Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

Winter wonderland in Rockford

Rockford, Illinois sure knows how to go all out for the holidays. While Chicago may get a lot of the national publicity being that it is a world-class city, Rockford puts on its own impressive showcase during the winter months. While Stroll on State is usually hailed as the major event, the light displays throughout the town last much longer and are a sight to see – oh and did we mentioned that they are completely FREE.

Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital
Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

For this article, we’re concentrating solely on the light displays at the Nicholas Conservatory Gardens which sits on the Rock River just a couple miles north from the downtown area. Pulling into the parking lot you will see lots of lights and beautifully decorated trees but the real magic is behind the big glass building. On your way to the back is a path with lights arching above (pictured above) it and it sort of reminds us of those cartoon sketches where they go to a different universe through a portal covered by neon lights.

Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital
Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

Once you make it through the portal path you will see the lagoon and the rest of the light displays. At this moment you are at a split and have to go either to the left or the right of the lagoon. Unfortunately, the path does not make a full circle (yet) around the lagoon but we hope this happens soon. We made our way to the right and captured the beautiful blue and violet colors, as seen in the picture above, reflecting on the frozen water. One section turned red right as we took the shot but we don’t mind it at all.

Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital
Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

If you are to go to the left side (technically it’s more of a straight shot) the path leads you up the longer path alongside the lagoon. Again, beautiful colors follow the path as you make your way to the north side of the park. The picture above was taken at about a half way point and we did have to wait at least 10 minutes for the area to clear as hundreds of people were visiting that night.

So the only thing missing in this winter wonderland is the snow. Did you even notice that? However, we are definitely not complaining because being able to enjoy the beautiful displays without freezing temperatures definitely felt good. Also, we wouldn’t have gotten the amazing reflections off the frozen lagoon if it was covered with snow.

We’d love to hear from you! Have you ever been here or have we inspired you to visit it next year? Let us know in the comments below.

The Bean (Cloud Gate) in Chicago by KB Digital

Chicago during the holidays

It’s always a fun trip to Chicago when everything is nice and decorated. The trees are lit up, the ice rink is full of skaters and The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) looks more shiny than ever. We’ve been to Chicago several times this past 2019 holiday season and our only complaint was the frigid breeze from the lake, however, that didn’t stop us from taking a few pictures while there.

Willis Tower overlooks the Christmas tree in Chicago.

One of the busiest attractions is definitely the huge Christmas tree that’s set up in Millennium Park. For the picture above, it was a very frigid night but that didn’t seem to slow down the crowd as we had a hard time even getting a shot because of so many people being there. Nonetheless, the tree looked amazing and the red and green antennas on top of Willis Tower (still Sears Tower to us) looked picture-perfect. Now this is for all the photographers out there, imagine trying to capture a 1-second long exposure shot with shivering hands and no tripod. It was a challenge!

Cloud Gate (the bean) in Chicago during a frigid winter night.

Next stop on our list was just a couple hundred feet from the Christmas tree and it was the ever so famous bean, or as the official name state, Cloud Gate. Again, with no tripod and very low light, we had to try to capture a hand-held long exposure shot. What made this shot even harder is that there was no barrier between us and other bystanders. So sometimes we would have a rush of people walk within a couple feet in front of our camera and then get very dark pictures. Out of the several that we took, we managed to get one that we decided was good enough. To our surprise, we even captured the American flag in there and the red and white stripes show up just perfect as the people walked by. Talk about perfect timing.

Ice rink at Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois.

Adjacent to The Bean is the ice rink right there on Michigan Avenue. We captured this shot more for fun than anything else. You have some people skating and doing double and triple spins while others are barely standing on their feet. Now if you’re not familiar with Chicago, all three of our pictures were taken within a couple hundred feet of each other. It is one of the many reason we love visiting the Windy City, besides the wind of course. Even though it’s only January, we’re already looking forward to beautiful, and much warmer, Spring weather!

Snow on Halloween in Rockford, IL

White Halloween in the Stateline

When’s the last time you went trick-or-treating through snow? For the Rockford region and the northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin state line, that was just last week. While the snow might have spooked some trick-or-treat goers away (see what we did there) the majority of the crowd seemed to embrace this rare occasion.

Snow on Halloween in Rockford, IL
Snow covers Sinnissippi Park on Halloween in Rockford, IL.

