A Departure From The Norm: Stonecutting For Polycor

So...I shoot architectural stuff a lot and interiors even more often. I generally don't get asked to shoot subjects outside of that realm overly often, but really enjoy when I do. It forces me to think differently about my approach to photography and makes me find new ways of doing things.

That was the case on this shoot for Polycor at their stonecutting facility in Chicago. I knew it'd be wet and gross on the floor, so lights on stands with wires and power packs hanging out in the soup seemed like a poor solution. No one wants to be electrocuted. I did want to freeze the motion of all the cool water drops and machine spray, so I went with a handheld flash (held by my assistant) and a reflector opposite it (held by a very cool facility employee). These photos are the result. I totally got what I wanted aesthetically, the client was happy, and I got to try something new. 

Ritz Carlton In The Early Morning

The Ritz Carlton in Chicago recently redid their lobby. It was an entire overhaul, a really beautiful, modern overhaul with a new restaurant, bar, common area etc. Naturally they needed it photographed, and I was lucky enough to be picked for the job. The shoot had a 4am call time to ensure that few, if any, guests would be meandering through the shot in search of coffee, so I was a little bleary myself, and admittedly apprehensive about lighting an enormous lobby early in the morning with no assistance from the sun.Occasionally, we get really, really lucky on shoots and giant spaces that would be tricky to light look just lovely without me adding a thing. This was the case here. As I was test shooting, something very similar to this popped up on my laptop and I was able to go and stop my assistant from assembling more lights. They would not be needed. We ran with the dark sky and went for a hip night life look, and I love it. Sometimes things fall into place and I'm super grateful when they do. Whether that be an out of the blue phone call based on a referral, or a pre-lit hotel lobby, they say its better to be lucky than good. I'd like to think that I've got a combination of the two but am certainly glad to be lucky.

American Farmhouse Style, Christmas Edition!

So, I love seeing my stuff in print because I sometimes consider myself an artist, and artists have big egos. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get to shoot a Christmas feature for American Farmhouse Style magazine right around the holidays, and that issue of said magazine is out now. Check out the super cool spread below! Really happy with how these turned out, and mad props to Tanya Esberner for her retouching assistance. There's a fine line between 'rustic' and 'beat up' and some selective retouching highlights the former and downplays the latter. Thanks lady!

Food Photography?

Okay. I am not a food shooter and I don't pretend to be, but occasionally I'll have a client that wants me to shoot their food. I don't show it on my website because a) I don't have enough of it to make a portfolio and b) there are much stronger food shooters out there. That said, I've managed to snap a few food shots I'm proud enough of to make a blog post. I would never presume to market myself as a food photographer, but I'm happy to market myself as an interiors guy who can nail your restaurant shoot and supply a few decent shots of your charcuterie board along the way. Here's proof of that.

Gone Fishing

My girlfriend and I recently took a minor road trip in search of some peace, quiet, and decent fishing. We did find all three, as well as some fairly nice scenery. I almost always bring the camera when I travel, and this was no exception. Below are some snaps from Lake Erie and the Sandusky River. Enjoy!

Shooting Bathrooms

There're a few things I've learned about shooting bathrooms over the years. First and foremost, designers are often proud of them and want them shot. Bathrooms are also usually quite small, and its my job to make them feel much bigger. Bathrooms often are full of amazingly reflective surfaces, so hiding lights and my camera and glares and other unsightly things which get reflected and bounced all over everything is a challenge. For any photo nerds reading this, I use a circular polarizing lens filter to cut some of this, and then the rest is careful Photoshop work. Oh, and no one wants to see toilets in their images, so typically, shooting a bathroom involves me crammed into a corner somewhere that the toilet isn't visible, glancing at no less than seven different surfaces to make sure that nothing is reflecting, and then doing yoga to get out from behind the camera/tripod/my body sculpture I've created while lining up the shot. All of that said, a well executed bathroom shot can be very rewarding to make and inviting to look at. I'm a fan of this one as its probably the first time that I've been happy about something reflecting. 

