Photoessay: Until next time, Chicago

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Variety, hope and restoration

I loved the short amount of time I spent in Chicago; more than enough to want to go back again very soon. I’ve never been in any other place that felt quite so much like being in an open-air architectural museum; it isn’t so much the history but the diversity of styles, the visible progression and being able to see these buildings very much used as intended, and sometimes beyond the imagination of the original architects. Several days of very cooperative weather and a never-ending variety of clouds didn’t do any harm, either. This will be my final post of images from Chicago; fittingly, it’s a mixed cityscape/ architectural set. Enjoy! MT

Shot with a Pentax 645Z, 55 and 150mm lenses, Nikon D810, 24 PCE, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85 and Ricoh GR.

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Out of place but not irrelevant

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Infrastructure

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A cloud for a hat

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Bean detail

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Sunrise over Lake Michigan

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Evolution

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An infinite variety of stripes

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Angles at the horse

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Escape I

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Chicago in essence

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Linearity

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Escape II

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Until next time

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Comments

  1. Peter Boender says:

    You have a unique eye! I’ve visited Chicago countless times over the last 25 years, and I’d like to think I know the city pretty well (as far as a visiting foreigner can know it). Your pictures all show me places I know and which I’ve visited, but your angles and your vision are unique. Your pictures bring me a renewed sense of wonder, like visiting for the very first time. Thank you for bringing me that surprise of discovery again about a city I love very dearly. You captured the city’s spirit (and you are bang on in your description!) in a magnificent way.

  2. Next time you come to Chicago, let me know. I’d love to show you around

  3. Exceptional cityscapes as usual!! Very nice! The ones with the sun and the reflections of buildings and sky are my favorites!

  4. That first image is great. Really nice set of images.

  5. Perhaps it’s just nostalgia (I used to live downtown for years), but I think this is one of your strongest photo series yet. I especially enjoy your moody abstract of the Picasso (Angles at the horse), the contrast of old and new architecture (Evolution, perhaps because I used to get my hair cut at the Allerton), and the view from the Art Institute (Linearity). Cheers.

  6. Martin Fritter says:

    Thanks. Chicago has such great light – the refractions off the buildings and the long, long Midwestern sunsets – especially in summer. When you get out of down town, there are pre-WWII architectural marvels galore. Also, just knock-out trees. I live in Colorado and the the range of deciduous trees is very limited and the light frequently harsh.

  7. Strong set Ming, loved the BW stair image, the tonal range is on point.

  8. Ming

    Nice shots. ‘Until next time’ has wonderful light, great depth, and interesting details that keep you looking after the initial hit has passed. Wish I’d taken it! Great, absolutely great.

    Once again a new camera has ignited the forums – you only have to look at the number of comments your article received. Total guess, because it might be very easy to get results from, but I suspect it would be hard to recommend the 50MP canon without knowing that the intended buyer had the money to spend on lenses plus the temperament (and tripod) to nail down the shot discipline. Off topic, sorry, just a sneaking suspicion that some people are more attracted to the equipment than the images. Modern day totems.

    Cheers

  9. Agreed … and well said. In the early part of the 20th century, both Chicago and New York were in intense competition with each other for skyscraper dominance. This led to some very interesting and innovative architectural accomplishments in both cities.

  10. My favorite is “Out of Place..” I encourage everyone to go to MT’s Flickr page and enlarge it to really see its quality and feel its impact.

  11. Great series! And I really like your style. Even without the black border it’s like these photos would be easily recognisable as being yours. Thanks for sharing!

    There doesn’t seem to be any photo in this series shot with the 24 PCE. Did you correct the perspective on any of these during PP? And if you did, is it on purpose that they’re not corrected perfectly, i.e. that the verticals are not perfectly vertical like for example on the right side of #1 and #4? I often observe this in your architectural photoessays and I always wonder if you leave such small imperfections as visual cues that verticals of buildings actually do converge when looking up at them in real life. I’d be really curious about your take on this.

    • Thanks. No 24 PCE shots in here – well, that’s mostly coincidence I think. #1 and #4 weren’t corrected because I didn’t feel they needed to be – they weren’t so much about the ordered perfection of the buildings themselves as the irregularity/ imperfection of a ‘real’ environment. Sometimes I will leave a little bit of convergence in if the camera location is physically close to the building otherwise the resulting photo is very unnatural.

      • Thank you for your response. In these particular shots, I too don’t find it distracting at all that they’re not corrected. It indeed makes them look more natural. Uncorrected photos show the perfectly natural perspective after all.

        • You’d be surprised by how many architects don’t like this though – even though we never see the world this way!

          • You’re absolutely right. And I can very well imagine that many architects don’t like this.

            • Which is odd, because buildings never look like that in real life…

              • Indeed. There seems to be a common canon amongst architects and architectural photographers that buildings should never converge, no matter what the camera angle. On a similar note, many architectural photographs of buildings do not only look unnatural, they are impossible to begin with due to trees, lampposts and other street furniture being removed in post. That reminds me of an excellent article of yours about authenticity in commercial photography. Artistic photography aside, faking reality is not the way to go, also in my book. And with Adobe bringing their different content-aware tools to the masses, I don’t see a very bright future for authentic photography.

