Running to the Sun

A jogger runs over a pedestrian bridge towards Lake Michigan on an early morning. ©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

A jogger crosses the lens plane as I lay flat on cold concrete photographing a pedestrian bridge next to Lake Michigan. I was glad he wasn’t freaked out by a stranger, basically in a sniper position, laying down in the middle of his morning routine. Up until that point,  pedestrians, bicyclists and joggers would run close to the side of the bridge to get out of the picture or maybe to avoid my presence.  In preparation for the moment, I had been tweaking that sunburst at right – just too much either way would have created intense lens flare, or would have blocked it completely. This was one of those enjoyable mornings of beautiful sun, invigorating weather, and time to explore. Just lovely…

When is a Photo Spiritual?

©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

“So are you feeling spiritual this morning?” was the question I was lightheartedly asked after transmitting these pictures yesterday. At first I didn’t realize what the editors were talking about. In search of morning fog pictures,  I had stopped at the intersections of Balbo and Columbus after being dazzled by light rays from a building through the fog. Have you seen this type of phenomenon before? I hadn’t. By the time I got there on foot, the wind had carried away the fog and my photo with it. So I turned around, saw the statue at left, and thought – well, at least it’s something. Then I saw some of the dazzling reflections again on the building at right.  I ran towards it and photographed the light rays before transmitting from my camera using our mobile technology. I was so focused on the unusual light, I didn’t even realize the overall image.  When I later saw the cross I found it amusing and a little embarrassing that although I’m a photographer and churchgoer, others saw it before I did.

Winter Walking

©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

A commuter walks among the 9-foot tall cast iron legs of “Agora” a public art installation at Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Roads. I’ve seen this several times, but didn’t see a time in which a photo could work really well.  I passed by it this morning and for the first time saw that commuters had forged a path between the legs. Shooting at eye level would have been a bit pedestrian, so I laid down in snow when I saw a commuter coming around the bend. People are such good sports. I got up covered in snow and asked for her name for the paper. I’m sure I was quite the sight, but it never ceases to amaze me how little I have to explain before complete strangers tell me what their name is and what they’re up to. In this case, maybe there was some sympathy for the photographer at work…

Riding an Elephant at O’Hare

United-Airlines-DeIcing©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

My brother was recently in Thailand, where he rode an elephant through its beautiful countryside. I’ve never been to Thailand, but I can say that I rode an elephant at O’Hare Airport –  the Elephant Beta.  It’s the name of a specialty truck with a cherry picker and hoses that United Airlines uses to de-ice airplanes. For a story, I was allowed to photograph from the heated glass booths atop where operators are protected from being splashed by the propylene glycol.  It was actually a lot of fun. Because the goal is to quickly and aggressively remove ice from airplanes, it felt like we were inside a robot playing a version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em – hosing, splashing, moving left and right, blowing snow. All that was missing was a voice from the corner yelling “body blow! body blow!”  It was a workout for me too.  I was stuffed in behind the seat of the ramp serviceman, bent over doing squats for twenty minutes while being thrown left and right against the walls of the enclosed cab.  But hey, I was smiling the whole time.

Weathering the Storms of Impatience

tunnelweather©Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

I’m always on the lookout for interesting locations in Chicago, so a friend told me to check out a tunnel connecting underground train lines that go through the Loop. The vanishing point and the lights made for an interesting background, so like many situations, I waited for I-don’t-know-what to happen in order to make an interesting picture. Without a person of interest, the image is only valuable to a location scout. So I waited, and waited. I get self-conscious when being stared at within crowds of people, so waiting is not a lot of fun. When you’re standing in the middle of a crowd you get a ton of stares and often a few comments. But you also don’t want to give up early, or rationalize an early departure just to relieve discomfort. At some point, this masked figure came through. I looked at the screen at the back of my camera and thought, well, the totality of the image is surreal enough – there’s something storm-trooper-science-fictionish to it. And it piqued my visual interest more than anything else that morning.  So I went back to my day. It could have been just my rationalization talking, but judgment calls given limited time are a part of the business…

Of Snow and Horses

Winter-Horses.jpg©2009 Alex Garcia

I am off the first three days this week, so my vacation days have coincided with the first serious snowfall of the season. That means I can more easily take an enchanted view of the snow. I don’t have to worry about getting that perfect shot of the miserable commuting experience shared by hundreds of thousands.  I can focus on the bucolic scene and horses from the first snowfall of last winter, coming back from western Illinois where our parents live.  The memory of this scene has truly helped me past the snowdrifts of negativity while driving in traffic around the city.  I have heard it said that people seem to be wired for biophilia, or “love of nature”, and that people’s most peaceful memories are usually outside in nature. I would agree… It’s hard for me to stay upset at snow when I’m embracing a snow scene in my mind’s eye…