Our Norfolk trip included a run along the coast to Cromer. We were keen to try an amazing fish and chip shop that had been recommended and it was certainly as good as we had been led to believe. The restaurant was up above the pier. Cromer has a feel of the sort of seaside resort that is lacking a great reason to be there. Having grown up by the sea, I have seen the better locations and the ones that are a bit sad and Cromer was more of the latter. I didn’t feel like exploring the pier itself and made do with getting a photo from a distance.
This was an evening that I was out hunting planes. I did have some success, but I got a lot more shots of birds than planes. The cormorants were out in numbers and they obviously know I like them. Log Boom Park in Kenmore has a concrete pier that goes well out into the lake. At the end of the pier are pilings from a previous version of the pier. They provide a nice spot for birds to rest and the cormorants had taken over the place.
The light was not in a good place for getting a photo but it was still worthy of a shot or two. Some of the cormorants were stretching their wings to dry out. They have a prehistoric look about them at the best of times but when they stretch the wings out, they really do look like a pterodactyl. The concentrated group of cormorants were in a bad spot for the light but, fortunately, one of them was feeling antisocial and was on a different post. The light was a lot better for this guy!
When we first started planning the trip to the UK, I decided to try and schedule a shoot with the lifeboat crew in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. The boat house is at Lane End in Bembridge. I had shot a launch there from the shore a few years ago and wanted to plan something a little more involved. I talked with the RNLI team there about getting something together and it looked like it might work out. Unfortunately, a number of issues cropped up shortly before the visit and the whole thing was scrubbed.
While this was disappointing, it did free up some time during the visit to do other things. Even so, I did take a walk from our hotel down to Lane End one early evening. The lifeboat is kept in a boathouse at the end of a pier. This allows it to launch clear of the rocky ledges in the area. The boat house is a relatively new building. The old pier and house were demolished and replaced when they upgraded the lifeboat.
The new pier is a cool structure and the whole thing fits well with what was there already. I got there after the house had closed to visitors for the day but I did walk out on the pier and look through the windows at the boat. It was a lovely evening to be out at the water and certainly made me feel pretty relaxed on my vacation. A couple of days later, I was able to get some aerial shots of the boathouse when we flew by too which was pretty cool.
One of the nice things about winter in Chicago is enjoying the days when it is cold but clear and sunny. The combination of clear skies and the gentle light of winter is very attractive and when it happens during the weekend, it is a good idea to get out and have a walk around. Navy Pier is a very popular tourist destination so it is a place I rarely go. Winter, though, is a quieter time and it is worth wandering out since you won’t be fighting the crowds. You can also see how much ice has built up in the lake.
The pier has a lot of touristy stuff to attract people. This isn’t really my thing. However, the Ferris wheel is something that makes me look for a little longer. Also, the end of the pier is the location for a large hall. I’m not sure what the hall is used for. It was locked up while I was there. However, it is a nice looking structure. It is also a nice spot to look out into the lake. The water culverts our outside the harbor wall and there is a lighthouse on the wall itself. A few things to take a look at while enjoying a good stroll.
Chicago has traditionally held a pretty impressive fireworks display to celebrate the 4th of July. Since I have lived here, the fireworks have been let off a day early on the 3rd. While I have never bothered to find out why, I have always assumed it was because they wanted a ton of people to come and see them and this they could do and still see their own local town displays on the 4th. I guess it worked because up to 2 million people would show up to watch.
Last year, with the city feeling a bit hard up for cash, they did away with the big display and had three smaller displays spread out along the lakefront. This year, no display at all. I guess it isn’t the cost of the display that is the issue. The cost of dealing with 2 million people is a little bit more of an issue!
All is not lost, though. Navy Pier holds firework displays every Wednesday and Saturday throughout the summer so one more is not a big deal for them. Consequently, we took a stroll out to the lake to watch the display. It was a nice show. Not a stunning display like some I have seen but I’m not complaining. It still had a lot of people showing up to watch but nothing like the normal event. It was on the 4th as well.
I like taking pictures of fireworks but I have found I like the shots a lot more if there is some context to them. I am not a big fan of shots that just have the explosion filling the frame. With a display out over the lake, my options were relatively limited. The big Chicago displays are over the harbor and, if you watch from the planetarium, you have the skyline as part of the shot. That certainly is worthwhile.
I don’t put a lot of effort in to the shots. I set up the camera as I want the frame to be making some guesses about how big the larger blooms will be. Then I hold the cable release and have fun watching the display. I can trigger the shots (bulb mode) as I think looks good without distracting myself from having fun enjoying the show. Sometimes they are better than others but anything is just a nice side benefit from a good display.
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.