ChicagoHenge 2021

5 Minutes Sunsets & Sunrises 2021

5 Minutes that’s all the time you’ll get the photograph Chicagohenge, so you better be prepared! Chicagohenge is a phenomenon when the Sun is rising and setting between the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago. Since the streets in the Loop are plotted directly East-West, this phenomenon occurs twice a year, the Spring Equinox (March 20, 2021) and the Autumnal Equinox (September 22, 2021). If you can’t capture on those dates, no worries, you’ll have about +/- 3 days surrounding the equinox to witness and photograph the event.

While we cannot control the weather, we can at least be prepared to photograph the event. The first item to decide is where to photograph from. You’ll witness the event from any East/West street in the Loop but here are some of my favorite locations and why.

Location Ideas for Sunsets

Millennium Park – Washington Street – Sunset, March 20th (7:03 PM)

At the top of the stairs in the park, there is an elevated platform that you can photograph from. Be warned…get there early, this area fills up quickly with other photographers. Washington Street is one-way heading East so the vehicles headlights will be towards you, which can add to the effect.

Photographers Lined up at Washington Street
Washington Street – ISO 200, 130mm, f/16, 1/20 sec.

Millennium Park – Madison Street – Sunset, March 20th (7:03PM)

Similar to Washington Street, but vehicles will be heading west. Again, plan on being there early to get the position you want, as there will be many photographers there as well.

Nichols Bridgeway – Monroe Street – Sunset, BEFORE March 20th

This is the elevated pedestrian bridge connecting Lurie Garden to the Art Institute. No Tripods allowed and security may not let you stay for too long. Because Monroe Street jogs a bit…this location is best prior to the Equinox.

Washington/Wabash El Stop Platform – Sunset, March 20th

Another great elevated position. Be aware you’ll need your Ventra Card and you won’t be able to use a tripod.

Adams/Wabash CTA Stop Platform – Sunset, March 20th

You’ll need your Ventra Card and you won’t be able to use a tripod.

Location Ideas for Sunrises

Chicago Ave – March 20th and AFTER (Sunrise 6:53 AM)

There are several areas on Chicago Ave to capture the rising sun between the buildings. At the intersection of Hudson Ave. and Chicago Ave., there is a median in the middle of the street allowing for safer shooting.

Chicago Ave. 120mm, F/4, 1/4000 (Haze from wildfires)
Chicago Ave from the sky

Oak Street – March 20th (Sunrise 6:53 AM)

Another morning fun shot including the church for foreground interest.

Oak St. – 18mm, f/22, 1/2″

Millennium Park – Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) – Sunrise, AFTER March 20th

The Bean – ISO 800, 9mm, f/22, 1/6 sec.

Not sure if they’ll open the area since this area has been closed due to COVID-19…if it is open…Setting up on the west side of the Bean, facing East, once the sun gets above Maggie Daley Park, you’ll be presented with a warm glow on the underside of the Bean.

Washington Street – Sunrise – AFTER March 20th (Approx. March 23rd or 24th)

You’ll want a long lens for this shot (200mm+). You can get the sun rising over Pritzker Pavilion between the buildings.

Ashland/Lake CTA Platform – Sunrise – After March 20th (Approx. March 27th)

Ashland/Lake CTA Station – ISO 200, 35mm, f/22, 1/30 sec.

Great spot to get away from the crowds during the equinox. The El Tracks above Lake Street light up creating a leading line into the city. CTA Platform, so you’ll need Ventra Card and no tripods allowed.

Exposure Information

At each of the above locations, you’ll only have 5 minutes (at most) to photograph the sun between the buildings. You’ll want your settings locked in and ready to go. Hopefully the following baseline settings will get you close. A lot will depend on atmospheric conditions…hazy, clouds, humidity, etc. so adjustments may be necessary.

Mode – Manual Mode
ISO – 200 (this is the base ISO for Olympus E-M1 mkII). Suggest you start with your camera’s base ISO and move up from there if needed.
Aperture – f/16 – f/22 – in many of my shots, I want to get a “sunburst”, so I use a narrow aperture.
Speed – Typically around 1/20 as you can see from the photos within this blog but vary the shutter speed to either show or stop motion. Make sure that you have stabilization enabled if handheld or have camera on a tripod (stabilization turned off).

Make those 5 minutes count! Have fun and enjoy the other photographers surrounding you. We have a spectacular photographic community in Chicago…let’s keep it going!

Feel free to contact me:
Nick Sinnott
Chicago Photography Classes [email protected]

Other Photos from the Areas

ISO 200, 150mm, f/22, 1/20 sec.
ISO 200, 120mm, f/13, 1/20 sec.

Sometimes you don’t get to see the sun but you get a gift of another kind! Don’t give up!

ISO 64, 23mm, f/16, 3.2 sec.
Going Abstract – Long Shutter Speed – 2″
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