Coldplay was playing a 2 night show in Chicago, storms were approaching, and I conjured up an idea for some awesome pictures & video. Here’s the story behind it!

If you are from Coldplay and would like any of these pictures/videos, give me a shoutI would be happy to give them to you.

I came up with the idea(s) for photos and videos on the evening of Saturday, July 23rd, while watching WGN News. As one of their b-roll shots, I saw a shot of soldier field and the skyline backdropping the scene. A few nights prior, my sister had attended their Indianapolis – Bankers Life Fieldhouse show with some friends, and I remembered that they were headed to Chicago next..

After a quick Google search, I saw that their two shows at Soldier field were that night and the following night. Storms were forecasted for the evening and I thought I might try Sunday night instead, hoping for better weather.

Here is Sunday, July 24th, 2016’s radar loop – it wasn’t what I hoped for.

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Source: Intellicast

But, I optimistically thought I might try anyway; Even if I got rained out and dusk had fallen by the time I got to Chicago.

Next was planning the flight/shot.

I had seen the shot from WGN from the southwest side looking toward the skyline, but was looking at a few other options.

Here is a view of the Grateful Dead show in 2015 by David Oppenheimer.

Image Credit/Copyright: 2015 David Oppenheimer

I found this view from the north by David Oppenheimer, but learned that the wind was going to be coming from the north, and opted out of an abundance of caution to stick with the southwest side skyline view.

I checked B4UFly – an app provided by the FAA to plan sUAS flights (small unmanned aircraft systems – a.k.a. Drones or quadcopters) – and there were a few heliports in the area necessary to contact before conducting a flight. The CPD Heliport was the only one in the area with contact information / records that it is controlled directly or has something of a control tower – and got approval to conduct the flight.

The specific rules in Chicago as I found and read about online before leaving are:

  • Register your drone – check
  • Fly at or below 400ft – check
  • No operation from dusk til dawn – check

The official time for dusk in Chicago was 8:49 PM, and I used every minute of opportunity I had.

  • No flight over people not involved in the operation – got it.
  • No flight over a school, school yard, hospital, place of worship or police station without consent – none near the south side of Soldier field – check.

  • No first person view flights/FPV goggles – check.

The last clause of note:

“Drone users are required to respect park’s security guidelines and discontinue use if it is perceived to be a safety risk by park staff or security.” – got it.

While driving to Chicago, I opted to take the toll road since Google Maps said it would be faster, and the idea of getting there faster was good – because if dusk had fallen by the time I got there, flying quads is no longer allowed.

I have never seen so many lightning strikes.

I have nothing to show for it since I was driving but on my journey past Gary/Chicago Int’l Airport, there had to be more than 10 large strikes within a small vicinity of where I was. Lightning would strike and the thunder came quickly after, within a second or two.

I am wishing now that I would have set the GoPro on the dash for a time-lapse, but good to know for next time.

I had a few moments to stop and capture the sky while sitting in line to pay $2.10 and $4.50 at the two toll booths I was greeted by.

Crepuscular Rays at the Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge | Copyright/Credit: Trevor Mahlmann

Crepuscular Rays and Mammatus Forming | Copyright/Credit: Trevor Mahlmann

After punching through the brunt of the storm and seeing the beautiful mammatus/crepuscular rays that formed as the sun set, I arrived.

Traffic was nuts, as expected. I wasn’t even going into the concert and I was excited.

I could have parked somewhere else and walked but ended up paying the $49 event fee and parked in the South lot, perfect for the shot I was going for.

A CPD officer came over while I was flying, wanted to see the shots I was getting and noted how he appreciated I was following the rules.

There are lots and lots of rules to follow, but being a private pilot myself – it is especially mandatory that they’re all followed precisely.

I was glad to be commended for doing so.

I had not originally planned to take video, only photos but after seeing the impressive show the LED bracelets all the concert-goers were wearing lit in harmony, I hit record.

Very faintly, I could hear the sound of the music/singing and wondered if anyone was on Periscope live-streaming.

There was, so I pulled out my tripod, setup my Joby Griptight Pro mount on top and listened to the concert while recording on my flight.

Dusk fell and the rest of the concert began, and I headed home.

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I captured this imagery with a DJI Phantom 4. Here were the settings I used:


  • 4K @ 24 fps
  • 1/25sec exposure
  • ISO 3200


  • 1 second exposure
  • ISO 200

What’s next on this blog?

My photo story from my recent trip photographing the SpaceX CRS-9 launch to the International Space Station!

Stay tuned!