In Conversation: Meet the Photographers of Above and Across Chicago (Part 2)

In Conversation: Meet the Photographers of Above and Across Chicago (Part 2)

Above and Across Chicago includes 125 images by 15 independent photographers from Chicago and beyond, capturing the city’s architecture, iconic skyline, and Chicago’s known landmarks from the sky. Featured photographers include Kwe Bentum, Dominika Brzykcy, Nick Crawford, Max Leitner, Cocu Liu, Lichao Liu, Jason Lumsden, Terry Maday, Daniel Moreno, Adam Pearson, Alberto Santiago, Daniel Schindler, Alex Sheyn, David Sowa, and Sonja Weiss.

Get to know Dominika BrzykcyDaniel Schindler, and Jason Lumsden below. 


Above and Across Chicago will be available late spring 2024 and is available for pre-order now.  

How long have you been a photographer and what initially drew you to the profession?

Dominika: The adventure with photography began a very long time ago. I have always been fascinated by the wonderful views in different light, perspective, and variation of the subject. I have always wanted to capture the moment and keep it for longer.

Daniel: I feel like I’ve been a photographer, to some degree, for most of my life. My grandfather is a photographer, and he sparked my interest from a young age, routinely taking me to go shooting, teaching me from his experience, and “critiquing” my work. I’ve been photographing Chicago in a more professional manner since August of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic gave me more time to get out of the house, explore my hometown first-hand, and showcase the Windy City from my own personal perspective.

Jason: I have been taking photography seriously for about 8 years now. I never thought of pursuing the art form until I visited Santorini, Greece. On that visit I had my iPhone 4 with me and was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to get a high-quality print of what I was seeing. I promised myself that I would learn how to take a decent photo on that trip and have been learning ever since. Instagram was just a few years old at that point and I was getting inspired by the work I was seeing there and it definitely played a large role in me wanting to learn the craft. I bought a decent camera, but still didn’t get really serious about it until 2015. That summer, I walked the Camino de Santiago and brought along my Fuji X20 to document my journey. Capturing stills while on this pilgrimage solidified my love for photography and I’ve been hooked ever since.

What made you interested in aerial photography in particular? And have you ever delved into other subjects?

Dominika: Photography taken with a drone is a special kind of photography. I am fascinated by the different perspective. The world from above looks completely different from the world from our reference point. You can see more, perceive what you cannot see from the ground . Of course, I am interested in various subjects in particular street photography and portraits.

Daniel: I’ve always loved the way the world looks from the air. As a kid, I spent more time than I'm proud of playing Flight Simulator games or scrolling through Google Earth. Once drone technology became more accessible, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to explore the world first-hand from above. After a few months of photographing Chicago, I also started delving into wildlife photography. When shooting nature, I put the drone away and use a camera with a long telephoto lens, so as not to disturb animals. While I love taking aerial photography around our city, there is also something incredibly peaceful about getting away from the city noise and being out in nature. I also find it very rewarding to have positive interactions with animals or to observe wildlife from afar as a fly on the wall.

Jason: Chicago has been shot quite a bit by numerous talented photographers. With Instagram being the hub where I initially showcased my work, I quickly realized that in order to separate myself from other Chicago creators I needed to shoot from a different perspective. I also grew up near Clow airport and as a kid flight captured my imagination so aerial photography was a natural progression for me. I love seeing the city from these fresh perspectives and I thrive on the idea that I may be able to add to the bucket list Chicago shots other photographers or visitors need to capture or see while in Chicago. There’s nothing else like shooting the city from above for me. I appreciate all forms of photography from film to wildlife and everything in between. My focus has always been on travel, cityscape and aerial photography, though I have a fondness for street photography when I consume the medium.

What is your process like for shooting a new location? Do you try to match the feeling of the place with the image that you produce, or is it much more spontaneous?

Dominika: Choosing where I want to take aerial photos is usually a spontaneous moment. Often, I am in different places and this specific moment makes me decide to take a picture. Very often it is the play of light as in sunrise or sunset, fog, clouds or penetrating cold. These factors make the photo may be interesting and at a given moment want to capture just this specific moment.

Daniel: My process for shooting a new location typically involves a little bit of research and adapting to whatever a scene gives me. I often start by testing out different angles and perspectives in Google Earth to get an idea of what to look for on location. Once I’m at a site, I look for different ways to highlight my subject(s) in the foreground while utilizing whatever leading lines, shapes, angles, or other unique middle ground detail I can to help lead the viewer through the image and into a background that usually includes part of the Chicago skyline. As far as the feeling of my photos, I usually try to match my general thoughts of the location but will also adapt to whatever the environment or situation provides. When I’m out shooting, I also always try to have both city and wildlife gear with me since you never know what opportunities may present themselves. Lastly, especially with drone photography, I make sure to find safe and legal ways to photograph new locations. I have a thorough pre-flight process, which includes consulting FAA maps/resources, making sure I’m in accordance with local rules, inspecting my drone, and avoiding potentially hazardous conditions.

