Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge Project - June 2011

© Stuart Pearl 2011 - Click on Image to Enlarge

Remember this view of Cleveland's Inner Belt Bridge. It will be changing in the next few years. Before the end of the decade it will be gone after 50+ years of service, replaced by two new bridges. This will be the largest transportation project in Ohio history.

Bridges have always fascinated me. As a young boy my brother and I would build them in our backyard, digging roads with our Tonka trucks, and creating rivers and lakes with the garden hose.

My brother Arnold and cousin Alan building cities in the "Dirt Place" in 1960.

When I got older I was finally able to drive on real bridges. From their high vantage points I discovered fascinating details of Cleveland's skyline. And our city has a wonderful variety of bridge structures with architecture going back nearly 150 years.

The first of 14 massive bridge piers are now being built across the Flats valley which will support the new twin Inner Belt bridges. Steel piles are being driven about 200 feet down to bedrock to provide anchor points for each of the piers. Each steel pile is 55 feet in length and weighs about 12,000 pounds.

Concrete and rebar base of brige pier.

Worker in "pier pit."

Construction is now focused on the Westbound bridge which should be completed in 2013-14. It is being built just north of the existing bridge.

The old Cleveland Cold Storage building sits on the west bank of the Cuyahoga and is an early casualty of the construction. It sits directly in the path of the Tremont landing spot for the bridge. Built in 1927-1928 it was a huge insulated storage facility that was used for food distribution throughout the city. It played a major role in Cleveland's food services industry.

The present bridge carries about 119,000 cars each day. Sometimes a lone cyclist will brave the narrow metal sidewalk . When this man rode by, there was barely room for me to squeeze up against the railing while staring at the Cuyahoga river 273 feet below. I really don't like heights.

Storm coming up from the South of the Innerbelt and Hope Memorial bridges.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When Photography is a Challenge

© Stuart Pearl 2011 - "While Healing" - Click on Image to Enlarge

Last winter an illness prevented me from doing my usual cold weather photography projects. That is all behind me now and things are back to normal. But at the time it forced me to modify my approach to capturing interesting viewpoints.

I often hike on challenging terrain to get my urban and rural landscape images. Bad weather can easily complicate a photo shoot. And that type of photography was not practical for me this past winter. However I still wanted to pursue my craft. I just had to come up with a less demanding approach to creating unique images. This caused me to look at the world in a different way.

Photos above: Galleria Courtyard, downtown Cleveland over a two month period.

I began studying subjects that were much closer at hand. How could I represent everyday scenes in a more unique way that would set them apart from mundane snapshots?

Most of my time was spent indoors during this period. Windows were my primary view on the world and the zoom lens was my tool for reaching into it. I begain to closely study the shifts in weather and subtle changes in lighting as winter progressed. I chose views that I saw all the time and began carefully planning when they would receive the most interesting light. The weather was always a factor and I spent weeks simply studying these views.

During the day I have a south facing window that looks down E. 9th St. all the way to the steel mills in the Flats. Winter can add its magic touch to this view. The early morning light and very low temperatures will often create dramatic effects with steam vents and smoke stacks.

Looking South on E 9th St. at 8:00 A.M. on Feb. 4.

A similar view shot at 2:25 P.M. on Feb. 14.

E. 9th St. at the Galleria

Federal Building Plaza

On cloudy days the flat and uniform lighting can focus your attention on textures and geometry found in the urban snowscape. Solitary walkers on E. 9th move about these patterns.

The "Grandma Tree" seen from my Front Door

This last image was captured from the comfort of my front hallway. We'd had a sleet storm earlier that day. None of the natural early morning or late afternoon light I prefer was present. But I was intrigued by the illumination of our landscape floods. They provided a wonderful pattern of reflection that contrasted against the night backdrop. I simpy mounted my camera on a tripod, opened the door and took about three dozen shots before I settled on the final exposure and composition.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Butler Museum to Exhibit "Luminaries Watching"

© Stuart Pearl 2011 - "Luminaries Watching" - Click on Image to Enlarge

What makes a good photograph? How does an image create interest? Photographers strive for impact. This is the stopping power that draws a viewer in. Hopefully the picture generates questions and some sense of wonder.

Perhaps the judge for the Butler Museum 75th National Midyear Competition considered these notions when he chose my photo to hang in this year's exhibition. Or maybe he just liked the colors. Either way I was happy to be selected for the 2011 exhibit. It runs from June 28 - August 28.

Successful images are unique in their composition. Sometimes a photographer can take a common everyday view and turn it into a mystery. Or he may crop a mundane scene in a way that displays strange or unfamiliar shapes. This is part of the challenge faced by the photographer who is always honing his craft.

Cleveland is ripe with fascinating imagery. It's just a matter of spotting visual opportunities and combining the right elements of timing, light and composition. Done creatively, the viewer will pause and reflect on what is before him.

I'm a big fan of public art. I believe a city needs these efforts to soften its rough edges and provide counterpoint to the massive concrete structures and asphalt rivers. And Cleveland is fortunate to have a number of these public art gems. I discovered this one last year at Playhouse Square near WVIZ/WCPN Ideastream. It is "Chorus Line Luminaries" by urban designer and public artist Stephen Manka. His sculpture marks the Playhouse Square RTA bus stop.

Last year while doing some volunter photography for Ideastream, Luminaries' flashing lights caught my attention. It made me pause and wonder: "Now that's really interesting... what is it doing? Is their a rythm to the lighting. Now what if I waited for a different sequence of lights and aimed my lens at this angle...."