Manufactured Landscape Shots

In addition to my review of the documentary, Manufactured Landscapes, here are a few photographs from the inspired week’s theme.

It wasn’t the best of weather for shooting, so I did do a fair amount of editing with the photographs this week. Especially, the Heinz Factory shot, where I purposely increased the contrast and saturation in the original photo since I wanted to give the photo a more grungy feel to the old brick factory building on the North Side of Pittsburgh. I also wanted to isolate the KL & Gates building downtown in the last shot, where a brand new skyscraper is being built right next to it. I felt this shot highlights what Burtynsky was trying to say in his documentary – progression and industrialization never truly stops.

 

Da Burgh Skyline - SS 1/1600, F11, Focal Length 70mm

Da Burgh Skyline – SS 1/1600, F11, Focal Length 70mm

Heinz 57 Factory - SS 1/640, F13, Focal Length 48mm

Heinz 57 Factory – SS 1/640, F13, Focal Length 48mm

A Stop at Heinz Lofts - SS 1/2000, F16, Focal Length 18mm

A Stop at Heinz Lofts – SS 1/2000, F16, Focal Length 18mm

Downtown Progress - SS 1/1600, F11, Focal Length 70mm

Downtown Progress – SS 1/1600, F11, Focal Length 70mm

 

 

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Manufactured Landscapes Review

manufacted landscapes

The short film, Manufactured Landscapes, brought light to the face of industrialization. It highlighted a side of industry that many of us in the states are unaware of since we are shielded from its true nature. In America, cities and even most rural areas are separated from factories and congested work areas. The crowded areas of American cities are largely focused in commerce, where as the film indicated, quite the opposite has taken place in China.

As the film mentioned, China is a relative late comer to the world of industry and as Edward Burtynsky’s photographs show the urbanization in China is strikingly similar to pictures in our history textbooks about the 19th century textile factories and the sudden urbanization of America. The photographs of Shanghai, best clearly distinguish this point. Burtynsky highlighted the rundown, decaying, crowded stone slums of Shanghai; focusing on how densely built the houses were one on top of the other. However, as the shot slowly zoomed out (a style often used in this film) we learned that all these derelict slums were surrounding the modern hub of downtown Shanghai as monstrous skyscrapers towered over the nearby hovels.

“If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.”

This isn’t unique to just China. Instead, it is only unique because it is happening in this day and age. In today’s world it is nearly unthinkable to believe a bolstering city like Shanghai is encircled with impoverished shantytowns. Consequently, this was the case more than a century ago in America and Europe during the Industrial Revolution. As cities rapidly built themselves up via growing industries, the nearby rural areas were deplorable living areas that surrounded these new Meccas of monetary growth.

In conjunction, with the modern day flashback China provides in this film it is fair to acknowledge one of the first quotes, Burtynsky says in the beginning of the documentary, “If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.”

As already mentioned, the film does a wonderful job chronicling the urbanization of China, however with the focus on urbanization I’m unsure if I agree with Burtynsky’s initial quote. His photographs of forgotten coal mines and slate quarries provided a great amount of sympathy towards this notion of destruction. In such, photographs we could see the Earth carved and scalped apart with accurate precision only to be left there wounded with open sores – forgotten once profits were made.  Burtynsky mentions how these lost quarries in Pennsylvania sparked his imagination and were the catalyst for this film. However, aside from these photographs I saw (and felt) little else in the documentary that connected with us (humans) destroying ourselves by destroying our world.

I say this because as staggering as the imagery was in this film it is merely a modern representation of a chapter majority of the world has already gone through. Once upon a time New York City, London, Paris, Detroit, Boston, Berlin, all these cities (and nations) shared similar fates at the hands of industrialization. Most of these cities/nations have climbed out of the poisonous shell urbanization can cause evolving into what we refer to as modern and progressive cities. Yet, there was a time where all these modern cities looked as gloomy as Shanghai, if not worse.  Urbanization is a cycle. One that projects the old cliché, ‘it gets worse before it becomes better.’ Hopefully, over time China can find pull themselves out of the current dark, vicious side of this cycle.

Ironically, as deplorable as this pattern may seem the reality of it was clearly shown in this documentary. As China navigates through its own Industrial Revolution, the rest of world thrives off the products China helps provide. I believe Burtynsky wanted to accent that notion, perhaps not as a call to action, but rather shed light on where exactly the products we use come from and where our ‘old, outdated’ products go to die.

To further accent this point, the factory scene where clothing irons were being manufactured and then hung like pieces of meat in a freezer waiting for their deployment orders, struck a chord with me. The scene did a wonderful job of showing how methodical and busy factory work is; it also showed how little consumers care about how their products are made. I could only imagine what the iron-making factory lines looked like during the holiday season as consumer demands skyrocket. Do majority of consumers (us as Americans) actually care? Or does this fall under the out of sight, out of mind philosophy? After all, Burtysnky was shooting most of this film with products and equipment that was likely built in very areas of the world he was shining light on.

