More Behind the Scenes of the Out of Chicago Photo Conference

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More Behind the Scenes of the Out of Chicago Photo Conference

In the previous installment of Behind the Scenes of the Out of Chicago Photo Conference, I traveled from Holland to Chicago, had a shocking hotel mixup and a weather disaster!  How will day two unfold? Here’s your chance to find out!  Read on…

Dawn came way too early with the alarm beeping at me at 3 am, but I did not want to miss my shot at the private sunrise viewing from the 94th floor of the Hancock Tower in Chicago, so I jumped right up.  At the last minute, I realized that I hadn’t asked about bringing my tripod to the Hancock Center.  After a quick text to our leader Chris, I found that tripods were approved, so I strapped mine to my camera bag and threw on some clothes.  It was almost time to meet my new friend Tom in the bar downstairs so we could share a Lyft ride.

The Palmer Hotel is super quiet at 4 am, but it was a pleasant feeling to see no one anywhere!  Tom was right on time, so we headed for our Lyft.  It turns out it’s a whole lot easier for the Lyft drivers to find their passengers in the middle of the night, also.  There are far fewer people waiting on the streets for rides at 4 am.

Yes, coffee is available at 4am in Chicago!

Our driver was kind enough to drive us to a Dunkin Donuts on the way to the Hancock Building.  Surprising, there were about 25 people who showed up to enjoy that sunrise from the 94th floor.  We heard a little good morning greeting from the staff member who met us at the entrance and then headed up the lightning fast elevator to the 94th floor.  Because we were a private group of photographers, we were allowed the privilege to use our tripods.  Not only that, but staff also left the lights off in the tower for our best advantage at capturing the view.  Reflection from behind us in the glass is a nightmare when you’re looking out at the darkness, so that was a huge bonus!

We all spread out and found lots of great views of the entire city and Lake Michigan.  The sun began coloring the sky around 5 and peeked up at about 5:17.  Mother Nature treated us to a beautiful show. God’s handiwork is amazing!

A View of the sunrise from the Hancock Tower of Chicago360

We all took turns wandering around the entire floor where we could see an amazing 360-degree view of the city!  As the sun crept up, she laid her light over the buildings inch by inch.  It was truly spectacular!

The Tilt is only for the bravest Conference Attendees!

One of the fantastic perks we had in our time in the Hancock Tower was the free reign we had to use the TILT attraction.  Tilt is a thrill ride, and it sure lived up to that promise!  Indeed it was quite thrilling!  Kudos to the brilliant mind who created this ride!  The rider steps into one of the eight glass sections.  In a monotone voice, the operator states, “place your toes to the front of the glass, hold the steel handles, and remember that if the Tilt experience is too intense, simply take one step backward.”

From booming surround sound speakers comes an ominous dirge that is designed to get your heart pumping.  It works.  Ever so slowly, the glass windows tilt forward, with you inside of them.  The feeling is that of being dumped slowly out over the city – 94 stories up!  The windows stop, then just when you think it’s over, the windows tip out further…  and then one more time…  At this point, it takes a good firm grip to keep from bonking your head into the glass window.  If you relax your arms even a little, you will smack right into the glass. Because of this, cameras are typically not allowed on the TILT ride.

The Tilt ride in the Hancock Building 360 View
The Tilt ride in the Hancock Building 360 View
The view from the Tilt looking down at the city - Chicago 360
The view from the Tilt looking down at the city – Chicago 360
Getting ready to ride the Tilt Ride in Chicago - the Rules
Getting ready to ride the Tilt Ride in Chicago – the Rules

It’s an Honor to be Privileged!

However, we had special privileges thanks to our tour, so we were allowed to take photos!  That is undoubtedly a Jackpot for any photographer!  When presented with this kind of a bonus, I could not resist shoving my fears deep down and riding that bugger six, yes SIX, times!  I am feeling pretty proud of myself for that accomplishment.  You see, I am deathly afraid of heights and am rarely brave enough to ride even a standard roller coaster.  I had a little talk with myself before giving it a try, though, and decided that life is about taking the moments, not looking back with regret, so I did it!  Yay me!

See a video of my ride HERE!

After riding the Tilt and taking about a bajillion photos, I was ready to head out.  3 am is awfully early for this girl, so I caught myself another Lyft and headed back to my room for a quick rest before needing to be at my volunteer post by 7:30.

So long, Olympus… See ya at the next conference!

Oops!  I dozed off and overslept a few minutes but headed back out as quickly as I could to monitor the desk at the Conference.  By this time, all participants have arrived, so most of my time at the registration table was spent checking gear in and out and answering questions.  Sitting at the table alone, I had a few minutes to pull up the photos that I had taken at the Hancock Center that morning.

I took some time to discuss the Olympus camera again with Matt and Shelley, the sales representatives for Olympus.  I am not ready to make such a big jump from everything I know at this time about full-frame and crop sensor cameras to jump to a micro 4/3 sensor.  So with sadness, I returned the Olympus that I had been using.  I can honestly see adding an Olympus to my equipment later as a smaller, less formal setup for vacation photos.

The day flew by rather quickly.  Soon enough, it was time to get a bite to eat and head for my group for the next photo walk to the iconic Chicago Theater.  We heard stories that the group that had been on the morning tour had a pretty grumpy tour guide.  He rushed them through and was generally annoyed that they were there, so we were collectively feeling a bit nervous about what our tour would entail.

Behind the scenes is the place to be!

