an everyday photo, every day | photography • art • poetry


Roberto Clemente Bridge, 2011

roberto clemente bridge, pittsburgh

The Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh

I took a little drive through Pittsburgh this evening at dusk, and while I didn’t take this photo this evening, what I saw reminded me of it, the gold of one of Pittsburgh’s bridges, the deep blue of the evening sky reflected on the gentle ripples of the river, the lights dancing. I thought it would be nice to share.

This is the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the former Sixth Street Bridge crossing the Allegheny River from Downtown Pittsburgh to the North Side right next to PNC Park. It was lit on this night because there was a game at the field.

It’s the first of the “three sisters bridges”, the next being the Andy Warhol Bridge and then the Rachel Carson Bridge—sisters in spirit, perhaps. You can see the stone piers and a little of the bridge decks and suspension wires beyond this one. I’m kind of proud that these three bridges are named for these three people.

Patterns: 2010

house with ivy and bricks

Textures and Patterns

Buildings settle into where they are and straight courses of brick waver, roofs sag just a bit, chimneys shift comfortably, paint peels; the people who live there settle into patterns of use, windows open, blinds down; ever the opportunist, nature sends out roots, drops seeds, and grows wherever the conditions are right, adding her patterns of growth.

Patterns and angles, the bricks going one way, the ivy another, the shingles yet another, and shadows on all of it, a city house no doubt has stories to tell.

Pittsburgh Vista, 2010

view between buildings on Mt. Washington

Valley Vista

Down and down and down we go, where we stop–the river maybe? Sometimes it seems that way in some of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. This was taken from Shiloh Street on Mt. Washington, one of the highest points around, and I sometimes wonder how (and why) people managed to build on some of these hillsides, and the buildings are still standing.

I also think of people from years gone by who walked up and down these hills, and horses and mules who hauled people and goods up and down the streets.

Extreme Downhill, 2010

Mt. Washington Downhill
Mt. Washington Downhill

Mt. Washington Downhill

This street goes down and down and down and curves and bends and why would anyone build a street like this?! After the stop where you see the car’s taillights, the street curves and keeps going down and down and down.

It may have begun as a cow path from the pasture to the home up on the top of Mt. Washington—before the turn of the last century, many people kept livestock in their yards, and cows were regularly put out to pasture for the day in the closest field.

It may also have been a footpath since it goes straight down the hill, unlike a horse trail which would have curved around the hill or had switchbacks. Most horses would have some trouble negotiating a path this steep, and with a cart it would have been impossible.

Streets like this make Pittsburghers pretty fearless drivers.

One Thin Slice, 2010

tall narrow building
tall narrow building

One Thin Slice

What do you do when your city lot is at a 25 degree angle to the street? You build a building that looks completely normal from the front, but comes to a very slim edge at one corner. It’s very interesting from the outside, but I’d love to see what the rooms look like inside—what could you possibly put in the corner of a room like that?

This building is one of many along Shiloh Street in Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, that are angled to the street in much the same way. Buildings of an interesting shape and narrow streets on extreme hills (tomorrow) make the neighborhoods a very interesting visit.

Life Imitating Art: 2010

photo of vines on a building

Life Imitates Art

Ivy and honeysuckle obligingly grow out of strategic areas on the mural painted from ground to roof on the side of this building in Mt Washington, in Pittsburgh.

It’s really cool to look at, but I do hope they remove the vines or it will damage and eventually cover the mural.

Sunset on the River: 2010

evening on river

Evening on the River

A storm late in the day often breaks out into a lovely colorful sunset as the layers of clouds all capture a different color and the sun itself glows red.

On the river, with shadows and reflections and ripples in the water, it’s even more beautiful. I equally like the view of the distance, the city still awake, the clouds parting, and the closeup area of the water, gently lapping against the dock.

I was on the Empress Party Liner docked on the Monongahela River recently, and just captured this quiet view up river.

Traffic Jam at the Beach

line of wrecked cars
line of wrecked cars

Traffic Jam

On such a vivid blue-sky day when the trees are about as green as they are going to get and even the dirt looks like beach sand, this line of junked cars could be mistaken for a line of cars waiting to get to the beach. I went to an auto wrecking place to get a new back window for my 95 Ford Escort Wagon, and unless I pay more than the car is technically worth for a brand new one, this is where you go. An interesting walk-through seeing cars new and old sitting there waiting to be torn to bits to keep other cars going. Call it the vehicle organ donation place.

