Icy lakeshore

Icy lakeshore, originally uploaded by jatherton.

A couple of warmer days and some rain teamed up to mean that we started 2011 in Chicago without any snow on the ground (appart from a few places where it was piled up). Lake Michigan is mostly free of ice at the moment too. This shot was taken on the lake shore at Fullerton Avenue. The scene is back-lit by the lights of the Chicago skyline (which looks a bit like this from here). The long exposure gives the lake a slightly mist like appearance, as the waves washed around the stones and posts.


To be honest I much prefer being behind the lens to being in front of it. Having a camera pointed at me makes me uncomfortable and awkward. But every now and then I decide to try a self-portrait. The two shots below were both taken on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago, the first one yesterday and the second in 2008. Both are single long-exposure photographs with no photoshop work (except for sharpening & brightness/contrast type adjustments). Self-portrait with lakeshore (© 2010 Jeremy Atherton) A Haunting (© 2008 Jeremy Atherton)

Montrose beach

From the first time that I drove into Chicago back in April 2003 Lake Michigan has captivated me; and on that visit Jan and I stumbled upon Montrose Point, a place that has since become a particular favourite of mine—walking out onto the break-wall surrounded on all sides by the lake gives a feeling of peace that is hard to come by in the city.

Chicago skyline from Montrose Point, 2003

The sand held back by the break-wall forms Montrose beach; a popular place in summer for families and dog-walkers.

Montrose beach, 2006

But for me it is during the winter that the beach comes into its own… The wind-blown sand forms amazing natural sculptures:

December 2007

January 2008

The wind also can push the waves up onto the beach forming pools of water that then freeze and crack:

January 2008

Last weekend a storm passed over that whipped the lake up into a frenzy. The winds, waves and cold have left the beach as an alien landscape. Today I was lucky enough to visit the beach with Tim. It was quite an effort to climb out onto the ice, and we probably went a bit further than it was safe to go, but it was worth it.

Wave ice, December 2010

Alien landscape, December 2010

I don't do people…

Yesterday Jan and I visited the Art Institute of Chicago to catch their excellent exhibit, 'Looking after Louis Sullivan: Photographs, Drawings, and Fragments', before it closed. This exhibit included a selection of the amazing photographs of Sullivan's buildings that were taken by Richard Nickel, and also photographs by Aaron Siskind and John Szarkowski, both of whom I was previously less aware of. I am a huge fan of Louis Sullivan's work, unfortunately all too many of his buildings in Chicago have fallen to 'progress' or accidents such as the 2006 fire at the Dexter Building (aftermath pictured).

In the neighbouring gallery there was an exhibit called 'Chicago Cabinet: Views from the Street' that features the work of seven photographers. Amongst these were photographs by David Plowden. David Plowden's photographs achieve what I am often hoping to achieve myself when I am out shooting. Whilst beautiful to look at, his photographs of urban and industrial landscapes also include an important element of documentary. So when I got home I wanted to compare some of my work to Plowden's to see what I could learn from him; I was surprised to discover that, although I would describe the aims of my photography in similar terms to those the Art Institute used to describe Plowden's, I very rarely take photos like this; in fact I was hard-pressed to find a photograph on my flickr site that I could use as an example for this post. Perhaps 'Rockwell Departure' or 'River City Condos' fit the bill: Rockwell Departure River City Condos One of the information boards at the exhibit caught my eye. It discussed how Plowden's photographs rarely include people. This is another stereotype I have of my own photography—that I don't do people. In fact I often shy away from taking people's portraits when asked, because usually the results disappoint both me and the person that I am photographing. However, in searching through my flickr stream I was again surprised to see that I actually do people more often than I thought; and although they are usually a less obvious element of the photograph than they would be in straight portrait photography, in some cases I think that they make the photograph, such as in 'UIC-Halsted', or 'Montrose Point pinhole': UIC-Halsted Montrose Point pinhole So perhaps I should rethink what I tell people when they ask what kind of photographs I take. Also, with the New Year rapidly approaching, I'm wondering whether a good resolution would be to challenge myself to make 2011 be a year in which I do do people. The Sullivan exhibit closes today, but the Chicago Cabinet exhibit is open until 17 January 2011—if you are in Chicago and you haven't seen it yet I recommend it.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC

Tall trees, originally uploaded by jatherton.

I got to head out with Tim again this morning. After a stop in Wilmette at the Bahá'í House of Worship and Gilson Park we went to the Dam No.1 Woods on the Des Plaines River. I'd visited here before in the winter and got some good shots so I was pleased to get to go back. Tim has been renting a Sigma 8–16 mm lens, and he was kind enough to let me try it out again. This lens definitely is great for certain situations and not so good for others—I think it suited the woods well. This shot was taken lying on my back in the middle of the trail. Fortunately there were very few folk around so there was no one to see me.

People always tell tales of the mob burying bodies in the woods at the Skokie lagoons on the Chicago River, and Tim and I were joking about finding bodies in the woods as were bushwhacking through the brush… on the way back to the car we found a knife stuck into a tree at the side of the trail! The scary thing was that neither of us had noticed this on our way past when we were walking the other way.

Cold morning

Branching, originally uploaded by jatherton.

I went for a walk on the wooded island in Jackson Park with Tim this morning. It was very cold, but the sun was out and the light was nice. I'd decided to focus on trees and shadows as I did a few weeks ago, but the outcome was very different this time as the trees on the wooded island are much older and more close packed than the ones in Lincoln Park. I found myself concentrating on branch structures or bark textures.


Tigers, originally uploaded by jatherton.

I love this pair of bronze tigers. The nearly 3000 year-old grins are something else. I enjoyed exploring the Freer Gallery—we had gone to see Whistler's Peacock Room, which was amazing as expected, but they also had some spectacular ancient artefacts. The museum was relatively empty (it was a monday morning), which gave me time and space to get some photographs.

Room With a View

Room With a View, originally uploaded by jatherton.

This photo is taken looking into a little building in the vegetable garden at Jefferson's Monticello estate (the exterior of the building is visible in this photo). The window offers a beautiful view to the south east, over the Virginia countryside. When I was taking this photo I was thinking that it would be a great black and white shot. As it turns out I much prefer the result in colour. We didn't spend very long in Virginia, but I would love to go back and explore some more.