08.30.20: Stairs and structures

Visitors walk on the stairs to the Ferris wheel on Chicago's Navy Pier.

Visitors walk on the stairs to the Ferris wheel on Chicago's Navy Pier.

Finding patterns on Chicago’s Navy Pier

When I saw how the waves and lines contrasted with the glass structure’s patterns I knew I had the basics for the shot I wanted. I used the camera’s viewfinder to frame the composition I found most interesting. 

Last summer my wife and I played tourist in Chicago for a few days. It was a trip filled with museum visits, a few hours at the famed Shedd Aquarium and way too much good food.

We spent one morning visiting Navy Pier, a 3,300-foot long pier on Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline. The pier is home to a number of restaurants and entertainment attractions, including the nearly 200-foot tall Ferris wheel (and, yes, I convinced my height-averse wife to ride the Ferris wheel; it was fun and the views of Chicago skyline were excellent).

As always, I had my camera and a couple of lenses with me and was looking for interesting scenes to add to my collection of travel photos. 

As we walked along the south side of the pier I was intrigued by how the curving metal panels, described by the architects as a wave wall, aligned with the steps on the staircase that leads to the Ferris wheel and other attractions on the pier’s second level. I’m attracted to architectural patterns. The curves and lines made an interesting composition. Still, I knew that a close-up of the lines and curves would make a boring photograph. There would be nothing to provide context to the patterns.

So I took a few steps back, which brought the green glass structure on the second level into view.

When I saw how the waves and lines contrasted with the glass structure’s patterns I knew I had the basics for the shot I wanted. I used the camera’s viewfinder to frame the composition I found most interesting. Then I waited for some people to climb the steps to provide a touch of color to break the patterns before I clicked off a few shots.

I like how the monochromatic wave wall and steps serve as a frame for the more colorful scene above. The curve of the wall to the steps provides a sense of movement to what could be a static image.

Navy Pier was the largest pier in the world when it opened to the public in 1916. It has had many uses through the years, including serving as a cargo facility for lake freighters, docking space for passenger excursion steamers, a Navy training center and a college classroom facility. Today, Navy Pier is Chicago’s number one tourist attraction, with a Ferris wheel and other entertainment features that make it a tourist destination.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: July 25, 2019, 11:14 a.m.
  • Location: 41°53'28.074" N 87°36'25.398" W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II 
  • Lens: Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L (66mm)
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Shutter: 1/1600th second
  • ISO: 200