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Chicago: Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute and my birthday!

I’m back home now, after a bit of a whirlwind trip around the country.  My last few days in Chicago were lovely, just like my first couple.

chicago cultural center in b&w

David and Carrie are excellent hosts and always keep me well-entertained and well-fed.  I didn’t take a single photo at any of the restaurants we went to.  I’m a very serious eater and it’s hard for me to wait and even harder for me to remember to photo before I dive in.  Instead, I have for you the Shedd Aquarium:

turtle at the shedd aquarium, chicago

snake at the shedd aquarium, chicago

I must also add that it is really extraordinarily difficult to make good photographs at an aquarium.  First, it’s always quite dim.  Second, the glass and the water do the most horrible things to autofocus and angles.  In the photo below, this incredibly creepy giant spider crab looks like it’s on television or something.  No, it’s just the refraction and things making it look strange.  Very difficult to pull off good photography in an aquarium.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Well I’m in Chicago now.  Part of this birthday trip deal was supposed to be me suffering due to inclement weather.  So far we’ve had snow, freezing rain, thunderstorm and, this morning, hail.  But temperatures haven’t dropped below 20, something I am very happy about and something David laments.  In either case, on Saturday we went to Garfield Park Conservatory, which is a lovely conservatory out on the green line.  I took photos, as usual.

some kind of desert plant

little girl by a pond with yellow flowers

This shot is “freelensed” – I took the lens off the camera body and tilted it to achieve a different plane of focus (not parallel to the camera body).  I had varying degrees of success with the technique – here’s a better one.

weird nubby plants at the conservatory - freelensing

And here’s David.  Like I said, it’s been snowing, and snowfall creates the most beautiful light for portraits.  Like the one on the left.  His expression is crap (David is notoriously difficult to photograph), but I love the light.

Gatorland!

I end up traveling for work quite a bit (on the weekdays, guys, don’t worry!) and often find myself with big chunks of time to explore my surrounds.  Orlando was no exception and this time I had a car!  So I headed out, at the suggestion of my lovely aunt and uncle, to the place they call Gatorland.

alligators in black and white

I was going to put interesting facts about alligators in this spot, but I’ve just realized that I learned absolutely nothing at Gatorland.  Not sure if that is entirely my fault, but it is what it is.  More pictures, then!

alligators in detail

This is a gator feeding area!

alligator in black and white

There really were just tons and tons of gators all over the place – really close, too – but they had some other animals you could scope out.  The birds were remarkably plentiful.

bird with eggs in a nest and python

giant tortoise at gatorland

hot dogs in a cup