Jason: I use Google Earth for new locations to see if there’s any compositions that stand out to me. I will also bookmark shots I see on Instagram or the internet in general. I like to be as spontaneous as possible once in the air, but there’s usually specific shots I need to get beforehand.

Tell me a bit about your editing process.

Dominika: The editing process is not too complicated because the photos are usually taken in such a way that they do not require any major correction. A quick touch-up of color intensity or sharpening takes care of it.

Daniel: I try to keep my editing process quick and simple. I typically work with JPEG files in Lightroom, making minor adjustments to exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, and vibrance/saturation. When I have pictures that require more work (ie: blurry, blown out, noisy, etc.) I’ll work with the larger RAW file and make more extreme adjustments as necessary. I also love to periodically experiment with more advanced tools like Photoshop or try out new styles like black and white. However, most of what I end up sharing will only undergo minor editing.

Jason:  Much like my photography, my editing process is constantly evolving. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop for my edits. I don’t have any presets as of yet. I like to take each photo and edit them from scratch. They usually end up in a style I like, but one of my short-term goals is to create some presets to hone my editing skills a bit more. When I first started, I would edit my shots either the same day I shot them or the next day, but lately I have been giving myself a bit of time and space before I start working on an image. Photography is a great teacher of patience so I try to take that to heart as much as I can in today’s fast-paced world.

What is it about Chicago that inspires you to photograph it?

Dominika: Chicago is a wonderful city with a magnificent lake. Chicago's architecture is one of the finest in the country. The shoreline is long and full of different buildings and natural beauty. Surely the combination of buildings and natural factors makes Chicago an amazing subject and inspiration for photographers.

Daniel: For me, it’s hard not to not be inspired by Chicago. Our city is made up of hundreds of neighborhoods, each with its own unique culture, story, and millions of amazing people to meet. Our future is bright and we never lose sight of our rich history, full of heroes, villains, tragedies, triumphs, and progress. It also helps that Chicago is incredibly photogenic, with the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan, breathtaking steel/glass skyscrapers, The L (our elevated train system) weaving throughout, sprawling unique neighborhoods, and historic sites sprinkled around the city. I’ve lived around Chicago my entire life and am still amazed by how many new sites there are to explore and how many fresh perspectives you can find at familiar locations.

Jason: The skyline has always captured my imagination since I was a kid. I grew up in the suburbs, but we would drive into Chicago on weekends sometimes. The city left an impression on me every time. I especially loved the skyline at night. Chicago made me believe anything was possible. It inspired me then and still does to this day.

Do you have a favorite Chicago moment or memory?

Dominika: Every moment is important but the most beautiful Chicago I saw was in the winter of 2019. A city that was frozen and deserted, full of ice and penetrating cold. It was something terrifying but beautiful at the same time.

Daniel: One memory that stands out fondly is the evening my girlfriend and I first took our new inflatable kayak out on the Chicago River. Amazed that the thing actually floated, we proceeded to paddle miles through Chicago’s north side and towards downtown. Along the way we encountered everything from rowing teams, construction barges, recreational boaters, and groups of friends/families hanging out along the shoreline. In addition to that we spotted a wide array of wildlife from newborn ducklings to endangered Black-Crowned Night Herons to busy den building Muskrats. I hadn’t yet been on these parts of the river, and It was amazing to see so many different people, activities, and wildlife thriving in such a small area of our city. I found myself wishing I had my drone or camera handy, but also think the lack of gear allowed me to be more present, enjoy the moment, and take in the sunset with the best partner anyone could ask to explore the city with. And, of course, I made sure to take note of all the cool spots we passed so I could return later with my photography equipment.

Jason:My favorite Chicago memories are tied to family and sports. My mother is Vietnamese so we would travel down to Argyle for the Vietnamese markets and some of the best pho, egg and spring rolls I’ve had sans my grandmothers of course. Those memories will always hold a special place for me. I can’t talk about Chicago without mentioning sports. I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten to see the greatest of all time play his entire career. Along with thousands if not millions of other kids, I just wanted to be like Mike so getting to see the Bulls dynasty run was awesome. 

What advice do you have for other up-and-coming photographers? 

Dominika: I think that everyone who feels passion for photography, likes and is interested in the world around should listen to your own inner voice and just start taking pictures. Secondly, even if at first you do not know how to technically manage taking pictures, with time you will gain experience. Everything comes with time. The most important thing is to just start and capture moments with photos.

Daniel: Believe in yourself and your work. I had a lot of self-doubt when I was starting out. However, once I started to share my work publicly, I was blown away by the reception I got and the new friends and connections I’ve been able to make through it. There’s no right or wrong way to do photography. You don’t need advanced gear to be a photographer and, with social media, it’s never been easier to share your work and connect with other artists and fans who want to see your work. So, whatever your style/approach is, believe in yourself and don’t hold back.

Jason: Shoot everything. Create as much as you possibly can and learn what pulls you. The pull is what you’re after. Aerial photography ended up being what pulled me in most and still pulls me to create. 

Learn more about Above and Across Chicago here and hear from Lichao, Terry, Daniel Moreno, and Adam here