Photographing Chicago

Chicago Wells Street

I have a new/updated blog dedicated just to Chicago photography at I will be sharing some tips and insights over there, so if you are interested please check it out!

The Photographer

“Photography suits the temper of this age – of active bodies and minds. It is a perfect medium for one whose mind is teeming with ideas, imagery, for a prolific worker who would be slowed down by painting or sculpting, for one who sees quickly and acts decisively, accurately” Edward Weston

Chicago Critics Film Fest 2017

Chicago Critics Film fest 2017

I am very excited for this year’s Chicago Critics Film Fest. I will be photographing it all week. It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year-  it starts tomorrow at the Music Box! There is always a great lineup of films and guests. Tix and schedule here

Street Photography

I love night photography, cityscapes and portraiture, but my passion is probably street photography. To discover a moment of harmony or synchronicity, moments that hint at an underlying order in the world. The shots that cannot be planned and happen so quickly that they can only be captured by instinct.

I love to grab my camera and walk around the city, clear my mind and hope to be stopped by something..


Tips for Travel Photography

Shinjuku, Memory Lane, Tokyo, Japan


My travel photography tips

1 Take video also- something I have not been doing enough of and always regret

2 Prepare- research all the locations in advance and opening times and maps and all that stuff in advance, there is never time enough to that when we get there

3 Get a local sim card.

4 Learn the history and some of the language, and local customs- it will make the experience richer, and again will probably not have enough time to when you get there to read about the history etc. Please and thank you in the local language  and a nice smile can go a long way.

5.High traffic touristy areas are great places for getting people shots as you can go largely unnoticed with your camera.

6. To get nice flattering light and no squinting for yourself or travel companions, know where to stand. If you are shooting with a DSLR stand in the shade close to the edge of the shadow where you have some sun reflecting off the ground to  get great results. Or with the sun behind you and expose for the face, which will produce nice even light on your face with a nice rim/hair light, try some fill flash if necessary during the day you want to see the building in the background. Or wait until the sun is low, sunset time, golden hour will be more flattering light

7  When asking a stranger to take your photo- pick a tall one!

8 The midday sun is a great time to visit the indoor sights as the direct overhead light creates harsh shadows outdoors, so plan your day that way if photography is your priority. Outdoor shots in the morning and late afternoon. If it is bright out take multiple exposures.

9 A gorilla pod is my favorite thing as a tripod is a bit much to carry all day if you are out all day and know you want some evening shots and you can also use it most places where tripods are not allowed.

10 Something I always mean to do, but forget to-  cover your camera make with tape, and make it look a bit scruffy, add tape and a different strap if you have an expensive camera to deter thieves. Also, you might want to add your name on it and contact info to your gear- if you leave it somewhere,  you might get it back . I once left my laptop on a train in Japan and I got it back, my name was on it which made it easier. I also always wrap my camera strap securely around my wrist when taking photos.

11 if you are shooting through a window rest your lens right on the glass to prevent getting unwanted reflections in your shot-  a scarf might come in use to block some of the indoor light hitting your lens.

12 Wear clothes with pockets ( more relevant for the ladies). I particularly like this James Perse shirt in black for traveling, easy to wash and try, and I like to keep my cards etc in the pockets where they won’t fall out.

13 Personally, I always shoot in manual and take multiple exposures most of the time, depending on the light. I did use Av/ Aperture priority mode for the first couple of years when learning photography which was good and speedy, and I would recommend, but once you go manual it is hard to go back.

14. When taking shots of architecture spend the extra few minutes to line up everything symmetrically- these shots really take me the longest time as I want to get them perfect as I know I will regret is later otherwise.

Natural History Musem London.

15. I almost always wish I had taken more pics, and more food pics, and detail pics and people pics, especially if you plan on turning it into a blog or article.

16. Extra memory cards, and then some more. Back up your photos every evening and charge your batteries every evening!

What else? any tips to share below.

