“our greatest weakness lies in giving up. the most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
― thomas edison
"a creature of habit"... i feel that phrase sometimes receives a bad rap. it seems to parallel a classic definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. but, in my mind at least, it has no parallelism to insanity. rather, i see being "a creature of habit" as a determination, a persistence, an unwavering focus to arrive at what we are wanting to achieve.
lately in my photography, i've chosen to stay closer to where i live when i go out to make images. two reasons have contributed to that decision. one is gas prices. i simply am not in a position of affluence; i need to consider where, when and how i spend money. but, by the same token, i know there are many around the world that would look at me and say that i am wealthy. it's all perspective and where we choose to put our money, whether by choice or by necessity.
the second reason for staying closer to home is my wife had lost her job. she has since found new employment and, thankfully, rather quickly. but with only one income that was a certainty for a time, "tightening the belt" became a necessity.
since home is in the suburbs of the twin cities in minnesota, i've spent a lot of time in minneapolis and st. paul lately. i find the city to be more challenging photogenically than landscapes. but, man! do i love the challenge! it's not just about finding the obvious in making images. it's also about finding the subtle and the hidden in making images.
some images just present themselves. those are images that you will see more often from various photographers, myself included, that live or visit the same popular or iconic spots in and around the city. they will have their own interpretation and vision in making outstanding images of often photographed areas found in the city. but there is also beauty in the less photographed. this is the subtle and the hidden. both minneapolis and st. paul have treasures waiting to be discovered for those willing to put in the legwork.
you might have heard me say something along the lines of "looking deeper within the scene" in regards to landscape. i apply this in cityscape photography as well. i often will "look deeper" in an often photographed area to see if there is something of value that i haven't seen captured before or seldom captured. an example might be honing in on an architectural feature of a building that is most often captured as a whole or as part of a city skyline.
for the next few blogs at least, since i've been spending more time in the cities, i'm going to be sharing images from oft-photographed locations as well as less photographed locations. hopefully, you'll find them as attractive and interesting as the landscape images that i've made.
just as there are safety risks that one needs to be aware of with landscape photography, there are risks involved in cityscape photography as well. I thought i'd share just a few to make you aware of them should you venture out into the city. better safe than sorry as the saying goes!
keep your mouth shut when looking up. the city is a haven for pigeons, crows, ravens and other birds seen in the city. gawking open-mouthed while looking at the impressive skyscrapers, towers and spires is asking for trouble. birds play no favorites. they poop when they need to poop. don't be the person who gets a sullen attitude after getting a deposit of impromptu bird defecation. better yet, invest in a good full-face respirator. you'll not only be able to gawk open-mouthed all you want, you'll be protected from the "foul" spots in the city or just the passerby who lets slip with a flatulence as he/she is passing you. on top of that, you'll up your "cool" quotient considerably. really! the city is a great place to show your uniqueness!
just because something is shiny, colorful and looks good doesn't mean you should put it in your mouth. looking under picnic tables in city parks is one location that will yield a gold mine of shiny, colorful sticky treats. my suggestion is to resist the urge to pry one loose and see what it taste like as alluring as they look. if you must indulge, at least carry some disinfectant wipes. carefully remove the desired treat and wipe it gently, being sure to get all the nooks and crannies cleaned out. once it dries off, then you can pop it in your mouth. it's not my cup of tea, but hey, to each his/her own!
critters are not your friend. raccoons are not cute and cuddly. simply do not go dumpster diving with them. some dogs look cute and cuddly. my advice is to resist the doggie cuteness factor as it is a scam. all they want to do it bark at you if you get too close. then the owner says, "oh my, they are never like that!" this implies you are the problem, not the dog. squirrels do not want to share their nuts. it doesn't matter if it looks like their face is going to explode from the incomprehensible number of nuts stored in their mouths; they will never, ever share their nuts.