Carbon Arc

This is the en suite restaurant and some shots of the theater proper of the recently rehabbed Davis Theater in Chicago. I got to shoot this for Kennedy Mann Architecture, a firm that works very much in my preferred style, modern, clean and fun. This particular project aimed to keep the 1920's 'golden era of Hollywood', feel alive with Deco trim and motif throughout the space, fitting as the space was originally built around the turn of the last century. The theater itself had had a drop ceiling installed which covered beautiful gilded architectural details which Kennedy Mann brought back into play, refurbishing them within an inch of their pristine heyday state.

Specific to the bar shot, I was able to try a new style that I've been seeing more and more of. Rather than augmenting existing light in the space, I created the key light and augmented that with additional external lighting. That's what gives it the crisp, dark look rather than my usual open, glowing white light feel. This is a welcome addition to my arsenal of lighting tactics, and I look forward to playing around with this technique more.

Elgin 1 - Elgin State Hospital

Elgin is a fascinating place. Geographically, it straddles the Fox River. Economically, it straddles the poverty line (with a pocket of entrenched old money on the North end of town), and culturally it straddles no clear demarcating line whatsoever. There's been a huge influx of Hispanic culture in the past twenty years, and many of the section 8 tenants previously living in Chicago's housing projects were relocated here when places like Cabrini Green and Ida B. Wells were shut down. Combine these residents with the old Republican vanguard that begins to crop up this far from Chicago proper, sprinkle in a riverboat casino and a mental health facility that intakes and then discharges patients from all over Illinois, and Elgin becomes one of the single most interesting places to explore in all of Illinois. 

I've decided to do a bit of a pictorial profile of this festering gem of the Fox River Valley, and the first installment is below. My girlfriend Tanya bought tickets to a haunted bus tour of Elgin for my birthday, and one of the stops was the 'abandoned cemetery' behind the state mental hospital. We went off in search of this incredibly creepy place to take some photos in proper daylight, and had a wonderful time in wonderful light searching for and eventually making images of the cemetery and surrounding wilderness. The best part is, this site is five minutes off one of the main thoroughfares in Elgin, and simultaneously, an entire world away from civilization one of many charming contradictions to be explored indefinitely as this series continues. Enjoy!

Salt water fishing, Hampton Roads, VA

So, I'm no travel photographer...and certainly no fisherman, but here are a few photographs of a fishing trip I took with my daughter and girlfriend while traveling. Pictured are some squid parts (bait) my daughter's reaction to the at sea toilet, and a fish she caught. My question is whether or not I can count the expense of the trip as tax deductible because I made photographs while on it? Also, big fear of losing the camera overboard or possibly getting squid goop on it. One of those things happened.   

Personal Project: Artists in Space

For the past few years I've been working on a personal series of artists in their studio spaces. As an architectural shooter, I'm interested almost as much in the spaces where artists make their work as in the artists themselves. It often feels electric to be amidst the paints and brushes and oil pastels and paper and canvases...and if not electric, it at least is inspiring to see where art is made. In a former life, I wanted to be a fine artist, a painter specifically, bu life had other plans. In photographing these people, I can sort of nostalgically relive days when I painted...there just isn't time for that for me anymore. I've found the experience to be bitter sweet, I miss it but don't have the energy (or really the talent) to make it worth my time anymore. This isn't to say that I don't still doddle (maybe I'll share some of those doodles here on the blog sometime), I just feel that my artistic efforts are better devoted to making photographs, even if they are of other artists. Here're a few of them. 

Production Paradise Instagrams my work!

Metro Market for Cramer Krasselt

Grocery stores need photos too. This is what I learned on a fantastically fun shoot in late April for Cramer Krasselt-Milwaukee of their client's concept grocery store Metro Market. And it was a really cool grocery store to boot. The traditional ho hum grocery aisles were kept cleverly out of sight on the second floor (where you could still find your rows upon rows of shredded wheat and bran o's) while the ground floor was constructed in a way that mimics a European market, butcher department next to a dedicated spice bazaar next to a fully functional bakery next to a place that served oysters etc. 

But the grocery store itself was only half of the story. This was a four day extravaganza with a sixty image shot list, a second shooter, two hotel rooms, lots of delicious food, and four four a.m. call times in a row. We had to be aware of the stores functionality, essentially, grocery stores are busy after eleven a.m. so we needed to be wrapped each day before then. So we got up early, and we worked fast, and we got some really cool images shot over a hectic four days with multiple art directors on site, a few CK higher ups dropping by periodically, a load of helpful, slightly obtrusive Milwaukee shoppers, one Milwaukee shopper who was incredibly unhelpful, grocery store employees and a sun that wouldn't help me fill in ambient light for the first three hours of each day's shooting.  

