Archive for June, 2011

>Gary Indiana, in Drag

>Yesterday was more fun than you could shake a stick at. We only managed 3 locations, but put in about 4 hours of shooting and our models were sore and tuckered out at the end. That and it is prime tick season so we were tired of picking the little monsters off of each other (the less glamorous side of this event).

The Methodist Church was our second stop, and as usual we had to share the location with others, the frustrating part was it was a low budget movie crew that had placed props in the main cathedral hall and taken over the stage in the dance hall. There was also a big boobed angel in underwear and her photo crew wandering about and I’m not sure who was more bemused by the other. We saw one lone urban explorer who was more than a little perplexed by the crowd at the church, but ever since the last Freddy movie re-make, it has been an even more popular location.

Still, we managed to survive and I now have scads of photos to go through and edit, so you know what you’ll be seeing here for a bit!

>Who Needs Sleep?

This is one of those pictures that suffers from being being posted here in such a tiny format, but it gives you a really good idea what I was out doing last night.

My friend and I loaded up and went out in search of the best view of the Chicago skyline we could find, and in one night only managed to hit 3 spots before calling it a day. This was partly due to all the lake shore parks being closed and partly because we had been snacked on by so many mosquitoes the itching was interfering with doing anything productive. Of course, it was well after midnight when we called it in, so we got about 3 hours of shooting done on this trip.

I gave up trusting my camera’s programing to give me a good exposure about 15 minutes into the trip and switched over using the bulb exposure mode, which only confirmed that I need to get one of those little handheld plug-in triggers since on the best days I can’t hold very still for more than a 2 count. It didn’t help that I closed my aperture down all the way for a large field of depth, something that in retrospect I’m not sure I needed to since the skyline is pretty much on one level, and you’d never be able to tell that the lake was out of focus.

Since we had a very overcast night and we were pretty far from the city’s core I went for the emphasis on the sheer amount of light pollution Chicago produces, and contrasted it with the blackness of the lake. It was slightly noticeable to the naked eye but at longer exposures it really popped out how above downtown there is a massive bright spot in the sky. I just wish the clouds had a little more texture, but that just means I need to go out and shoot again, something both my friend and I are all for.

In other news, tomorrow is the day of the Gary, Indiana photoshoot with drag queens. I’m so excited! Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

>Lost in Fog

>We don’t get a whole heck of a lot of fog in Chicago’s downtown area due to the wind currents disruptions and amplifications while passing through all the tall buildings. Normally the lake fog rolls in over Lake Shore Drive and hovers there or a block in before dissipating, not so this fine morning. I had gone downtown to meet with a friend from the suburbs and we ended up walking the full tour of the Loop just to look at the fog.

Fog in the city is interesting, since it is closest to the ground by the lake, but as you travel away from the lake it rises up. This view is from Wacker Drive, about a block north of the Sears Tower and just 4 blocks east the fog was about 10 stories lower. The distance view (which I was unable to photograph) was pretty cool, you could see the fog lifting up and blowing away as low level clouds.

I had some difficulty with light, which you might expect when shooting black and grey buildings in a fairly dense fog and no tripod, but I think I acquitted myself fairly well, all things considered.

>Torrence Ave. Bridge

Not to say that this is the only bridge on Torrence Ave, but it is one of the more interesting ones. It is a vertical lift bridge, where if it needs to be raised out of the way of a passing ship the whole thing goes straight up into the air, like an elevator, rather than the more popular folding drawbridge.

You mainly see these in more industrial areas since they are seen as being visually unappealing, something which I strongly disagree with. They do, however, block the view of the river as you could see in one of my earlier posts titled Follow the Light.

This upcoming weekend will be filled with bridges like this one, we’ve set the date and arraigned the transportation to Gary Indiana and our drag queens are currently out shopping for new dresses and wigs. But that is just Sunday. Friday night, provided mother nature takes a breaks from dumping massive thunderstorms on us, we should also be doing some night shooting of the city and city skyline. Hopefully on Friday an artist friend of mine will let me come over and take a stab at photographing some his extensive glass collection and Saturday, well Saturday I’m going to an empty apartment party to bid a dear friend farewell as she leaves for Portland, half a continent away. Looks like the new camera will be getting a bit of a workout, which is what I’ve been striving for.


>Now that I have my spiffy new DSLR I need to invest in lenses. First, I need something that can zoom me in like my old bridge camera does. This statue is about 160 feet off the ground, and I was shooting from across a 4 lane road; my camera didn’t even need to go to digital zoom to capture this.