these are just a few safety tips when traipsing around the city. adhering to them will most certainly increase your chances of a safe expedition! 😉
there are some locations that i've been "a creature of habit" about in returning to them. there may be more than one type of capture i'm looking for. it might be the time of day; it might be a certain meteorological event; it might be a "look" or "mood". it could be because a vision has not yet come to fruition. oh...there have been some times when it looked like it was going to happen! excitement and expectations arose...then dropped like a dead weight! those are somewhat frustrating times; more so than if it was a dud from start to finish. i've just learned to laugh it off and enjoy that i was out making images at all. to paraphrase a saying, "the worst day photographing is better than the best day working"! 😂
the images i'm sharing here are from a well-known spot that quite a few photographers make images from. this location is called high bridge or smith avenue bridge and is located in st. paul. the view from there is awesome! there is an unhindered view of the st. paul skyline looking left to right.
there are three iconic structures from this vantage point that stand out as you gaze at the st. paul skyline. the first is the cathedral of st. paul on the far left. as you continue your gaze moving to the right, you come to the state capitol just a little left of center. finally, almost to the far right, you can see the 1st financial building with its' neon 1st sign. i have been to this location a few times trying to figure out what to do in making images from that vantage point. i ended up trying to differentiate myself from other photographers' images by making a couple of panoramas from this location on two consecutive days. the first time was at night.
i love the glow that emanates from this image. i think that the dark tones above and below the skyline help accentuate that glow as well. the dark area below the skyline is actually the mississippi river.
the following day, i came back during blue hour as it looked promising for some great colors. blue hour is that brief time after the sun descends below the horizon as is the case here. it is also the brief time in the morning before the sun rises above the horizon. colors can be especially intense during those times.
while the colors were nice in the sky, i was more in love with the buildings on the right side of the image taking on rich color hues. it was a brief vibrance that disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared!
two images...both were taken from the same vantage point. yet, they have a vastly different mood and look. i'd love to hear from you if you have a preference or favorite between the two and why! share them in the comments section.
one tip when doing any kind of photography is to look in other directions as well. you never know what you might be missing. as nice as this blue hour image was, it was not as impactful as this last image in my opinion. this was one of those times when the sky seemed to explode with color!
it was so intense i dialed back the colors in my post-processing as they seemed too saturated! there were cars lined up along the road behind me; they had pulled over to watch the sky during this blue hour extravaganza.
after taking a few images, this couple came up to the side of me. i thought it added a great visual impact as well as a romantic mood to the image. because you can't tell who they are along with the fact i was there long before they arrived, i didn't need to ask permission. but out of respect, i just wanted to make sure they were ok with being a part of the image (and they were). i think this just adds another dimension to the image. the girl is being embraced by the boy as they both stare at the beauty unfolding before them. the hallmark channel couldn't have scripted a better ending!
my one regret with this image is that i didn't think to ask the couple if they would share their address for me to send them a free print. i bet this would have been a great gift for them! i was so caught up in the moment i just completely forgot to ask.
the colors quickly subsided as blue hour came to an end. blue hour does not last long; ten to fifteen minutes is about the extent of it. and there is no guarantee of a spectacular show. to be honest, i've had more swings and misses than hits when it comes to capturing blue hour. conditions will look good as i mentioned earlier in this blog and then it turns out to be a dud. that's the nature of photography. do your best to be prepared and then learn to accept what actually transpires.
i packed up my gear and headed to my car. blue hour was over but the night was just beginning! there was more to explore! i took off into the darkening night, wondering what other treats were waiting to be discovered and captured on camera....
well, that's another blog wrapped up! i hope you enjoyed this one! i especially hope you at least got a chuckle out of the safety tips i shared for exploring in the city. just as a disclaimer due to the world we live in, the tips are shared in jest, not seriousness. but of course you knew that! again, i'd love to hear which of the two panoramas you prefer and why. i read all the comments and i respond to them all!
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i'll be seeing you soon with more "images from a quiet world"!