Really, the sumacs and hardy wildflowers don’t care where they grow, they are happy with just enough sun and moisture and they’ll produce their flowers and wave their green leaves in the breeze, sprouting through mashed bumpers and hiding missing wheel and doors and broken windshields left behind by an accident, a story in itself.

I accidentally left my little point-and-shoot on the “flower” setting because I was shooting in low light earlier and that helps to keep the colors defined, and this is why it looks like the Caribbean when it’s really only a fairly grim riverside junkyard in Pittsburgh.

Transportation Yesterday and Today: 2010

photo of paddlewheel and highway ramps

Transportation Yesterday and Today

I was walking along the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh and happened to get a good view of this traditional paddlewheel from a riverboat—and in the background the curving and rising on and off ramps from the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Behind, to the right, is the rail along the walking and biking trail. I couldn’t quite get the train tracks and in the image, but they are there too, and I know there’s a boat on the river because there’s always a boat on the river.

Bloomfield from a Distance

photo of bloomfield from a distance
photo of bloomfield from a distance

Bloomfield in Pittsburgh, from a distance.

This is a photo of Bloomfield, one of Pittsburgh’s older and densely populated city neighborhoods, from across the valley. It’s one of the things I love about Pittsburgh, that unique established neighborhoods mix with dense woods and greenspaces even before conservation began in earnest. With all these steep hills people developed what they could and stopped where they had to, but you can always find a tree-covered hillside or ravine as a respite to the population.

This view is from Polish Hill, which I’ll photograph from Bloomfield one of these days. Bloomfield is fairly flat, but Polish Hill is “the most vertical neighborhood in Pittsburgh”, clinging to a hillside, with not one level street in the whole place. It looks really cool from a distance, though.

Goddess: 2011

statue of goddess with flowers
statue of goddess with flowers


I don’t think she’s a famous one, but the foliage frames her so perfectly she almost seems to glow in that uncertain light between rainfalls. All that foliage looks fresh and happy, the greens are very intense, and the contrast of the fiery croton plants in the center with the blue-purple ageratum and greenery, and all the contrasts of texture, are very appealing, yet it’s a very simply composition.

I’m not sure what she’s holding in her hand, and I couldn’t reach the foliage to pull it back and get a better look. A book? A lantern? I found her at Station Square on Wednesday.

The Duchess at Night


The Duchess

This is the Duchess, one of the boats of the Gateway Clipper Fleet in Pittsburgh. As I was leaving an event the other night, there she was, reflected in water behind the dock, near the shore where the surface ripples are gentle and fairly large. Those yellow party lights give it a carnival atmosphere and gently light objects around the boat.

There was a very bright spotlight on the top deck, though, and it not only threw off my light metering, but it was so bright that it was distorted and hazy and reflected too brightly on the surface of the water. No matter how I tried to tame it down, it would have no taming, being painfully bright even when I looked at it in my view screen on the back of the camera.

So I edged over until it was behind the docking station and pressed my camera against the uprights of the little walkway that carried us over the channel behind the dock, and there was this photo.

Night photography is a favorite of mine. The contrast of bright and colored lights against the darkness is so visually appealing, and the patterns of light and dark change a familiar landscape into an entirely new world.

Just add water and you have another element to add to the illusion, reflections distorted and broken apart by even the slightest movement in the water.

City Fountain on a Hot Night: 2010

city fountain in color at night
city fountain in color at night

Dancing in the Fountain

Families chase each other through the dancing waters of the fountain in PPG Place in downtown Pittsburgh on a hot night in the city. Changing colored lights illuminate the obelisk in the center as the water jets put on a show of their own.

Patterns of the Old City: 2010

wall and bricks

Patterns of the City

Before the age of massive poured concrete structures and Jersey barriers, people paved with natural stones and manufactured bricks. A skilled mason would use the best attributes of the materials, fitting the materials together in clever ways to create patterns.

