Chicago In Black And White: Wells Street Bridge

Earlier this month Pam and I took a road trip to Chicago (via Nashville, TN and Springfield, IL) where we spent a few days in the city before heading out to the Quad Cities to visit friends. Chicago is a very photography friendly city & I figured the time in the city would be a great opportunity to use my various film cameras, currently a 1959 Rolleicord Va medium format, 1967 Nikkormat FTN and 1973 Olympus OM-1(both 35mm SLR's) to make some black and white photographs of the city. This post will be the first in what I hope will be a series of posts that I will do as I develop and process the black and white film from the trip. The number of posts will depend on the number of decent images I managed to make while in Chicago (hopefully there will be a number of good ones!). Each post will give a description of the image, how I composed the frame and what my motivations were for spending a frame of film trying to capture something worthwhile. While the trip wasn't exclusively photography-related I did my best to have a camera(s) with me the entire time, just in case :-)


As you can see I was prepared for anything!

While I had my DSLR with me I tried as much as possible to defer to the analog (film) variety as my first choice. If I found something that was worth photographing I tried to use both varieties to make images. I ended up going through 3 rolls of 120 film in the Rolleicord and one roll each in the Nikkormat and Olympus. The total number of possible "keeper" images will be about 84 but, as with anything, the final number will be less. But, what I have found with film photography so far is that the percentage of keepers is higher with film than with digital.

And that brings me to my first "keeper" image, a shot of some of the many bridges that cross the Chicago River.

A View From The Wells Street Bridge

This particular shot was made from the Wells Street Bridge looking East, towards lake Michigan, an including the LaSalle and Clark Street (in the raised position) bridges with the iconic Marina City Towers in the frame:


A view from the Wells Street Bridge in Chicago

Motivation And Information

I came across this shot as we were heading back across the river after a morning of walking all over town and a delicious late lunch at Taza Cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant with tasty food at good prices.

As we were walking across the bridge I noticed that the traffic was pretty light (only one way traffic, which is helpful) and that there was a nice, semi-symmetrical view of a few other bridges. I noticed that the Marina City Towers were visible as well as one of the bridges (Clark Street) in the "up" position. There seemed to be some neat lines and angles available and I thought the square negative from the Rolleicord would look pretty neat. I decided this was worthyof the .50 cents or so it would cost me to expose a frame of the Neopan Acros 100 film I had loaded in the Rolleicord. I walked about halfway across the bridge and got the Rolleicord ready while I waited for the traffic light just North of the bridge to change, allowing the cars to clear the bridge deck. While I waited I checked the exposure with the light-meter app on my Samsung S3 and did some pre-composing of the frame. Once the light changed I had about 20 seconds to compose, focus and make the photograph before the cars and trucks got onto the bridge. Well, I just barely got the shutter closed as I saw a car roll into the frame. This pissed me off a bit to which Pam said "if you'd stop fiddling with the camera and take the shot you'd miss the cars!" Ah, leave it to the spousal unit to bring me back to reality :-) Unlike digital where I could have hit the review button to see if the car was in the frame, I just had to wait until I got home and developed the film. Fortunately, the car didn't make it into the frame.

As far as development and post-processing goes I developed this roll of film in my trusty, but soon to be gone, Kodak HC-110 developer for 5.25 minutes at a temperature of 72 degrees. I scanned the negatives, imported the RAW file into Lightroom and then ran them through a negative to positive conversion plugin to get a workable positive image. I decreased the highlights and shadows a bit, as well as cleaned up some of the "dust bunnies" that always manage to attach themselves to the negatives.

That's the story behind the Wells Street Bridge View, the first image from my series of B&W images of Chicago. Stay tuned for more posts and images as I get through the rest of the film...

In the meantime I'd love to see what images any of you have made while in Chicago. You can upload them to the Flickr group at: