It’s currently 59 degrees this morning here in Chicago - in mid-July (and Fort Wayne I see that it’s the same where you are). A little strange to say the least. We have had some rocky weather this year but I can’t complain too much. There’s a part of me that misses the heat, but I know our time will come. Luckily, summer is far from over.
Residential rooftops exist for days like the 4th of July. The fireworks displays all around the city sure didn’t disappoint tonight. It was nice to turn my camera away from the skyline to capture images on the south and west side landscapes. Extremely happy with the results.
A year ago today I had arranged to spend a couple of hours on the 10th Floor of the Northwest Tower (aka Coyote Building) to make some photos. I had wanted to capture this city scene for years. I vividly remember the first time I saw a photo from this view about four years back. I was blown away. Being fairly new to the city I was unaware at the time that this was the six corner intersection of North, Milwaukee, and Damen. As it would turn out, my first experience shooting the Coyote Building would lead to a photo gone viral.
The goal was to create a large print of this unique view of the city consisting of the Flat Iron Building, Wicker Park neighborhood and downtown skyline. My partner Andy Fowler and I had rented the 24-megapixel Nikon 7100 with the Nikkor 10-24mm wide-angle lens for a week. We had three days to return the gear so I had made arrangements earlier in the day to spend about 2 to 3 hours shooting from the 10th floor window. The final picture I had been dreaming about was actually the image made during the blue hour - a 15 second exposure of light trails from North and Milwaukee Avenues.
Luckily the clouds in the sky were thick. At times, as a photographer, I use this to my advantage when shooting urban landscapes. Moody skies generate intriguing photographs. We had setup the cameras on tripods and rotated in and out of the small window in the empty corner office. We began shooting at exactly 6PM, creating some pre-golden hour images with the thick clouds above. About 40 minutes into the shoot it began to rain. Andy and I looked at each other wondering if the shoot was going to come to early end as the scene began to look dull and drab. At about 6:41PM a rainbow formed in the sky high above the skyline that was unlike anything we had ever seen. We immediately knew that we had something special.
After the blue hour faded into nightfall we had enough images to work with given the variations in light trails from the traffic down below. At home that evening we did some brief editing and I then posted an image, that is now titled “Chicago’s Rainbow” to Facebook and tweeted a pic to the Wicker Park Bucktown Insider’s Guide. The following day I received emails from all sorts of people requesting to use my image on their news sites. I was featured on Reddit, the Huffington Post, and the Wicker Park Bucktown Insider’s Guide. I received a phone call for an interview by reporter Alisa Hauser with DNAinfo. That evening the rainbow was also a part of the evening weather segment on Fox News Chicago. I received multiple requests for prints both large and small and received a two commissioned architectural assignments all due to the exposure from Chicago’s Rainbow. Unfortunately, given the nature of the Internet, I’m sure it was used in many locations without credit. But either way, the next day and following week was a whirlwind.
I feel very lucky to have experienced the rainbow from this view first hand. I feel even luckier to have been prepared (and skilled!) enough to capture the final image the way we did. Since that day, on June 17, 2013, I was able to obtain access to that empty 10th floor office space on three separate occasions, spending about an hour shooting each time. I now have a nice collection of scenes from this vantage point.
Currently the Northwest Tower is being converted to a boutique hotel that may open sometime in mid to late 2015. We will see what the future holds for this historic building and amazing urban landscape.