Cold, dreary Chicago on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400

At Cloud Gate

Margaret and I made our usual December trip to Chicago the weekend before last Christmas. We like to visit Christkindlmarkt and finish our Christmas shopping on State Street and Michigan Avenue. But we spend most of our time walking around with our cameras.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

I normally bring a very sturdy camera, something built to work in adverse conditions like below-freezing temperatures, such as my Nikon F3. But this year I wasn’t in the mood to deal with a camera that heavy. I brought my compact Pentax IQZoom 170SL instead. It always delivers great image quality, yet slips into my pocket and weighs next to nothing. I felt sure that this camera would stop working if it became too cold, but I figured it would stay warm enough in my coat’s outer pocket between shots.

I had recently been fortunate to find Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 at the drug store. It was expensive at about 10 bucks a roll, but I bought some anyway because ISO 400 color film is darned useful during gray Indiana (and Illinois) winters. I shot two rolls in the Pentax on this trip.

Cloud Gate, the large, chromed, bean-like structure in Millenium Park, is always a fun subject. It’s also a good spot to photograph people — so many other have their phones out making images that a fellow with a regular camera doesn’t stand out. Here I tried making a wide mirror selfie that brought in the city context.

At Cloud Gate

Just one more shot of Cloud Gate, and then I’ll move on.

At Cloud Gate

We visited Central Camera, as we usually do. They’re back in their original location, after a couple years in a temporary location next door while their space was being rebuilt after its destruction in the riots in 2020. I bought some film while I was there, some Arista.EDU 100 in 120 to test cameras with, some CineStill 400D in 35mm to satisfy my curiosity about this new film, and a roll of Kodak Ektar hand-cut and -rolled into 127 format to use in my Kodak Brownie Starmatic on an upcoming 127 Day.

Central Camera

Christkindlmarkt was the star of the show for us. We visited it on that Friday, and I’m very happy we did, as we walked right in. On Saturday people lined up for more than an hour to get in. Apparently they limit the crowd inside the Markt.

Christkindlmarkt Chicago 2022

The market sets up every year in Daley Plaza, on Randolph Street, near City Hall. Warm Glühwein flows freely. I’m not a fan, so I usually buy a good German beer. It’s …not awesome to drink cold beer on a freezing day, but daggone it, I want the full Christkindlmarkt experience!

Christkindlmarkt Chicago 2022

My son Damion drove up to spend the day at Christkindlmarkt with us. This was quite a time commitment for him, as he lives more than an hour south of us, and we live almost three hours away from downtown Chicago. This image suffers from a little shake, unfortunately, but it succeeds in capturing the memory.

Christkindlmarkt Chicago 2022

Back in Millennium Park, we watched the ice skaters glide by. I haven’t ice skated in 30 years, and I like it that way.

Ice skating at Millennium Park

This little boy was using the penguin to try to stay upright as he skated, but he kept falling down anyway. Poor guy. But he kept getting right back up and trying again.

Ice skaing in Millennium Park

Cloud Gate is elevated over the skating rink, and provides a different photography vantage point. I zoomed way in and tried panning the camera to see if I could freeze skaters and get a smeary background. The camera chose fast enough shutter speeds that it didn’t work out

Ice skating at Millennium Park

A huge Christmas tree is erected and decorated in Millennium Park each holiday season. It’s a better subject at night.

Millennium Park Christmas tree

Crown Fountain is also a reliable subject. Twin 50-foot towers show slightly animated faces of Chicagoans. When the fountain is turned on, water occasionally “spits” from the faces mouths.

Faces in Millennium Park

No Christmastime Chicago trip is complete for us without a visit to Macy’s on State Street. This was the flagship store of Marshall Field until Macy’s took over. I miss Marshall Field’s.

Macy's State Street

I tried making a few photos inside Macy’s. This is the only one that turned out; the rest suffered from shake. The Pentax must have chosen a moderate aperture and slow shutter speed, and I didn’t hold the camera steady enough for that.

Christmas inside Macy's on State

Shooting inside a store carries some risk, as many stores don’t appreciate it. A buddy of mine was escorted out of one store for making photos inside. I move fast when I do it to keep from attracting unwanted attention.

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11 responses to “Cold, dreary Chicago on Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400”

  1. brandib1977 Avatar

    This looks like a terrific trip to play with a camera!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s always a nice trip when we do Chicago in the winter.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Sounds wonderful!

  2. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    Chicago doesn’t look that dreary decked out in all that Christmas cheer.
    I got stopped at the entrance to a big supermarket one day because of the camera hanging around my neck. “No cameras allowed,” said the young employee. I showed him the back of my Zeiss Ikon and said, “It’s a film camera.” He paused for a second. “Oh, okay,” and waved me in.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There’s no grayer time of year anywhere, I swear, than the midwest in the winter. That’s the dreary I was talking about!

      Your logic befuddled that fellow!

  3. Julie's Camera Avatar

    They’re lovely shots. Chicago doesn’t look too dreary to me, seeing it from your perspective. It must be a very interesting city to visit.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We’re fortunate to be only about 3 hours away. It’s easy to pop up there for a weekend.

  4. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I hadn’t thought about it, but my last ice skating was almost exactly 30 years ago. In the ’90s the rink was on State St across from Marshall Fields as Millenium Park was still just the railroad yards.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh wow. I have no memory of Millennium Park before it was the park, even though I visited Chicago a handful of times before it was built.

  5. sonny rosenberg Avatar

    Great photos and stories! They brought back lots of memories for me. Almost 30 years ago I was in grad school in Chicago and worked as a bike messenger there. I remember riding the escalator and freight elevator to make deliveries at Marshall Fields. I used to google the cameras at Central Camera on State street, but I didn’t really know anything about photography back then.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh wow, what a job to have! Sounds like fun … during the warm months, anyway.

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