When I learned I had the chance to shoot from the roof of one of Chicago’s tallest towers, The John Hancock Center, I was ecstatic – and a bit scared. Heights and I never got long. I planned a night shoot because I’ve don’t have any shots from that perspective. I’ve spent plenty of time shooting from the building’s 94th floor observatory, but a ban on tripods makes obtaining sharp night images challenging.
When I finally stepped out of the mechanical penthouse and onto the roof, any fears I had drained away. It was eerily calming despite that fact that I was out in the open 1,100 feet above Michigan Ave. After a few minutes of enjoying the view in reverent silence, I had to get to work. I didn’t have much time, and I wanted to make sure I had some great shots.
What struck me the most was the amount of light pouring out of my city. It was awash in a blanket of yellowish light. The issue was compounded by the low bank of clouds reflecting the light back over Chicago. Interestingly, it was still pitch black over Lake Michigan. On the left of this photo you can see the light intensity begin to drop off as the light production abruptly ends at the shoreline.
Light pollution is a problem. As our civilization expands, the night sky grows brighter and the stars disappear into the light fog. It’s a shame that I hardly know what dark actually means anymore, but it’s the price I pay to live in this spectacular urban environment.