Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Digital Genie meets the Corn Cobs...

...from a photographer's notebook

Chicago Forms No.1

I have always been attracted to the strength and diversity of Chicago's architecture. Anytime I'm in the Windy City, my cameras are always active. And, as my visits to Chicago are usually separated by years, there are always new motifs to beckon.

While this image is not strictly speaking a new motif, it is a new interpretation of an old favorite “rediscovered” while scanning some long-unviewed slides last summer.

I first photographed the distinctive Marina Towers, as a teen rookie photographer on my first visit to Chicago. My vantage point was the bridge that carries Michigan Avenue over the Chicago River, between the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower. I was using a very basic rangefinder camera without the benefit of a wide angle lens. And I couldn't figure out how to get far enough away to allow my modest little 45 or 50 mm lens to encompass the soaring height of the twin “corn-cobs” (a nickname I later learned was used by locals to describe the unique shape and features).

Somewhere in a nondescript old box would be a crude (by today's digital standards!) black and white “panoramic” that a local camera store's lab cobbled together from two adjacent frames of Plus-X shot in that basic little camera.

New views of the “corn-cobs” were shot on each subsequent visit. The cameras (and their lens capabilities) got better, of course, but the viewpoints were always at street- or water-level.

Then, on one visit, as a result of a chance meeting, I had the opportunity to shoot some Kodachrome-64 slides on a spectacularly clear day from a balcony halfway up one of the Marina Towers.

Naturally, there were all manner of cityscapes, including elevated trains, the Chicago River, and the aforementioned architectural feast.

But that high viewpoint also allowed for some nice telephoto-generated geometrical contrasts between the curving balconies of the East Tower and the stark vertical lines of the dark monolithic office building adjacent to Marina City at 330 N. Wabash (I believe it was then called the IBM Building).

As much as I like the unaltered Kodachrome slide, the nocturnal creative urges took over, and I allowed the digital genie out of her bottle briefly, for a bit of interpretive license.

Hope you'll enjoy the discovery as much as I did...

Chicago Forms No.1 is currently available in matted and framed 14x20 and 12x18 Epson Archival Giclee Prints. It can also be ordered in additional sizes, both larger and smaller, as well as in custom printed Photo Note Cards.

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©2010 Steve Ember

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