• billboard

Windy City Wanderings



Lauri Novak captures her fine art and architectural photos in and near Chicago with the Tamron 100-400mm Di VC USD telephoto lens.


More Photo Tips | Video Gallery | Photo Gallery | Enewsletter sign-up


By Jenn Gidman
Images by Lauri Novak



Lauri Novak has been taking pictures since the film era, but peruse her portfolio and you won’t see, even from her early photographic days, many images of sunsets and flowers. “Growing up near Chicago, I’ve always been drawn to architecture,” she says. “The art deco St. Charles Municipal Building outside of the city is probably the reason I love this genre, because I was always fascinated by that building as a kid. I continue to be amazed each time I head into Chicago—the city never gets old for me, and it’s constantly changing, always offering me a new building, structure, or perspective to put in front of my camera.”

For her fine art and architectural photography, Lauri relies on her Tamron 100-400mm Di VC USD telephoto lens to capture every detail. “I received this lens in February, and in March I had the chance to go to Antarctica—I found out about the opportunity on a Monday and flew out that Saturday,” she says. “The 100-400mm lens was probably the lens I used most while I was there. In general, it’s super-sharp and offers me the versatility I need, whether I’m zipping through icy waters in a Zodiac or wandering the streets of Chicago, in search of my next subject.”

Today, when people first see Lauri’s photos, one question she often gets asked is: How did you even see that? “I try to find and show people the details they wouldn’t necessarily see if they weren’t looking closely enough,” she says. “I always think of the example of the Cloud Gate sculpture, which most people know as ‘The Bean,’ in Millennium Park. It’s been photographed millions of times, but what I advise photographers to do when they visit the sculpture is to walk around it for 30 minutes without even picking up their camera. Examine every angle and really study it before you start figuring out how to approach shooting it in a way that no one else has.”

Read on for a snippet about each of Lauri’s photos below, all taken with the Tamron 100-400mm lens.

© Lauri Novak
100-400mm (400mm), F/6.3, 1/640th sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

This image was taken on a beautiful, blue sky day in Antarctica, from a Zodiac I was in with about a half-dozen other people. Everything about this scene was amazing—the water was incredibly still, and the tiny ripples in the water, with the clouds reflected in it like this, was mesmerizing to watch and photograph. I was able to zoom in and out with this lens and experiment with different abstract compositions until I hit on one I liked best.

© Lauri Novak
100-400mm (100mm), F/6.3, 1/500th sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

The Chicago Riverwalk is a fantastic place to take photos. I was up above the Riverwalk here, shooting down. The black part of the image is where the river is. I wanted to capture the “Z” shape of the railings, as well as the way the shadows and light played around here.

© Lauri Novak
100-400mm (100mm), F/6.3, 1/200th sec., ISO 400
Click image to view larger

This picture is all about the reflection in the water, and how that helped to form the shape of my “subject.” There’s a river not even a mile from my home, and I head down to this one spot often in the winter, when it’s very still and a bit foggy. I rotated this horizontal image of trees reflected in the river and turned it into a vertical so that it now looks like a tree—in other words, trees making the shape of a tree. I wanted it to be a photo that makes the viewer think.

© Lauri Novak
100-400mm (213mm), F/10, 1/60th sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

This is a pavilion by architect Jeanne Gang. Her Aqua Tower, when it was completed about 10 years ago, was then the tallest building ever designed by a woman. Her work is organic and curvy, very alive. Lots of wedding photographers shoot near this pavilion, using it as the backdrop for their images. If you peer through it, you can see part of the Chicago skyline. I wanted to take a closer look, however, so I spent an hour walking around the structure, photographing the different shapes and lines in front of my camera from all different angles.

© Lauri Novak
100-400mm (400mm), F/6.3, 1/320th sec., ISO 320
Click image to view larger

I was at a pop-up art fair in a huge room with multiple windows, and the building you see here was across the way. This photo is another that I turned on its side. It was originally a horizontal photo that I rotated to make vertical. It worked better for me this way, with the shadows and the angles and the direction the angles were going in. It’s the type of photo that plays with your mind.

© Lauri Novak
100-400mm (400mm), F/7.1, 1/400th sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

This is the Shard in London, the tallest building in the UK, completed almost a decade ago. I appreciate older buildings, but I love modern architecture as well. We were on a river tour when I spotted it, enveloped in all of these clouds. I have other photos of it, including a black-and-white version with no clouds, but they absolutely made the shot in this case.

© Lauri Novak
100-400mm (100mm), F/14, 1/50th sec., ISO 400
Click image to view larger

This is Constellation, a relatively new sculpture in Chicago’s River Point Park by Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish architect who designed the Milwaukee Art Museum. I've been dying to head down there for a while to check it out, but COVID kept me away. I finally was able to see it a few weeks ago, and I simply wandered around and shot it from various angles. I’m attracted to and always pay close attention to reflections in buildings, like the ones you see here. Remaining conscious of reflections—whether they’re in a building or in the water, like my first Antarctica photo—can offer you some visually pleasing shapes for an abstract photo.

To see more of Lauri Novak’s work, go to https://laurinovak.com or check out her Instagram.






More Photo Tips | Watch Videos | Learn More About Tamron Lenses | Photo Gallery