cityscape

Posted by Ellen

Our friend Carol Stack has just returned from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She took this picture on the road leading down into town, and very soon, we hope, she'll leave her jet lag behind and find time to prepare a few notes to share with us about the image and her experiences.

Also, because several Good Morning folks are known to have spent time in Ethiopia, I'm putting out a call for pictures and stories. Thanks in advance.

Posted by Ellen

Downtown Havana, Cuba, in 2009.

Posted by Ellen

In 1979, the developers of Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, near Chicago, went bankrupt. More than a hundred merchants abandoned the mall overnight, including the big three anchor tenants, Sears, Penney's, and Montgomery Ward. The trees and ivy in the planters in center court were left to overgrow. The parking lot was left to . . . things went so far south in the parking lot that the town of Harvey built a police substation in the middle of it. You can still go inside the mall, if the spirit moves you--ever since people busted the doors and broke the plywood that was supposed to board things up, the place has been wide open for decades. It has been reported that the food court and much of the rest of the territory is controlled by packs of dogs. When cinematographers need a location for the next dystopic blockbuster, they can check out Dixie Square Mall.

And we're going to have to get used to this, because as the housing bust now spreads to commercial properties in suburbs all over America, Dixie Square Mall is a harbinger. Welcome to the twenty-first century. Already, the phenomenon has atrracted its own historical website--deadmallsdotcom--and a small army of documentary photographers. This photo is by Brian Ulrich.
 

Posted by Ellen

On a clear night, Chicagoland looks pretty spectacular from the air.

Posted by Ellen

The flatiron building in Toronto is obviously getting out-muscled at night by the glass behemoths behind it. But in an urban setting of this ilk, the drama is all in the juxtaposition.

Posted by Ellen

Last year, when this picture was taken, twenty million people lived in Shanghai. There are more now.

Posted by Ellen

Photographer Trey Ratcliff is known for his high-dynamic-range techniques, which pump up the drama in his pictures, producing weirdly wonderful, or just plain weird, results.

The idea is that when shooting a scene that is partly bright and partly shadowed, a camera can properly expose the picture to show color and detail in the bright areas or in the dark areas, but not both at the same time. Ratcliff shoots the same scene over and over with different exposure settings; he then uses fancy software to blend together parts of the image from all the different shots.

Our eyes naturally have a much wider dynamic range than any camera, so in theory Ratcliff's pictures should be more natural-looking than regular photos. In practice, they look less natural--often interesting, sometimes beautiful, but almost always somehow artificial and extreme. I have mixed feelings about his work; here, for example, the sky looks spooky or fake to me, but overall, it's really, really pretty.

Posted by Ellen

This is Stockholm after midnight last June, during one of the white nights near the summer solstice. The tower in the foreground is part of the Old Town, which dates back to the thirteenth century. The cranes in the background  are building the part of town that will date back to the twenty-first century.

Posted by Ellen

A few days ago, the photo-science geniuses from Rochester Institute of Technology conducted their annual Big Shot, an experiment in painting with light. A scene is chosen--this year, the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The public is invited to participate by bringing handheld light sources, such as flashlights or candles. Streetlights, security lights, and other nearby high-tech sources of illumination are extinguished, so when night approaches, the scene gets darker and darker.

Inside lights are switched on to make the building glow in the dark. Then the crowd is arranged so that all the handheld lights paint the scene. This year, about 800 people participated, and after a 20-second exposure, the big shot came out pretty as a picture.

That's the Washington Monument in the background, leaning to the left because of distortion caused by the wide-open lens.

Posted by Ellen

Obviously, this picture was taken on a Monday. The scene is the tenement backyard at Park Avenue and 107th Street in New York, probably in the year 1900.

Setting up these clotheslines was not a trivial task, especially on the higher floors. A man would come around calling out "I climb poles!" and for about 25 cents he'd climb up and run the rope out over the pulleys. He also sold rope and pulleys, but if you'd planned ahead and bought them from the hardware store, you could save a few cents.

Notice the train track at the bottom of the photo--I'm guessing the whites were whiter at the far end of the block. Just on the other side of the tracks is the building where baseball player Lou Gehrig grew up, a few years after this picture was taken.

I suggest viewing this image as large as possible, so you can peep into the windows.