Mirage of Chicago Skyline

April 13, 2020

Chicago-FATAMORGANA-EPOD-0164-20080910 (002)

Photographer: Sam Cornwell 
Summary Author: Sam Cornwell 

Featured above is a breathtaking mirage of the skyline of Chicago, Illinois. My friend and I were on a photographic road trip from Chicago to Boston back in 2008, and one of the first stops we made was at Indiana Dunes National Park. We walked up a huge sand dune, known as Mount Baldy (126 ft or 38 m tall), to be greeted by a spectacular image of Chicago hovering above Lake Michigan. At a distance of around 37 miles (60 km), I couldn't believe what I was seeing -- isn't that beyond the curvature of the Earth? The sky was clear and the Windy City was perched on top of the lake like a picture. Instead of getting our cameras out, we decided to find a place to stay for the evening and return at sunset. At the time, we simply didn't realize we were witnessing such a fascinating atmospheric phenomenon.

Luckily, upon our return, the skyscrapers of Chicago were still visible. I set up my camera with the longest lens I had and began shooting a series of images as the sky darkened. To my delight about half an hour in, the city lights turned on all at once and the artificial glow of the jagged horizon split up Lake Michigan from the reddened sky

In 2013, I returned to the exact location to show my wife but oddly couldn't see it. Researching it much later I realized it was only visible because of special atmospheric conditions and was an illusion known as an inferior mirage. I wish I knew that at the time -- we really had no idea how lucky we were. Photo taken on September 10, 2008.

Photo Details: Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark III; Software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic 9.2 (Macintosh); Exposure Time: 30.000s; Aperture: ƒ/36.0; ISO equivalent: 100; Focal Length: 350.0mm. Time of photo - 7:45 PM (Central Daylight Time).