I journeyed up to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore recently, with my good friend Tom Jones and happened upon an incredible view – something that truly blew my mind!

All photos in this blog are taken by me (unless otherwise noted), and are available in the Creative Commons domain on my website. If you would like to use as a wallpaper, in a story online, or for your Instagram feed, you may – but you must attribute it to me. Please read this post before sharing – thank you!

Tom and I were planning to meet up at the Dunes for a few days and after a few cloudy sunsets the past couple of nights – finally the weather was looking like it was going to be nice.

I met him through Instagram almost a year ago, where we both shared an interest in taking photos of the Int’l Space Station, and if you enjoy watching/waving as much as we do, you’re just destined to be friends.

Earlier this summer, Tom is the one who connected me with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, who I was fortunate enough to take photos for at the 100th Running of Indy 500, in May.


On the evening of July 14th, 2016 – we headed up to the Dunes to try and get some shots of the sunset and the skyline.

What we came up with was pretty awesome. There were some kite surfers zipping back and forth, and in my more telephoto shots of the skyline, you miss out on both the kite and the surfer – but you can see the ropes that tie the two together going up/across the frame.

The skyline just looks stunning with the Sun hanging behind it. Even minutes after it has set, when the sky is set ablaze.

It was pretty windy, and some jumps, these guys would go 20-30 feet in the air, with several seconds of hang-time before coming back down.

Here, this guy had to be 15-20 feet in the air or so. Suuurrfs uup duude.

As the sun set, when you have a friend with such similar interests as you, time just flies as you talk about stuff and make photos – before we knew it, it was almost an hour after the sun had set.

We began to see the lights of the skyline, and started making more photos.

What was even more stunning was how clearly we could see the lights on the tops of the towers flashing!


Tom decided to use his Canon 2x extender with his 70-200 (which is image stabilized) to get a closer look at the city lights.

He let me hook up my camera as well to get a few shots as my 70-200 is non-IS and it was quite windy. 360mm was the sweet spot, fitting in the entire skyline with my 7DII.

What resulted, was a great shot that I was very pleased with! But there was more to it than originally met my eye.

I zoomed in fully to 200 (400mm with the 2x) and began slowly panning through the skyline. I couldn’t believe how clearly I could see the lights of the city through 30 miles of quickly moving air.

Here’s the kicker. Do you know the Crain Communications Building? (I call it the diamond building)

This one (photo taken at the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago):

Adler; Chicago; Planetarium; Skyline; building

Look at the photo again, see anything peculiar?

If you look really closely at the building, the lower 30 floors or so are cutoff.

As I panned through the skyline and saw this, I flipped out.

By no stretch of the imagination, do I believe the Earth is flat – but this was the first time I had seen for my own two eyeballs the manifestation of it in a real life situation.

I think I remember saying to Tom sarcastically, “Hey Tom, the bottom half of the Crain building is gone”, showing him, and him being as surprised as I was too.

You’ll also notice the shapes of the building look slightly different.

[SME_gallery ids=’nhD5VJp,m48krLT’ size=’LargeURL’ columns=’3′ caption='{SMUGMUGCAPTION}’]

Of course where you view it from (perspective) changes how the diamond is viewed from the left or the right.

But more interestingly, the top V (Inverted V – I’ll call it) of the diamond looks just about the same, only slightly smushed. The lower V is very much flattened down as opposed to its up-close, Adler Planetarium photo neighbor. This is caused by atmospheric refraction.

Here is an example:

Instagram TMahlmann; Twitter TrevorMahlmann

Sun hanging behind the John Hancock, as viewed from the Indiana Dunes in this photo of mine.

See how the Sun looks like a flat tire on the bottom? The whole disc of the Sun is still shown in this photo, but thanks to our atmosphere, it’s refracted – flattening it on the bottom.

When things in the distance (the Sun or the Moon, for instance) approach the horizon you are viewing them through many many miles of atmosphere (1000s of miles or more of relevant, thick atmosphere)

Think of it like tangent line (blue line) going from you toward the Sun (s)

which is much further away than this graphic depicts.

Photo: Wikipedia

versus when they (Sun/Moon) are high in the sky above us, you are viewing them through maybe 60 miles of the relevant atmosphere (thickest parts of it, it really extends outward a long, long way).

This thick atmosphere causes light to bend and distort when going through it, flattening out the bottom of the Sun and in the above photo of the Crain building, showing us/flattening out the bottom V of the diamond!

Without the atmosphere, we would likely only see the top half of the diamond – but also without an atmosphere, this picture wouldn’t have been made, but I digress.

What’s the next story going to be about, on my website?

Next, I will be releasing something I have been hard at work on for the past few days.

It is a video of my SpaceX Falcon 9 landing photography aligned with a video I took on my iPhone of the landing burn.

In this video, you will be able to hear the 3 distinct sonic booms that I captured and see the whole sequence of landing photos I got, including:

  •  thrust-vectoring
  • retropropulsion
  • and the full leg deploy sequence

Stay tuned!