I enjoy architecture of all sorts, and I also like the more modern styles incorporating large flat areas of molded masonry, glass or metal, the mark of a modern city. But these old patterns feel so much more welcoming when walking down a city street, so much more organic, their patterns catching light differently during the day and the season much like the leaves on trees or a field of grasses, and even the city’s layer of grime chipping off the limestone feels like a natural part of the experience.

And this wall and sidewalk have served this neighborhood for well over 100 years though worn and wavy with use, while their concrete counterparts have had to be replaced more than once in that time.

And Your Little Dog, Too!

tattooed woman with dog
tattooed woman with dog

And Your Little Dog, Too

I was quite amazed by the detail of this woman’s tattoos, not to mention the pink tips on her blonde dreadlocks.

She was unconcerned about the opinion of the dour woman sitting on her doorstep carefully studying the tattoos and hair as she worked on her plaster house number at the Polish Hill Art What You Got Festival in 2010.

That looks like Medea on her left leg right above her Boston terrier’s back, and on her right leg is that Alice after she’s drunk the potion that makes her larger? Not sure, but this woman seems to have myths and stories all over her skin.

The neighborhood, one of the oldest in Pittsburgh as you could guess by its name, is a big mix of old and new, traditional and avant garde, babushka and punk. Not everyone who lives there is Polish, though that’s a relatively new innovation, letting in outsiders. Many college students live there because it’s much less expensive than living near the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University, Chatham University and Carlow University, all within walking distance if you’ve got a little time.

It was a very interesting place to spend an afternoon, and I’m going to have to go back to visit the coffee houses when I’m not in a festival.

Pittsburgh’s Flatiron

triangular building in downtown Pittsburgh
triangular building in downtown Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s Flatiron

Most cities have a Flatiron building–it always seems there’s one spot where the streets come together at an angle and leave an awkward space, and being downtown, someone has to build on it. Downtown Pittsburgh, being built into the “Golden Triangle” where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers come together to form the “Point” at the headwaters of the Ohio River, seems to have triangular buildings on every other corner.

This is just a tiny building in the middle of downtown, now housing Wood Street Station/Wood Street Galleries but originally the Monongahela Bank. Built in 1927 of limestone and marble, with a metal canopy with ginkgo leaf patterns etched in the glass.

Those tall windows are well-suited to an art gallery, and it also houses the offices of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh

city street
city street

Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh

The city street looked so lovely yesterday when I visited. This is part of the Cultural District, the original buildings restored with good cleanings and a fresh coat of paint, and the trees nearing their maturity. Looks like it might be a special neighborhood, but it’s right in downtown.

See other photos of Pittsburgh.


photo of Union Trust Building
photo of Union Trust Building

Union Trust Building

Guess where?

You’ll never guess. It’s on Grant Street in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. This is the Union Trust Building with its roof of terracotta tiles and dormers and facade of limestone, one of the first “indoor arcades” or malls in the country, built in 1916 by Henry Clay Frick, modeled after a Gothic-style European building. Apparently he had  a little bit of extra cash in his pocket.

Here it takes in the reflected morning sun reflected from the building across the street.


Grand Entrance

two persons walking up steps
two persons walking up steps

Grand Entrance, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

The the shallow angles of the staircase to the second floor of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, colorful in the late afternoon sun streaming in the window wall out of view to the right. The geometry of the steps and color blocks appealed to me with the two non-geometric figures in the foreground, lots of symbolism about goals and climbing  and achievement as we went to see the Impressionist exhibit. You’re not supposed to photograph in the museum, but how can I visit a place that awakens my creative self without taking it in and expressing it creatively? I caught a few photos, though not of the art, just of the space.

Cultural at Night

photo of city at night

Cultural at Night

A lovely spring night in downtown Pittsburgh as the pear trees in the Cultural District bloom and petals swirl in the evening breeze and drift along the sidewalk, lights flicker and people walk around without coats. Waiting for the bus is easy with this much to look at.

Old Allegheny City: 2011

photo of north side pittsburgh

Old Allegheny City

A section of Old Allegheny City, Pittsburgh’s North Side, the rooftops, dormers and windows keeping watch for more than a century.

This neighborhood is one of the oldest in Pittsburgh, and was at one time a separate municipality from Pittsburgh named Allegheny, laid out in 1788 and incorporated in 1828, featuring orderly brick streets and a mix of Victorian-era row houses, middle-class family homes and stately mansions softened by street trees.

