Pittsburgh In Black And White: Circles, Shadows, Reflections

Here's a photograph I made with my little Olympus XA 35mm rangefinder camera while in Pittsburgh last month: Circles, Shadows, Reflections

I made this while walking through the pedestrian walkway to Point State Park. The walkway goes under the I-376/I-279 roadway that crosses the small piece of land right before the point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers merge to create the Ohio River.

As we  were walking along I noticed the reflecting pool and how the reflections in the water gave a nice symmetry to the arching roof and the circular light boxes under the bridge. I attempted to line myself up as best as I could to get right in the middle between two sections of the roof. I didn't have my tripod and the rangefinder focusing is still a little wierd to me but I think I did a good job of getting things as symmetrical as possible. The film used is Acros 100, my "go-to" 100 speed B&W film, and I developed it in Kodak HC-110 for 6 minutes at 70 degrees. Once I scanned in the negative a did a quick adjustment in Lightroom to bring out a bit more detail and darken the shadows along the bottom of the frame.

Pittsburgh In Black And White: Our Love Is Secure

Like many cities around the world, the bridges of Pittsburgh are filling up with all kinds of locks. This phenomenon is called "Love Lock" and it is supposed to be a symbol of a couple's enduring love. While I can see the attraction of doing something like this I think it has gone a little bit over the top. it seems that other famous love lock cities are in agreement. Last year when we were in Pittsburgh I don't remember any of these locks along the bridges but this year they were all over the place. Here's a shot of a small section of locks along the Roberto Clemente Bridge:

Our Love Is Secure Our Love Is Secure

Soapbox Warning!

Here's where I get on my little soapbox......

I know this may a bit of the "get off my lawn" type stuff that we all heard as kids but here goes:

While the locks attached to the bridge made for an interesting photographic subject I would have no problem if the City of Pittsburgh, and other cities, were to remove all of them. In my mind, placing a lock on a public space/structure like a bridge is the same as littering or graffiti. Show your love for someone with the things that really count, like your loyalty, actions and words, not by defacing public property.

Stepping off my little soapbox....... :-)

Pittsburgh In Black And White: On Second Thought v2

Here is another in my "Pittsburgh In Black and White" series, highlighting images from my home town captured in black and white. This post is about two images of the same scene made almost exactly a year apart using two different cameras, a digital SLR and a vintage film camera. I'll start off with the first image, from last year and then talk about the similarities and differences to this year's image. At the end I'm hoping you'll take a quick minute to let me know which one you like more through a quick survey...

The First One

Just over a year ago we were in Pittsburgh when I made this image:

Image One-On Second Thought- The Digital Version Image One-On Second Thought- The Digital Version

If you have ever entered this blog through the main URL you have seen the image before.

I made the image with my dearly departed Canon T3i DSLR last year while visiting Pittsburgh. I was out with a friend taking a short photo-walk in the downtown area. We came across this building and we both noticed the reflections in the glass. I set up my tripod as close to the corner as I could and pointed my camera up to the sky and got the shot you see above. Even though the image was originally in color I converted it to B&W because that made the metal of the building and the reflections in the glass stand out as compared to color.

A Second Chance Opportunity

Well, a couple weeks ago we were back in the 'Burgh visiting family and Pam and I went out for another short photo-walk. When we came upon the same building I immediately thought about recreating the shot, only this time with my trusty Rolleicord film camera. I knew it would be a similar image but different because of the fact that the Rolleicord uses medium format film and produces a square negative. The standard ratio of the Canon DSLR was 3:2 so the final image would have a different feel to it. I once again snuggled the tripod as close to the building as possible and pointed the Rolleicord to the sky. Composing the image was a little more difficult with the Rollei since the viewing screen was nearly pointed toward the ground (no articulating screen on a 56-year old camera!). This meant that I had to almost lay on the ground and crane my neck up to see the image on the cut glass viewscreen. I picked a focus point just about 1/3 of the way up the frame, set the exposure and clicked the shutter button.......and prayed that I got a decent image. Here's the result:

Image Two-On Second Thought v2-The Rolleicord Edition Image Two-On Second Thought v2-The Rolleicord Edition

If you compare the two images you'll see that I got pretty close to the same compositions I had with my DSLR a year ago. I didn't have the digital image with me to compare but my memory was pretty good. The center metal section is oriented differently in my Rollei image but the overall shot is pretty close. That was my goal. Which one do I like more?.....It's a close call. The original image has more of a futuristic feel to it because there is no sky showing at the top of the frame. But the square format of the Rolleicord is very appealing to my eye. I think the focus was a little better in the digital version but the details in the reflection seem "deeper" on film.

What's Your Opinion

Which one do you like? I'm interested to see what everyone's thoughts are. Cast your vote below.........