So until I can afford more lenses, I am keeping my PowerShot for odd jobs that my current lens cannot handle as well.

This is a detail from the Wayne County Seat building in Detroit Michigan. It is a class A historical building and available for rent if you’re interested. Which leads me to another thought I’ve had from time to time when I have seen interesting buildings that are not quite abandoned but certainly run down, neglected, empty and abused. I wonder if I could call the relator up and say, I’m not interested in purchasing or leasing your building, but I’d love to take a tour and photograph it.
I wonder if I offered compensation for their time someone would actually take me up on it (even though I’m obviously crazy….) I also feel like that is cheating in terms of urban exploring, to some degree. But I am fine with that. For me it is about experiencing the building, the place. Not just about the breaking and entering (especially in Gary, where it is more like strolling and entering. The cops saw me taking down a fence one day, and continued driving with out a word.)

>The Stairs


Welcome back to Gary, Indiana and the School of Dance. I’d say more, but don’t think it is needed here.

>The Power

>For some reason, I love power lines. I say some reason, but really it is many reasons. I love the simplicity of the tower’s angles, the arcs of the line across the sky, the vanishing perspective, the knowledge of the danger they pose. Sometimes when we’re out looking for buildings, I get sidetracked into photographing the power lines instead. Sometimes I go out of my way to get closer to a particularly facinating set. In this case they were just there at the place we parked. The sad, abandoned tire and last years weeds not yet overgrown by new growth were a bonus for me.

For all my love of power lines, I have surprisingly few pictures of them at this time.Obviously I intend to fix that.

>The Loyalty Building

>Over the winter my friend and I drove up to Milwaukee for a day trip photo shoot, this was mostly a scouting trip to see what kind of things we could expect should we choose to do a longer trip over the summer.

Scouting in 10 degree weather with a minus 14 degree wind chill isn’t what I would call fun, so a lot of time was spent ducking into professional buildings and seeing what the lobby or atrium looked like. The Loyalty Building was a huge winner for this. Nothing much has been changed since it was built back in 30’s or 40’s. It still has an eye watering patterned tile floor, copper details added everywhere, carved hand railing for the marble stairs and even the light fixtures, if not original, are true to the era.

By the time we go back it will have been converted over to hotel so I’m going to assume they will kill the personality of the building and make it as bland and inoffensive as possible (good bye insane floor tiles) and pull out the vault from the first floor, which inexplicably hovers 10 feet off the floor.

While we were wandering about I bumped into a lady who works in a law office located on the second floor and she gave me a few tidbits about the neighborhood, and the building it self. She was the one who mentioned the vault, which I had walked past twice without noticing. When it first went up, the Loyalty Building was a bank, albeit a bank with a decidedly odd floor plan. The photo for today shows the main stair from the first floor to the second. The light was simply amazing due to a massive sky light above it and that great winter light you get a few hours before the snow starts. I’m kicking myself a little for not closing down my aperture more, especially since this is one place we’ll not be able to return to at any point. I think my rational at the time was related to shutter speed and I was still trying to figure out field of depth.

>Fire Hole Lake

>Firehole Lake can be found towards the south end of Yellowstone National Park, by (surprise) Firehole. There is also the creatively named Firehole River flowing through the Firehole canyon. Do we see a theme?

We should be generous to the namers of these locations, it had be overwhelming coming up with a name for every single geothermal feature in the region as there are hundreds of them. Yellowstone itself is the caldera of super volcano providing thousands of tourists (like myself) thrills and a little exercise every year.

Despite the unimaginative name Firehole Lake is quite beautiful. Part of the lake is fed the Hot Cascades, which are created by the Artesian Geyser so on a cool day (as this was) clouds of steam rise off the surface of the lake. Should I ever return to Yellowstone (and I do hope I get to go back one day) I hope to get better images. Every day was a challenge, if it wasn’t raining it was snowing and there was more snow than rain given that we were at about 7000 feet. The bonus was everyday there was a nice dramatic sky as the storms moved in.

>Going to Church

>Welcome to the atrium of Saint Aloysius Parish, a magnificent room that has been converted to a play room for children.
On my last trip to Detroit we were shooting the Book Tower when my companion started speaking with a nice young man in shiny jeans with a nice little faux-hawk who turned out to be Brother Micheal, a Franciscan monk. After a little chat he invited us in to show us around, and it was a rare treat to see a cathedral when empty and closed. Small, but beautiful it was built in the middle of the Great Depression by the locals in a matter of months.

Thankfully I was carrying my tripod despite thinking I was going to be shooting outside in broad daylight so shooting long exposures wasn’t a huge problem.