BY ANDREW MORKES, FOUNDER OF NATURE IN CHICAGOLAND
If you live in Chicagoland and beyond, you’ve seen Barry Butler’s wonderful landscape and cityscape photographs on television newscasts, on social media (including on his Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts), at his website, and in photo exhibitions. His creative vision and deft touch with the camera turns everyday sights we sometime take for granted—skyscrapers, street scenes, the Chicago River, our parks, Lake Michigan, and other landmarks—into art. Great art makes people feel intensely, think more deeply, and sometimes just entertains us and makes us forget our troubles. Barry Butler certainly makes great art, capturing wonderful human moments and public spaces in Chicagoland (and Ireland, too). In addition to publishing an annual calendar that features his work, Butler has recently published Chicago – A City Above All, a book of his photographs. He was kind enough to tell me more about his book, discuss his favorite place to take photographs, and provide some advice to aspiring photographers.
Q. Can you tell me about your book, Chicago – A City Above All? What made you want to publish it?
A. Chicago – A City Above All is filled with over 100 color photographs illustrating the beauty and magic of the greatest city in America, Chicago. The book has four sections: Flow, Spirit, Drama, and Light. Flow provides views of the city along the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Spirit shows how the city celebrates the holidays and sports accomplishments along with an overall vibe of the city. Drama focuses on the storms and the challenging weather of the Windy City. Light concentrates the different light that highlights Chicago—sunrise, sunsets, and night lights. This book has been the number one request [from people] who follow my work on social media and at my exhibitions.
Q. Have your feelings about nature changed as a result of being able to capture so many great images of Chicago from both the air and on the ground?
A. Nature is an accent at times in my images. Often it’s our aerial friends who pop into the shot in the sky as I’m capturing the light over the city. It’s rarely a prominent element in my images, but often the exclamation point finishing off the shot with a little something extra.
Q. What’s your favorite place to photograph?
A. That is like picking your favorite kid. For years, I would say Fullerton Avenue along the lake was my most inspirational spot until they decided to completely change the landscape there. That spot has lost all its character. Olive Park is my favorite place to escape the noise of the city. It’s such a peaceful area.
Q. Many people want to become photographers, but feel overwhelmed by the technical aspects and other issues. As a self-taught photographer who has become a successful visual artist, do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
A. If you go to the trouble of purchasing a digital single-lens reflex or mirrorless camera with the ability to adjust the aperture and shutter, learn how to operate it other than in automatic/program mode. It’s easy to learn. If you don’t want to learn how to use it outside of the automatic settings, you might as well just use a smart phone. Cameras are so good now. It’s almost impossible not to have an image properly exposed or in focus. That’s the easy part. Managing light and composition are everything. Learn the camera…then just worry about taking the photos you enjoy. By the way, an expensive camera will not take better photos. Don’t get caught up with gear. It’s the biggest mistake people make.
Click here to learn more about Butler’s work and to purchase his book, calendar, and other work.
Copyright (opening text only) Andrew Morkes
Barry Butler holds the copyright to his interview and photographs.
2021 BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT
Looking for more great nature destinations in Chicagoland? If so, I just published Nature in Chicagoland: More Than 120 Fantastic Nature Destinations That You Must Visit. It features amazing destinations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Click on the title to learn more.
About the Founder & Author of Nature in Chicagoland
ANDREW MORKES has been a writer and editor for more than twenty-five years. He is the founder of College & Career Press; the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. Morkes is also a member of the parent advisory board at his son’s school.
In addition to these publications, Morkes is the author of more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies. He has written and edited many books for Infobase including the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series.