A still from a six-minute time lapse of Chicago at night from Wheaton photographer Max Wilson.
Two years, 200,000 exposures, thousands of dollars in downtown parking, countless hours of rendering and about 100 (long) nights in Chicago.
Max Wilson had a distinct vision when he devised a time-lapse project titled "Windy City Nights." His love of the city after dark, coupled with a fascination for time-lapse photography, resulted in six stunning minutes of Chicago's angles, lights and constant movement when no one is really looking.
"Chicago at night -- the light, the lake, the river, the boats, the cars, the traffic, the architecture -- it's just really incredible," Wilson said.
This isn't Wilson's day job. He lives in Wheaton with his family and works an IT job during the day. And if shooting and compiling multiple time-lapse videos sounds easy, it isn't. Each four-to-10 seconds of video equals four-to-six hours of shoot time, of waiting and watching from a perch somewhere in Chicago. That doesn't account for his commutes, set-up time and editing.
At least once a week over the past two years Wilson dedicated nights to driving to Chicago and setting up hours-long shoots, some of which were foiled by rain or worse.
One night, police pulled a gun on him near Trump Tower because they thought he was a car burglar. Other times he was kicked out of restaurants or hotels with ideal heights for the shots in his mind's eye.
"It can get pretty lonely, [but] it's kind of relaxing," he said. "It's the need to be out there. When you set a scene up, it's neat to watch it unfold. I had a vision in my mind, what it would be like, but i didn't know how it would turn out."
Wilson spent months driving and walking around the city to scout out locations and worked off a list of the shots he wanted. He approached numerous companies and got turned down a lot. Some of them -- Cite Restaurant, Lake Point Tower, Wyndham Grand (Hotel 71), Willis Tower Skydeck, and the John Hancock Observatory -- worked with him to generate the seemingly impossible heights in the film.
"There were a lot of challenges, but I stuck with my goal because I had this vision of what it might look like when it all came together."
For every hour he spent on the scene, it took the same amount of time to edit. There's a lot that didn't make it into the final product, and Wilson hopes he can show an extended version at a local theater.
What will Wilson do with all his time now?
"My wife just asked me that," he laughed. "I'm not sure. I thought about doing a Chicago day version."