Aug 21, 2013

"Just Got Home From Illinois..."

The Chicago Skyline from nearby Navy Pier. I love Nightscapes like this.

I've been waiting four years to title a post for this song...

See, I spent last week in Chicago, Illinois, at Skip Cohen University's Sumer Session where I studied with the best photographers in the world to better my craft and make new connections for my business. It was a lot of work, a lot of late nights, a lot new information, and lot of fun. Stick with me a minute, and I'll lead you through some of my favorite pictures I made during the week.

Started it all with a venture downtown with my pals Sherry and Mark. Starting with a deep dish pizza at Gino's East, we spent the whole night shooting downtown. As we were shooting nightscapes, we met a man who's a broker for an international realty firm...and he asked to see our pictures! Needless to say, running into him shaped our evening's pictures and we started focussing more on the buildings in the neighborhood. That image at the top is a panorama I made from the pier looking back at town.

That was late night number one, but the walking and the shooting and the Pizza made it all worthwhile.

Next day we headed downtown again, this time with more people and we planned to wrap it all up by shooting the fireworks over Navy Pier in the evening. We started on the Mag Mile, a huge shopping district. Obviously, we didn't really make it into any of the stores...not with half naked skateboarders walking the streets and enormous panhandlers who wouldn't take 'No' for an answer.

Seriously, I saw some interesting light falling in the reflections from a sky scraper and asked the guy with the board if I could make a quick portrait, and he obliged. Next thing I know, this dude is telling me he can take off his shirt and run down the street and make an awesome picture...and it'll only cost me three bucks! Unfortunately, I didn't have any cash, but he said that's ok, other people will see how awesome it is and want to take his picture too, so my picture would just be the seed for a little street performance boom. Well, unfortunately, I didn't have the right lens for that kind of work. That's ok, says he, I'll just do some pull ups right here, then...and then Sherry walked up and said, "Let's do it! Let's see what you got!" So, there's me, the Reluctant Photographer, and Sherry shooting this dude in the alley. It was fun, to say the least.

What started that whole little exchange was the light I saw on this flower...

Which I thought would look great on a person. So I turned to Bob Coates, who I found to be a fine photo walking companion and incredible instructor at SCU, and asked if I could make a quick picture. See, I tested the settings on Bob before the skateboarder with the hairdo walked by.

We continued down the Mile, found a real Chicago style hotdog, and this guy waiting for custom at the pub next door. When I talked with him about a picture, he gave me the thousand yard stare that all professional tourist handlers have learned to adopt.

Fortunately, this officer hadn't quite perfected the stare, but was obliging anyway as we listed to this other fellow perform on the corner. The Police are important on the street corners of the Mag Mile: people are so often stunned by the sites that they forget to pay attention to traffic.


Also, Carlos Danger was walking with me, but he couldn't seem to hold still for a portrait. After hotdogs we headed back over to the waterfront to make our way toward the fireworks, and of course we stopped at Millennium Park to photograph the Bean. It's quite a thing.

I taught a class on Lightroom myself the next day, and we had another wonderful pizza at Giordano's. Monday kicked off with our class time with the incredible instructors. I chose to learn with Suzette Allen, and she opened my eyes to lots of new tools I'll be using to make my pictures and video really sing. In fact, we photographed a family of singers in her class.

We all spent Monday evening at the hotel, but that doesn't mean we didn't stay up late! We had a great time making friends and making plans. My Tuesday class was with Ryan Schembri, Australia's photographer of the year, and a hugely decorated artist, and I had a wonderful time and learned some things that I have never seen before, and that's not common. I should explain, also, that at this conference I got to choose two instructors to spend the entire day with, and there were fewer than 20 people in each class. That's unheard of! These are people who usually speak to groups numbering in the thousands, and I'm on a first name basis with them now. Skip Cohen has really put together a wonderful program, and it's truly the best education on the planet in the Universe! 

NO photoshop work here--isn't that amazing?!?! I learned so many new things.
I can't wait for the next program. It's going to be amazing, and I'll be sure to let you know about it here. Finally, here's a little time lapse video I made at the Bean...


  1. Incredible!

    There's only one problem. I was not there to experience any of it.

    But.. like the quote Michele's post today... "Don't complain about the results you didn't get with the work you didn't do! "

    I have no right to complain. So I rather enjoy the images. :) Liked the portraits. Liked the night shots even more.:D


  2. Thanks, Jyoti! Can't wait to see you next time!

  3. Fantastic photos Levi! Always enjoy looking at your work!


  4. Love the post. And I am so glad that I got to go to SCU and of course meet you!

  5. Love these Levi! It was so wonderful to finally meet you! Can't wait to hang out again next year!

  6. Thanks, Guys! It was great meeting you, as well. Can't wait until next time!

  7. Levi that's some beautiful work. I appreciate the inspiration and enjoy the energy and passion you have for imaging.