Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Over Nighter - Destination -- Pittsburgh, PA

As some of you may know, I'm a big fan of Jay Maisel.  Not just his work, but his mindset toward bettering your photography.  He has many a profound thing to say, not that they have never been said before, I just think that he happened to be there when I needed to hear them the most.
Cathedral of Learning

One thing I learned from Jay Maisel is that you need to do your "visual pushups" everyday.  This means going out and looking for image capture opportunities.  It doesn't mean you need to take pictures, but you need to make the attempt.  Find something that is interesting or that you've never seen before.

To that end, the family and I decided to take a trip to Pittsburgh, PA.   I've driven through before, but never stayed.  My wife, had occasion to travel there a short while back and recommended it as a great place for photographic opportunities.

We did some pre-planning and decided on one or two places that we wanted to visit, but we did not plan exactly when.  We do this to keep the flexibility of the trip to a maximum.  You do have some ideas of when the best time would be for lighting for outdoor locations, and we also had some places on the back burner in case the weather did not lend itself for outdoor photo opportunities.

Gear For The Trip

I wanted to travel light, but also use a good low light, high ISO performer.  I also wanted to keep it simple and not be dragging tons of lenses.


Nikon D700
Nikkor 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 Macro
Nikkon 24mm f/2.8
Nikon SB-600
Gorillapod DSLR tripod

I was able to get all this plus extra batteries, memory cards and lens hood into a Tamrac System 6 shoulder bag.

I picked this setup as I am slowly starting to get to the point where I am wanting to use my Fuji X-E1 setup for travel photography like this.  It does appear that the Fuji will fit the bill.  It has the hi ISO performance I would want and once I get the 55-200mm to go along with the 18mm/35mm primes I already have.

Interesting locations

Cathedral of Learning

An absolutely unique place to visit.   This 42 story, 535ft tall building is the tallest educational building in the western hemisphere.   it is built in the Gothic Revival style and broke ground in 1926, with the first class usage in 1931.  There are 29 "Nationality Rooms" which are all built with techniques and materials from the country of its origin.  Additional information regarding the Cathedral of Learning can be found here in this detailed Wikipedia entry.

Common Area Inside The Cathedral of Learning

The interior common areas are intricately built like an old cathedral.  University of Pittsburgh students can be seen frequenting the common areas, studying.
Lighting here is a bit of a challenge.  There is a strong tungsten light cast(red) and the lighting is very dim.  Fast glass and high ISO gear will help you a lot if you want to shoot hand held.  Otherwise, I'd recommend a tripod.
The first floor nationality rooms require you to pay a $4 fee per person to see.  Go to the gift shop/information room to pay and they will give you a key and audio player.  The audio player plays a description of the room for you. 

View From The Third Floor
 When done on the first floor, head to the third floor for more nationality rooms.  Before you do, you can return the key and audio player.  The rooms on the third floor are unlocked and have a switch in them for the audio information.
The English Room
Its hard for me to pick a favorite room as I loved them all.  It was a different look at the all the cultures represented.
Entrance to the English Room

Heinz Memorial Chapel

Henry John Heinz, founder of the HJ Heinz Co wanted to dedicate a building to his mother at the University of Pittsburgh.  Mr Heinz, upon his death in 1919 left money to build the Heinz Memorial Chapel just a short hop, skip and jump from the Cathedral of Learning.
Heinz memorial Chapel
This chapel has splendid exterior features as well as interior features.  Some of the most beautiful stained glass I've seen in quite some time.  Again, like the Cathedral of Learning, interior of the chapel is low light, see prepare accordingly.

Duquesne Incline / Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington give you the absolutely best view of the Pittsburgh skyline, day or night!  For a reasonable $5 round trip fee, the trolley car takes you from the Station A parking lot at the street level all the way up to the top of Mt. Washington.   Outside the station is an observation deck.

St. Benedict The Moor Church

St. Benedict The Moor was a freed slave that impressed the Catholic priests of his region, they invited him to join a hermit order.He is known as the patron saint of African-Americans.

St. Paul's Catholic Church

Located across the street from the Carnegie School of Software Engineering, this church has that great, old world architecture that will have you snapping pictures of it for hours!

Parting Notes

 While there are some places, like the ones I've listed above, Pittsburgh is a great city just to walk about and grab images.  The people and architecture leave almost limitless opportunities.  Here are just a few images of street photography I found close to our hotel as well as down side streets from the other places we visited.