Best places to shoot digital photos in Chicago?
October 30, 2006 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Amateur photographer here. Any Chicagoans know of great vantage points to capture the city with my digital camera?

I'm shooting photos for an online travel-type site and would welcome recommendations for places where I could capture that quintessential city shot. Even if it's an often used spot, that'd be fine. Thanks in advance.
posted by RDNZL to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I am not a Chicagoan but was just there. The observation deck on the John Hancock Building has an excellent view, felt by many to be better than the view from the Sears Tower. The Lake Shore Drive area and lakefront near McCormick Place/Soldier Field/Shedd Aquarium/Field Museum (they are all near each other and share some parking) has some nice views of the skyline with some water in the foreground. Right now there are only a few boats left in the Harbour. The Cloud Gate sculpture in Millenium Park was crowded with photographers when we were there and offers a lot of different views.
posted by TedW at 6:59 AM on October 30, 2006

The bridges over the river has always seemed pretty quintessentially Chicago to me. It's not a skyline shot, but rather it's something unique to Chicago. You could stand on the N. Michigan bridge, or perhaps you could go up one of the buildings near the Tribune or Wrigley buildings.
posted by jbb7 at 7:19 AM on October 30, 2006

You may need to buy a permit to shoot in Millenium Park.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:27 AM on October 30, 2006

Oops. Posted too soon. Link for above here.
A great place to get a shot of the skyline is from the peninsula of the Museum Campus (Adler Planetarium et al.)
posted by hydrophonic at 7:30 AM on October 30, 2006

I second the Adler Planetarium area.

I'm also a big fan of the view of the city from the tip of Navy Pier looking southwest.

There are always boat tours, too, for shots from the lake.

Also Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. A nice wide angle shot there will get you the fountain in the foreground with much of the city in the background.
posted by ztdavis at 7:41 AM on October 30, 2006

The bridge over the river on North Ave. (heading east) has a pretty cool view of downtown, especially at night. The roof top of the parking garage at the shops at North and Clybourn (near the bridge mentioned above; the parking garage for the building that has the California Pizza Kitchen in it) has a great view all around. Also, the south side of Lake Shore Drive, where it starts to curve out into the lake, offers you a really nice view of downtown across the water.
posted by penchant at 7:43 AM on October 30, 2006

Thanks so much for the suggestions! I'll try most of them tonight and tomorrow.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:55 AM on October 30, 2006

the daley center has some of the very best views of downtown, including the downtown harbors (although the best views are in chambers and you can't go there without permission). it's a public building but you do have to go through metal detectors to get in. i have taken my digicam in and taken pictures (but i have a lawyer ID card, so i don't go through X-ray). the windows are a little dirty, but it's a great view.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:59 AM on October 30, 2006

My favorite pictures of the city were taken on the Lakeshore bike path, just on the north side of the Shedd Aquarium, at night. You run the risk of being killed by a manic triathlete coming around the turn, but you can rest your camera on the guardrail, bump up the exposure and get a beautiful shot of the lights of the city framed by the lake.

I hope you post your pictures to flickr and link to them in this thread. I miss Chicago and would love to see how the shots turn out.
posted by felix betachat at 9:56 AM on October 30, 2006

A ways north from Navy Pier you'll find North Ave. Beach (the pedestrian bridge that penchant mentions is nearby.) There's a concrete jetty (?) that curves out northward into the water and will allow you to get a few shots of the beach from the water and the skyline.

Between North Ave and Navy Pier is the Water Reclamation center (although I may be mis-remember the name of that place...) There is a pedestrian walkway which leads out toward the lake and there are a few perches where you can snap more skyline photos...

In short, spend sometime in that region of the lake front path - there's lots of spots to stop and snap pics.

Also, I second the suggestions for taking pictures of & from the various bridges over the Chicago River...
posted by wfrgms at 10:05 AM on October 30, 2006

It's a bit cold for this now, but take one of those dinner cruises from Navy Pier-- great shots from the water. Or an Architecture Foundation boat trip up the river.
posted by orangemiles at 10:17 AM on October 30, 2006

One of my favorite views is on the lakefront just north of Diversey Harbor. Head out about as far SE on the shore as you can, look south, and there's a wonderful view of downtown and the lake. I don't have a sample photo available atm, but the approximate location is marked here.
posted by jammer at 10:33 AM on October 30, 2006

You may need to buy a permit to shoot in Millenium Park.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:27 AM CST on October 30

Not true. My photos from Millenium Park and I never once had a permit.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:13 AM on October 30, 2006

Related to penchant's comment, there is a park with a concrete pier type thing at 31st and Lake Shore Drive. You can get some great views of the city/skyline from the end of that pier.
posted by betty botter at 11:35 AM on October 30, 2006

Nice photos Steve.
I should've been clearer. The article I linked to says professional photographers used to need a permit for shooting in Millennium Park but they stopped enforcing it. (Although that article is over a year old, so who knows what's up.) I guess if a guard asks if you're a pro you can just say no. But many of the attractions in the park are copyrighted, so you may want to get permission before using images of same for commercial purposes.

Besides the skyline, common images of Chicago include the Chicago Theater, the lions of the Art Institute, the Picasso scuplture in Daley Plaza, Buckingham Fountain, the Water Tower, Wrigley Field, the Thompson Building, looking down the staircase of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and looking down LaSalle street towards the Chicago Board of Trade. If you want a shot of the el tracks, the bridge joining the two platforms at Belmont can be good (Blue/Orange/Purple line), although I've heard of photographers being hassled by the CTA before.
posted by hydrophonic at 12:28 PM on October 30, 2006

A more unusual view of the city exists when you are looking southward from the shoreline at the south end of the Northwestern University campus in Evanston. This spit of land and the spit of land in Chicago south of Oak Street Beach both stick out further into Lake Michigan.

This is not my picture (found it on the interweb) and I've seen better photos of the city, but it gives you a little bit of an idea. The view is especially cool at night. This one is a little better.
posted by jeanmari at 3:31 PM on October 30, 2006

Promontory Point in Jackson Park near the University of Chicago campus has a great view of the downtown skyline from a distance. (The University campus is also quite pretty, especially this time of year!)
posted by bubukaba at 5:14 PM on October 30, 2006

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