Light Swept

Light Swept

If you’d like to experience a Magic Kingdom, but don’t have the time, money, or patience to fly to Disney World, then this is for you — the TREE ILLUMINATION display at Morton Arboretum in Lisle IL.  See their website to order tickets online.

For sharp photos, I’d recommend using a tripod, especially since your shutter speeds will be longer than usual.

And no need for “light painting” — the arboretum supplies all the lighting and music!

Click on the thumbnails below to see full-size images from this enchanting photo shoot.


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.

Moon Landscape Photography

Moonlight Beach

“Moonlight Beach”, Moonlight reflections on Cannon Beach, Oregon

As a landscape photographer, I  track the date of the next full moon in the hopes of getting  it into a photographic composition.  If the clouds cooperate, seeing the moon low on the horizon is always a thrill and it can add dramatic interest to a photograph.  I have learned that the shot does not have to be taken on exactly the day of the full moon.  It can be taken  a few days earlier or a few days later and still be what I’m looking for.

I created a mnemonic device to help me remember when to shoot: B-E-A-M.
It stands for

  • BEFORE the full moon date, shoot in the  EVENING toward the east.
    On the days leading up to the full moon date — the BEFORE days — the moon is full-looking and bright and low in the eastern sky right around sunset — in the EVENING — and for a few minutes the sky will be a muted pastel blue, with possible orange sunset light illuminating clouds or objects in the landscape below the moon.
  • AFTER the full moon date, shoot in the MORNING toward the west.
    On the days after the full moon date — the AFTER days — the moon is full-looking and bright and low in the western sky right around sunrise, in the MORNING, and there the sky will be a muted pastel blue, with possible orange, pink, or yellow sunrise light illuminating clouds or objects in the landscape below the moon.

Either occasion makes a  nice tonal composition without the extremes of a too bright moon and a too dark sky.

Moon Moment

“Moon Moment”, Moonset near Millenium Park Tower


Before Evening, After Morning

Now it’s easy for me to remember whether I need to get up early or stay out late.

Good luck on shooting the moon!