It was an ambitious itinerary for a mere two days, but I did it. I arrived at each location that I had planned and even stayed pretty close to my anticipated time frame.

Since I did do so very much in those two days, I am going to just tell you about one of the days, Chicago, and leave Notre Dame to another post.

So here is my little adventure…

Friday evening my husband and I drove into town, traveling on I-80/I-90, a toll road that looked and felt like the toll money must be lining someone’s pockets instead of filling the potholes. We made it, though, coming in right when everyone else was leaving.

And, the sun was setting. Oh…the light…the sun. I was wishing we had arrived just an hour earlier so I could photograph a bit of the city in the golden sunlight, as I knew what the forecast was for the next day. But, the time was what it was. I had to content myself with glances around as we made our way to the hotel.

We stayed at Chicago’s Essex Inn, directly on South Michigan Avenue. I had hoped for a room at a decent height, with a decent view, but didn’t hope too high since I had reserved the room through Groupon. So, I was delighted when were given a room on the top floor, the 15th.

We didn’t stay in the room too long, just enough time to drop our bags, peek out the window to check our view (we could see Lake Michigan!), and read through the list of nearby eating establishments.

View from our room on the 15th floor.
50mm 1.4 lens, ISO-1250, f/2, 1/80

Our plan when we left the hotel was to pick up our transit cards and some water from the nearby Walgreens and then get some supper. Three hours and 5 miles later…we finally accomplished our goal.

During our walk, we noticed that there was a Starbucks every other block on South Michigan. Literally. And in between the Starbucks, there were other little coffee shops as well, including Dunkin’ Donuts and artist cafes. Lots of opportunities to always keep a hot drink in hand!

We finally decided to eat under the Bean, at Park Grill, while watching the ice skaters out front. Of course, I wouldn’t leave the area without a few shots of the infamous mirror.

“Winter Night at the Bean”
18mm, ISO-200, f/16, 13 seconds

I didn’t have my tripod with me, so I used my Jo Totes camera bag to prop my camera up at the right angle while holding it steady. Good thing about Chicago in the winter – not too many tourists. Bad thing about Chicago in the winter – it’s cold!

Saturday morning I set my alarm early so I can see the sunrise. Hey, when your hotel directly faces a large lake in the east, it’s just a given!

Thankfully, the rooftop (well, 4th floor on that side of the building) garden was open just a few minutes before the sun was to rise. The sun was a beautiful red, but the clouds were fairly heavy and choked out any light trying to reach the area. After watching the color fade, hoping there would be a cloud break and sunlight would stream through, I went back to the room to wake up Mike.

When we headed outside, it was starting to sprinkle a bit.

Outside Yolk, the restaurant we chose for breakfast, Mike was heralded as a gallant knight and I as his beautiful princess. It was nice to start the day off with a laugh. We filled up on plenty of protein and potatoes for a day of walking and navigating the public transit system.

Then, we set off for the day. It was spitting rain. Sigh. Well, the plan must go on, so I got my plastic camera rain cover out, and we continued on.

First, we walked past the Field Museum and to Soldier’s Field. After circling the stadium, we caught a bus to the Roosevelt transit hub and hopped the green line to Cominsky Park (aka US Cellular Field) where the White Sox play.

Waiting for the green line to arrive.
Processed with Instagram filter “Earlybird.”

 At Cominsky Park, we began to circle around the stadium and were stopped by a pair a gate attendants. They asked if we were there for some conference. When I told them I was just there to take photos, they suggested I head over to gate 4 and ask to go onto the field.

We were both a little skeptical, but we followed instructions…and ended up on the field. Really nice guys in the front office. I do believe they will receive a little thank you print in the mail in a few weeks. Shhh…don’t tell them about the surprise!

After Cominsky, we hopped the train and then a bus to the United Center. The area was pretty empty this morning as we viewed the statue of Michael Jordan. As I contemplated my compositions, Mike overheard a guy mention that Jordan was not one of the top 10 basketball players of all time.

Yikes! What was this guy thinking! Mike immediately chimed in that Jordan was more like the number 1 player of all time. As the conversation proceeded, we learned that the folks were from the St. Louis area as well, and we were then invited to go inside the United Center, and possibly onto the court.

