I love observing the world around me. Over the years, I have found there’s so much to take in, to appreciate, to love. I enjoy photographing the everyday wonders – sunrises, vistas, waterfalls – and I get excited for the less-common opportunities: events, travel, candids.
But when I come across a surprise that catches me completely unaware.. well, then. I lose all sense of rational adulthood as I devolve in the presence of sheer joy. The object of my delight becomes my sole focus, and I’m as giddy as a kid in a toy shop.
You think I’m exaggerating, but I assure you, I’m quite serious.
I experienced this when I was fortunate enough to catch a rare misty morning on a lake; it hit me in Yosemite; I chased after it for three days before finally catching it in a spectacular sunrise in Arches National Park.
And it completely surprised me in Chicago.
I’ve previously regaled the story of how we wound up on an all-expenses-paid weekend excursion to the Windy City, and as a dutiful photographer, I was sure my trusty camera was by my side through all the pizza and to to the tops of the skyscrapers.
We were staying in a hotel near the building that was to be the new headquarters of Aaron’s company, and this, in turn, was right on the edge of Millennium Park. So it’s no wonder that in short order, we found ourselves wandering this park, where I was serendipitously acquainted with…
An artist’s sculpture officially named “Cloud Gate,” this reflective marvel is a photographer’s perfect subject. Reflections are all sorts of fun. They’re even more intriguing when they’re specters borne of a lima-bean-shaped mirror the size of your living room.
I was immediately drawn to this wonder, as though the material were a magnet instead of a mirror. And it was photographic love at first sight. My mind instantly danced with a thousand possibilities, and my finger itched for the shutter.
I explored every inch of that sculpture, taking pictures from the side, up close, far away, and underneath. It reflected buildings; it reflected the adjacent ice rink; it reflected our silly selves.
I took pictures until Aaron dragged me away, and I mourned the separation from my new best friend.
But my photographic obsession was not yet sated.
We returned the next day as soon as we were able. Being mid-afternoon, the park was much more crowded, but this gave me something new to play with: people interacting with The Bean.
But it still wasn’t enough.
I wanted to catch some magical light on this giant lima bean, so we set our alarms for the next day, and we were basking in its reflective glory well before the sun came up. While I captured some contrasty images in the low light, the sun rose grey behind a fresh blanket of February clouds, and the Cloud Gate was closed to me. The grey didn’t deter me, but I was disappointed the weather wasn’t cooperating as it had the previous couple of days. It signaled the end of our encounter.
As our trip drew to a close, and rain began spilling from the sky, my inspiration was suddenly renewed. What would The Bean look like with thousands of tiny drops and rivulets spidering across its surface? I was anxious to find out…
…but Aaron wouldn’t let me. Alas, we couldn’t spare the detour this time. Without knowing, I had danced my last dance with my polished friend. And I didn’t even have a proper chance to say goodbye.
Now, I have only the 129 photos I took of it over those three days – a full quarter of all the pictures I took that weekend.
But the parting is bittersweet, as I know it’s still there waiting for me, with all the as yet unexplored photographic opportunities and varying settings. Perhaps next time, I’ll see it nestled in a blanket of pristine snow. Perhaps it’ll reflect a perfect blue sky. Or maybe the gate will be open, revealing a stunning array of vibrant clouds of a fiery palette, slightly warped in a surreal display of immaculate beauty.
I will dream of the possibilities that await.
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