Tag Archives: chicago

Architecture as Inspiration

As I walked around Chicago last week I found myself looking up.  The buildings are tall and dramatic and command attention.  They reflect, they shine, they tower, they beckon.  And I noticed them in all their variety.

This billboard caught my eye, especially with the skyscrapers rising behind it, and I stopped to snap a photo.


And I started thinking about architecture and its implications.  I hadn’t thought about architecture as a conversation–across time or otherwise.  I notice architecture and have written about it before in some different ways including this post, but hadn’t thought about how architects consider existing structures when they design new buildings.  Chicago is such an interesting collection of old and new, with more classical pieces from the past standing shoulder to shoulder with the new and shiny.


I hadn’t thought about how space…whether the building fills the entire lot or allows space for people to walk in courtyards and open spaces below and between…can either make a city feel crowded and cramped,


or open and airy.


Or that reflections of other buildings can feel welcoming, like trying on what it feels like to walk in another’s shoes.


Or that echoing aspects of a previous and nearby architecture honors and acknowledges that structure as the field also moves forward (and up)!


Some buildings seem to take us back in time,


and some take us back into history.


And as I write this, I am beginning to see those conversations across time.  I am also seeing the ways that architects can ensure that newcomers are good neighbors and find ways to embrace the old while looking forward to the future.


Can architectural decisions change the ways we interact with each other?  Do those tall buildings whisper in our ears, reminding us to be good neighbors, to learn from our past, to reach out and welcome change?  Inspiration can come in may forms…including the buildings around us.

In the words of Winston Churchill,

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.

I know that architecture and interesting buildings inspire my photography…and now I am thinking about how it also inspires the ways we live, especially in big cities. Now I need to take some time and wander my own city center and explore its architecture more carefully!

Savoring Summer: August’s Photo-A-Day Challenge

It’s so easy to barrel through life, focused on all the tasks there are to do, checking things off on the mental to-do list, looking ahead and planning ahead…and missing what is right in front of you.  My camera helps a bit, when I am taking pictures I tend to slow down, look closely, consider angles and light…and I also seem to notice sounds and textures, smells and even tastes because I am paying attention.

I recently read something about a savoring walkit was part of a post about ways to practice gratitude, but I was immediately drawn to it as a way to pay attention and really experience the moments in front of me.  In their explanation, you should take a walk for 20 minutes each day and notice as many positive things as you can using any and all of your senses.  They encourage you to acknowledge each of these in your mind–truly savor them–don’t just let them slip away.

This struck me as an interesting way to consider taking photos.  How could a photo account for an experience I noticed with my sense of smell?  I could document that sweet candy smell that permeated the area when I walked into Dylan’s Candy Bar in Chicago by sharing my picture of the giant lollypops that hung overhead, and looking back at it would bring me back and help me remember and savor that experience.


Walking through Millennium Park I noticed the flowers blooming, and when I moved closer I could hear the soft buzz of bees at work.  My husband is always reminding me to be careful, there’s bees there.  But I love to lean close and watch these fascinating creatures hum…they never seem to be still.  The macro lens is my friend when it comes to bees, helping me savor these buzzy moments!


As I motored up the river on an architectural tour, the buildings were the main focus of attention.  And they deserve attention!  They come in all shapes and sizes–tall boxes, some with exoskeletons, some made up of triangles. These corn cob shaped ones are quite distinctive, with their layered rounded edges creating interesting and unique textures you can almost feel with your eyes.


And as I attended to the buildings, I noticed all the window washers hanging off the sides of these metal and glass giants!  Even after my fear-conquering trip up Sears Tower, I’m sure I wouldn’t like hanging off the sides of tall buildings as my work! I wonder how many window washers are employed in Chicago?


And sometimes savoring is all about standing back and taking the broad view.  I savored this moment looking across the Chicago Institute of Art and noticing my husband taking a photo of the Chicago skyline through the long lines of the Art Institute windows.


A ferris wheel?  Yep, an iconic landmark…and a fun way to enjoy the view of the lake and the city.  And as we stood in line to buy a ticket, I noticed that I could see the cityscape framed in silhouette through the wheel…another moment worth savoring!