Which Image Is Better? *
If you want, you can leave your name

Feel free to leave me a message if you want.


Pittsburgh In Black and White: Gateway Station

We were in Pittsburgh for a visit over the Labor Day holiday and I managed to make it out to the city with my trusty Rolleicord to make a few images. I managed to get through one roll of film in the camera as well as a roll of 35mm film in my old Olympus XA. I developed the film from the Rollei and just got a few scanned in. Here's one that I like:

What appealed to me about this image is all the glass, aluminum and concrete. There were lots of shapes and lines going on in the frame and, as a bonus, NO PEOPLE! I had to wait a couple of minutes for somebody to clear out of the structure and when they did I quickly made the image before someone else wandered into the scene and ruined it. Now, I like people and all but I don't like them in these types of shots. I want the architecture, light and shadows to do the talking.

I ahve to go through most of the rest of the frames from this roll as well as develop the 35mm roll from the Olympus XA so hopefully there are a few more good frames waiting to be revealed.........


Zen And The Art Of Film Photography: Along The Nehalem

I took my vintage 1959 Rolleicord Va with me on our trip out to Oregon in hopes that I might be able to get some decent shots on Black & White film. I took 5 rolls of Fuji Neopan Acros 120 with me and managed to complete 3 of the rolls. A few days ago I got around to developing some of that film (two rolls) that I shot.


Unlike digital photography film photography is a much more deliberate, some might say "zenlike", process and takes extra time to get to the point where you can share your images with others. That's one of the things I enjoy about film, the deliberateness of it. Here's a brief summary of the steps I go through to get a single image ready to share here on the blog, flickr, Google+, 500px, etc.:

  1. developing of the film
  2. waiting for the negatives to dry
  3. cutting the negatives into manageable sizes
  4. "flattening" the film to get the inherent curl out of it
  5. preparing the film for scanning (removing as much dust as possible, etc)
  6. actually scanning the film (each medium-format sized negative takes 2-4 minutes)
  7. converting the RAW scan to a usable image
  8. adjusting the image in post-processing
  9. adding appropriate metadata, keywords, title and description
  10. upload/share the image

Whew, finally done !

As you can see it does take a bit more effort to get an image from exposed film to final shareable image. Many people say it's too much effort now that we have digital cameras. I say the exact opposite: "the extra effort is worth it because of digital!" Why do I say that? Because the analog (film) photography process makes us better photographers by forcing us to slow down, take our time and invest something in each image we make. I have found the whole process to be extremely rewarding. Shooting film has made me a better photographer, no doubt.

Anyway, here's the first of what I hope will be at least a few "keeper" images on film from our trip to Oregon. I call it "Along The Nehalem":

Along The Nehalem

Image Details

I made the image near the place were staying in Wheeler, Oregon. Wheeler sits along the Nehalem River just before the river empties into the Pacific just a couple miles away. As a result the river get pretty much the full effect of the tides, rising and falling every day. We got to Wheeler in late afternoon and I got out the Rolleicord when I noticed these interesting old piers and dock along the river. I helped that there was a Gull sitting on top of one of the piers and that there was a small boat tied up along the dock. I figured it would make a good scene, especially with all the detail in the piers.

The Rolleicord doesn't have  meter in it so I used a light meter app on my phone to get the approximate exposure. After that I spent a little time moving around, trying to get the best composition I could considering that I was standing on a small dock and that the Rolleicord has only one focal length (about 49mm). After I felt good about it I fired off the shutter and captured what I hoped was a decent image. To find out if I did though, I would have to wait until I developed the film (no "chimping" with analog cameras!). A few days ago I developed the film using the following process:

  1. Load the film onto a plastic reel and place the reel in a light-proof development tank inside a table-sized "changing bag"
  2. Perform a 1-minute pre-soak of the film
  3. Develop the film using a 1:47 dillution of Kodak HC-110 developer in 72 degree water for a time of 5.25 minutes.
  4. After development I stopped the development process and "fixed" the film to prevent the image from fading from the developed negative.
  5. I rinsed the film in cold water for a minute to remove all the residual development chemicals and then hug up the negatives to dry overnight in the guest bathroom.

I'm happy with this image! I got the exposure pretty close and I'm happy with the composition. I hope you enjoy it as well!

I'll post more images from our trip (both digital and film) as I get time so stay tuned.


Film Friday: Illinois Organized Labor Memorial

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! After a 3 week break due to life getting in the way, my Film Friday series of posts is starting up again. This week's image is one I made while in Illinois this past July. We visited the State Capitol and around the grounds were a number of memorials and monuments. This image is of the Organized Labor Memorial: The Illinois Organized Labor Memorial at The State Capitol in Springfield

I had my Rolleicord Va loaded with a roll of Ilford Delta 100 black and white film. The monument was set on a slight hill so to photograph it at any decent angle meant that a lot of sky would be present. I tried to limit the sky as much as I could and eventually settled on what you see here. It still has a lot of sky but I was able to get a fairly decent view of the Capitol building as well. The exposure on this was tricky with the bright sky and the dark monument that was partially in shadow. I think I got it pretty good given everything.

