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pittsburgh

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

TransportationModes
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

Goddess

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

080411-DuchessAtNight

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.


Gothic

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!


Steep

black and white photo of steep streets and houses

Steep

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.


Pittsburgh at Night

pittsburgh at night

Pittsburgh at Night

I don’t know why it’s always captivated me, but Pittsburgh at night, the modest buildings lit just right, bridges decorated with lights, all reflected on one river or another, has always been one of my favorite scenes. I took this series of photos and created a panorama on Monday night about 9:15, so many of the office buildings weren’t as well lit as they would have been earlier in the evening, but I never pass up a chance to stop on Mt. Washington to photograph the city.

This view is of “First Side”, along the Monongahela River right before it reaches the point; off to the right a little past center is the Smithfield Street Bridge, then in the darkness over the river is one bridge after another—Panhandle, Liberty, 10th Street, Birmingham, Hot Metal, then the bend where J&L Steel used to fire the night sky with an orange glow.

But even before that bend in the river, this little cluster of buildings coming to a point where a great river is born is all of downtown Pittsburgh.


La Dia de los Muertos

ofrenda at mexico lindo

This year's ofrenda.

I visited Mexico Lindo for the candlelight celebration of the Days of the Dead. Lisa’s displays are authentic and intensely detailed, featuring individuals who died during the year from her own family members to those known worldwide. While browsing, we listened to a mix of music she had made including the works of the musicians who were included in her ofrenda; I distinctly heard Amy Winehouse, John Barry, Billy Taylor and Captain Beefheart.

It took me several times around the store to feel I had my footing but began photographing as soon as I walked in; my natural reaction to something so overwhelmingly detailed and visual. Lisa tells me it takes her an average of three weeks to put this together, and it could honestly take that long for me to capture all the details. I was so busy I didn’t manage to write a message on the ofrenda to my mother, who passed in January, so I set up a little ofrenda for her when I came home. Scroll down to see more photos and a slideshow.

ofrenda detail 1

The small altar with at least one sugar skull.

On these days, November 1 and 2, many cultures celebrate the lives of those who’ve left this mortal existence for, well, whatever you believe comes next. The Mexican celebration has elements which date back to pre-Columbian cultures, and skulls and skeletons the main symbols are made in sugar and chocolate and given as gifts to the living and dead alike as well as appearing on many items, while vases and garlands of the orange Mexican marigold, thought to attract the souls of the dead swath altars and ofrendas.

Lisa has always included monarch butterflies in her displays, and this year she has named this event “Muertos y Monarcas”. The following text is from her blog:

The Monarch butterflies return to Michoacan each year on the Days of the Dead, and many believe they are the souls of the dead returning for a brief visit…and so here at the store we build two large ofrendas, or offerings, to help light their way home, featuring the monarchs as well our astounding selection of artesanias dedicated to this holiday, from the silly to the sublime.

Available for viewing from October 28 ~ November 19, with a candlelight Open House on the Days of the Dead: November 1 and 2, from 6:00 ~ 9:00 pm. We’ll be serving Chocolate Oaxaqueño and refreshments, and participants can add notes to their loved ones on the ofrendas. This year there will QR codes accompanying many of the photographs so that participants who bring smart phones or tablets can access additional media resources with url links and video clips pertinent to those that we are honoring. They can join our wifi network if needed, and should make sure that they have downloaded the appropriate QR code reading app for either Apple, Android or Windows devices.

Military accounting.

ome of the dead who will be remembered this year include: Casualties of the wars in Iran and Afghanistan and Mexico’s “War on Drugs”, Steve Jobs, John Barry, Jose Arguelles, Susana Chavez, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, Facundo Cabral, Leonora Carrington, Lucian Freud, Geraldine Ferrarro, Elizabeth Taylor, Sargent Shriver, Billy Taylor, Betty Ford, Wangari Maathai, Peter Falk, Amy Winehouse, Jack Kevorkian, Chuck Tanner, John Cigna, Daniel DiGioia, Leo Walsh, Alberto DiClemente and many more.

