Steve Gadomski, a photographer with the Rush Photo Group, took the photo used for Rush University Medical Center‘s 2010 employee holiday card. Here’s how he got the shot:
By Steve Gadomski
Rush Photo Group is responsible for documenting all aspects of Rush University Medical Center in still photographs. We are experts at using light to achieve this. I was recently asked to document the progress of the East Tower by the Office of Transformation. It had to be a very special image for various Medical Center purposes.
I immediately decided nighttime would be the right time. I was told that permanent interior lighting had recently been installed. Well-controlled exposure would allow the structure to glow from within. I started thinking about locations from which to photograph the tower. I considered photographing it through window glass from several different vantage points. However, window glass would cause problems such as distortion or reflections. It had to be from a rooftop. I decided that the view from the roof of the Armour Academic Center would be appropriate. This perspective could show the East Tower and also its orientation in Chicago.
On Nov. 10at 3:45 p.m., with assistance from Medical Center Engineering, I hauled two tripods and several cameras and lenses through a secure door up a couple flights of stairs to the roof of AAC. I carefully walked to the edge of the roof (about 12 stories over Paulina Avenue), set up my image composition and attached my camera to a sturdy tripod.
It was a spectacular sunset to the west with a wonderful view of the East Tower and the heart of Chicago to the east. The quality of light changes rapidly at dusk, so with the tripod locked down in one position, I continued making exposures every few minutes. Night photography is a challenge because of the dozens of different light sources in the city. Each of these light sources emits a different luminous power and perceived color. I varied my exposures (often called bracketing) to account for these various light sources. I made my final exposure at 5:15, packed up my gear and called it a night.
The next morning I excitedly downloaded all of the images to an Apple computer. I used Adobe Photoshop software to open the images one at a time, and then stacked my favorites into a single document. Photoshop is a supremely complex program that takes years to master. This past winter, I served as a beta tester for the then upcoming release, Photoshop CS5. But it is really just a tool to help artists achieve their creative vision.
Over the next several hours, I used the various Photoshop tools to mix, blend and mask the layered exposures. An important tenet of photography is that the human eye always goes to the brightest part of a scene first. So I took the best parts of each exposure to ensure that the East Tower would stand apart in the already dazzling Chicago cityscape.