Chicago In Black And White: Hancock Tower, Cityscape, Lake Michigan

Here's another image in my series of images of Chicago in black and white. This one is of the John Hancock Tower, the building that anchors the North end of the Magnificent Mile. I was going to wait a little to process/post this but Christy Spero, one of my G+ friends, challenged me to the #fiveblackandwhitephotoschallenge, and I was obliged to accept :-) So here's my 1st of five black and white images: Hancock Tower Cityscape Lake Michigan

Inspiration and Information

One of the things I wanted to capture on film while in Chicago was the Hancock Tower. It is one of the most iconic buildings in the city, right up there with the Sears Tower, Tribune Building, Trump Tower, etc. So, one morning around 9AM or so, Pam and I made the fairly short walk from our hotel to Milton Lee Olive Park which juts out into Lake Michigan giving some nice views of the North end of Chicago's skyline. The Sun was pretty bright and there were very few clouds in the sky but the surface of Lake Michigan had some nice texture to it.

I set the Rolleicord up on the tripod about two-thirds of the way out the jetty and took a look through the viewfinder to see how things looked. My goal was to get the Hancock Tower along with a few other buildings in th area as well as show the lake. I tried about 5 different compositions and settled on this one to post first. I have another framing that looked pretty good but it will have to wait until later. I like this particular view of the cityscape, lake and Hancock Tower because the flow of the buildings from left to right seem to lead the eye toward the over 1000 foot tall Hancock Tower. The other thing I noticed, but not until today as I was creating this post, was that almost all the buildings to the left of the Hancock Tower are lighter in color, once again leading the eye from left to right.

Just a reminder that if you aren't following me on Google plus, you should. I post there fairly frequently and there are a lot of great photographers there as well.


Black And White Pittsburgh: Dumpster Alley

Every city has it's areas that people don't notice but are important to the operation of the city. The alley is one of those places. It's the alley that usually contains the lowly dumpster, a typically unsightly and smelly object that serves an important purpose. It's the alleys and dumpsters in them that collect the trash and keep the front side of the city's buildings looking good. As I was taking my short photo walk in Pittsburgh we passed a nondescript alley that I decided to capture: Disposal Service

Inspiration and Information

Over the last few months I've made an effort to notice things that aren't normally noticed as I walk around with my camera. I think it will help me capture more interesting and unique images. I think I'm getting better at it and this image is proof of that. As Danny Levin and I were walking toward the convention center we passed this alley. As we did both of us noticed it at almost the same time, but for probably different reasons. Danny was shooting digital and mostly looking for things that would present well in color and I was "thinking in black & white" and searching for things to capture on my Rolleicord.

As we passed the alley I immediately saw the dumpsters against the wall. I saw the shadows under the dumpsters and the texture of the building walls. It seemed like it would make a better black & white image than color. As Danny walked further down the alley I spent some time framing the dumpsters and wall. It was a challenge as the alley was pretty narrow so my ability to zoom in or out with my feet was limited. The Rolleicord's 75mm lens is roughly the same as a 50mm lens on a full-frame DSLR. The square format allowed me to get a couple of "levels" in the building walls but my range was pretty limited. I eventually settled on a composition that used the puddles in the alley and roof-line as my leading lines, hopefully drawing the eye down the row of dumpsters toward the interesting wall, vents and boarded-up windows past the dumpsters. I think I succeeded and I'm pretty happy with the framing.

As for post-processing, I cropped a little to remove the corner of a vehicle at the back right of the frame and I adjusted the levels in Photoshop to improve the contrast a bit. I could have done all of that in Lightroom but I'm taking every opportunity I can to use Photoshop so I can become familiar with it.


Black And White Pittsburgh: Warhol Bridge, Skyline, Goose

Time to start another ongoing series of images. I've done a few posts in my "Chicago In Black and White" where I feature images captured with my film cameras loaded with black & white film. I'm starting another series, this time focusing on my hometown of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a town full of interesting subjects to put a camera to. With three rivers, more bridges than just about any city on the planet (except for perhaps Venice, Italy), varied topography and lots of great architecture., Pittsburgh is a bit of a photographer's dream. Growing up I wasn't into photography so I will try and make up for lost time/opportunities whenever I get back there.

