When I visited Chicago in August 2015 I knew I would end up at the iconic Cloudgate, more commonly known as The Bean. I also knew I would want a photo of this popular art attraction for my archives. But what I didn’t know was how I was going to capture a unique photo that would stand out among the crowd. Little did I know a stranger in a white and red striped shirt who stood out among the crowd that day would help my photo stand out as well.
Millions of photos a day are uploaded to the internet. With social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snap Chat it has become easier than ever to share a photo taken with a cellphone. Every once in awhile someone captures a really great photo with a fairly decent phone camera, and are willing to give it away for free. This hurts my business as a travel photographer with thousands invested in specialized DSLR camera gear.
In today’s world as a travel photographer my goal is not only to capture stunning, high-quality, high-resolution images of the world around me, but to also capture unique photos. That is the hard part, especially with decades of amazing travel photography before me. I have to approach any subject, figure out the technical settings for the camera, choose a composition that tells a story, then ask myself, “Has this been done before?” If it has been, I start all over.
On this particular day I got lucky. I didn’t want to carry around a clunky tripod during my day trip to the city (I arrived by Amtrak and used taxis to get around all day) so instead I brought my trusty GorillaPod Zoom. The small, bendable tripod is great to carry when you want to travel light, but at just 12″ tall it’s difficult to get a great composition. I found a long row of picnic tables facing The Bean at Millennium Park so I quickly snagged myself a position in the center.
Setting up the camera was easy. I can judge the correct camera settings based on current light conditions within a stop of light. The hard part was dealing with hundreds of people moving about. I quickly realized there was only one way I was going to capture a great photo: long exposure. I pulled out the ND filter and adjusted my camera settings. Everything was ready to go.
Then it happened. A young man in a striped red and white shirt stopped right in the middle of my frame. While dozens of other people moved about the frame he stood almost perfectly still, admiring the artwork in front of him. He stood still just long enough that during a single long exposure his body was sharp and lacked motion blur. I couldn’t stop smiling as I looked at the result. I instantly knew I had captured a winner.
Sure enough over a year later I licensed that photo to Interval World Magazine for the cover of their first issue in 2017. The photo editor told me during the first email, “I knew as soon as I saw the photo that I had a winner and I was so happy to see it was your photo!” Unique. Great composition. Interesting moment. And it became one of my favorite travel photos ever.
If you would like to see more photos of Chicago, Illinois, please visit my website at http://photography.southeasterntraveler.com/Illinois/Chicago/