Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Posts Tagged ‘cityscapes

New York at Night

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I made my first and only visit to the observatory of the World Trade Center in early November 1981. I was visiting a friend who lived in the Big Apple although we had met back in Springfield, Illinois, when we both worked for the state.

We visited the WTC twice on the same day. The first visit occurred during daylight hours. I might have said something about what a nice view it would be at night.

Whatever the case, we returned that evening and I made this image. I don’t remember having a tripod. Perhaps we went back to Mark’s apartment to get one. I can’t imagine that I was traveling with a tripod.

This image was made on slide film and over the years it has badly faded. I scanned it anyway and through some Photoshop work was able to regain some of the image.

It would not only be the last time I visited the WTC it would also be the last time that I saw Mark. In fact, I can’t remember his last name or how to get in contact with him. Our last visit, though, was a memorable one.

Roots of General Motors

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This building in Flint, Michigan, is part of the heritage of General Motors. Built in 1896, it served as the headquarters of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company.

Although the company ceased making carriages in 1917, it transitioned into making automobiles and became the Dort Motor Car Company

This building was its headquarters until 1925. A historical marker notes that many decisions were made here that led to the forming of General Motors.

Nearby, is a statue of William “Billy” Durant and J. Dallas Dort, the founders of the carriage company known initially as the Flint Road Cart Company.

That company went out of the carriage business in 1917, but Durant and Dort went on into the business of making automobiles.

This statue of the two men stands next to the Flint River in the area where their manufacturing plants were located. Dort’s plaque had been removed at the time of my visit in October 2011.

Do You Like Your Cities Wide, Medium or Close Up?

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Photojournalism textbooks often talk about wide angle, medium and telephoto shots. Each has its own pros and cons, but ultimately the reason for doing one or the other depends on what you are trying to show.

Shown here are three different views of essentially the same thing. I’m standing on A Mountain overlooking Tucson, Arizona.

My focal point is the city’s downtown. In sequence, the images are progressively becoming wider in scope.

By zooming out, the perspective changes as the frame becomes narrower on the focal point. It becomes a tradeoff between detail and a wider sense of place.

Some Play the Piano, Some the Violin. All Wanted to be Paid.

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It’s Memorial Day weekend in Seattle in 2014. I’m staying over during a train trip that would see me cross the United States on Amtrak and across Canada on VIA Rail Canada.

I had most of the day to enjoy Seattle and set out for Pike Place Market. With so many people in town for the weekend, it was no surprise that the street musicians were out trying to hustle a buck.

That these musicians are in it for the money is without a doubt. Jonny the piano player has a sign asking photographers to give him a tip and a large blue jar perched atop his piano.

The violinists have a large plastic jug with an enlarged reproduction of a dollar bill affixed to it. There is nothing subtle about what these guys want.

Jonny has more in mind other than entertaining passersby and making a few dollars. He also wants to educate you about the dangers of genetic engineering.

As for the violinists, they just want to play and get paid. They have no political agendas to promote.

The violinists are young, perhaps college students trying to make some extra money. Jonny, though, looks like an aging hippie trying to change the world.

I’ve often wondered what the stories are behind street musicians. Why are they performing on the street rather than on a stage for customers who bought a ticket to get in.

Their stories probably vary. Some might be sad, some might be tragic, some might be pragmatic. All of them must have interesting stories to tell about playing on the street.

Whatever the case, street musicians and entertainers are part of the fabric of city streets in America and represent a purer form of capitalism than that practiced by the giant corporations that own the buildings surrounding those musicians.

Some Free Jazz in the Crescent City

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We were walking around in the French Quarter of New Orleans when we came Musical Legends Park, a plaza dedicated to the history of the music of Crescent City.

There were statues of Antoine “Fats” Domino, Al “Jumbo” Hirt and Pete Fountain. Most people probably go to New Orleans to eat and drink and, maybe, listen to live music. It is a city, after all, that has a long association with jazz.

The plaza is set up for free concerts given by local musicians. But if you look carefully, you’ll see a large tips jar placed in front of the performers.

We’ve been to New Orleans three times in the past decade and each time we say we’re going to go to a club and listen to live music. But for various reasons we’ve never gotten around to doing that.

The only music we’ve heard in a city known for music has been whatever we’ve heard on the street.

Alas, on this day, the performers shown here were wrapping up their last song. Shorty after I made this image, they packed up and went home. And so did we without having heard much in the way of live music in New Orleans.

Jumping, Sitting and Reflecting at Millennium Park in Chicago

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Some jump so they can see their reflection . . .

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. . . while others jump to be photographed. Look above the head of the far right jumper and you’ll see a reflection of the woman in the foreground capturing the trio of jumpers on a smart phone.

As for the guys, well you find them recording themselves goofing off.

As for the guys, well you find them recording themselves goofing off.

Sitting and "holding up" the sculpture.

Sitting and “holding up” the sculpture.

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Standing and “holding up” Cloudgate.

Millennium Park in Chicago is a great place to hang out if you like to photograph people.

If you stand around at the Cloudgate sculpture — which many like to call “the bean” due its shape — you’ll be treated to a daily ritual of people jumping by or near the statute.

Because Cloudgate produces a mirror image with its polished metal surface, it can be intriguing to watch how people interact with it. Everyone wants to see their image reflected in the sculpture’s shiny surface.

Some folks like to watch their reflection as they zoom skyward. Others will pose for a photograph made by a friend or stranger as they ham it up for the camera.

For some reason many of the jumpers are young women and you usually don’t have to wait long before one or a group of them will jump for joy in front of one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions.

But most of all, people like to sit, stand or lie on the concrete surface to photograph or admire their reflection.

Here is selection of interactions that I’ve made over the years while visiting Cloudgate. None of these were planned. You just have to have your camera ready and strike when a moment occurs.

Yeah, that is a Looonnnngggg Way Down There

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The Willis Tower observation deck in Chicago has a cutout on the west side with glass walls and a glass floor.

It just out a few feet from the side of the building and enables visitors to feel like they are standing in mid-air more than 100 stories above the street.

I have a love-fear thing about height. I love the view you get from way up there, but I fear falling to the ground.

When I initially saw the glass porch jutting out from the side of the Willis Tower, I kept a healthy distance from it. Slowly, I edged closer, but never could bring myself to step all the way out into it.

The logical part of my brain tells me that this structure would not be open to the public if the engineering behind it wasn’t solid.

But the emotional part of my brain tells me that glass is fragile and it doesn’t want to risk the glass cracking and collapsing as I stand there.

What you see here is as far as I was willing to go even the name of getting a good photograph.

I managed to get one foot onto the glass floor of the porch, but not both of them. Maybe next time.