Shoulder to shoulder with thousands and thousands of locals and tourists, I enjoyed an evening at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion watching the taping of the NPR show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me with some NWP friends.  There was a sense of community and warm summer night relaxation in spite of the large crowd.  People were friendly, laughter flowed, and fun was had by all!


And the festivities continued into the evening as the smell of wet concrete mixed with the glow of the blue moon and the lights of the city to create the perfect nightscape for summer play.  It was fun to watch these young people invent games to entertain themselves as they cooled off and enjoyed a warm July evening.


So take some time to savor summer throughout the month of August, slow down and go beyond your eyes to use all your senses as you notice and appreciate your world.  Here’s some prompts to get your started.

1. Sweet

2. Whisper

3. Smooth

4. Salty

5. Textured

6. Up

7. Complex

8. Layers

9. Loud

10. Crinkly

11. Below

12. Constant

13. Sweaty

14. Rhythm

15. Slick

16. Rough

17. Fresh

18. Down

19. Squished

20. Sharp

21. Melodic

22. Savory

23. Wet

24. Blue

25. Distant

26. Crisscrossed

27. Soft

28. Rolling

29. Transparent

30. Spin

31. Refreshing

Our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. Every day of the month includes a word prompt to inspire and challenge you as you savor your experiences . You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or throw in a new word prompt for the rest of us to try. You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.

Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

I’m looking forward to seeing how you savor your summer experiences…through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Night

When the sun goes down it seems that my camera does too.  Night photography is a challenge. How do I capture the lights without lighting up the frame and making it look like daytime? So I’ve been practicing.  And what better place to practice than in Chicago, a city that lights up the night–at least during the summer. There is something beautiful about the way that lights reflect on water at night.  Here’s a view of the city from Navy Pier. IMG_6266 And what a treat to be in a city that offers fireworks twice each week during the summer.  And what better place to try my hand at some night photography (or fireworks photography)…definitely not easy to get a good shot! IMG_6267 I live in a place where the sun sets in the evening over the water, making it easy to know where west is located.  And I found myself wanted to look out over Lake Michigan to watch the sun set here in Chicago too.  But that isn’t where west is…so I had to follow the sun.  And as luck would have it, we happened into the Signature Lounge of the John Hancock building just after the sun had set but was still in all its colorful glory lighting up the sky.  And even better, we were seated right at the west-looking windows on the 96th floor to enjoy our pricey cocktails (that were well worth the cost for the view alone!). IMG_6312 IMG_6310 As I noticed the Sears Tower (AKA Willis Tower), I also saw that the sunset was reflected in the windows in my image.  The app Painteresque helped me make that reflection even more beautiful. IMG_6321 Last night I was back down at Millennium Park, along with thousands and thousands of other people (I heard the number 20,000 thrown out) to try to catch a glimpse of the taping of the NPR show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  And after watching for a while and then stopping for some dinner, we returned to the park for a nighttime view. IMG_6332 Looking into My Dreams, Awilda lights up the night, her glow offering a sense of serenity as you enter the park.  And over her shoulder last night, the blue moon came into view.  I wanted to capture the softness and glow…so used Waterlogue to soften the edges and create my own version of art from this sculpture. Preset Style = Vibrant Format = 6

So explore the night.  You might try your hand at capturing the lights of night against the dark sky…or maybe for you night will be an image that expresses what happens indoors once the sun goes down. You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #night for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

As we head out of July into August, what does night look like where you are?  Look indoors or outdoors, at nature, at your place, in your home…capture an image of night for us all to see!  I’m looking forward to seeing night through your lens!

Urban Mountains

I’ve spent some time over the last year exploring mountains…and testing my body and my endurance.  I’ve walked for miles, enjoyed wildflowers, listened to birds, noticed clouds, smelled pine trees and the musky aroma of sage.  I experienced California’s drought, seeing hundreds of dead trees and dangerously low water levels and reveled in the beauty that nature has to offer.

As I walked through downtown Chicago over the weekend, I found myself thinking about how the skyscrapers are like urban mountains standing tall and proud, shading one side while the sun shines on the other, reflecting the sky and creating canyons and valleys between them.


