Last night our workshop headed to Buckingham Fountain in Chicago's Grant Park. As I noted in my prior post, the fountain is pure ungapatchka. Colored lights, patriotic music, neon pedicabs, and blue trash cans. To many eyes, my photograph from last night has great appeal. People respond to colors. All curb appeal, but for me, it is not the definitive image.
I wanted to do it right, so tonight I returned. The temperature was in the low 50s. The wind came in from the northwest, which made it feel like 40 degrees--even in my summer shirt, a hoodie, a fall jacket, I was shivering. The fountain blew spray at least a city block to the south, and possibly two. I got nice and wet.
I brought my technical camera, permitting me to better compose the image by shifting the lens relative to the sensor plane. I screwed it onto the tripod, checked the built-in bubble level, looked at Live View, shifted the lens, adjusted focus, and then waited 90 minutes as the sky ever so gradually changed from a washed out almost light grayish blue to a deeply illuminated one. That's when things went wrong.
I started out using my 43mm lens. It is iffy at best, and tonight the cable release wasn't triggering the shutter. I moved back, and then changed out the 43mm lens for my 72mm one. It is reliable, but tonight, the cable release and shutter weren't playing together nicely. So, I moved closer, and switched to my 23mm lens. The cable release still didn't work--I brought two. So I did what I had to do: I ever so gently released the shutter by hand and held it open until I closed it, thereby simulating a bulb exposure. I wasn't going home empty handed after all my effort. For those wondering, this set of lenses use spring-loaded mechanical shutters.
Oh, and lest I forget, because this was a 23mm lens, I had to screw in my center filter and shoot an LCC profile after the final exposure so that I could correct for lens vignetting.
It was now dark, so keeping track of all the equipment, setting the exposure, and not tripping over the tripod's legs made for a trying endeavor. I was not a happy camper, but the flash light built into my iPhone lessened my burden.
After packing up, I headed to my favorite Chinese restaurant for some dumplings. As usual, I sat at the bar. I then headed home thinking to myself that I would not process the photograph until tomorrow. Didn't seem to work out as planned.
The good news: The cold weather kept both tourists and locals away. I pretty much had the fountain to myself, except for a large white truck parked on the westside of the fountain, with "WeSaveArt.com" and a phone number stenciled on its side. I called the telephone number to tell the truck's owner to "Get the Fuck Out of My Shot," but there was no answer. Fortunately, the truck was just far enough to the south of the scene that I could include Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) without including the truck. By the time this photograph was made, the truck had left.
Turns out, all my effort was worth it, at least to my eye. I know a millennial who will not watch black and white films. He has never seen Casablanca. Looking at this photograph, I immediately know why the black and white films and photographs age so well.
Simplicity, pure and simple. There is nothing worse than sulphur dioxide street lamps emitting cigarette stained yellow, as well as the patriotic colors that the City has added to the fountain's internal lighting system. While I contemplate the fountain, I don't need the City of Chicago shaping my thoughts and emotions. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Star and Stripes, the 1812 Overture, and George M. Cohan all blared from the speakers surrounding the fountain. Those are the earworms that the City of Chicago thinks we should have running through our heads. I think otherwise.