At the end of the day, is there any way to truly stop industry? It may appear as an enemy to nature, but could humanity live without it? Industry is a man-made machine. It was built from the ground up just like the products in this film. It will continue to live on through a never-ending cycle of growth, decay, destruction, and reconstruction.

Check out the documentary, Manufactured Landscapes

Nature of Light & Color

This week’s theme of light and colors was rather enjoyable to shoot. The first three photos are my best three featuring light and the last three in this group are my best featuring color.

LIGHT

SS 1/2, F5, Focal Length 22mm

SS 1/2, F5, Focal Length 22mm

SS 1/30, F22, Focal Length 18mm

SS 1/30, F22, Focal Length 18mm

SS 1/2500, F 11, Focal Length 18mm

SS 1/2500, F 11, Focal Length 18mm

SS 1/8000, F8, Focal Length 18mm

SS 1/8000, F8, Focal Length 18mm

The photograph of the Highmark building came out slightly more blurry than I would’ve liked. None the less, the reflective light from its blue antenna highlighted the midnight sky and gave a nice feature to the context of the picture. The shadow picture was one that I came up with at the spur of the moment walking towards downtown. I decided to take two shots at different shutter speeds to accent the light. I personally, like the first (shorter shutter speed), brighter photo better, yet the darker shadow image is still intriguing due to the ability to focus on the cracks of the sidewalk. The darker shadow isn’t as visually striking, but it definitely holds a bit more detail in it its own right.  Lastly, I decided to capture the nice clouds overhead (considering how much it has been storming recently). Nothing fancy about this picture just a routine natural landscape picture.

 

COLORS

SS 1/8000, F4.5, Focal Length 70mm

SS 1/8000, F4.5, Focal Length 70mm

PNC Park 6779 BlckWht

SS 1/1000, F8, Focal Length 52mm

SS 1/1000, F8, Focal Length 52mm

SS 1/30, F16, Focal Length 70mm

SS 1/30, F16, Focal Length 70mm

 

The first photo I decided to used one of  the old docking hooks under Duquense Blvd to add a little extra focus on one of my favorite parts of North Shore, PNC Park. I personally, loved how this photo came out and just for amusement purposes wanted to share it in black & white as well. Both photos I thought came out fairly well. The second, was just a little piece of street graffiti I happened to stumble across on Northside. I’m not sure if it was the similarity to the Pac-Man ghosts or just the actual color pattern that made me photograph this, but either way I’m glad I did. Lastly, out of my childlike excitement over the recent announcement of the Final Fantasy VII remake earlier this week at E3, I decided to capture my original copy of the game for Sony Playstation. After all, gamers like myself, have been waiting nearly twenty years for Sony and Square Enix to finally remake this game – only natural to take a picture of the original for this week’s photos.

Texture

This was a difficult theme to find decent subject ideas for. I decided to focus on two subjects. The first being two portions of my morning routine – coffee and sambuca and the second being two comics in two completely different conditions.

For the first subjects, I decided to photograph my bottle of Sambuca before I added it to my morning coffee. My idea here was to highlight the frozen condensation on the bottle on how it reflected off the natural light almost making the bottle glow. I had to edit down some of the natural light and shadows to help accent this affect. The up-close take of the label I wanted to show the detail in the actual label itself especially with the Roman Colosseum picture. I used the same thinking with Chock Full O’ Nuts label (and yes, I’m 26 and still drink an ancient coffee brand) to highlight the detail in both the tin container and the detail in the checkered lettering.

Sambuca Bottle - SS 1/30, F22, Focal Length 18mm

Sambuca Bottle – SS 1/30, F22, Focal Length 18mm

Sambuca Label - SS 1/2500, F11, 18mm

Sambuca Label – SS 1/2500, F11, 18mm

Chock Full o' Nuts Java - SS 1/10, F10, Focal Length 65mm

Chock Full o’ Nuts Java – SS 1/10, F10, Focal Length 65mm

 

The next two subjects were two different comics I have manged to collect over the years. The first is from 1972 and one of the legendary Jack Kirby’s greatest creations with DC, the anti-hero known as Demon. This particular comic is in relatively poor shape and by comic grading conditions would be considered fair at best. Thus, I decided to photograph the cover along with two strips inside the comic to highlight the age and lost detail of the comic compared to one in near-mint condition my first- edition copy of Spider-Man vs. Wolverine from 1987.

