Tag Archives: photography prime lens

72 Hours in Seattle – Part 1

2008-11-08seattle-3873I’ve long wondered: if I didn’t live in Denver, where would I live? Family, the Rocky Mountains and plain old familiarity have kept me rooted here (I’ve lived in Denver my whole life with the exception of four years in college…which, of course, was just down the road in Colorado Springs).

If it weren’t for Denver, there is little doubt that I’d live in the Pacific Northwest somewhere. The variety of landscapes — the Cascades, the Olympics, Puget Sound, the Columbia River — and the variety of cultures, food, arts, and job opportunities all combine to make it that phantom home for me. Plus, it’s not called “California.”

2008-11-08seattle-3706On Saturday, Hailey and I took a mini-vacation to Seattle. A group of us from Weaver were meeting with the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau on Monday, and since Hailey had never joined me for a business trip (plus she works for herself, and hadn’t been back to Seattle since she lived there when she was seven) it all made sense to extend it over the weekend, eat fresh seafood, window shop, and drink coffee like a U-Dub post-doc pulling an all-nighter.

We checked into the Hotel Max (environmentally sensitive mantra on linens, pictured above), which is wedged between downtown and the South Lake Union neighborhood. I don’t know. I’m starting to get annoyed with trendy places like this, but I didn’t realize it until we checked in. The rate was decent, the place looked funky and different, but the room (marketed as an Artist’s King) was a phone booth with a queen-sized mattress. The lobby was a bit too cool for me (I felt like a tool sitting on this velvet chaise lounge wearing my Old Navy jeans and my beige rain jacket), and the hallways were dark to the point of almost being skanky. When done right — see Hotel Greif or Hotel Grace (fka Hotel QT) — a “mod” hotel can be a lot of fun and can add to the overall way you see a destination. When it is done wrong — see any W Hotel, the Jet Hotel in Denver — it just feels like a sad wasteland for 20- and 30-somethings to drink martinis and be shallow.

Despite the rain, we didn’t hang out there much.

2008-11-08seattle-3742Before I get into the razor clam chowder with white-truffle oil at the Steelhead Diner, I must say that 2008 is shaping up to be the best food experience year of my life. I’m losing track of the memorable meals…it’s all blurring together as a euphoric fog in my hippocampus. Seattle was no exception, with Saturday being a parade of amazing flavors. It started with lunch at Steelhead Diner (all-time best chowder, and I’ve been to Cape Cod nearly a dozen times), continued with ginger-infused apple cider at a mid-afternoon break at Macrina Bakery + Cafe, and finished off with whiskey-brined pork tenderloin with poached pears at The Purple Cafe. Allow a little hyperbole: Seattle is the most underrated food city in America. There, I said it.

2008-11-08seattle-3774In the afternoon, we walked through Belltown to the Olympic Sculpture Park, a public space with works from Alexander Calder, Roxy Paine, Roy McMakin and Richard Serra (his work Wake is pictured above). It began to rain while we were there, and the dreary skies made photographing the works very difficult. I had to crop out all sky just to get color and proper exposure, which ruled out photographing a few of the taller, more magnificent works. The park is a nice addition to the waterfront — a treasure few cities have. However, some of the more prominent artists’ work — namely Calder and Serra — are so signature to their style they’re beginning to look repetitive. OK, Mr. Calder, we get it: you like big, bright-red pieces of painted steel arranged in angled ways. And Richard Serra seems to be on autopilot: more rusty-colored plates of steel, set on their ends, and you can walk through them. Didn’t I see the exact same thing from him in Dallas and St. Louis? I guess my take is that versatility, innovation and rule-bending are the pillars of good art. There is a fine line between milking a good idea and converting it into a rerun. I’m guilty of it. How many times have I done this shot?

2008-11-08seattle-3805Walking back to the market through Belltown we came upon So Much Yarn, an all-things-knitting kind of place, which drew Hailey in with a big grin on her face. She’s getting tired of knitting just scarves, so she got some helpful tips from on of the clerks working there (plus a circular needle…which I guess is pretty important).

2008-11-08seattle-3837Then it was back to the Pike Place Market for blue hour. I have a new prime lens, and this is the first blog post with it in action. It’s a Canon 24mm f/1.4. What does that mean? Basically, it lets in a ton of light, which allows me to shoot handheld in some pretty dark situations. For the past year, my favorite lens has hands down been my Canon 50mm f/1.8 which works on the same principal. What you lose with not being able to zoom in and out you more than make up for with being forced into a creative mindset.

2008-11-08seattle-3855Without that luxury of just zooming in or out, I find myself bending my knees, backing up, coming closer, and even elevating my angle for the shot. In the end, it’s like this:

  • With a zoom lens: “that’s an interesting object…CLICK”
  • With a prime lens: “that’s an interesting object, now where is the best composition…”

It’s easy vs. hard, but the challenge is always worth it. In fact, all of the photos in this post — with the exception of the chowder and the top Pike Place Market clock shot — were taken with the new 24mm (and the chowder was taken with the 50mm).

2008-11-08seattle-3864There was this drunk dude harassing me as I took all of these blue-hour market shots. He followed me around and asked why I was taking shots for fun. That had never dawned on him before: taking pictures…for the fun of it? He also asked annoying questions like how much my camera cost, where he could get one, why I was taking so many shots. That’s another thing about travel photography sometimes: You make a scene even if you don’t mean too. I forget that crouching low and squinting through a viewfinder in the middle of a street is a bit abnormal. Oh well…

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