The above pic I took with my Canon T3i and Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6

Rainy Morning in Chicago

Flamingo Sculpture Chicago

A beautiful rainy foggy quiet morning in Chicago. It is very unlike me to get up for dawn, but I looked out the window, a couple of mornings ago,  and saw the weather combination and couldn’t help myself. The city was beautiful.

These photos are taken with my Nikon D600 and this 35mm lens. More and more I am just shooting with this lens. It is now my go to for walk around type shots.

Year End 2016

Happy New Year! Here are my 9 “best” pics that I posted in 2016 according to Instagram. I spent pretty much the whole year in Chicago…

Cheers to 2017!

Winter Wonderland Chicago

First real snow of the year. It was one of those perfectly snowy romantic evenings last night in Chicago


Phone Editing- Chicago Rainy Days

Rainy Chicago


It’s been raining a lot  in Chicago for the past few days.

I have been experimenting with cell phone apps which is something I almost never use and I bought the Facetune app,  I had seen other people brighten up their Instagram pics with it ( on non-people pics) so I was curious to give it a try, and I have to say I enjoy this app for landscape/ street/travel shots- so easy to use. I used the blur and defocus to add the miniature-ish/ selective focus effect, and a filter to wash out the colors and then added a filter in VSCO, another awesome app.

The facetune app is 3.99 and I believe there are free apps with similar features such as Airbrush app you might want to check out, but so far it is worth the 3.99.

Pic taken with Nikon D600 and  Nikon 35mm f2 lens

Chicago Skyline blue hour

One good thing about all this rain is that the puddles make for great reflections.


June and July 4th Weekend, Chicago

The First weekend in July had one of the most beautiful and dramatic sunsets I have ever seen in Chicago



On the night of the 4th of July I went out to the lakefront to watch the fireworks and found a nice big puddle for this reflection shot!



Whenever I want to improve my mood I walk to this fountain and take street shots, and it never fails to cheer me up 🙂


The June Strawberry moon over the Buckingham Fountain

A photo posted by Deirdre Hayes (@deirdremhayes) on

I was lucky to go on a Seadog Cruise with the Choose Chicago Crew for the opening of the new Ferris Wheel, there was a beautiful sunset and this was right before the storm started!


I am really enjoying this youtube channel this month- The Art of Photography by Ted Forbes, he gives some interesting talks about different photographers and topics on photography, good one to check out to learn more about the history and theory of photography.

Lens Whacking or Free Lensing


I was reading about lens whacking on the web so I decided to go give it a go. All of the camera effects you see my video above were done in-camera.   Lens whacking created the selective focus effects and the light leaks, which gives an overall soft dreamy and vintage effect.


Lens whacking or freelensing is done by removing the lens from your camera and holding the lens away slightly from the camera body. It is  best to use a lens different that the make than your camera, I shot my video with a canon t3i and an older Nikon 35mm f2 lens ( prime on the wider will be easier).  I set my camera and lens to manual, infinity focus and the widest possible aperture. During the day the aperture was not that wide, maybe f8, to prevent over exposure but as it got darker I was able to open my aperture wider and get more specific selective focus


The effect is achieved by moving the lens around holding it slightly away from moving the camera. (I’ll post an instruction picture as soon was my arm is out of the sling, for now there are plenty of examples online  if you google it).  Moving the lens slowly side to side changes what area is in focus and moving the lens further away from the camera creates the light leaks. It is not that easy to control what the camera chooses to focus on, so I mostly just stayed with it and tried different things out until I liked what the lens was doing. The best thing to do is experiment until you get a feel for how the lens behaves with the different movements, I’d say be the end of the day I was mostly able to choose my focus points and light leak levels


Camera shake is also a big thing with this as you are holding the lens with just your fingers and moving it around, no way around that really, but I did use motion stabilizer in Final Cut pro in some shots.

Obviously, you are leaving your sensor open to dust and dirt, I didn’t notice much after the fact but it’s a risk you have to be open too. You can clean it or get it cleaned but something to be aware of.

This technique can also be used with still photography in the same way to get a dreamy/lightleaky/vintage/ tilt shift type effect in camera.


Video and still images taken with a canon t3i and a Nikon 35mm f2 lens