A few weeks ago Pam and I went back to "the 'burgh" for a visit. I took my Rolleicord as well as my DSLR with the hopes of getting out to make some photos. I managed to get out for a few hours with a friend on a rainy, cloudy morning. We started our photo walk near PNC park, which is on the North shore of the Allegheny River. I set up the Rolleicord on the tripod near the Andy Warhol Bridge and framed this shot:

A view of Pittsburgh and the Warhol Bridge from across the Allegheny River

 Inspiration and Information

We started around 8AM in mostly overcast but calm weather. The Allegheny River was pretty calm and there were some nice reflections of the buildings on the water. I wanted to capture as much of that as possible, along with the Warhol Bridge. I had the Rolleicord loaded with a roll of Neopan Acros 100, which is becoming a favorite film of mine, and as I set the camera on the tripod I noticed a lone Canada Goose swimming down the river. I thought that would be a nice element in the image so I composed the image in the viewfinder, double checked the exposure and waited until the Goose got a little more than halfway through the frame before firing the shutter.

When I got the negative scanned and opened it up in Lightroom I had to clean up a fair amount of "dust bunnies" from the image as well as reduce the highlights a bit to get some detail back in the sky. That's the nice thing about film, there's a lot of room for adjustment.

Stay tuned for a few more images of Pittsburgh on film. This will definitely be a longer term project as we don't get up there as much as I'd like but when we do I plan on making as many black & white film images as I can.



Chicago In Black And White: Street Corner Magic Show

Welcome to the fifth post in a series of posts documenting Chicago using black and white film. Chicago is full of street corners and, especially in the more "touristy oriented" sections of the city, full of street corner performers. If you walk up and down the "Magificent Mile" or around "The Loop" you will likely find a number of corners where people have set up shop to entertain the pedestrians in exchange for tips. One of the more active corners I've found over the years is on Mighigan Avenue just North of the Chicago River. This street corner is right next to the ront of the Wrigley Building and has a nice large area for entertainers to set up. On our most recent trip, there was a Magic Show set up on the corner, just in front of one of the Michigan Avenue bridge sculptures:

A Magic Show On The Street Corner Near The Wrigley Building In Chicago

Motivation And Information

I made this photograph in the afternoon, after a fantastic lunch at Frontera Grill. We were walking around after stuffing ourselves with tasty Mexican -inspired food from the mind of Rick Bayless. We decided to visit the Wrigley Building to see if I could get any good photographs of the building. There were a lot of people on the sidewalk and it was really tough for me to get any image of the building without having a person in the frame. Damn people! :-) So, rather than be upset about that, I turned toward the sidewalk to see what kind of "street photography" I could make with my Rolleicord that could use some of the many tourists as part of the frame. That's when I saw the Magic Show setting up shop. That seemed like a good opportunity. There were two guys that seemed to be together, the top-hatted gentleman and a guy in an all silver suit. I waited about 5 minutes until they had unpacked their bags and set up their table and portable sound system. The guy with the top hat began asking passers by if they wanted to see a magic show. It only took about 30 seconds for three people to "volunteer". They walked up to the table and the guy began his routine.

A Change Of Plans

As they were setting up I had been trying to position myself to get a decent view of everything, including the stone sculpture on the bridge tower behind them. I initially thought that the two guys would be performing together but I was wrong. Apparently it was time for the silver-suited fellow to take a smoke break because as soon as the guy in the top hat began performing the guy in the suit dropped back to lean against the bridge tower and light up (he's holding a very small bit of cigarette in his left hand). That forced me to re-compose the image at the last second because I really wanted both of them in the frame if possible. Because of that I had to step back a little to get everything in the frame. Unfortunately that also brought a few "interlopers" into the scene (the bit of shopping bag and purse you see in the lower-left). I re-composed the frame about 4 times trying to get the best overall composition that I could given what was going on around me. I eventually settled in on what you see above. It's not as clean as I would've hoped but because I wanted both performers in the frame I think it's about as good as I could expect. I managed to get most of the bridge sculpture in the frame as well. My main focus is on the magician, As you can see, he was playing toward the girl on the left, waving his wand and saying something about disappearing objects. The other two people in the frame are watching intently while the silver-suited man is hanging out enjoying his last bit of cigarette. I also got two guys from the Wendella water taxi service in the frame (who are completely oblivious to the performance) which I think adds some nice balance.

Learning From The Unpredictability

This image in particular was a learning experience for me because of all the unpredictability. I had what I thought was a nicely planned scene when my plans were "ruined" by random people. Compared to photographing landscapes, city/street photography has a much bigger random factor to it, making things more of a challenge. I've initially shied away from street photography but am now learning to enjoy it more and more. The whole nature of photographing people in a inconspicuous or unposed manner means that there is a lot or randomness. That randomness forces the photographer to be able to think quickly and adapt to the new situation. I'm finding that very challenging yet enjoyable. I think my street photography will increase because of that.

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