Photographing the Chicago bridges lift
Last year, I was in Chicago for the Open House Chicago event and I took the opportunity to photograph the bridges lift. I had been wanting to shoot the lifts for some time now and I was glad to be in Chicago at the right time (it’s only possible a few times a year).
Every year, the bridges have to open to let sailboats move from between Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Lifts are scheduled on several Wednesdays and Saturdays in April-May and October-November each year.
I started my visit at the McCormick Bridgehouse on Michigan Avenue. Part of the DuSable Bridge, the bridgehouse is a museum and you can see the gear of the bridge while it’s moving.
The bridgehouse also provides a great point of view on the bridge itself. Some windows have a grid in front of them, but I think it gives something different to the shot.
The views from the top floor are of course the most interesting, especially when the bridge is up.
I then proceeded to shoot the Irv Kupcinet Bridge (Wabash Avenue) and Bataan Corregidor Memorial Bridge (State Street) that opened at the same time. Shooting from Michigan Avenue was a great point of view to include the skyscrapers in the background.
After that, we decided to head to the Kemper Building, which has an observatory at the top. This observatory is only open once a year during Open House Chicago, so it was really awesome that the lifts were happening on the same day.
The views over the river from the Kemper Building are quite nice, especially if you’re shooting the bridges. You get great views over the N. Clark Street Bridge, the Marshall Suloway Bridge (LaSalle Street), the N. Wells Street Bridge and the N. Franklin Street Bridge.
I spent quite some time up there, waiting for each bridge to open and close. It’s definitely the best point of view to shoot the bridges lift!
What’s so great about when the bridges lift is that you get to shoot a special event in one of the most photogenic locations I know. The light is not the best because the lifts happen late in the morning, so you have to work around that. But if you are in Chicago on a weekend of April, May, October or November, you can’t miss it! Check out the Chicago Loop Bridges website for the schedule.
I’ll leave you with a video I shot on that day, where you can see the different bridges lift and the McCormick Bridgehouse.