Standing on the stage in the Chicago Theater looking out at the crowd
Standing on the stage in the Chicago Theater looking out at the crowd
A Fisheye View of the Lobby in the Chicago Theater
A Fisheye View of the Lobby in the Chicago Theater
A View inside the Chicago Theater
A View inside the Chicago Theater
The juxtaposition of old architecture and new lighting in the Chicago Theater
The juxtaposition of old architecture and new lighting in the Chicago Theater
The chandelier that hangs in the Chicago Theater
The chandelier that hangs in the Chicago Theater
Murals on the ceiling of the Chicago Theater
Murals on the ceiling of the Chicago Theater

Fortunately, we had a different guide,  who was very happy that we were there and gave us great information about the theater and plenty of time to photograph it.  Dax Shepherd had performed in the theater the previous night.  It was a bit surreal when we stood on the stage, knowing the many performers who had laid feet in that very spot before us.

The Iconic Chicago Theater from the street
A view of the iconic stairway in the Chicago Theater
A view of the iconic stairway in the Chicago Theater

The history of the Chicago Theater is so fascinating.  If you would like to learn a bit more, check out MSN’s History of the Chicago Theater

Into the Theater scene in Chicago?  Check out these incredible reads!

After crawling all over the entire theater and stretching our 90-minute tour to almost 2 hours, we gathered ourselves back into our group and headed outside for the return trip to the University Center.  My hotel was conveniently located halfway back, so I hopped out of the group and cruised to my room for a little freshen-up before my evening walk to the Buckingham Fountain.

Give Me Dinner…

Before that, it was time to eat again!  Boy, one sure does work up an appetite walking all around the city.  I remembered eating at Epic Burger last year, so it seemed like the right choice again this year.  Boy, was I mistaken.  From the minute I walked into the place, the workers were grumpy.  The girl at the counter told me with a sneer that it would be a ten-minute wait for my burger.  Since I had forty minutes to spare, I thought that would be no problem, so I happily agreed.

Forty minutes later, I had no burger.  Asking the girl at the front counter led to a battle of sorts between the fry cook and the girl at the register, neither of whom would I tangle with if given a choice.  They spat at me that it would be at least another 5 minutes.  Nope.  I was out of time, so I asked for my money back.   The cashier obliged, and I took my money and rushed back to meet up with my group.

or at Least Give Me a Salad!

Unfortunately, this left me still hungry with a long evening ahead.  As I entered the University Center, I passed the vending machine in the lobby with new eyes.  It was not your typical vending machine, but a special, refrigerated one filled with sandwiches, salads, and grain bowls.  There were no burgers in it, but at this point, any food looked good, so I gave it a whirl.  I found a nice greek pasta salad and pulled out my debit card.  Farmers Fridge for the win!    The salad was yummy and just enough to satisfy me through the adventure ahead.

Up in the meeting area, my group was gathering and getting prepared for the walk to the Buckingham Fountain.  It was a lovely evening, not too hot, so we really enjoyed making our way through the city.  I wished I would have had my camera available so that I could have captured some of the sights along the way.  Instead, it was tucked safely inside of my backpack.

The Beautiful Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

At the fountain, many of the photographers in our group were focusing on the beautiful fountain.  I captured a few fun shots but was more interested in the people traffic around me.  There were bicyclists and families, but what was most interesting were the Pedicabs zooming all around us.  I set up my camera and practiced my panning technique and waited for the sky to grow dark enough to get some night shots.

The Buckingham Fountain at night with lots of activity
The Buckingham Fountain at night with lots of activity
A panning shot of a Pedicab in front of the Buckingham Fountain
I couldn’t get enough panning shots!

Related: How to Shoot an Amazing Action Shot Using Panning

Pride Weekend in Chicago

We finished up the evening with the fireworks display over the Navy Pier.  Only five of the photographers from our group made it until the fireworks began.  My new friend Nenad Spasojevic (Ned for short) spotted an ice cream stand, so we treated ourselves to a treat.  Much to Ned’s dismay, the ice cream vendor did not have an appropriately sized bowl for three scoops.  Sadly, he was forced to eat his three scoops in a cup meant for only one scoop.  Now, I can eat my ice cream in any ole-sized bowl, but some folks aren’t as naturally talented as me.  I seem to have lost my train of thought…  Where were we?  Fireworks…


Summer fireworks are a big draw for tourists and locals at Navy Pier.  You can see the annual schedule HERE.  We sat on the wall along the water looking North toward the fireworks with the sailboats in the foreground.  The display was well-done, but the bugs nearly ate us alive.  Nenad commented that he wished he had a cow tail.  Maybe it was the late-night, or perhaps it was the bugs, or it could have been the pure joy I was feeling from being in a new place with new friends and my familiar camera in hand, but this comment set me to giggling, and I couldn’t quite pull myself together.  I had never thought of the need for a cow tail, but honestly, at that moment, it seemed like the perfect solution.  It seems my new friend is not only a great photographer but a brilliant visionary as well!

Fireworks over the Navy Pier in Chicago

Once the fireworks (and giggling) ended,  the five of us packed up our gear and headed back toward our various hotels.  Nenad and his wife were heading to their hotel on foot.  They did their best to convince the rest of us that we should also walk.  I reminded them that I had been up since 3 am and since it was close to 11 pm, it was time for me to let a Lyft do the heavy lifting (see what I did there?).  We ended the night with more laughter when it took so very long for our Lyft rides to show up that Ned commented that we could have made it to our lodging in the time it took to wait for those cabs.

It was a great day today, and this is precisely why I love this kind of weekend:  New experiences, new friends, lots of laughter, and great memories!  Be sure and catch Day 1 HERE, if you missed it!  And stay tuned for Day 3, coming soon!

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10 thoughts on “More Behind the Scenes of the Out of Chicago Photo Conference”

    • Thank you, Gillian! I love the city – the vibrance, the activity, the variety of people… It’s so much fun to visit. I have always wondered how it would feel to live in the middle of the busy. Maybe someday….


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