Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Spokane photography, while being high…

This was one of the most interesting photographic summers I have ever spent, since much of my work had to be done during daylight. Although my preference is to shoot Spokane Night Scenes, I began a project that literally took me to some heights.

My project was to support the National Trust for Historic Preservation, by coordinating highly skilled photographers to capture images of streetscapes, and historic buildings (and locations). I recruited 15 good technical shooters for the project, although at the end, only 10 of those photogs contributed to the effort.

Just a couple of things that have stood out in my years of shooting landscapes and buildings in downtown Spokane, at street level. First, there are vehicle issues. There are vehicles in motion on virtually all streets in dwtn Spokane. Vehicles of all sizes can block shots or cause distractions if you are shooting a building or a scene. Then, there are vehicles parked along the sides of streets. Those vehicles can block shots, and also cause distractions from the target you seek to shoot.

Secondly, a photographer at ground level has to deal with deciduous growth along the streets, directly in front of almost all of the targets you seek to shoot. Spokane streets are full of deciduous trees, which make it nice for a streetscape, but it can also lead to a complete disaster if you want to try and shoot a historic building surrounded by deciduous growth.

So, I wanted to get above ground level. Gaining access to properties, and their rooftops, is not as easy as it may seem. In fact, it took a lot of coordination. Two things were going for me in the effort, first was the photography agreement with the NTHP, as well as the agreement spelling out exactly what the NTHP photographers would be doing. As I began to make contact with property owners and management teams, I was able to furnish them with supporting data on the NTHP project. As a result, I was able to get permission to visit many, many properties in downtown Spokane. Getting on the rooftops was another story, but the effort to gain access to rooftops throughout dwtn Spokane was important in shooting historical locations from above ground level.

One of the rooftop issues came after I was able to get permission to access rooftop areas. Staying out of the way of building employees and management teams was important, and as such NTHP photographers needed to reduce “their footprint.” The other issue was that in gaining access to an individual property meant we would be shooting “other buildings,” and not the building that gave us permission. Fortunately I ran into management people and property owners that were VERY understanding about this very simple fact. They also knew that I would then have to go talk with a different property owner, so that I could attempt to get images above ground of their property. This was a constant and evolving effort, yet it yielded an opportunity to meet some of the nicest people I could have ever hoped for. Further, I fully expect to revisit many of these rooftop areas again this fall and winter to do night shoots of the Spokane downtown area. To gain access to these secure areas on rooftops all over downtown, has led to making friends, and to getting photographic opportunities to photograph buildings like I have never seen before. Before I forget (I won’t), this was fun. Although it may have taken days and days to coordinate individual shoots, when they got to happen, it was a totally fun effort.

Before I got on top of my first rooftop, I made sure I invited NTHP photographers who had volunteered to shoot different buildings downtown. If a rooftop yielded views of their assigned targets, they got an invite to join me on the rooftop. Unfortunately most photographers that I invited to join me were unable to do so based on shoot times, day selections by property owners, and day jobs that they also had.

Fortunately, I was able to recruit some very good technical shooters to join me on downtown rooftops. We became known downtown as the “roof rats,” although I wonder if it was one of our property managers that came up with the phrase, or if one of us did. In any case, the “roof rats” began the visits to every individual rooftop that granted us access permissions. My “roof rats,” were Josh Burdick, Chris Thompson, and Paddy Hoy. With few exceptions, these photogs joined me on most of the rooftops I got permission to shoot from. I think the values of having multiple photogs on each rooftop led to shots that one of us saw, and others did not. As a result the NTHP will be getting views of Spokane that none of them will ever have seen before. What will be incredible to me is to get back to these locations this fall, after dark. Stunning is the word we used on most of the rooftops, and I think that I will have to come up with other descriptors this fall and winter when I am able to shoot downtown scenes, after dark from the heights of the downtown bldgs.

The following Buildings were visited thusfar by the “roof rats.”

Fernwell Bldg
Sherwood Bldg
Hutton Bldg
Peyton Bldg
Montvale Hotel
Spokane Club
Riverpark Square Mall
INB Performing Arts Center
Paulsen Bldg
Knitting Factory
Symons Bldg
Holley Mason Bldg

There are at least 6 additional rooftops that are to be scheduled.

John D. Moore, CPP
Spokane Night Scenes