06.03.18: The Cloud Gate

Visitors walk around The Cloud Gate on Chicago’s AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park.


Technical information

April 13, 2006,
10:14 a.m.

41°52'57" N 87°37'22.999" W
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Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (13mm) 


1/250th second


It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Chicago. I need to get back. The city trails only New York City on my list of favorite cities to visit in the U.S.

And one of my favorite sites to visit in Chicago is Millennium Park, a 25-acre downtown public park near Lake Michigan that features a variety of public art and a great view of the skyline.

Since the park opened in 2004 on what had been rail yards it has become a popular destination. By 2009 it trailed only Navy Pier among Chicago’s leading tourist attractions. By 2017, it had become the top tourist attraction in the Midwestern U.S. and a top 10 destination in the entire U.S., according to a story in the Chicago Tribune. The park features a bandshell and large amphitheater for public concerts, gardens and a large public pavilion with modern sculptures.

My favorite feature in Millennium Park is the Cloud Gate sculpture located in the middle of AT&T Plaza. As a photographer, I’ve always been drawn to public art that accentuates its urban surroundings. Cloud Gate may be the ultimate example because it both reflects and blends with its surroundings.

Cloud Gate is  a 110-ton elliptical sculpture forged from a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates that reflect the city’s skyline. The sculpture, often referred to as “The Bean” by many locals because of its been-like shape, is by British artist Anish Kapoor.

I shot this photo on a sunny spring day in 2006. It was midmorning on a weekday so the crowd hadn’t grown to the point where the plaza was filled. But it was getting there. I grabbed several shots around the sculpture, mainly concentrating on the curved reflections of the surrounding buildings. As I was walking away to visit other areas of the park I turned to look back at the scene. I immediately liked how Cloud Gate seemed to capture a section of the sky and bring it down to ground level in front of the neighboring buildings. It looked like a giant drop of mercury had been deposited in the plaza and people were approaching to check it out. So I took one more photo. I like the result.

An issue when photographing Cloud Gate is avoiding having the photographer prominent in the reflection.

How did I stay out of the photo?

I didn’t.

If you could zoom in on sculpture you’d see me standing there with the camera in front of my face. But I’m so far away that my reflection isn’t an issue.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.