One of the sights I looked forward to seeing when Gary and I visited Chicago last weekend was Millenium Park�s so-called Bean: Anish Kapoor‘s large reflective sculpture formally known as the Cloud Gate. Given Chicago�s picturesque skyline, it�s a shutterbug�s dream to encounter a large shiny surface that affords an eminently photographable fish-eye view of both buildings and passersby alike.

The Bean�s popularity among professional and amateur photographers is evident by the number of Cloud Gate images that appear on Uncommon Photographers, a Chicago-based blog specializing in photos of photographers. Like every other camera-wielding tourist who encounters the Bean, Gary and I were unable to resist its allure, snapping shot after shot of light and image glinting off its polished curves.

When current renovations on the bean-shaped Cloud Gate are complete, people will be able to walk underneath its curved inner surface, an opportunity for even more shutter-snapping moments. For now, though, the sculpture�s underbelly and lateral edges are skirted with plexiglass, chainlink, and obscuring tarps while workers smooth seams on its underside. Even with these non-photogenic accoutrements, though, on its ends the Bean looks like a giant balanced egg: a huge chrome oval laid by some exotic alien.

A night-time egg-end view of the Bean was my first impression of its shiny spectacle: on our first walk downtown upon arrival last weekend, Gary and I went in search of the Bean, not knowing exactly where in Millenium Park we�d find it but figuring we�d know it when we saw it. When seen at night and on the other side of a concrete barrier, the Bean startles you at first sight: even if you�re looking for the smooth curves of a large reflective surface, the gigantic glowing eggy-ness of the Bean at night seems other-worldly, like nothing on earth you�ve ever seen.

Both amateur and professional photographers are almost magically drawn to photographing the Bean…and therein lies some controversy. Due to copyright concerns, the Chicago Park District initially prohibited professional photographers from taking pictures of the Cloud Gate, arguing that profits from Bean-based images belong to its designer.

Interestingly, this photo-ban defined “professional photographers” as anyone who uses a tripod, and photographers of all stripes responded by posting over 1,300 images of the copyrighted sculpture. When Gary and I visited Millenium Park, there was a heavy Security presence both on foot and Segway scooters…but we weren’t asked to cease and desist with our shutter-snapping since I hadn’t brought a tripod and Gary used my head to steady his camera. (This arms-length self-portrait shows Gary using me as a human tripod, and you can see in Gary’s post a photo snapped from the top of my head while I shot that initial night-time shot above.) Given the number of photo-snapping tourists visiting the Bean last weekend–including one tripod-wielding photographer–it seems authorities have given up their attempt to deny the seemingly universal and irresistible urge to photograph the Chicago skyline as reflected in the Cloud Gate’s shiny contours.

The downtown skyline as reflected in the Bean is cool by night…

…and even cooler by day.

Even viewed through a chainlink fence and obstructed by renovation equipment, Millenium Park’s Bean and the views afforded by it are pretty magical.

    This is the third in Gary’s and my series of SynchroBlog posts on our long weekend in Chicago. For Gary’s perspective on the Cloud Gate sculpture, click here. Tomorrow, we’ll share our day-long exploration of the Art Institute: stay tuned!