But we got it done. And I developed the Chris Bradley Photography catch phrase. I'm not proud to admit that after finishing a shot on this shoot, I would shake my pretend gun hands in the sky and say 'pow pow pow'. I don't know where this comes from, and I have since discontinued its use, but at the moment, it felt right. I blame this on low blood sugar. Despite shooting in a grocery store, I'm not sure I ate enough while shooting, and as a result I now receive friendly reminders via text from my girlfriend that I should remember to eat when I'm shooting. So this is yet another positive off shoot of a really fun shoot that yielded great images, happy clients, a pretty decent chunk of change, and a chance to explore Milwaukee after getting off work at eleven a.m. for four days in a row. 

Trunk Club

So I got to shoot for Trunk Club, a super neat company that operates clubhouses where you can come and get fitted by a stylist who then coordinates a wardrobe and ships it directly to your home via the namesake trunk. I almost considered being paid in clothes. It was a fantastically fun shoot, and sort of an 'I've arrived' moment. There were like, twelve people running around the set, and mid way through, it occurred to me that I was essentially responsible for all of it. I was coordinating stylists, chatting with art directors, being extremely nice to my hard working assistants, and cranking out some pretty neat work. All that, and I'd kicked over my tripod within the first three minutes of the shoot, smashed up the lens I had planned to use, made do, and got the shoot nailed anyway. Felt really good to handle myself the way I did, and I look forward to the next big production I get to be a part of.

Arkansas Life Magazine

Just wrapped a super fun shoot with for the December 2015 issue of Arkansas Life Magazine. As a native Chicagoan, they felt that I was uniquely prepared to photograph some of the hot spots around town for their Chicago travel special, which is funny, because I'm a total and complete homebody who gets as close to these cool places as reading about them in travel magazines. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to photograph Steppenwolf Theater, have a behind the scenes look inside a Lou Malnati's kitchen, shoot (and eat) tacos at Big Star and see some trendy accommodations at Longman & Eagle. Below is a neat slideshow with some of my favorites. Click em!

The Great Western Roadtrip

So for the bulk of August, I took my daughter West, and I learned some things about myself and how I relate to photography. We went all over the place, Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, up Pike's Peak and into the mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park. We saw Mount Rushmore and stayed a week in Breckenridge, Colorado. And I took like, three pictures of note. 

I used to think landscape photography was easy, until I learned that I was no good at it. I thought 'Well, its gorgeous and it comes pre-lit, how hard can this be?'. Apparently there's more to it, and as of now, I don't know what that is. I get the foreground, middleground, background rules, and I know that I have to wait for the right light. I get the nitty gritty technique stuff, but I'm not sure I have the personality for it. I found myself running on rocks with my daughter and chasing her up hills and throwing her into swimming pools way more than I found myself behind a camera. Of the two things I love, photography and her, its clear to me who wins out. Also, I firmly believe that memories are best created with our eyes, recording on our brains and wouldn't sacrifice the ability to do that by having my camera in front of my face. I think that since I'm a professional photographer, the pressure I feel to make 'good' work anytime I snap a photo keeps me from truly enjoying landscape photography, because I'd rather be in a place than photograph it.


Or maybe this is smoke and rationalization because I suck at it. Either way, here're a few images, with possibly more to come.

Door County 2015

Door County, WI holds a special place in my heart. For about a bazillion years, various generations of my family have vacationed here. There's not as much call for traditional Wisconsin supper club meals that are four courses and all involve a big hearty slice of red meat at some point anymore, and so old family favorite restaurants are shuttered or replaced by overpriced 'haute cuisine'. There are more fancy spa resorts than there are rustic cabins now, and craft chocolatiers and distilleries outnumber cheesy miniature golf courses by a wide margin. The once incredible art scene has been watered down by people who make fine-art lawn sprinklers and 'beadwork' (chintzy tourist necklaces), but it is still obviously the place of my memories, on the surface and deeper down. The natural beauty of the place hasn't changed. Here's a few photos that prove that, and demonstrate why my kid's kids will still want to come here.