A Few Days in Chicago

Hi everyone,

“The Windy City”, “Second City”, “Chi-Town”, “City of Broad Shoulders”, “City by the Lake”, “Heart of America”, “My Kind of Town” (from the Frank Sinatra song of the same name) are some of the many nicknames used to describe Chicago, Illinois, the third most populous city in the US. Since we moved to Wisconsin almost 30 years ago, we’ve had the opportunity to visit Chicago a number of times but like all large cities there is so much to see and explore. There are many people who avoid big cities at all costs, too crowded they say, there’s often traffic jams, finding parking is challenging and everything is usually more expensive. Yes, there is a lot of truth in those statements but on the other hand, the people watching is fascinating, riding the Chicago L (short for elevated), walking the Loop (Chicago’s central business district), exploring Millennium and Grant Parks, and taking in one or more of the many world class museums is certainly worth the hassle.

I’ll never forget my first trip to Chicago. It was 1968 and our county 4-H livestock judging team won the North Dakota state judging contest making us the state representatives to the national contest held in Chicago. Well, you can image four farm boys along with our coach, Mac McKenzie, driving down the freeway into downtown Chicago, gawking all the way. We were housed at the Chicago Hilton, one of the most prominent buildings on Michigan Avenue. The contest was held on the grounds of the famous Union Stockyards in the International Amphitheater that also housed the International Livestock Exposition that was going on at the same time. Of note, the Arena was the site of the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention and the Hilton was in the front row of the huge anti-war protest that occurred during the convention just a few months before we came to Chicago. Yes, we had heard about the demonstration but I don’t recall being concerned even know much about it as it was something we’d only seen on that snowy black and white tv. The buses from the Hilton to the Stockyards took us through some what we thought were really run down neighborhoods. It made a real impression on me, the green as a gourd farm kid. The Stockyards and the Amphitheater were closed and torn down in 1971 leading the way for redevelopment. Anyway, we had a great time in Chicago, it was an experience I’ve never forgotten. We didn’t do too bad in the judging contest either, 13th high team out of 30+ states.

Fast forward almost 50 years, Chicago still holds it’s fascination for me. In June 2015, I attended the Out of Chicago Photography Conference, held in downtown Chicago. For four days and three nights, I geeked out on all things photography. One day I signed up for a seminar on architectural photography, something I don’t do much of but wanted to learn more about. Here are a few photos from our afternoon walk with the instructor. You can see a lots of emphasis on patterns, lines and textures. chicago-1326chicago-1325chicago-1324chicago-1198chicago-1214chicago-1641chicago-1443

And there was also a lot of opportunity for street photography, here are a few examples.chicago-1186chicago-1254chicago-1382

A trip to downtown Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Millennium Park, the home of the Cloud Gate or otherwise known as the “Bean!” The Cloud Gate is a sculpture created as the centerpiece of the Park. It’s 168 pieces of stainless steel welded together and highly polished with no visible seems. It has become an international tourist attraction, visited by millions of people every year. Here are a couple of photos of the Bean.chicago-new1-1377chicago-1407

This photo of the Bean was taken in December 2014 when we took a bus from Madison to Chicago to visit the “Christkindlmarket” (Christmas Market) held every year in Daley Plaza. Note the photographer in the center of the photo.chicago-new-0224

Here are a few other photos from the Christmas Market. It was so crowded that the guys walked around downtown Chicago and found a tavern to watch a little football while the women braved the Market. chicago-new-0214chicago-new-0202

Not far from the Bean is the Crown Fountain also part of the public art collection in downtown Chicago. The fountain consists of two 50 foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens. The images simulate the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains where the faces sculpted with open mouths to spout water. Here are some photos a couple of shoots at the Fountain.chicago-1635chicago-1620chicago-1375

During the conference, we also had the opportunity to do some meet up with other photographers and do some night shoots. The first night, a group of us went to a site recommended by Chis Smith, the founder of Out of Chicago and the author of an e-book on places to photographer in Chicago. It was in an area south of the Downtown overlooking a waterway and a train yard. Here are a few photos from that shoot.chicago-1162chicago-1137

The last evening of the conference we met at the Shedd Aquarium and did a photo walk back to Grant Park. It was fun interacting with other photographers and learning from each other. The weather was exceptional and there were thousands of people enjoying the evening in the downtown area. With so many people out and about, one felt safe even though most of us were walking around with thousands of dollars of photo equipment! The following are some of my photos from the walk. The first one was of a young fellow that wanted me to take his photo with his bike, he asked me to send him a copy of the photo.chicago-1472

These photos were taken in Grant Park around the Buckingham Fountain area.chicago-1120chicago-1559chicago-1578

And this photo of the Fountain is one of all time favorite photos, I’ve exhibited this photo a number of times and have received good feedback.chicago-1535-2

Hopefully, these photos offer an appreciation of the beauty of Chicago. I really enjoyed the photo conference and plan to attend again this coming summer. As an aside, I had one of the luckiest days of my life on the last day of the conference. I won a really nice tripod that I gave to my daughter and a new camera, just like the one I purchased about six month prior! It included a nice zoom lens, all tolled, the door prizes were worth about $2500. Way better than the lottery!!!!

Stay well and talk to you next week,


4 thoughts on “A Few Days in Chicago

  1. Tom, I went back into your blogs/archives and read about your F2F work in Ghana. Loved it. I’ve been working there with 4-H for the past several years and will continue to do so for another 3 years with a Rotary-funded project. Your stories and photos looked very familiar. This year I was there in May and October, including at the Woodin fabric store you visited in Accra. I did a F2F assignment in Tanzania in June for CRS on gender equity assessments in some ag development programs. Great way to share expertise and develop new skills. I’m taking a UW class to Ghana in May.

    1. Hi Mary,
      Thanks for your comments. My experience in Ghana was very special, difficult at times because I was a bit isolated but the people were great. If you need any assistance with any of your Africa projects or hear of other volunteer experiences in Africa please let me know. Tom

    1. David,
      Thanks for your kind comments. I enjoyed writing this story and looking back over the photos I’ve taken in Chicago. It made me want to visit again soon!

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