Play Like You Work

01_wallenda_110314Nik Wallenda walks on a 3/4″ cable stretched 600 feet above the Chicago River between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Building as seen through a bridge traffic gate on Wabash Ave. in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. Wallenda set a world record with this portion of his performance, with it being the steepest tightrope walk (19 degrees) between two buildings.

All across the world, photographers follow many tried-and-true rules to capture the best images. Of course, there’s the “Sunny 16″ rule. There’s also the one about your shutter speed being equal or higher to the focal length of your lens to avoid blur. And, from the Guy Rhodes photo rule book: When a world record attempt is taking place less than an hour from home, assignment or not, you must photograph it.

Such was the case yesterday evening, when I journeyed to the Chicago Loop to photograph Nik Wallenda on his world record-breaking high wire walk between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Buidling, as well as a second blindfolded (and also world record-setting) walk between the two Marina City towers.

I’ve heard a lot about Nik Wallenda over the years. I watched his Grand Canyon walk on the Discovery Channel, and caught clips of his walk above Niagara Falls online. The chance to see him perform in person in my hometown wasn’t one I was going to pass up.

02_wallenda_110314

Chicago-based jib camera operator and longtime colleague / friend Mark Sofil readies his live shot for Discovery Networks during the Nik Wallenda Skyscraper Live special.

Even though I wasn’t on assignment for anyone, and even though I wanted to enjoy the event as a spectator, I still came fully outfitted with my gear as if I was shooting for an editorial client. I’ve always lived by the adage, “Play like you work,” and this event was no exception.

Shortly after I arrived at Wabash and Wacker, I began planning shots in my head that I would execute as Wallenda began his walk across the river. The idea of photographing Wallenda tight on the wire against a dark sky seemed boring to me, so I identified several foreground elements in the vicinity of the viewing area that would work well when composed with Nik on the wire.

03_wallenda_110314“Sway guides” (steadying Nik Wallenda’s main cable) are anchored along Wacker Drive at sunset.

04_wallenda_110314

Nik Wallenda walks on a 3/4″ cable stretched 600 feet above the Chicago River between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Building in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014.

When the walk finally got underway, I started grabbing my shots and crossing them off my mental list. I was surprised at how quickly Nik was progressing across the river, and I fought to make it from spot to spot easily though the massive crowd that had built in the two hours or so that I waited for the walk to begin.

In fact, one of my favorite shots (the one of Wallenda with the clock on the Jeweler’s Building) required me to apologetically push my way through a block’s worth of shoulder-to-shoulder spectators who’d gathered on then-closed Wabash Avenue. People grumbled as I slithered my way to a spot in the middle of the street where the composition I’d envisioned hours earlier could be achieved. In the end, the awkwardness of being “that guy” was worth it.

The Nik Wallenda walk was a great time, and certainly made up for the Great Chicago Fire Festival that so many people were let down by at the same location just a month prior.

05_wallenda_110314

Nik Wallenda stepping out over the edge of Marina City.

06_wallenda_110314A helicopter providing aerial video for Discovery Networks flies over Nik Wallenda as he crosses the Chicago River on a 3/4″ steel cable.

07_wallenda_110314Nik Wallenda walks on a cable stretched 600 feet above the Chicago River between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Building in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. The clock in the foreground is on the Jeweler’s Building at the intersection of Wabash Avenue and Wacker Drive.

08_wallenda_110314

Nik Wallenda approaches the Leo Burnet Building on a cable stretched 600 feet above the Chicago River from Marina City in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. Wallenda set a world record with this portion of his performance, with it being the steepest tightrope walk (19 degrees) between two buildings.

09_wallenda_110314

Nik Wallenda walks blindfolded on a cable stretched between the Marina City Towers in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. Wallenda set a world record with this portion of his performance with the highest blindfolded tightrope walk.

10_wallenda_110314

An overall view of Nik Wallenda’s second, blindfolded high-wire walk between the Marina City Towers.

11_wallenda_110314

Nik Wallenda celebrates after successfully walking blindfolded on a cable stretched between the Marina City Towers in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. Wallenda set a world record with this portion of his performance with the highest blindfolded tightrope walk.

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Pop Culture on November 3rd, 2014. No Comments.

Pushing Fronts: 2013 Retrospective

The sun sets over the Riggin Barn on E. Riggin Road in Muncie, Ind., after severe thunderstorms inundated the area, Sunday, November 17, 2013. The outbreak of unseasonable thunderstorms spawned several tornados throughout the state of Indiana, including one in nearby Kokomo.

On the eve of my birthday (or “Guy Eve” as the day has become colloquially known in my inner circles), my mother was kind enough to bake me a birthday cake (a day early, since I’ll be spending my actual birthday jetting across the country for lighting work). The finished cake, sitting proudly on the kitchen table, was topped with two candles in the shape of a three and two. 3-2. Thirty-two.

Read More…

Bringing In The New

Revelers gather in the Times Square area of New York City near the intersection of Broadway and 48th St. during New Year’s Eve celebrations, Wednesday, December 31, 2012.

Some four hours after the ball dropped on Times Square (officially bringing in 2013), the feeling has finally returned in totality to my lower extremities. Even though the jumbo-tron thermometer called out what should have been a balmy 38 degrees for this Chicago boy, a stiff breeze brought with it some discomfort to my first Times Square New Year’s Eve experience. I can’t tell if more pain came from the cold, standing for over ten hours with a near-capacity bladder, or being in more than a few packs of people pushing so hard and fast that my feet were nearly swept from under me.

Read More…

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Pop Culture, Travel on January 1st, 2013. 1 Comment.

Celebrating The King

Paris Jackson, daughter of the late pop singer Michael Jackson, signs autographs for fans gathered outside the singer’s boyhood home at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Ind.,. Wednesday, August 29, 2012. Michael Jackson would have turned 54 on Wednesday.

Since the evening of June 25, 2009, the day pop singer Michael Jackson passed away, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve journeyed to 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana, to document events at the singer’s boyhood home. Some of them were held to commemorate the day of his passing, while others (as with today’s) celebrated the day of his birth.

Read More…

Posted in Music, Photojournalism, Pop Culture on August 30th, 2012. 2 Comments.