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.........


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.



Pittsburgh Building Reflections

Last week we took a few days off to visit my old hometown, Pittsburgh.  I grew up there and it's always nice to get back. Pittsburgh is a very photogenic city with lots of bridges, buildings and industrial areas to catch the photographer's attention. While there I met up with a fellow photographer, Danny Levin (he has some great images so check them out!), who is in my Arcanum Cohort (overview and explanation coming soon) and lives in the area. We met around 8AM and spent the next few hours walking, talking, and photographing things that caught our eye. The morning weather was a mix of clouds, light rain and sun. As we walked along Liberty Avenue near Market Square we came upon a building that was giving off some interesting reflections. Both of us thought there was some intriguing photographic options available to us: Interesting Reflections On A Building In Pittsburgh

Inspiration and Information

While the building was interesting, the shooting conditions were not great. There was a fairly heavy drizzle coming down from the clouds above. This made photography in general a little challenging, but especially when you decide to point your camera straight up in order to get the shot! Luckily there was a building entrance close by that we could duck into to avoid most of the drizzle and discuss our "strategy". After a minute we both stepped out into the rain and wandered around a bit looking for whatever perspective suited us. I settled on a tight corner of the building that gave some very angular reflections. I decided I would point my lens straight up along the corner to get the image. I went back and forth between a portrait or landscape orientation and decided to go with landscape as it included some more of the adjoining panels. I ducked back into the entrance to get me camera/tripod setup as close as possible to what I would need when I stepped back into the rain. I took off the lens cap and covered the lens with a microfiber lens cloth.

I stepped back out into the somewhat lighter drizzle, set up my tripod as close to the building as possible and quickly removed the lens cloth to have a look through the viewfinder. I liked what I saw so I fired of a series of 3 bracketed shots (0, -2, +2) not knowing how I was going to process the image.

When I got back home a few days later I loaded up the images in Lightroom to see how they came out. I immediately decided that I would just process one image. I played around with the crop to help get the angles lined up and decided that processing it as B&W would ultimately look better than color and give more impact to the image. I opened up Silver Efex Pro and adjusted the sliders until I got a look that appealed to me (roughly approximating Acros 100, which is becoming my go-to B&W film). I cleaned up a few of the more offensive water/dirt splotches that were on the windows of the building but left the vast majority of them as is.

EXIF Information

[exif id="5491"]

The Famous Golden Triangle Of Pittsburgh

Pam and I visited Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. We spent 4 days visiting my Parents, Brother, Sister-in-law and niece and nephew. In between the family events we got away a couple of times to take some photographs of my hometown. While the weather was fine for visiting family, it wasn't the best for photography.  We got up early one morning to view the sunrise over the city from Mt Washington but there was a fair amount of fog/mist in the air so the images we got weren't very good. The next day we stopped by the West End Overlook to get a view of the city in the afternoon. The light was pretty flat but overall better than the previous morning. I managed to get a few decent images of Pittsburgh's famous landmark, The Golden Triangle:  

The image above is the result of combining three bracketed images in HDR Efex Proand then  making a few additional adjustments in Color Efex Pro, mainly to contrast.

The final result came out pretty good but I'm still trying to figure out the best workflow for my HDR images. There are as many different ways of creating images as there are photographers so it might take a while for me to find a workflow that works best for me. I'll keep working on the process and trying different things. That's the beauty of digital photography, we can work and re-work our images any number of ways, whenever we want. Once we have a quality original image file (in RAW of course) our options are almost limitless!