Updated: Jan 25
“the optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.” - james branch cabell
i came to a rather unsettling, to me, realization late in july of 2021 one night. i was in st. paul strolling along kellogg avenue near the roberts street bridge on a beautiful summer night. the sky was clear; the temperature was warm.
it was a bit uncomfortable that night wearing a mask due to the warmer temperature. but the covid-19 pandemic, as usual, was showing no mercy to anyone who fell prey to its tentacles. the mask was needed; it might have even been required in st. paul at that time. i don't remember for sure but i, personally, was all about being vigilant and doing what i needed to do.
as i walked along kellogg avenue, i strolled into a promenade known as the kellogg mall park. about four blocks long in size, it runs all along the bluff overlooking the mississippi river. from that vantage point, one can see raspberry island and harriet island among other views. it's actually quite a beautiful little park that merges urbanscape with landscape. sculptures, iconography, fountains, benches and a curving pergola coexist with trees and small gardens. a pathway splits one of the fountains and the pergola into two halves. the park is bordered by the mississippi river one one side and kellogg avenue on the other side.
the park itself was a bit of contention between the parks/recreation division of st. paul and an artist by the name of cliff garten who was asked to be a part of the project. it's too long of a story for here, but here is one link to give you some backstory information. it's an interesting read so i hope you take some time to check it out.
so you may thinking, "what was the unsettling realization"? as i was walking in the park, i was struck by the wariness i was experiencing. 2021, barely halfway through the year, was unveiling a darker side in the twin cities. carjackings were on the rise (2021 turned out to be a record year for it). homicide had also been making the news with too much regularity for me. it wasn't just in the twin cities but in suburbs surrounding the metropolis, including the suburb where i live. i knew it existed; i knew it happened. it just, for whatever reason, hit me a little more closer to home. night sometimes brings out shadier side of a city and this was no exception.
i won't get into details. i'll just simply say my senses were heightened due to visual clues. i found myself keeping an eye all around me as i set up my camera gear. i've heard of quite a few break-ins into vehicles that had camera gear, even gear that wasn't noticeably "out in the open". what's to prevent anyone from trying to steal my gear that was being set up and used in the moment? it wasn't a dangerous part of town or anything like that. but things happen and they can happen anywhere.
the quote at the top serves to remind me that i have a choice in regards to letting fear rule the circumstance. i love photography too much to want to give in to fear. i've come to love making images in the city as much as i love making images in the wild yonder. i look forward to the adventures the city offers up for those willing to explore its urban jungle. instead of letting fear dictate my choices, i want to be wise in the places i go to and when i frequent those places. we do live in the best and worst of all possible worlds depending on our perspective. the world is going to be what it is going to be. how we respond is going to make all the difference in how we live in this world. are we going to be optimistic and make wise decisions? or do we cave and live in fear, always wondering what is the "boogie man" out there that is going to get us? this is not an endorsement of entering a "den of robbers". it's an endorsement of weighing the risks of a certain locale. there's no image worth making based on a foolhardy decision.
the following image became a reality because i chose to move forward in exploring the park. while i was wary of my surroundings, i was also drawn to this spot as an image that featured the buck moon as part of the whole. it is a blend of two images. to get the moon to look like i saw it (orange as
you see here), a fast shutter speed was required. that shutter speed left the foreground in a deep shadow. i loved the soft motion of the water fountains that seem to glow in the darkening night so i did a longer exposure to capture that feeling. the longer exposure, consequently, made the moon a very bright orb of light. long exposures sometimes lend a rather magical and mysterious atmosphere. this image is no exception. to me, the softness of the fountains in the dark pond of water stands in stark contrast to the rest of the scene. it has an almost dream-like quality to it.
after making this image, i quickly packed up my gear and started back to my car. i just felt it was time to get a move on. sometimes the best thing you can do is listen to that inner voice. i'd be curious to hear from you all regarding your thoughts on being out and about in a metropolis should you live in or near one. do you think my fears are unfounded? do you have similar thoughts regarding where and when you will walk the streets? let me know in the comments below.
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