We were floored!

However, Pink was setting up for her concert that evening, and no one was allowed to take photos in the arena. Any other day, and we would have been escorted on a little private tour by our new friend’s daughter who works there.

Lots to do yet, so we said thank you and went around the corner to catch the blue line. After swiping our cards, we started walking down a long tunnel. It didn’t seem too long…until the train we wanted to catch pulled up.

Then we started running…and kept running…when would this tunnel end??? I am pretty sure the driver saw us, as that was the longest I had seen a train sit with its doors open. As soon as we stepped inside, the doors slid shut, and we were on our way to Wrigley Field.

Wrigley was the same routine I had established by now – circle the stadium white taking photos and looking for people to talk to, maybe getting inside. No luck on getting inside, but we were hungry for lunch and decided to find some pizza in Wrigleyville.

Near the pizza place, there was a group of people in an empty parking lot. As we drew closer, they formed a ring around two men in the center…and the men began to fistfight! Two other people were filming this…and another person was walking toward us with a shallow box in his hands. The box looked like it had the word “tips” written on the front.

We quickly crossed the street.

Stopped in at Yak-Zies for their parsley infused pizza. Pretty good stuff. Ordered too much, and the soda sure hit the spot.

Next stop was the Navy Pier.

Chicago skyline from the Navy Pier.
18mm, ISO-400, f/16, 1/1000

We were cold. After trekking to the end of the pier, we found the Starbucks inside and grabbed some coffee and hot chocolate. If I could shoot photos and hold a coffee in my hand at the same time, I would have had at least 6 cups that day.

The sun was still a no show, so I was considering going back to the hotel for a couple hours and skipping a bit on my itinerary. But while I was getting some shots of the ferris wheel, the sun came out! So the plan was back on. 

We hopped a bus back to Cloud Gate (aka the Bean).

Had to do a standard “tourist shot” with my phone.
Processed with the Instagram “Rise” filter.

From the Bean, it was time to walk again…all the way up South Michigan on the Magnificent Mile until we got to the last stop of the day. 

An alley off South Michigan Avenue.
18mm, ISO-400, f/8, 1/100

The end of the walk was the John Hancock Observatory. We arrived a full 30 minutes earlier than I had budgeted in my plan. Not too bad! Usually I am behind in my time estimates.

View from the observatory.
Processed with the Instagram “Inkwell” filter.

At the observatory, We had a seat and chilled. I kept my eye on the sky, hoping the clouds would break for the sunset, but it didn’t happen. So instead, I set up for shots during the blue hour.

According to the rules posted on the observatory website, no tripods are allowed due to the safety of visitors. However, I guess I was the only one who read the rules. Oh, well.

I set up my camera on the ventilation grate at the bottom of the windows and folded my camera strap underneath my camera body to create a downward angle. {Wish I would have snapped a pull back shot with my phone!}

I then proceeded to capture some long exposure shots and eventually made my way around all four sides.

One of the shots from the observatory, looking north.
18mm, ISO-200, f/16, 47 seconds

We were at the top for about 2 hours by the time I felt I got enough shots. We were tired. After exiting the tower, we crossed the street to catch bus 3 straight back to the hotel.

We ended up getting freaky fast Jimmy John’s delivered to our room so we wouldn’t need to go anywhere else that night.


So how many clicks were there in the whole weekend? I took 820 with my camera and 17 with my phone, for a total of 837 shots.

The closest guess was tgrammer with a guess of 843. Way to go! Email me at with your address to claim your prize – choose any of my prints, including the new Chicago ones above or even a new “For the Love of the Game” print that will be released shortly. Size will be an 11×14.

Thank you for reading about my adventure! Note that all the above images are available as a gorgeous matte print, an amazing metal wall hanging, or even an awesome canvas. Contact me to order one for your wall today.

And if you want to learn how to create photos like these, I will be teaching more workshops in the near future. Sign up here for my newsletter so you will be the first to know when I get the fun scheduled!

Tyann Marcink
documenting life