Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Ogden Avenue Eyes

I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere about my attempts to capture the perfect forms of certain aspects of the City. Winter is one of these aspects and it at least has a certain definitive quality to it – at least we can agree on what winter is. But another aspect which I try to capture is – for lack of a better definition – Chicagoness; that essence which defines this City. Now, ideally, this idea underpins every shot that I take but there are times where I want to try and capture that sense directly. Let’s leave aside trying to define the concept of Chicagoness for now however. As for this photo, it was not a deliberately planned shot. A few summers ago I was back in the area when I learned that yet another piece of Chicago history was falling by the wayside. In this case, the sucide ramps on the Kennedy were being decommissioned and I set out to try and shoot them before they were gone (how does one try to capture the essence of a highway on ramp? A post for another day). I was taking the Green Line on this particular evening and decided to dismount at Ashland Ave and walk the rest of the way in. I actually spent quite a bit of time shooting from the Ashland Ave. platforms however (it was a great sunset) and was in danger of losing all light by the time I made it to the Kennedy (which turned out to be further away than I had thought) so I was having to walk fast. My problems were only compounded by the fact that, as great as the sunset had been, the blue hour was just good. With this amazing light and the strong foreground elements of the el, going was slow. Presently I made my way to Ogden Avenue and was greeted with the scene below. Now, I’ve been riding the Green line for years – decades actually – and this scene was already pretty well known to me. But especially on this warm summer evening, with the blue-grey skies and the yellow-orange glow of the lamps and the only sound the buzzing of the sodium vapor streetlights and above all the remnants of West Side Industry, framed by the backbone of the el, it was irresistible to shoot. I set up the tripod quickly to get my brackets before any cars came into the scene and ruined the shot, but the City seemed to be on my side this evening. Nothing came to disturb me and it was so quiet, I could hear the circuits or switches or whatever thumping and clicking as the walk-don’t walk signs flipped back and forth. I lingered for a few minutes to enjoy the silence and the solitude and then continued to the ramps. I did finally make it there and got my shots. Completely blew the light so I got them in the dark.

The Ogden Avenue Eyes

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

At the Galleries Lafayette

Paris Sera Toujours Paris 030

This is not the Paris Opera. Lots of people think that, but it isn’t. It’s a department store. Just a department store. It’s also not even the shot of a department store that I really wanted – it’s a safety shot of a department store that I took after I thought that the shot I really wanted wasn’t really going to work. And it didn’t. Let me start at the beginning. Doing my due diligence before going to Paris, it seemed the Galleries Lafayette (Paris’ answer to Marshall Field’s – or is that the other way around?) would make for a good subject. I made a note and made sure that I managed to find my way there during one of my wanderings around the city. And, it was a good subject – as was obvious as soon as you set foot in the place. But the shot I wanted would take a little work. This central atrium area is covered by an enormous dome which looks down on the cosmetics department which in turn is dominated by a giant black Christian Dior monolith. I set out to capture all of this in one frame – get to about the fourth floor, slap on the 16mm lens, shoot on the diagonal to get the monolith and the apex of the dome and…well, it didn’t really work. I mean, I was able to get all of the elements in the frame, but it was just too crowded. Now, I would have shot the shot above regardless – the detail and color of the place was fantastic – but I really wanted the first one. I even edited that one – full HDR, the works. But it didn’t work. And since one of my goals coming out of Paris was edit tighter and be more honest with myself, I knew I couldn’t put it up. So, plan B. Which, to be fair, has become one of my more popular Paris photos. And it is nice. But it’s not what I wanted. It’s also not the Paris Opera. But lots of people think that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Lumber St. Special

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nations' Freight Handler...

You said it Carl. But really, how much does Chicago really play with railroads and handle freight nowadays? Oh sure, there are still a lot of yards in Chicago, a lot of trains, a lot of freight. But it’s mostly passing through, or – at best – having a container dropped onto a truck for final delivery. The bones of a once mighty network of tracks winding though the city to long forgotten foundries and factories may still exist to some degree (and I’ve certainly tried to shoot as much of it as I can) but how much of that rail is still live, still being serviced? Well, it turns out Lumber St. is. It was summer and I was heading to one of my favorite photo locations in the City – the18th Street Bridge – when, while walking down Canal St., I looked over and saw this ex-Conrail geep idling on a spur right in front of the bridge. This wasn’t so much unusual as it was absolutely incredible luck and I quickened my pace to get on top of it before it moved. But there was no way I was going to make it time. Surely it would move just was I was getting into position. Well, as you can see below, this thing wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon – seems someone forgot that today was delivery day. In fact, I wound up shooting so many frames of this thing, I actually got bored waiting for the truck to move and finally just wound up leaving to head into Chinatown. Nothing like fully exploring the scene I guess. There is a bit of a postscript to this photo however. Awhile after posting it on flickr, I was contacted by a gentleman from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Seems they wanted to use my photo for some exhibit they were putting together. Now, free = good only if I’m receiving and not giving but on the other hand: Chicago Architecture Foundation. Of course I let them use it. Oh, what was the exhibit? Their Chicago Model City project. What’s that? You haven’t seen it? Well you should – the photos are pretty good. 

The Job