Navy Pier Lift

Regular followers of this blog will know that I do a lot of jobs with Midwest Helicopters.  Earlier this week I got a call from Jim telling me that they were planning a job at Navy Pier later in the week.  Given the location of the pier, the possibility of some nice city backdrops was very tempting.  Where to shoot from would depend on where the actual lift was.  For those who haven’t been there, Navy Pier is pretty long!

I went to the website to try and get a contact on the pier who might be able to get me into a location that would be good for shooting.  They have a contact for people wishing to photograph (commercially) on the pier so  I contacted the person and they got back to me a while later.  Turns out, the pier is very focused on what is necessary to get a shoot arranged.  They had a series of terms, most of which were not a problem with the exception of getting them named on my insurance overnight!  They also had a fee which was quite substantial.  Since the shoot was associated with some work for them, they were prepared to consider waiving the fee.  However, the manager was out and by now the lift was the following morning.

Outstanding commitment on the part of my contact meant I got the all clear at 10:30 the night before.  I am very grateful that they tried so hard and it was certainly nice to be totally legitimate.  The morning dawned with some very promising conditions.  We all rolled up to the site and got set.  Unfortunately, the loads were not ready so the lift was postponed for half an hour while the rigging was set up.

Eventually we went ahead.  A theater on the pier has a fabric cover that had been ripped in a storm.  The new covers were going up and a damaged vent was being brought down.  The guys receiving the loads were working on some temporary cable rigging under the main beams.  They were not in much of a position to manhandle the loads as they came in so Jim was a busy guy making very fine adjustments from the helicopter to get everything in place.  He did a great job and I was well positioned to get some good shots.  I particularly liked the angle looking down the roof line at the heart of the Ferris wheel behind the theater.

I was with Brian on the parking deck.  He had an idea for a shot that I hadn’t considered.  He would be hooking on the lift line as the helicopter hovered at head height.  He wanted a shot that was a city panorama with the hook up as part of the scene.  I hadn’t considered doing a pano with action in it before but gave it a go.  I actually tried several during the lift and they actually came out quite well.

Stitching the pano of Brian was harder than I thought.  Photoshop did a great job of creating the pano and totally excluding the helicopter since it was only in one shot.  However, the layer was still there so some delicate masking work could bring it back in.  It was actually really cool to watch it appear on the monitor.  The pano is not something that will always have a place on a shoot but it is an interesting idea to add to the shoot list.

For more pictures of the lift, you can go to this gallery.

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