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Raleigh Engagement Photographer in Chicago: Martha+Justin

I just want to preface this blog post by giving a HUGE thank you and virtual high-five to Martha and Justin for being so amazingly awesome as to fly both Geoff and myself out to Chicago to photograph their engagement shoot!!! (There are not enough exclamation points there!)  Really. I think when they suggested this opportunity I just about flipped out and didn’t sleep much that night. I love Chicago and, while it was my third visit to the city, it was my first as a photographer and we were very excited. :)

To give some background info, Martha lives in Durham and is attending grad school at Duke. She met Justin in their undergrad studies at the University of Chicago, where Justin remains as a TA doing all sorts of sciencey stuff. Justin will be moving to Durham shortly to be with Martha while she finishes up school, and then their whereabouts are unknown. But they both met, lived, and loved Chicago and couldn’t think of a better or more appropriate place for their engagement pictures to be since their wedding will take place in Durham.

While this was a great opportunity and awesome adventure for us, I have to say that it was so difficult for me to hone in on places to shoot… seeing as how I could’ve shot anywhere. It’s a much different cityscape than Raleigh and, given a city block, I could’ve found about a million different little places to photograph. Seriously, I could’ve spent months. Thankfully, Martha and Justin had pre-picked some places that were very important to them and their relationship to each other and to the city and we knew just what we were going to shoot going in. But holy cow, what a great place to be a photographer.

We started off at the University of Chicago where they first met as Justin had nabbed some keys to the top of one of the science buildings. :)

We then headed to the Point in Hyde Park – the scene of Martha and Justin’s “official” first date. ;) It’s been told that she believed they were dating a few times, but Justin did not realize this. :D But this was the first first date at the Point where they had a picnic. :)

Gotta say – loving these seagulls. Although, when I went to edit these pictures I couldn’t figure out how my lens had gotten so dirty, but it turns out all the little dots were seagulls in the sky. :P Also, the I’m King of the World picture to your right is totally candid.

The below picture to the left is also totally candid. Thank you to Geoff for capturing what my clients do when I’m thinking of where to put them next. Apparently, they do fake dives.

Justin had enough of the engagement session at this point and tried to make a jump of it. So long, cruel world of wedding planning! Seriously though, Martha and Justin are pretty hilarious and had all sorts of funny ideas for pictures. :) We had a silly time which is ALWAYS a good time!

Nearing sundown at the Planetarium’s skyline here. Martha and Justin met through salsa dancing and here they are, showing off their moves. :)

This dude, who was taking pictures of a MASSIVE inebriated bachelorette party behind us, insisted on taking a picture of Justin and Martha and proceeded to tell me I was fired. Go figure.

They both are into a lot of science… physics, biology, etc., and we figured the Planet Explorers was pretty appropriate. I told them to make Planet Explorers faces and this is what they did. I love them.

And we went back to the skyline to get some night shots after the sun had fully set. We lit about half of them (as seen below in the picture to the right [the left is not lit… just lit via streetlight]), and while they were coming out accurate and good and whatnot…..

…..they weren’t nearly as good as NOT lighting them. Seriously. I realize that off-camera lighting gives a much more realistic portrayal of what’s going on, but you sometimes lose all the magic. Below is my favorite series of pictures possibly ever taken.

At this point, it was COMPLETELY dark despite how they look. We could barely see, and Geoff had to shove his phone’s flashlight on their faces so my camera could focus. We’re talking zero light. Did I mention I love a good challenge?!

Day Two was spent traversing Millenium Park on an unusually hot afternoon in Chicago (we went from 48 degrees to 84 degrees in a day).And what good is a day at the park without a few disorienting pictures taking at the Bean?!

It was hot, and they were going to change clothes anyway for a little project we conducted for their table numbers (more on this on their wedding post), so they decided to have some fun with it and hopped in the fountain wall thingymajig.

And on to the Art Institute of Chicago where we saw some awesome stuff!

Let me just say I’ve been planning this shot for a long time. With a phone keyed up with multiple stills from Ferris Bueller, we set about the Art Institute of Chicago. :) However, they moved all of the artwork since then, painted the walls and redid the floors to allow for a more correct displaying of the artwork, and added pesky track lighting which – while awesome in your house – is the bane of every photographer’s existence… especially when it’s kind of randomly placed. You’re not allowed to use lighting of any kind as flash degrades the art over time, so we had to go with a silhouette here instead, but I still love it. :)

“We’ve seen everything good. We’ve seen the whole city! We went to a museum, we saw priceless works of art! We ate pancreas!”

Thank you, Martha and Justin… we love you! We hope that you love these and we can’t wait for your wedding here in September. :) Thank you for bringing us to Chicago where I had the best gluten free pizza of my life, visited the Second City again and loved it, and had the pure joy of experiencing a great public transportation system for a whole 4 days. YAY!



      Nothing carolyn

      It’s just how it showed up with the lens and the camera. :) The background was a lot brighter than the foreground – there was zero light in the foreground, and the skyline was the only thing that was lit. So when I exposed for the couple the best I could, the skyline brightened up as a result. Tada!

    Nothing Jamie

    Came across this blog entry in searching for Chicago skyline photos. I just ADORE these photos! So beautiful!

    Nothing Souvik

    Hi Carolyn, I am a friend of Justin, these pictures are amazing, love the photos. I have one question for you, I have just got into photography and currently using NIKON D7000, with 18-105mm & 55-300mm Nikkor Lens. My question is how did you capture the amazing picture of Justin and Martha with the skyline in the background in total darkness? Any information on this front would help me to improve my nascent skills as a budding photographer. Thanks a ton.


      Nothing carolyn

      Hey Souvik! Glad you enjoyed the photos! You need a prime lens with a very wide aperture (I think a 1.2 was used on that photo), and a camera with very high ISO capabilities or high speed film (I used 5000 ISO on my Canon 1D Mark IV). You then need some way to temporarily light the couple so that your camera can focus (we held a phone with a flashlight app up to their faces). And voila! :)


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