Tips for Photographing Icons

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I have a colleague who is an inspiration, when he travels for work he makes it a point to explore (Jim, I’m talking about you).  I decided on a recent work trip to Chicago, I would try to channel his adventurous spirit and make the most of “transit times” between work functions.  It seems like when you are in Chicago, you MUST see The Bean.  So there I was, early evening, freezing temperatures (at least for this LA girl), and enough wind to take your breath away (I think Chicagoans call it a “breeze”).

So, how do you photograph something that has been photographed a million times?

Step 1:  Take the postcard shot.  Get it over with.  You know you want to.  You’ve seen the image a million times, on social media, and on postcard stands.  Just take the shot and get it out of your system.

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Step 2:  Take a “selfie” – also in the category of “purging the system”.  (See explanation for Step 1).

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Step 3:  Now get down to business.  Ask yourself, “what is it about this thing that attracts me?”.  For me it was the difference in textures between The Bean and the surrounding environment.  The bean was smooth, reflective, round….almost “soft”.  The buildings and bare trees were angular, linear, geometric….almost “hard”.  I decided to juxtapose them.

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Step 4:  Now try something different and play.  Break the rules, do something unexpected, find a different angle.

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Step 5:  Accept what you have and work with it.  We have an artist friend who says (this is you Mark), let go of what you think you want, and ask what is presenting itself to you.  At The Bean, its people.  I was fortunate enough to be there at an undesirable time, with only a few people there (most other times I’ve been, its been a circus).  So for me, I gave up trying to work around them, and tried to incorporate them in different ways.

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Lastly, I thought I would throw in one of my favorite locations in case you ever find yourself at The Bean.  Walk toward The Art Institute of Chicago.  You will find a bridge (The Nichols Bridgeway) that will allow you to look straight down Monroe Street.  Wait in the center of the bridge for the train to come, then make your image.

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