Originally, lots and homes were awarded to Revolutionary War veterans. As the century wore on, this sophisticated and attractive urban metropolis became the first home to Pittsburgh’s millionaire industrialists. After the Mexican War, General William Robinson subdivided his plot of land and named all the streets after battles in the Mexican War, attracting even more wealthy homeowners; this photo is a section of the Mexican War Streets, sections of which are on the National Record of Historic Places.

Along with many other industries that found a home along the Allegheny River near the Point in Pittsburgh, the original H. J. Heinz factory built its home in Allegheny and employed generations of people in creating the “Heinz 57″ varieties of pickled vegetables, relishes and chutneys, and many other condiments.

And who grew up in Allegheny City, or North Side? Mary Cassatt, Gertrude Stein, Martha Graham, Kate Harrington, George Washington Harris, John Pitcairn and Art Rooney, to name a few. And who else lived there? Mary Roberts Rinehart, Henry Phipps, H.J. Heinz, Andrew Carnegie, Henry O Tanner, Colonel James Anderson, William Thaw, Jr., Lois Weber and William Penn Snyder. And, of course, Andrew Carnegie built a library here. It must have been a hotbed of creative talent in those early days to have nurtured the likes of those people and attracted so many others. And lots of money.

It merged with the City of Pittsburgh in 1907 but maintained its small-town feel until “urban renewal” in the 1960s took out the original town center and replaced it with a mall and hotel, another portion was removed for highways and overpasses, and “old” sections of neighborhoods were removed because they were “old” and replaced with “new” multi-story modern style brick buildings, removing just enough of various neighborhoods to destroy their cohesion. The mansions of Millionaire’s Row on Ridge Avenue were largely incorporated into Community College of Allegheny County.

But you’ve got to call it the “Nor’side” now, even if it is becoming quite gentrified.

I actually took this photo with my inexpensive little digital point-and-shoot out of a window on the 11th floor of Allegheny General Hospital, so I didn’t have my better DSLR with me. Darn!


black and white photo of steep streets and houses


Just a typical street running down a hill to cross the railroad tracks, then back up and over the other side, and many other narrow streets running parallel up and down and over the hills, and more narrow streets crossing those with their grids of power lines above, and houses and businesses crowding close to sidewalks and to each other, one hundred years and more after they were built in a European style by and for immigrants to carry on their lives in a new country.

This is Glendale, PA, next door to Carnegie.

The Three Rivers

monongahela river

Monongahela River

The skies were so dramatic today, huge clouds both creamy white and gray-purple sailing across the sky and casting oversized shadows on the land beneath. I drove across Mt. Washington again and, as always, stopped to photograph Pittsburgh. I did get a lovely set of images that I’ll combine into a panorama of the city with the buildings shining before deep gray clouds on the horizon, but today the element of fascination was the collection of bridges back and forth across all the rivers, and the rivers themselves, dark like bronze as the cold wind whipped the surface, erasing most reflections.

I’ve always loved Pittsburgh’s green and rolling tree-covered hills and the ridges along the river valleys, and of course it’s quite a show when autumn leaves color, but I also love the soft blues and purples of a November afternoon with the sun angling into the valley at its late autumn course.

Above is the Monongahela River with the Smithfield Street, Panhandle, Liberty, 10th Street and 16th Street Bridges; funny, I can remember the J&L mill taking up a good bit of the riverbanks in this scene years ago.

Below is the Allegheny River with the Fort Duquesne Bridge, “three sister bridges”, the Roberto Clemente, the Andy Warhol and the Rachel Carson Bridges, the Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge, the Veteran’s Bridge, the Sixteenth Street Bridge and the 31st Street Bridge.

allegheny River

Allegheny River

And finally is the Ohio River with the West End Bridge, the Ohio Connecting Railroad Bridge, and the McKees Rocks Bridge.

ohio river

The Ohio River

Autumn in the City

south side pittsburgh

Autumn in the City

On a lovely sunny day in early November you can still find some color in the trees on this street in Pittsburgh’s South Side Flats, and on the cliffside of Mt. Washington above, the traceries of utility wires and details of windows and roofs as natural as the flutter of leaves.


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