I’ve logged lots of miles in the last few days and I love the way that walking brings me up close with the city.  Old sits next to new, the homeless rubbing shoulders with the wealthy, sweet smells of Garrett’s carmel popcorn on one block, sour smells of trash and filth on the next.


And I was seduced into joining the throngs of other tourists (from all over the world) to experience the view of Chicago from 103 stories above.  What was formerly Sears Tower is now known as Willis Tower, the tallest building in the US (and there are some who insist in the world).  110 stories tall with radio towers making it taller, this building is a feat of engineering that was built in the 1970’s.  And in spite of having been in Chicago a number of times before this, I had never gone up…or even walked by this building before!


I was determined to not only brave the long lines and go up…but while up there I decided to battle my intense fear of heights and walk out on the plexiglass sky bridge, looking straight down at the ground so far below my feet!


Yeah, it was scary…hand sweating, vertigo-inducing, catch your breath scary.  I’ve been up high before…the Space Needle in Seattle, the Empire State Building in NYC, but the sky deck took away the comfort of window ledges and railings, leaving me with clear plexiglass as safety from falling.  But I went out there not once, but three times.  Each easier than the one before, although I can still feel my hands dampen as I write this.

I was even able to snap a few playful selfies with my husband, who enjoyed every minute of this sky high experience.


Once down, we circled the building to find those plexiglass outcroppings from the outside.  The height is even more impressive looking up–the sky deck is barely visible from the ground!  (Look closely–maybe even click on the photo to bring up a larger version to see them!)


You don’t have to be in the wilderness to enjoy the outdoors.  There is lots to see and experience right outside the door.  And I fell in love with the interactive art in the park spaces in downtown Chicago.  The bean in Millennium Park encouraged people to come close, stand back, group up…and of course, take plenty of photos, while also reflecting the beauty of the urban mountains.


And on a hot summer day it was fun to watch people interacting with these tall brick fountain structures that also include projections of faces, facing each other.


I’m glad we spent time exploring the urban mountains of Chicago, walking miles and seeing the city up close.  It might not be a National Park, but it was fun exploring the great urban outdoors!

Shades of Gray

It’s not what you think…this isn’t about the book or the movie.  Instead, this is about winter and all the grays I’ve been seeing lately.

I’ve noticed icy grays…not here at home, but while I was in Chicago and the temperatures hovered between negative numbers and teens I noticed icicles hanging from the bumpers of cars in the parking lot while I was taking a brisk stroll around the hotel where I stayed.


And after some adventures in the airport, I found myself in a window seat in the last row of the plane.  On the positive side, I was able to take photos throughout the flight, including this one as we began to taxi to take off for the flight to San Francisco.


So much of the country we traversed from high in the sky was covered with snow.  At one point when I looked out I noticed this snowy map, with roads and rivers etched into the landscape below.

snowy map

I came back home to much more reasonable temperatures and headed off to Los Angeles to spend the day with my son.  (You saw some pictures on this post)  The historic Bradbury building offered a glimpse of some different gray…with lots of ornate metalwork including this amazing working elevator.

bradbury elevator

As we headed out of the downtown area, we traveled through this tunnel.  And because I wasn’t driving, I got to take a photo and capture the gray textures illuminated by the row of lights.


From up on Mulholland Drive, the entire city skyline including the Hollywood sign were on display.  Unfortunately, the day was gray and hazy, making the skyline a shadow in the distance.

la gray

And back at home, I made my way back to the beach.  It wasn’t cold…sweatshirt and bare feet weather…but it was gray.  I’ve been a bit obsessed with seagulls lately, and found myself taking shot after shot.  This one captures the shades of gray visible on the beach this week.

seagull on a gray day

So, for this week, as we head toward the end of February, look for shades of gray.  Will you find them outside or inside?  The result of weather, the color of metal, or on the feathers of a local bird?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #gray for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So go out in search of gray…all the shades you can find!  Let’s reclaim those shades of gray and capture images that reflect the range of grays that we see.  I’m looking forward to seeing all the shades of gray in your life…through your lens!