                • Well, I tend to try to find a viewpoint that’s a compromise – no bits in the foreground, and sort of mid-level so the perspective could be feasible. But it’s not always possible simply due to physical location and access to surrounding buildings.

                  Sadly I suspect between expectations, photoshop and 3D rendering, we are at the end of authentic photography as a vehicle to advertise product. It’ll still be needed to show what the things actually look like in real settings, but nobody is going to pay the same kind of money for this. Sadder still, because this is much harder to do – and make the product look good – than simply compositing or 3D-ing.

  12. David Ralph says:

    I especially liked this architectural collection. The captures of lines, intersections of lines and patterns of lines weave into urban textures at some point. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Great series. I love Escape I. Somehow the field of view really works with the perspective and the surroundings, which is often hard to get with these fantastic old fire escapes. Not too wide, nor too flat. Just right.

  14. Hi Ming, great photos, as always. Is it possible to note which camera, lens, matrix or spot, or unique settings? That would really help me with trying the same settings out on my end. Thanks!

    • EXIF data and settings are overrated simply because every situation is different and even if you’re standing in the same place, the light won’t be the same so you still need to change something. Besides, making the same image again isn’t very exciting!

      Nevertheless, there is EXIF data in the files if you click through to flickr where they are hosted.

  15. Leo Gemetro says:

    The most impresive set in some time MT, kudos!

  16. I used to visit Chicago a lot, but my reasons for going there moved elsewhere. Ming, I enjoyed your series because you took a very different look at some familiar scenes. It’s something to think about the next time I am photographing buildings and infrastructure. I can still enjoy the many photographs I took there.

  17. Lovely shots with some good control on exposure s mentioned already. But I find some are a bit lacking at this resolution, can imagine a much better viewing experience at full resolution….

  18. Chicago in Essence is a great summary. MM🍀

  19. Are the Pentax 645Z shots handheld? Fascinating as always.

  20. Like always, excellent images! KUDOS!!!

  21. I love the two shots “sunrise over Lake Michigan” and “Until next time”. Great control of the light!

    Also, the second shot is marvelous. I figured it had to be spot metered, and the exif bears me out. That’s something I learned from your teaching videos, btw.

    Speaking of which, although I’ve learned plenty from your videos and I can see the improvement in my shots, I’m still nowhere near your level of colour accuracy. I try to calibrate my mac regularly, and while my colours aren’t actually OFF, there seems to be such a naturalness to yours. Not overdone, not over-saturated, yet still rich. Do you put that down to the camera / lens combinations or your workflow?

    One other (slightly tangential) question – other than plain common sense, is there anything you do to not advertise the fact that you’re carrying around some pretty expensive gear? The 645, lenses, 810 and Otus amounts to a pretty sizable chunk of change. Do you keep them in a bag and only bring them out when shooting, disguise them like David Hobby did his X100s, or do you just keep them out and trust the people around you?

    • Thanks Mark. Lots of spot metering going on in situations like that – it’s the only way to get exactly what you want other than manual, and manual is slower even with practice.

      Color accuracy: I changed workflow about a year back, and we’re working on a new video to cover this. The HSL/ color correction step after curves has been eliminated entirely.

      I’m not carrying all of that gear at the same time; I don’t do anything to attract attention, and everything is taped up. No sense in advertising or being a free walking billboard, either. Does it make me nervous sometimes? Definitely. But showing it is worse.

  22. Gerner Christensen says:

    Amazing architecture there Ming. There’s no one better catching the essence of it than you. Stunning photography again again 🙂

    I am very fond of open urban places where I can run through the whole repertoire of lenses and get keepers above my average level. It’s not really me to frame every structure with super wide lenses from narrow streets that always leads to profound keystone effects.

    How’s the indoor photography opportunities there?

  23. Hi Ming, this might be inappropriate to ask here on a non-gear post. If so, please delete this post.

    What are your thoughts on the Canon 5DS that was just announced (50 megapixels and no low-pass filter)? It would be interesting to see how it compares to the 645Z, particularly because it has a much wider range of lenses.

    • Yes, it is inappropriate to hijack a thread about IMAGES to comment on gear I haven’t even used. But, nevertheless:
      1. Canon lenses are already showing inadequacies without being stopped down at current 20+ MP levels. 50MP is going to have issues, for sure; fortunately there are Otuses.
      2. You can’t combine M-UP and EFC. Hello, camera shake.
      3. At this level of resolution, you’d be surprised how many very small things can contribute to wiping out any visible advantage. Just like with the D800, there will be a lot of photographers who won’t be able to make the most out of the full resolving power. Will it make a difference? Probably, but unless you’re super disciplined, it’s unlikely there’s much practical gain to be had (and lots of disadvantages, like visible CA or camera shake or slowing down of postprocessing because of file sizes).

      • Christian says:

        Appreciate the reply Ming. Looking forward to the next photoessay (where I promise I won’t ask about gear)!

  24. Wow, what an amazing set! I see a few UPs I might need …

  25. Father Raphael says:

    Great!

  26. Powerful set Ming! Beautiful images. Really enjoy Variety, hope and restoration.

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