Twice a year, Chicagoans are blessed with the phenomenon known as ‘Chicago-Henge’. During the spring and autumn equinox the sun rises and sets in perfect alignment with the street grid system of downtown Chicago. For roughly three days each spring and fall photographers and local residents flock to the ‘Loop’ to capture beautiful photos of the sun perfectly framed by Chicago’s skyscrapers. The bright light also creates fantastic backlighting opportunities for photographers. Pedestrians, cyclists, and the ‘L’ train are perfectly silhouetted by the rising or setting sun. It’s an Instagram paradise twice a year.
Last fall, I biked down to Millennium park and staked out a spot on Michigan Avenue along with about twenty five other photographers. There was a buzz among the group and all swapped stories of the days leading up to this moment. Several in the group had been there the evening before, others just a block north or south. A debate sprang up about which east / west street would be the perfect spot for this evenings sunset. Someone to my left showed me a sun tracker app on his phone that said the alignment for tonight’s sunset was perfect for Madison St. Sounds like I was in the right spot. Passersby stopped to ask what we were doing, while others took out their cell phones to snap pictures of this blob of photographers all standing there facing west. Across Michigan Ave, pedestrians crossing the street would notice the group of lenses facing them and stop to wave or do a little dance. The mood was light.
As the sun came into alignment, the chatter of the group was replaced by the snapping of camera shutters. Nobody was talking, all were focused on trying to get the perfect shot. A skateboarder did a kick flip in the middle of the street, a cyclist came into view, the ‘L’ train came and went, and giant CTA bus sat in the middle of our frame for what seemed like an eternity. Thanks buddy. Eventually the bus cleared and we all had plenty of opportunity to snap tons of pictures.
As the sun moved out of frame and dipped behind the buildings, the group slowly started to pack up. We said our goodbyes and I peddled west into the warm glow of the sunset. It was a beautiful night and I was thankful for the shared experience.