January 18, 2016

Photographing Chicago: 7 Unique Things About The Windy City

Words + Photos : Kameron Sears

The best way to shoot a city is to first research and understand it as whole! With his phone and Moment lenses in hand, Kameron explores the streets of Chicago to share 7 interesting facts about the city’s history and design:



1. THE FOG

For the past 2 years or so, the fog in Chicago has been really intense. On certain days, it blankets the entire city. I had yet to capture it from above, so on a Saturday I checked some live weather cameras and saw that the fog was rolling in right off the lake and covering the North side of the city. I immediately made my way downtown to the observation deck of the John Hancock building and was mesmerized with the way the fog was making its way through the streets and covering most of the buildings. It was great to finally be able to capture some of it.

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2. THE BLIZZARD OF 2015

The Chicago Blizzard of 2015 was on Super Bowl Sunday. It was the 5th largest snow storm in the city’s history. Most of the downtown was a ghost town. I think the only people that were actually outside were photographers trying to get shots. A few brave souls, like the guy in the shot above, were still walking about. Normally, the area in front of the Chicago Theatre sign is a tourist hot spot but this shows just how few people were out that day. I really enjoy shooting when it’s snowing in the city because it instantly changes the way a scene looks.

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3. CHICAGO’S ARCHITECTURE

Chicago’s variety of architecture is one of my favorite things about the city and what I really love to shoot the most. From historical buildings like the Carbide & Carbon building, the iconic Sears Tower, to the soon to be completed Wolf Point Towers. There is never a shortage of architectural buildings to shoot here in Chicago.

Getting into photography has drastically changed the way I look at things. It’s like my eyes are constantly on the lookout for certain things that I like to shoot including symmetry, leading lines, architecture, etc.  I’ve always enjoyed people watching in general so I try to keep an eye out for interesting people as well but I’m still trying to improve in that area.

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4. BRIDGES

Every year in the Spring and Fall, boats travel up and down the Chicago River to either go into the harbors (Spring) or out for the Winter. Chicago has more moveable bridges than any other city in North America. These 2 times of the year are one of the few times where you’re able to see the bridges lift. It really is a magical sight to see these massive steel structures lift almost effortlessly. It’s one of the many things that make Chicago unique to any other city.

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5. CHICAGO HENGE

Another event that happens in the Spring and Fall in Chicago is what locals call the Chicago Henge. It’s essentially a local term for the Spring and Fall equinoxes. During this time the sun lines up with Chicago’s east-west street grid, creating spectacular photo opportunities. Most people flock to Millennium park to get a shot looking West, but I wanted avoid the crowds and capture the sun from other angles.  I like to capture people in stride so I looked for interesting or business people to photograph.

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6. CHICAGO IN MOTION

For me, the best way to capture motion with the iPhone is burst mode with the native camera. It’s so useful when trying to catch a person walking to get that perfect strideby. I’ve also noticed that you can get some pretty cool motion effects, such as a train speeding past, if you simply lock the focus on a subject other than the train and just use burst mode.

The next 2 shots are just a few examples of how much the iPhone and an app (CortexCam) can do when you experiment. Cortex Cam app is not only great for shooting in low light, but if you mess around with the settings and simply experiment you’ll be amazed at what you can capture. In all these shots I wanted to capture the motion of the train and bus. The app (and some patience) easily allowed me to achieve this effect.

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7.  THE THEATER

The forecast said it was supposed to snow, so I met up with some other local shooters downtown.  It was raining when we started and you could feel the temperature dropping. Slowly, the rain transitioned into big snowflakes, but unfortunately nothing was sticking to the ground because it was so wet. So we were all basically soaked after a few hours. We decided to call it a day. I had about an hour to kill before my train so I roamed around and I knew I wanted to find some good water droplets–it’s kind of been a recent obsession of mine every time it rains. I headed towards the Chicago Theater and saw some really nice, big droplets on a metal post right across the street from the theatre. I had my 18mm Moment lens on, so I just flipped my phone upside down, focused on the drops, and took the shot.

I think it’s my favorite because the droplets are nicely separated and rounded. The Chicago theatre sign is such an iconic part of the city and I love the way it came out in this shot.

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Kameron is a photographer from Chicago who only uses his phone to shoot the city’s architecture. Though he doesn’t consider himself a photographer, Kameron  has been taking photos on his phone for about two years. He edits using AfterlightVCSO and a little bit in Snapseed.


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