Chicago has my photography heart. With its beautiful, never-ending architecture, natural symmetry, and train tracks running above the streets of downtown…Chicago never disappoints my creative soul. Having lived here for a few years now, here are some of my favorite places to explore.
The Cloud Gate
Known as the Bean, this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago. I recommend going earlier in the day to avoid the crowds of people walking in front of your shot. In fact at sunrise the park is almost completely empty which allows for shots focused solely on the Bean. During the fall, the changing colors in the surrounding foliage can also be used for framing as seen here.
The Alder Planetarium
Located on a small peninsula that juts out into the lake, you can capture a spectacular view of the city’s skyline. Sunset is my favorite time to shoot here, especially if there are some clouds in the sky to add more detail and color above the buildings. You don’t actually have to enter the planetarium to enjoy the views right outside on the waterfront.
John Hancock Building
The 360 Chicago observatory in the John Hancock building offers some of the best skyline views of the city. There’s also a lounge 1 floor below that host many of the same views without the cost of admission. However if you’re not in the mood for a drink or appetizer then I would recommend heading up to the observatory to take advantage of the 360 views. In the spring and fall it’s not uncommon to have thick blankets of fog rolling in from the lake which can easily be captured from the Hancock building. This is also another great place to capture sunsets.
Adams/Wabash Train Station
The train system in Chicago is quite unique as many of the tracks run above ground through the city. One of my favorite places to capture the trains is from the crosswalk above the Adams/Wabash train station. Simply enter the station on either side and then look for stairs leading to the crosswalk over the tracks. From up here you can shoot the trains looking north or south. In the middle of the day when it’s very sunny the light can be quite harsh, so I like to wait for morning or evenings, or when there is some cloud cover to dampen the light.
Another popular Instagram spot, this iconic location is in the heart of downtown. Its old, classic architecture and radiant sign can be captured in a number of ways either from the train station at the corner, or from multiple viewpoints on the street below.
Milton Lee Olive Park
To capture the northern half of the city’s skyline I like to visit Milton Lee Olive Park to capture both the water and the buildings. The park does close at 8pm everyday of the year so be aware of this before you head out to shoot a late sunset on a long summer day.
My “go to spot” for spectacular interior architecture within the city. The stairwell starting on the 2nd floor can be photographed from below or from above. The first floor past the elevators is an incredible space as well with gold-trimmed columns and a grand staircase. Be aware the building is often closed on Saturday’s for weddings starting in the afternoon.
With the Chicago river running right through the heart of the city be sure to catch a boat ride for unique perspectives. The cheapest and easiest route is to ride the Chicago water taxi. There are several stops along the river, a good starting point is the Michigan Ave. Bridge stop. I also recommend trying an architecture tour to learn about the vast history behind Chicago’s architecture. Many of these tours also venture out into the lake for wider skyline views.
If you ever make it Chicago hit me up on Instagram @nealkumar.