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Chicago River Greening For St. Patrick’s Day | A Timelapse

By Hanssie on March 17th 2015

Chicago-River-greening-4If you’re not wearing green right this second, I’m virtually pinching you right now. It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, or the Feast of St Patrick, celebrating the remembrance of the patron saint of Ireland and the heritage of the Irish. For some, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday and for others, a cultural celebration full of green, Guinness and corned beef and cabbage. It is not an official, legal holiday here in the U.S., but plenty of people will be celebrating nonetheless.

One tradition of this day comes in the form of dyeing an entire river green. More than 50 years ago, plumbers used fluorescein dye to find the sources of illegal pollution into the river and it turned the Chicago River green. Since then, the river is dyed each year using vegetable dye, which is safe for the environment, the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. Phlearn‘s David Crewe, a San Diego transplant who moved to Chicago a few months ago, caught this tradition in the timelapse you’ll see below.



David  got access to shoot on the restaurant patio of the Chicago Trump Tower with fellow photographer, Peter Tsai. Being that high up amidst the Chicago skyline was very windy as you can imagine and also fairly new to timelapse photography, it took a while to figure out how to use the stabilizer later in post, according to David. Using a Nikon D800 with a 17-35mm f2.8 lens at 17mm, David shot 1076 frames at 1/80 sec f/11 ISO100 for the 35 sec video. He was only allowed to bring one camera and a small kit, otherwise he would’ve shot longer and slower frames to smooth out the motion a bit.

Other Gear:

eMotimo TB3 Pan Head
Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 with a 468MGRC2 Ball Head
LRTimelapse 3 Plugin for Lightroom


Watch St. Patrick’s Day 2015 Chicago River Greening Timelapse

Now that you’re in the St. Paddy’s Day mood, go pinch someone and have some green beer!

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    I’ll take a Guinness over any silly green beer (and in fact, did that several times on St. Paddy’s Day), but it’s kind of an interesting video. Good angle to see it actually look green, too… most of the photos I’ve seen of it in the past, the green was more of a muddy color.

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for sharing this cool article and time lapse video.

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  3. Peter Nord

    I remember making a fluorescein dye in organic chemistry over fifty years ago. “Now don’t be dumping it in the campus lake, like some past students,” the prof said. My lab partner and I looked at each other, saying “now we know what to do with it. We never would have thought of doing that.” Looked great in the lake.

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  4. Graham Curran

    I have Irish roots but most of this St Patrick’s Day stuff is a mockery of the real Irish culture.

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  5. Nick Buchholz

    I don’t want to sound too harsh, but a timelapse is so much more interesting with some movement.
    The camera is parked on a eMotimo, why not switch it on?

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    • David Crewe

      You’re absolutely right Nick! But sadly in this instance I didn’t have a lot of time to setup like i normally would have (nor had the gear to get a compelling motion shot). So i just framed up what i could and let it roll through out the entire dying.

      I’m in the middle of shooting a TON of new clips to assemble for a new project that has a lot of motion in it!

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    • Nick Buchholz

      Hi David.
      I understand the dilemma. I’m still new to timelapses and haven’t used my eMotimo that much. It does take planing and if time is limited it’s better to have “a” timelapse instead of playing around with location and settings and missing the shot altogether :)
      Good luck with your projects.

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