Focal Points: Archived

From 2010- 2011 I published a photo blog on the Chicago Tribune’s blog network ChicagoNow. The focus of the blog was to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood in Chicago and publish photo sets of my exploration.

The idea may at some point be resurrected and reworked but for now you can find a full archive of the blog and its photos here under the Focal Points category.

Want to see Chicago like never before? Come on the Journey of a lifetime.


Okay, cheesy headline I know.

But seriously, there is one event I look forward to more than any other every year.

It’s not the Superbowl, it’s not the World Series, or even the announcement of a new iPhone, it’s Journey To the End of the Night.

If you’ve read this blog before you may remember last year I wrote about the event in a two part entry detailing my experience and spoke about it on ChicagoNow radio.

If not, you’re probably asking, “What is Journey To the End of the Night”

Well dear reader, Journey To the End of the Night is a race crossed with elements of children’s games like Tag and Manhunt. Your playground? The city itself.

At 7pm this Saturday hundreds of people will descend on Welles Park. They will be given arm bands and a map with checkpoints. Once the race officially starts they will all be runners and will have to avoid being caught by a chaser. If they are caught they too become a chaser. The object? Get to all the checkpoints on the map, by foot, without getting caught. Much harder than it sounds.

You will find yourself creeping through alleyways, hopping fences, running your heart out and seeing your city in a way you never have before.

If this sounds like fun. Feel free to join us at 7pm and prepare to run for (the time of) your life. It’s completely free!

For more info: or RSVP and invite others on Facebook.

Last minute holiday shopping? Hit the Christkindlmarket!


One of my favorite Chicago traditions is the annual German Christmas market that is that is set up in Daley Plaza every year. Every year the Christkindlmarket Chicago brings together crowds of tourists, local immigrants and those looking to just get into the holiday spirit with amazing ethnic foods and hand crafted goods.

Literally translated from “The Christ Child Market,” Christkindlmarket runs annually from Nov 24th to December 24th. Founded in 1996 the market was originally set up in Pioneer Court however the following year the office of Mayor Daley invited the event to relocated to Daley plaza where it has run every year since. The market is the largest open air Christmas market in Chicago as well as the largest German Christmas market in the United States. The market draws it’s inspiration from Nuremberg, Germany’s own Christkindlesmarkt which began in 1545 and still runs to this day.

Over the weekend my friend Bradley and I met up to take some photographs and finish up my last minute shopping. I also managed to buy some amazing strudel and hot chocolate.

If you need a last minute gift the market is open through Christmas eve and promises not to disappoint.

If not, sit back, relax and take in some pictures of what is my favorite local holiday tradition.

Football at Wrigley Field?

wrigleynwern-2As any good Chicagoan would be aware, on Saturday Wrigley Field was host to it’s first college Football game since 1938. The “Friendly Confines” were converted to host a special Northwestern vs Illinois game with the Illini eventually winning the day.

I took some time on Saturday to bike over to the Stadium and check out what was going on around it. When I got there I found that Wrigleyville was hustling and bustling like it is on a good summer day. There was a feeling of excitement in the air as I walked by person after person wearing either Northwestern Purple or Illinois Orange. Sure enough, Clark and Addison was alive. If it weren’t for the big winter coats and hats (and the fact you could see your breathe) you’d think the Baseball season were still in full swing.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Development in Style

Things have been busy lately in all good ways. This experiment of going part time at Apple while attempting to build my photo business has been exactly what I needed for my sanity, business future and sleep schedule. Where things are going is still a bit unsure but sure enough there has been no lack of interest, my schedule is almost as busy as it was before, except now I’m getting to actually work on projects instead of just watching them pile up.

Taking more jobs I’m starting to experience a transition in my work, I’m starting to grow creatively. I’ll elaborate in just a few.

First off I am still working with ChicagoNow and my photo blog Focal Points, although admittedly I don’t publish as much as I’d like to. I’ve got some exciting ideas to freshen things up over there (and here) and I hope I’ll get the chance to share them with you. It’s just a matter of time before I figure out the right way to do things.

My latest entry about my visit to Blue Island I think is my favorite so far. Blue Island was full of grit and decay and realism. The stuff I’m attracted to and really the purpose behind that blog, it has sort of a purest’s angle. Here is a sample shot.


Speaking of ChicagoNow on Tuesday they had their monthly tweetup and I was the official photographer you can find those shots on the ChicagoNow Staff Blog. Here is a shot from that.


Pretty different right? Obviously both in subject matter and approach. Walking around a party with a flash is still a new experience for me. I spent pretty much 2005-2008 refusing to use anything but natural light / room lighting because I think it requires you to hone your craft. For a long time I was averse to shooting with flash because of the effects it causes when used improperly. I also feel like people who heavily use flash photography tend to be annoying. I usually prefer to catch people in the moment than to get people posing.

However I’m at a point now where I feel like I’ve done enough work pushing the Apertures and ISO of my camera and lenses that it may be time to learn something else. Also, the nature of shooting weddings and events are requiring me to move to using flash. So far so good, already my opinions on the subject are starting to change. We’ll see where this leads.

Now that I’ve done all that talking about working with flash I’m going to show you a picture shot without it. Here are my friends Austin and Allysa at my friends Evan and Shama’s wedding.

© 2010 John Morrison - subism

I still prefer this look to any other, there is a softness to natural light that just feels more human to me. I’m often told that I’m more a photojournalist than an editorial shooter and I’m not sure how I feel about that. My preference is to make something feel real, that captures a moment… that by nature sounds like photojournalism but I’m perfectly fine with that moment being faked or set up as well. I want my photography to be believable.

If there is one thing that I’d say that grounds most of my work it’s that.  Realistic beauty. Even when if it’s faked I want the viewer to feel it in a real way. Some would say this holds me back, I think it makes me better. Every tool, every trick can be used and overused. This is sorta why I shy away from HDR photography. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very often beautiful (my friend Megan does particularly good work) but more often than not it’s overused until an image has no depth, no black and no white at all, things become just overblown over-saturated messes of photos. It’s walking that line that makes you skilled, using something in moderation and creating something beautiful is the right way to go.

When I do use it I try not to over-use it.

© 2010 John Morrison - subism

Some might tell you that photo isn’t “true HDR” because I actually have black and white points. I would tell them to go frak themselves. HDR is a tool like any other.

That’s sorta the same way I feel about flash. Now, this is not a knock against studio photography. As photographers many of us are obsessed with light and the fact we can control it for our artistic expression is the equivalent of cavemen learning to harness fire. It’s not something I’m taking for granted, however in this day and age there is an obscene amount of editorial / studio photos that look the same in boring ways. I don’t want to be like that.

Every model on every magazine cover is made up like crazy, lit to death and then photoshopped back to life. I don’t want to do that. I’d like to walk that line and find that balance to create something that is exciting while being somewhat real. I think that’s how I’ll stand out… my editorial work will be informed by journalistic / natural style.

A major influence on my work has been Clay Enos. Clay shoots entirely with natural light and works in Lightroom to do everything else and it’s those restrictions that make him better at what he does. By confining himself creatively he inherently becomes more creative.

The thing is I don’t want to be Clay either. I love his work but there are things I don’t like about it either. I want my own style. It’s just a matter of finding exactly what that is. I think the last few years have taught me well. Now it’s time to learn some new toys and continue to find a balance.