Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spokane Night Scenes, at Spokane’s Clocktower

For several years, I wanted the opportunity to go up into Riverfront Parks Clocktower. Over the years I have shot as many objects as possible in and around RFP, as well as downtown. To get up above the streetlights with a completely different set of problems was my goal. Well, finally it happened.

This week I met with David Randolph, from Spokane City Parks. David and I had communicated a number of times via email, so this meeting was our first. Initially I worked through my other contacts at Spokane Parks to get to this point, but meeting with David Randolph was an absolute pleasure. David was incredibly knowledgeable about the Clocktower, and the history of the railroad activities which were there long before 2010.

This week’s shoot in the tower, was totally fun, albeit kinda short. I met with David at 5:45, and we climbed the tower from the inside. David wound up carrying some of my camera gear, as did a second RFP employee who had never been to the top of the tower. I’m not sure exactly how long it took the three of us to climb all the way on top, but scaling the walls using a fixed ladder, took a lot of concentration. Yet, this was the opportunity I had wanted, and scaling a wall with the ladder was not even worth a second thought. I had been tipped off before I got into the tower, about the ladders and the climb necessary to get to the top. At least three photographers that I knew tipped me off as they had been inside the tower to shoot some shots during daylight. Daylight is not when my cameras venture out of the office, so being the first of the photogs I spoke with to get into the tower after dark, was a great opportunity.

First off, at the top, we stuck some earplugs into our ears, to protect our ears from the chimes, and the music that followed the chimes. That took about ten minutes or so, and at about 6:10 I started shooting views of the west. The windows at the top are rather tall when based on the level of the floor. They are very wide from front to back, but to use a tripod on those windows, meant I was going to have to climb up on an inverted plastic bucket, and keep the tripod at the lowest height level that I could. Even with this exercise, the camera was well above my head. I was fortunate to have had live view with the Canon I was using, so I could look up and frame a basic shot before I used a handheld tether to activate the shutter release. I was able to modify the shutter speed manually from my position below the camera, and bracketing the shots was fairly easy to do. I began shooting from the west windows, and then moved to the south facing windows. With about 20 minutes left in my time to shoot, I moved to the east facing windows, facing toward the Doubletree hotel and convention center areas. With about 5 minutes left, I moved to the north facing windows and shot a string of images overlooking the US Pavilion area in RFP. I realize not everyone will know what the US Pavilion might be, but suffice it to say it is the PAVILION area. During Expo 74 when I worked this site during the world’s fair, this was the United States Pavilion. Out of force of habit, I still refer to it as the US Pavilion.

At 7PM, my time atop the Clocktower had concluded. I repacked my cameras and tripod and David and I began the descent inside the Clocktower. David asked me if I wanted to wind up the clock, and I agreed to do so on the lower level where the clock is. During my time in the Clocktower, I was asked to sign in on the face of the supporting boards in the Clocktower. This is a routine for all Clocktower visitors, and so I signed in and dated my name. I did see some entries as far back as 1997, but I am sure there are many entries that are earlier than that.

I concluded the shoot by thanking David Randolph, and in my view, he is an excellent example of a City Employee. Quite simply, he loves what he does, and he loves his job. I was totally impressed by his historical knowledge, which coincided with some of my police career experiences in the early 70’s when I was a rookie cop. We spent many hours/days arresting people in and around the Clocktower area, and it was a dismal place to work on downtown Patrol. It was such an uplifting experience to see the overall rehabilitation of the RFP site for the EXPO 74 world’s fair, and I have loved RFP ever since. In 31 years of doing police type stuff, I have visited thousands of different locations in Spokane, but the one I had never gotten to the top of was the Clocktower. Now, I can say that I finally did. I was not wearing a gun belt and uniform as I had done years ago, but instead I took two Canon DSLR’s and assorted support gear for photography.

What I saw on top of the Clocktower, is nothing short of amazing. The lights, the color, and the activities were breathtaking. Since it was cold, with windy conditions, that breathtaking has a special meaning. Yet, when looking around RFP and downtown Spokane, it was simply beautiful. I shot as many image series as I could, and fairly soon I will be adding some of my bracketed digital files to the Spokane Night Scenes website. Nothing short of another visit will help me capture the color of Spokane, but I am hopeful that I am able to reproduce some of the reasons each of us lives here.

I do not have any links to the following images, and I am unsure which images, if any, will make it online. Further, I am not done editing images yet to come. So, I’ll throw up some low resolution images to give you an idea of views (2 dimensional) in and around the center of our City of Spokane. I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to go up for an hour after dark, into the Landmark of the Clocktower in Riverfront Park. Perhaps some of the images I finally decide to upload to the web, will make people who do not already live here in Spokane, very envious.

Here are some low res images uploaded to the server. In no way will these things ever be able to reproduce the feeling of seeing all of this first hand from the top of the Clocktower. It is, however, the only way for me to try and reproduce what I saw when I was up in the tower.

I owe a great deal of thanks to three people who helped make my visit possible. Nancy Goodspeed, Debby Dodson, and of course David Randolph. These good people are exactly the reasons I always loved to work with Spokane Parks, back in my police career and through my ongoing projects currently. They are very talented, and they are incredibly good at what they do.

Maybe that is something the rest of us can strive for…..

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