Even known both are from the Bronze Age of Comics (1971-1989) you can notice the slight differences in time and the difference of condition they are both in. Even though Demon is more than a decade older than the copy of Spidey vs. Wolverine it is significantly more weathered and the overall texture of the comic is worn out. You can notice the serious crease in the middle of the Demon comic cover and if you look closely are much the ink has faded over time in the strips themselves. Where as, you can notice how much crisper and cleaner the ink is on the Spider-Man/Wolverine comic and even with my slightly blurred photograph of the inside of it, how much better the pages look compared to the ragged comic of Demon #1.

Granted, this is largely due to the fact of when I came in contact with these comics – Demon I found at a yard sale (buying it largely out of nostalgic purposes for one of my favorite Kirby creations) and Spider-Man vs. Wolverine I bought from an actual collector who kept this comic in pristine condition.

Demon #1 DC Comics (1972) - SS 1/50, F8, Focal Length 48mm

Demon #1 DC Comics (1972) – SS 1/50, F8, Focal Length 48mm

Demon #1 - SS 1/15, F20, Focal Lengh 70mm

Demon #1 – SS 1/15, F20, Focal Lengh 70mm

Demon #1 - SS 1/15, F15, Focal Length 44mm

Demon #1 – SS 1/15, F15, Focal Length 44mm

Spider Man vs. Wolverine Marvel Comics #1 (1987) - SS 1/15, F22, Focal Length 34mm

Spider Man vs. Wolverine Marvel Comics #1 (1987) – SS 1/15, F22, Focal Length 34mm

Spider-Man vs Wolverine upclose - SS 1/15, F20, Focal Length 70mm

Spider-Man vs Wolverine upclose – SS 1/15, F20, Focal Length 70mm

Spider-Man vs Wolverine Strip - SS 1/10, F20, Focal Length 70mm

Spider-Man vs Wolverine Strip – SS 1/10, F20, Focal Length 70mm

Motion & Movement

So far this may have been one of the most rewarding projects to date. Trying to accurately capture my subject(s) in motion quickly taught me how to properly use shutter speed and gave me a better sense of understanding exposure when I am shooting; rather than the amateur aim-and-shoot tactic I have been employing thus far. I’ll admit the first few pictures I took were either horrendous or I found myself constantly searching for the right camera specs and then patiently waiting for another shot at my desired subject(s). However, as the day progressed I became significantly more comfortable and confident with my initial camera settings and naturally I was much happier with my later shot(s) compared to my photos from earlier in the day’s session. Without further ado, here a few of my favorite shots for this week’s theme – motion.

The Fan - SS 1/500, F4, 29mm

The Fan – SS 1/500, F4, 29mm

The Fan - SS 1/80, F13, 29mm

The Fan – SS 1/80, F13, 29mm

The Fan - SS 1/8, F25, Focal Length 29mm

The Fan – SS 1/8, F25, Focal Length 29mm

The Fan, shots as I called them were inspired while I was eating breakfast. I casually looked up at my ceiling fan and thought, ‘Hmm, that wouldn’t be half bad to shoot.’ Ironically, as elementary as my ceiling fan may have been for this particular set it did help me get a better feel for the actual timing between shutter speeds in relation to a subject’s speed.

 

Subway Sitting - SS 1/3, F14, Focal Length 18mm

Subway Sitting – SS 1/3, F14, Focal Length 18mm

Subway Sitting Downtown Bound - SS 1/3, F 29, Focal Length 18mm

Subway Sitting Downtown Bound – SS 1/3, F 29, Focal Length 18mm

 

Both of these shots were taken as I was waiting for the T-Train. I personally have always found trains, particularly subway shots fascinating. I would’ve rather been able to capture some pedestrians and commuters within my shots, but unfortunately the Northside station was rather deserted on this afternoon.

 

Fort Fountain - SS 1/800, F29, Focal Length 48mm

Fort Fountain – SS 1/800, F29, Focal Length 48mm

 

This shot, taken of the fountain at Point State Park, was one of the few daytime shots I walked away happy with. Even with that said, I had to edit some of the shadows and highlights out of the photo, to help compliment the actual subject. I wanted to capture the water pouring out of the photo, but with so much natural light at the point (especially midday) it was tough to do without overdoing it and forcing a whiteout in the my shot. In the end the 1/800 speed worked, but as I mentioned I still had to tinker with the picture a bit to get some of the over-exposure and highlights out.

Wally West in Pittsburgh? - SS 5 (Five seconds), F22, Focal Length 22mm

Wally West in Pittsburgh? – SS 5 (Five seconds), F22, Focal Length 22mm

Likely should’ve thought of this shot last week for the Bokeh theme, but it still worked out. After I got the idea for this photograph I released I should’ve picked a slightly busier intersection to get more artificial light and crossovers of said light. However, the two cars that shot through the intersection at my timing of the shot (a moving van and a sedan) came together nicely in a shot that reminded me of the DC comic book character, The Flash (thus the photograph name). I was very pleased with the finished shot here and I love that two vehicles managed to create one single ray of light through the photograph.