is Wollensky’s Grill, where I found Rick hosing down the patio before another busy day was about to begin. We chatted for a few minutes and he was gracious enough to pose for a quick street portrait. This is a man who takes pride in what he does and you can see it in his eyes.

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There is constant boat traffic on the river: pleasure craft, water taxis, ferries, tourist ships, and this: the yoga cruise. Walking along Wacker Drive I could hear a voice over a tannoy and turned my head to take a look. I had to double take since I’d never seen an entire upper deck of a boat engaged in yoga before.

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The tall shiny buildings downtown make for some spectacular light and reflections at all times of the day. Half the time I wasn’t sure whether my subject was the person/place/thing I pointed my camera at or the shadows!

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In for Out of Chicago

I am so privileged to be able to attend this year’s Out of Chicago summer conference, in, you guessed it, Chicago.

It’s a 2½ day gathering of photographic enthusiasts and pros, where we get together, network, learn from the best and most importantly, get out and shoot!

Chicago is really a photogenic city unlike any other. Vibrant street life, incredible architecture, characters all around. It’s going to be a great weekend!

VSCO pesto

Earlier this week, there was some really great light in my backyard (a rarity this year, when all we seem to be getting is dreary, cloudy skies) and it was hitting our potted basil just so, begging me to take out the camera.

I always set my Fujifilm X-T1 to shoot in RAW+JPEG mode, with the intention of using the JPG and maybe messing around a little with the RAW if I didn’t like how the JPG turned out.

Anyhow, to my eye, the straight-out-of-camera JPG was perfect. Great colours, tonality, no blown out highlights, nice blacked out background (a fence in the shade of a 50′ maple tree). Perfect.

But what if I were to process the RAW image using some VSCO film emulations? Just for kicks?

Never having really shot film (I only started getting serious about photography in the digital era), I’ve nonetheless always liked the look of film, and have enjoyed using VSCO’s film emulations in Lightroom to get something that approaches a more analog look. Digital images have a tendency of being too, um, clinical to my eye. VSCO takes off the edges.

VSCO does an admirable job of emulating numerous slide and negative films from years gone by. I don’t really care that the “films” aren’t real, I don’t really care that the emulations aren’t perfect, and I certainly don’t really care what pedantic photo snobs have to say about VSCO (or any other of the countless film emulations out there). I just like the look that VSCO can provide in a single click. Each film emulation has its own personality, look and feel. Not each emulation is well-suited to each subject or lighting condition. Just like real film.

So here is my potted basil plant, 9 ways. The first is the out-of-camera JPG, and the other eight were processed in Lightroom using a different VSCO film emulation. Apart from the square crop and having set the while balance to daytime (5500K), no other changes were made.

Which emulation do you prefer for this kind of subject?

(Click on a thumbnail to see it full screen.)

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