Mexico Lindo is in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. This is a brief explanation of their mission from their website:

Mexico Lindo imports fine folk Mexican arts and crafts, and is destined to become well-known for their exceptional selection of carved + intricately painted wooden Alebrijes (vividly portrayed animals, both mythical and actual) from Oaxaca, as well as the brilliantly colorful beaded masks, jewelry and yarn paintings of the Huichol Indians. Co-owner Jean-Pierre Nutini has a wealth of intimate knowledge of the mercados of Mexico; having spent much of his youth there with his family. He has a keen ability for finding the best bargains! As a result, we are able to offer you some of the choicest selections and the fairest prices for Huichol Art and Oaxacan Alebrijes.

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Intermezzo

outdoor courtyard at night

Intermezzo

At intermission during the Living Room Concert I mentioned yesterday everyone got up and walked around the house and grounds, including this wonderful little courtyard. I loved the light falling from above and inside, the details of the wisteria and the upper deck railing, the people minimized and all part of one interesting scene.

And interesting that, in a neighborhood where the houses are so close together, there is an off-street parking spot and a courtyard that is two lots wide. Unfortunately that usually means a house was lost, but from the brick parking pad to the wrought iron fence and gate through the flagstone walks with tall airy locust trees and lush groundcovers they certainly made the most of a small and very shaded area. With lanterns and candles it was lovely at night.

“Intermezzo” is opera-speak for “intermission”, and since this had to do with classical music I thought I’d use the term, and the word feels mysterious, just like the light and shadow in the photo. And just because the photo is a little blurry and scene reminded me of something I’d seen in an impressionist painting, I played around with a few filters in PhotoShop.

courtyard at night

Intermezzo, painterly


Living Room Concert

musucians in a living room concert

Living Room Concert

Just like that, we all truly gathered in someone’s living room to hear five fine musicians play classical chamber music last Friday night, performing works from Bach to Rodrigo and including several composers I hadn’t ever heard of but thoroughly enjoyed.

The name of the series is the “Living Room Chamber Music Project“. The origin of the term “chamber music” was literally music to be played in one’s chamber, a small group of musicians and a small group of listeners, acoustic, unamplified and nearly face to face, so we were hearing these pieces as they were intended to be heard. How enthralling to feel the piano’s base notes through the floorboards during the Sonata for Piano, four hands by Francis Poulenc as I also watched the two pianists cross over each others’ hands on the keyboard. And watching each musician’s technique, imagining the hours and years to develop that much skill, and the ranging emotions to express the piece they were playing. And the perfect stereo acoustics as the violin was on the left, the oboe on the right, the piano and vocalist in the center. I felt as if I was a part of the music instead of just an observer.

The hosts simply welcomed us into their lovingly restored and decorated row house on the South Side of Pittsburgh, music on the first floor, a spread of food on the second floor to rival the music in diversity.


Roberto Clemente Bridge

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. 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.


It’s a Steelers Day in Pittsburgh

two men with Steelers shirts

Phil and Howard with matching Steelers shirts.

I went to lunch with a customer today, and arriving at the restaurant we unexpectedly met another customer and friend. As we sat down they noticed they were wearing identical Steelers shirts, kidding each other about dressing alike. Silly me, I asked how they came to be wearing the same shirt but I should have known. There’s a game tonight. It’s the unwritten code of Steelers fans: wear your black and gold. I didn’t get the gene for “sports fan”, but that’s okay, it’s fun being an observer.

The wearing of the black and gold is de rigueur in Pittsburghers, at least those who are aware of games and such. Black and gold is worn everywhere—I’ve seen priests substitute a gold collar for a white one on game day, and it can even be worn as dress colors, black suit and tie with gold shirt or black outfit with gold tie.

Though the Steelers lost the Super Bowl in February 2011, a trip to the grocery store that day showed it wasn’t because fans weren’t showing their support.

Actually, they lost the Super Bowl because I decided to wear black and gold that day. I promise I’ll never do that again.


Goddess

statue of goddess with flowers

Goddess

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.


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