Saturday, March 13, 2010

A visit to Hillyard, with 15 photographers

So what do you get if you mix a visit to Hillyard, and add about 15 photographers? Of course you already know the answer. A very fun experience.

Last Sunday I coordinated a visit to Hillyard by what turned out to be a large group of night shooters. I thought maybe 6-8, but it turned out a lot greater numbers than that.

I met my group of about 15 photogs at Queen and Market streets, and briefed them on what to look for and a few safety issues while they were wandering in the area. At that point, the photographers all wandered away with their tripods and cameras. I normally do not take cameras with me when I do the group activities, but on this occasion I could not resist. My challenge for the evening was to shoot from no higher than 18 inches and to only use a wide angle lens (11 X 18mm). I needed to try and step out of my comfort zone at shooting at full extension on the tripod. I don’t use the center pole on the tripods normally, but the higher extension of the tripod legs seems to be a little easier on the back.

I had spent an afternoon visiting many of the merchants in Hillyard advising them that all of these good photographers would be in the area on Sunday evening. My hope was to generate some interest in having the merchants leave interior lights on, for some background and contrast. It worked for some merchants, but not for others. I was interested in shooting Aunt Beas Antiques with some interior lights on, but she forgot to light it up. As a result I shot it the way it was, from a height of 18 inches.

Next on my list of things to do, was to shoot the Capitol Tavern. Why, you ask? Beats me, but it was something that was closing within a few days, and I thought I might take an image or two of what “used to be.” Nothing special about this architecture, but “it is what it is, I guess.”

My last shots were of a business on the SW corner of Queen and Market. This merchant had advised they would illuminate the interior, but no such luck on this evening. At the height of 18 inches, with a wide angle lens, the angles of this place were nothing short of bizarre. There was really no color at all, so I desaturated and cropped much of what the camera allowed me to capture. This is another one of those images of a location that “is what it is.”

After I finished up with my camera, I took the group to Hillyard Skatepark, where it is TOTALLY DARK. One of the first photogs on scene actually fell completely into the first skating pit. He was unhurt, and I heard no glass breaking, so it appeared his investment was also okay. The goal at this location was to illuminate with various colors, all of the curves in the various concrete pits used by the skateboarders. I had shot this place before by myself, and it was a lengthy process lighting up one area with color and then retreating to my camera to get ready for the next color. With all of the photogs on this occasion, I shot no images, but helped the others get their shots. About half of the night shooters had acquired the Big Max (Brinkmann) handheld flashlights, with the colored lenses. I allowed them to use one of mine, and I basically gave assistance where I could. After about 45 minutes, I had to leave, but all of the other photogs were still at the scene at the Skatepark. I haven’t heard any reports of injuries, so I gather they all made it home intact.

I’ll do this again, for local photogs that are interested in shooting after dark. I think next time, I’ll keep my cameras in the office once again. Walking around and helping where I can is a good time, with all of these good people. It is really fun. Any Spokane area photogs who want to join the email list I have of night shooters, you are most welcome to do so. I guarantee one thing, we will NOT do group shoots in the summer. To me staying up that late is too much like work. So I am likely to do this for another month before we call it quits until fall. If I have to get out for some reason I will always do that, but my affliction with night shooting disease does not always have to infect someone else, at least during the summer months. It’s easy to get over the affliction, you do that by getting out and just doing it.


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…..