Michelangelo Pays a Visit to the Chicago Sky

I love walking through my home city of Chicago. It’s a time to think. Observe. Be inspired. And some walks are more inspiring than others.

As I walked back to my studio late yesterday afternoon, there was a report of a large storm getting ready to roll through Chicago later that evening. The sun began to sink lower in the sky, and the clouds were billowing in a way that makes your jaw drop. The sun breaking through in unexpected ways, creating layers of light and shadows, clouds backlit in incredible ways.

It was like Michelangelo was just stopping by to say hello and do a quick sketch. You know. For old times.

All I could think about as I continued my walk was, “Why did I not have a good camera with me today?” That never happens, except when I’m in a rush to get somewhere in the morning, which I was earlier in the day.

I picked up my walking pace, hoping the spectacular light painting happening before my eyes would hold out by the time I was able to get back to my studio and grab a camera and stick it out my window, or take it up to the roof. I’ve seen perfect light like this go away in the amount of time it takes to change a lens, so I was anxious as I walked through my door, dropping my bag and headed straight to my camera cases to quickly set up a tripod and get my camera on top of it.

No time to get to the roof, I thought. Just open up a window, take a light reading and get shooting. It could all be gone in a few minutes.

Luckily, it lasted a bit longer.

I decided it might be nice to shoot some motion of this lovely scene, so I connected my time lapse timer to the camera and chose a 100mm lens to get a bit closer to the amazingness of the sky. Sometimes I like to use a wide lens, especially when the clouds are doing interesting acrobatics. This time, however, I had my eye on a specific patch of sky where the sun was beginning to play hide and seek with one of the particularly billowing cumulous clouds. Beautiful rays and moving shadows.

I made my final composition, locked in my exposure settings and hit start on the timer. As my camera clicked away, I finally had a chance to just stand there and watch it all with my own eyes. Sometimes when I’m busy setting up cameras and gear I really don’t have time to just stand there and enjoy it.

But this time, I did. Beautiful.

These photographs are two images from the sequence of thousands of photographs I made yesterday evening. I’ll have the actual time lapse moving film up in a few days.

And I’ll never forget to throw a camera in my bag again when leaving the studio. Even when I am in a rush.

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