Friday, February 7, 2014

Pittsburgh Holiday Photography

I spent Christmas in Pittsburgh this year visiting the family, and came away with the following Pittsburgh Holiday images. Any large older city like The Burg has dozens of features which make the city unique. I captured a handful during my brief stay.

The first image is of Heinz Field home of the Pirates. I reworked the image using Topaz Simplify  image editing software . I downloaded the newest version, and it has even more features than the ones I outlined in prior posts. I'll cover the new features in a future post.

Click on the images to enlarge the image
(In IE 11 once you click on it you can click again to enlarge further)

The next image is one of my favorites of the trip. It was taken on the1st floor of Pitt's Cathedral of Learning. I recall studying there are few times during my freshmen year, but there weren't any comfy chairs to camp out on. Before going to Pitt I studied a year a Carnegie-Mellon's fine art department. In art history class they discussed the cathedral, and mentioned that Frank Lloyd Wright was appalled by the structure. Yes, I can see his point. It is a throw-back to another time, but nonetheless is a magnificent building for any university to own.
Here are a few more from around Pitt. Again, click to enlarge to full size.

The next image is the bronze of Roberto Clemente outside of Heinz Field. He is famous in Pittsburgh, but not so much around the country unless you're a real baseball fanatic. He was a great player. One of the best in fact, but because the Pirates rarely made the playoffs, let alone the World Series, he didn't get the recognition he deserved. He was part of the 1971 Pirates World Series team, and was the MVP of the series. As a kid I would try to do Clemente style 'basket catches', and his famous spinning-twirling throws from deep right field, challenging the runners at home plate.

Imagine twirling like a shot putter to gain momentum, and throwing the ball from deep at the warning track dead into the catcher's mitt at home without a bounce. Unbelievable!
As far as this image's development... I emphasized the bronze, warming it up in contrast to the rest of the image. That was done by simply using a Photoshop warming filter and a mask on that layer so that nothing but the statue was affected. Then in Topaz Adjust I neutralized everything else, that is, lowered the saturation levels so that Roberto (the subject) would stand out. As a finishing touch I tinted the sky slightly purple, the complementary color of orange (bronze in this case).
Then there are cathedrals of another sort all over Pittsburgh. Going back several generations, each Pittsburgh neighborhood had their own church or synagogue, etc., and the style of the church illustrated both the ethnic origin of the community and its economic standing. This one is of the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in the Polish Hill area. What is significant for me in the image is that this is a typical image of Pittsburgh's houses on hills. Whole neighborhoods are often cut into the sides of hills which at times are as steep as ski jumps.

Polish Hill is directly across from Troy Hill, in the distance where I grew up, and in the far distance is Spring Hill. You can't tell but there are two deep valleys in this scene. The valley below Polish Hill has the Allegheny river flowing in it, and the valley between Troy Hill and Spring Hill is called Spring Garden.
This type of topography results in the common Pittsburgh saying "You can see it, but you can't get there from here."
Like many older eastern cities Pittsburgh has many hidden gems like the Heinz Chapel pictured below. Henry Heinz, the founder, was often called The Great Provider for producing his 57 Varieties of canned goods. My Dad, who worked until retirement at the plant, was the great provider for our family. It was olfactory heaven growing up near the plant where you could smell one of the 57 varieties being brewed on a regular basis. Today much of the plant has been converted into high-end condos and lofts. The sign of the times.

Getting back to the holiday theme, and a cathedral of another sort... the following images are from PPG Place. Pittsburgh Plate Glass has a huge presence and history in Pittsburgh. Over the last twenty years, downtown has taken on a whole new feel as slowly but surely what is old and dangerously decrepit is being replaced with new things to do and see. These images are of a skating rink in PPG Plaza where you can rent skates, and whir around what seems to be a grand ice palace from Disney's Frozen movie.

The following are more images of the Plaza and of Market Square which has changed over the years from a pigeon-ridden mess, and has been transformed for the Christmas season into some kind of imaginary garden of marketing delights. You can barely see small wooden houses in the right most image. There were dozens of these making up a temporary mock village all over Market Square, advertising and selling whatever could be sold on those cold winter days.

The image to the left is PPG Place standing sentential-like over the Christmas display including a metal globe tree in the foreground. This image is tinted in an antique postcard-like approach, giving it a slight fantasy feel. (OK... more than slight)

I love glass, and I could have spent several hours photographing PGG Place, but it was a miserably cold day and the best shots I could manage are below. These two images show my tendency to break an architectural image down into simple pattern and shape. Glass is cool to work with because you have a definite Mondrian-like framing structure, but within that you have free-form color and texture in the reflections as seen in these two images of grid and reflection.

I like the next image because it takes the grid even further by flattening it out, and complementing the central structure which is really the subject of the image. The rule of thirds is evident in the layout. The image is obviously split vertically into three sections, and the brilliant red tiled dome is in the upper third horizontally. Red is obviously a design element too, where the most stark red is in the subject with subtle green and aqua accents, digitally accentuated of course.

In the next image form is the dominant design element, but without pattern/shape/repetition covering the surface it would be a boring triangular layout.

I have to include one quintessential Pittsburgh image, that of a bridge and the city. There are dozens of bridges over the Monongahela (the Mon) and Allegheny rivers. In this case I used the old photography technique called framing to put a frame around part of the cityscape. The paint on the bridge isn't quite that yellow. I enhanced it to build contrast to the rest of image and to emphasize the arch against the blue sky. A vanishing point is a very common technique to guide the eye down a path (the road) into the secondary subject (the city), and then back again when your eye travels up the bridge support, leading you back to the arch.

The Union Trust Building is the subject in the next image which I'm sure Mr. Wright would say is antiquated as well. I'm a fan of Wright, and have visited Falling Water on several occasions. I've marveled at his progressive ideas, but nonetheless the Union Trust is a stonemason's wonder. (See the additional image in the collection below.)

Wright built Falling Water for the Kaufman family whose department store was a grand place back in-the-day, when going downtown to shop was an event.... before the advent of malls. I remember thinking it was sooo cool to be able to order a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut into petite little squares at Kaufman's Tick-Tock café when I was six or so.

Not to ruin the holiday theme... The following images are of one of several war memorials located on the North Shore area near the Steeler and Pirate stadiums. The Del Monte building is in the background. I think Del Monte owns Heinz, or, maybe more correctly Heinz and Del Monte are just part of the ever growing multinational conglomeration. This memorial is a circular set of metal pillars, holding large sheets of glass containing images of war, including The Bomb going off (not seen here).

Yes, I was thoroughly impressed with what is happening in downtown Pittsburgh and along the North Shore with its museums, casino, tram, and a lot more.


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