Obviously, we wouldn’t have missed the chance to capture a few images of this amazing day. The scariest thing for us would have been not to go out and shoot some pictures. We grabbed our camera gear and headed out to a few local spots. Sinnissippi Park and its lagoon are always fun to shoot and we just loved the dark blue desaturated water with the white snow all around it. Even though the shot wasn’t a long exposure, the water still looks pretty still and a bit icy.

Snow on Halloween in Rockford, IL
Snow covers the trees at Rock Cut State Park on Halloween 2019.

Another favorite stop of ours is Rock Cut State Park. While we enjoyed the views of the lake and the different picnic areas, we really liked how the road swiveled through the snow-covered trees. The green pines stood out in the white snow and created such a relaxing atmosphere. It just reminded us of a commercial or movie scene. (Elsa wouldn’t have been able to ‘let it go’)

Snow on Halloween in Rockford, Illinois.
Snow on Halloween at the river dam in Belvidere, Illinois.

We also made our way out to Belvidere, Illinois and stopped at the park right by the Belvidere Dam on the Kishwaukee River. It was beautiful to see how the snow just glazed the ground while the trees remained in color. The white water coming off the dam complemented the snow surrounding the river and just created a postcard look. Once again, we didn’t have our tripod with us to do a long exposure here but we were pretty happy with the hand-held shot that we were able to get that day.

None-the-less, we’re quite excited to see what kind of beauty this winter gives us. Now, we’re definitely not looking forward to the frigid cold temperatures…. but that’s a whole other topic. Depending on road conditions, we would love to get some pretty pictures of a snowy Chicago and maybe even head up north to Lake Geneva and Milwaukee. Though, we just might have to escape somewhere warm if it get’s too cold for us and our gear. 🙂

Fall For Rockford 2019

And just like that we wrap up another year, the second annual to be exact, of Fall For Rockford.

Muscadine Bloodline performs at Fall For Rockford 2019.
Muscadine Bloodline performs at Fall For Rockford 2019.

Okay so maybe it wasn’t the best weather and that drastically affected the number of people who came out but we still think it was fun. However, the low attendance did give us a challenge when it came to getting some good shots. Obviously, as a photographer/videographer, you want to make it look like there was a huge crowd to portray the event as a fun one. So what did we do? Well we’re still working on the video so you’ll have to come back to see that in a few days, but as you’ll see in the pictures, we played with the angles and compressed a lot of them

Faren Rachels on stage at Fall For Rockford 2019.
Faren Rachels on stage at Fall For Rockford 2019.

Not only did the rain scare away the huge audience, but it made shooting footage almost impossible at times. We spent a lot of time on stage with the band, getting side shots and close-ups. By the way, these types of shots look much looker with a huge crowd in front of the band (see last years pictures). However, we didn’t want our pictures to all be from the same few angles. So we ended up running out into the rain to get some shots from the front with the crowd in the forefront of the composition, and then running back and wiping our camera and lens. Now this is risky, we could’ve easily damaged our gear but we took the risk to the deliver quality photo and video to our client, the River District Association.

Scruffy Pearls lead singer at Fall For Rockford 2019.
Scruffy Pearls lead singer at Fall For Rockford 2019.

All in all, we had fun shooting the event and think we got some amazing footage. Again, we thank the RDA for trusting us to capture their event and deliver quality work. Also, we’d like to congratulate all the bands for amazing performances and for being so cool to share the stage with. Find them online and listen to their music. And last but not least, make sure to check out the full gallery of pictures on our photos page.

Drone captures beautiful storm

Aerial drone shot of colorful clouds over Rockford, IL.
Aerial drone shot of colorful clouds over Rockford, IL.

Last night we were cloud-gazing and sensed something epic was going to happen. We quickly set up our drone and went straight up from our parking lot.

Not even two minutes later, the sunset light hit the clouds just perfect as to create a beautiful gradient in the skies above. The end result was spectacular as a the dark blue clouds from the east faded into the bright yellow clouds on the west, right as the sun was setting. The image was taken from Loves Park, and looks southwest over Rockford towards Byron, IL. In fact, if you look close enough, you will see the two cooling towers from the Exelon Nuclear Plant just outside of Byron. That’s an impressive 25 miles straight-shot view.

While we are not totally pleased with out foreground in this image, we believe the skies above compensate enough to make this still a great photo.