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A Quick Visit To The Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, IL

So I took yesterday off and didn’t post anything new. I got tied up working on something and was looking at the clock at almost midnight wondering if I should or let it go. Well, I let it go and the consequence was such a poor turn out on visits to the blog today that skipping a second day would probably cripple this blog for life!!! Nah, I’m exaggerating quite a bit.

Tonight I thought I would share with you some photos that I took of the Mayslake Peabody Estate in the town of Oak Brook, IL in the suburbs of Chicago. I didn’t even know that this place existed, so I am very grateful that my host suggested going there. Unfortunately, the estate was closed for the docent tours of the interior, but we still had access to the perimeter of the estate. I had gone to visit a supplier that I work with and experience their headquarters and facilities in person. We finished up all the tours a little earlier than expected  and I happened to have the camera in the trunk with me. So, off we went in search of something interesting.

I was being shown around by a friend that had gotten over to our offices in the San Francisco Bay Area back in February for a day and a half seminar. We were able to finish up early enough on the second day, that I offered to take her and her coworker into the city for a crash course sightseeing trip where we hit the major points. She was very appreciative for my efforts, just as I was of hers in taking me to the Peabody Estate and lunch at a bistro in Wheaton, IL named Ivy during this trip to Chicago. I greatly enjoyed her company and look forward for her to come back out to the Bay Area with a little more time for sightseeing to return the favor for her kindness.

I don’t know much detail about the Peabody Estate’s history other than it once belonged to a gentleman named Peabody. Thank God for Google!! Even though this was a family residence at one time, it is now available for rental as a meeting/workshop gathering spot or attractive wedding venue with its spacious grounds, private chapel  that was replicated from an existing chapel in Italy and small lake in the back yard. Although it is some state of disrepair, it is currently undergoing a full restoration that begun in the indoor halls. As I mentioned, we weren’t able to view the interior, but the exterior that needs a bit of attention proved to be wonderful for detailed architectural shots with plenty of “texture”. Don’t get me wrong, the place is beautiful, even in its current condition. The weathered state it’s currently in gives the building character that can only be earned with many years of standing its ground against the elements.

Architectural photography is something that I am fascinated with. I find myself pointing the lens at the cracks and crevices that make the structure work and don’t mind zooming in far enough to see the nails. Although looking at the building through a wide lens as a whole has its merits, I particularly enjoy from the parts that make the whole in great detail. So what makes interesting architectural photographs? There is no right or wrong answer, but I’d be more than happy to share a few of the things that I look for and paid attention to while we were at the Peabody Estate. I’ll be doing this as I look closely at the images I chose and why I found them interesting, so you might be able to follow along while looking at the photos.

1. Point the lens at something that you don’t see in your neck of the woods. I noticed as I went through a number of neighborhoods in the Chicago suburbs that there seems to be an abundance of ivy covered brick buildings. Unfortunately, we don’t have many brick homes in the San Francisco area due to the earthquakes, so we don’t have many ivy covered homes. I found this interesting, so I pointed the lens at it.

2. Look for shadows and how the interact with the structure. Although when the sun is highest in the sky is known as not being the friendliest time of the day to photograph people, I find it the perfect time to photography buildings. As each face of the structure points in different directions, look to see how the shadow plays with the architecture. Sometimes you might get lucky to be looking at a building that was designed in such a way that it takes into account the direction in which it points in.

3. Don’t ignore the accessories that surround the home and help make it an experience. Pots, fountains, awnings and other structures can be just as interesting as the structure itself. Look for interesting details while using shallow depths of field with the main structure in faded view.

4. Find different viewpoints for the same old view. With any photographable structure, the simple way to photograph it is always to look at it straight on and fit it all in the viewfinder before snapping the picture. BORING!! Get closer. Get further away. Come right up to it and look up at it. Lie on the floor and get a different perspective.

5. If photographing what used to be a residence, try finding something that would give the structure a sense of it being a home. The photo of the old bird house was one of my favorites. Why? Well, I can imagine old man Peabody finding some wood in the old shed, cutting all the pieces to measure, nailing it together and proudly hanging it with the hopes that the local fowl will be enamored with it and call it a home. That, or someone went to the local Pier 1 and bought one at 80% discount… Anyway, it gives the structure a homey feel.

6. The architectural style chosen can be of interest. The Tudor style of architecture is one of my favorites. If it’s one of your favorites, photograph it.

7. Gardens and trees with structures make for great photographs. While the structure itself may be interesting, getting trees, bushes, flowers and gardens adds to the appeal of the building and may show how the whole thing works together.

8. Reflective or mirror surfaces can add additional interest. If photographing a structure with windows or mirrors on the exterior, try to find a vantage point that would give you a reflection that may show up in the image. Then you have the possibility to give a different view, even if the reflection is of the clear blue sky above.

9. Who has a slate rock roof? The Peabody Estate does!! So, I photographed it. BOO-YAH!!!

10. Paint flaking off? Forgetaboutit!!! Use a shallow depth of field, focus on the shipping paint and shoot away, my friend.

11. When using shallow depths of field, think carefully where you want the focal point to be. There is the appropriate time and place for the middle focus point or far focus point, but some of my best photos are taken with the focal point being closest to the camera so that the rest of the object goes out of focus as the image gets further away.

So, that’s about it as far as I can see on these images. Oh yeah, these were all taken with my Canon 1D using the rented Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens I rented from That is one badass lens!!!



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