Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center has two spectacular stained glass domes, two  beautiful mosaic and marble staircases, glass-block flooring that emits light UP, and the huge Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Room.  Here’s a description of the building from the website:

Designed by the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge as the first home of the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Cultural Center was completed in 1897. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1972, and was designated a Chicago Landmark by the City Council on November 15, 1976.

The Beaux Arts style was influenced by the buildings of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The building’s interior features rooms modeled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the Acropolis in Athens. Its lush ornamentation includes two stained-glass domes, rare marbles inlaid with sparkling mosaics, and intricate, coffered ceilings.

What inspires me are the curves, the arches, the twinkling glass and gold leaf pieces in the mosaic inlays.  And the lights in the floor are an unusual and dramatic sight.  The glass block in the floor was originally there to allow light from the second floor domed rotunda to illuminate the first floor. Now the light direction is reversed!

What specific photo skills could you develop at the Cultural Center?

First, the skill of composition.  Get high, get low, get left, get right, get tilted, get in the corner, get in the middle.  Moving your viewpoint around until you see something dramatic or symmetric or diagonal or colorful.  Playing with the bottom lighting.  Getting Escher-like with the staircases.

Secondly, setting exposure to handle available light.  This is primarily an indoor photo venue, and the existing lighting is set up for people, not necessarily for photography.  It is far from uniform.  On-camera flash is too harsh, so the key is using the available light with a vision to what you are creating in the frame.  This means longer shutter speeds on a tripod, and that brings in the light hidden in the shadows.

I think you’ll be amazed at the beauty of the place, and delighted with the compositions to be created there.

Saints Volodymyr and Olha Church

SVOC Colors & Curves

SVOC Colors & Curves

Saints Volodymyr and Olha Church is a beautiful church in Chicago’s Ukranian Village.  I was allowed to photograph from the choir loft.  I wanted to create a composition that would capture the dramatic curve of the choir loft railing and still include the beautiful view of the church windows, arches, and a huge radiant chandelier.

This image was developed using HDR software in order to balance the bright light of the stained glass windows and the darker church interior.

You can view more photos of this impressive church in my flickr album for this church.