The Bean | Photography Unfolded

The Bean

 In Locations

On a bit of a Chicago kick since I’m stuck here, we had to cancel our workshop and to make up for it I’ll be doing a little virtual tour of locations soon…stay tuned!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share what is likely the most photographed location in the city, The Bean. The official name is Cloud Gate and is designed by Anish Kapoor. It was his first public outdoor work installed in the United States and was unveiled in 2004 (ya know, 4 years late for the delayed opening of Millennium Park, lol).

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

I remember when this park was under construction and began seeing this shiny thing being installed, could not make sense of it at first, lol. But as all those steel plates, 168 of them(!), were pieced together and smoothed out creating this seamless liquid mercury looking bean (yes, liquid mercury was part of the inspiration behind the design) I think we all knew we had yet another piece of amazing public art in our city!

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

The very first time I photographed this location was during a light installation by Luftwerk. They projected all these colorful lights on the bean and the Pritzker Pavilion making it feel even more otherworldly and offering a rare opportunity for something different in this most photographed location. Wish it would happen again since I was pretty new to architecture photography in any way when this happened.

That underside is probably the most photographed aspect of the bean and I don’t think a single person visiting here has missed the chance to grab a selfie from this crazy, warped perspective.

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

The hundreds of people usually swarming this place drives me a bit crazy from a photographic perspective. So, how to cope, lol. Let’s get into the options…

First, a neutral density filter can work to create ghosts of all those people.

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

Or, what I do most often, shoot the upper portion of the bean and its reflections of the city, trees, clouds, etc. You can focus solely on the reflections, rain, shine or snow…

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

Or you can include a bit of the surrounding buildings for context. Lots of different angles and ways to do this.

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium parkthe bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

Or framing it with the surrounding trees is always interesting.

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

Throw in a little sunburst for fun!

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

If you really want to avoid people, right now is your time to visit! With this covid mess, the park has limited hours and the bean is totally gated off so no one can get close. But your trusty telephoto will get you some interesting shots without having to spend your life removing people. Don’t get me wrong though, there’s still plenty of dirt and mess to clean up on these types of shots.

Or embrace the people with a birds-eye view. Both shots were made from Open House Chicago locations. The list should be announced today, September 15, of what’s available this year and how all that will work with the Covid mess. But this first one is from The Cliff Dwellers Club.

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

A little closer, these are from the Aon Center.

You could definitely manage something from a helicopter. Something I really keep telling myself I’m gonna do here!

One final shot for fun, just a little playing around with lens zooming.

the bean, anish kapoor, millennium park

Please share your Bean takes in the Facebook Group! Would love to see what unique takes you’ve come up with!

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