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Drink at the Duce

This is another shot from The Duce, a hidden gem in downtown Phoenix that we discovered a few weeks ago. The inside is crazy…there is a boxing ring, restaurant, vintage shop, bar, bleachers for Suns games and more. While the inside probably demands some HDR attention from me down the road, on this night I was focused mainly on grungy walls and alleyways, and the west side of the building was calling my name.

I absolutely love the sign on this wall, right down to the font and layout of the name of the building. The way the light from behind the metal cutout shows you not only the name, but some of the brick details behind it is awesome. That light also helped illuminate the area below it and highlight a few other things. There is just so much about this wall I loved…the textures in the bricks and doorway, the sidewalk, the vertical “drink” and the specks of light coming through the square windows on either side (which you can see better if you view the larger version).

I definitely would like to head back inside the place at some point to snatch some shots of the awesomely quirky interior.  The boxing ring is kind of stuck in my head and I know I must capture it someday.

The Blue Door

In my relatively young journey into urban exploration, the discovery of color in the midst of grunge and oldness is something to be treasured. Especially if it’s in contrast with the stuff surrounding it.

A pretty stark wall…dirty whites, grays and blacks make up the textures of the bricks and pavement, but all the plainness just enhances the pop that comes from the blue doorway.

What’s interesting about these old doors and alleyways that I find in downtown Phoenix is that most of them appear to still be used. The sign on this door looks like it was installed recently so I can only assume this loading dock sees frequent traffic. That sign actually bothers me, I almost tried to “Content Aware Fill” it away…but it didn’t look right and I also felt that wasn’t something I needed to start doing.

My urban exploration so far as been solely on the exterior of things. Because of that, I feel like I am doing a lot of these kind of images…finding awesome doors and walls and shooting them straight on. In my head I hear the words “cliche” pop up because everyone takes shots like these. But I still enjoy them and I like the framing. I have another one coming out later on that I love even more. What makes these unique is that they come from downtown Phoenix and may show people the urban portion of the older areas that haven’t been seen before. And for that I’m really enjoying this stuf.f

Soon I’m going to try to make headway into the interiors of the older buildings and see what happens.

Seeping

This is the 7th Avenue bridge over some railroad tracks set just north of Grand Street. One of my recent excursions exploring the south side of downtown Phoenix brought me underneath this gem of a structure, complete with grunge and oldness.

I tend to look for symmetry and lines in a lot of my images. It’s a running theme I guess…railroad tracks, roads…the belly of bridges…give me depth and disappearing lines and I am a sucker for it. What struck me about this bridge when standing under it (quickly firing brackets in the utter quiet, trying not to freak at every noise I heard), was the stained streaks of some liquid running on the underside of the bridge. At first I didn’t get it, I thought the wind must have done it when it rained, but I realized the bridge just curved down towards me, so any rainwater that seeped through the cracks would end up running towards each end of the bridge.

It’s kind of interesting to think that these trails of water stains have probably built over time, and whenever it rains, the liquid tends to follow the same path, almost like a system of creeks formed in a roof of cement.

I could see these streaks while standing there of course, but I accentuated them a bit in post to really highlight them.

Shop 525

I may have written about it already, but last week I dragged my wife and kid out to explore downtown Phoenix with me right before the sun went down. As we drove around, we suddenly saw this old brick warehouse with the doors wide open, and there was a restaurant and a vintage clothing store inside with globe lights hanging everywhere. It was amazing because there really was nothing around it that was like it. No stores, no malls…it sits a few blocks south of US Airways and is called The Duce.

We checked out the inside, which is a collection of the most crazy stuff you’ll see…bleachers with a big screen TV, a bar, a clothing store, an old kitchen from a trailer, a BOXING RING and a bunch of crap I’m forgetting. It was the strangest, coolest place I’d seen since moving down here.

When we left, I stopped on the west side of the building and took a few shots. They have the words “Shop” “Eat” “Drink” on the outside walls and I wanted to capture them if I could. I liked this specific spot because of the dual lights kind of illuminating the “shop” text.

For those interested, I polished off this image using the onOne Perfect Photo Suite. I don’t have a tilt-shift lens nor will likely get one anytime soon, so I tried out FocalPoint on this and it was awesome to use. I wanted to keep the words sharp, but push the out-of-focus a bit on the outskirts of the wall. So a combination of PhotoTools and FocalPoint helped arrive at this finished product.

I have to say, I’m loving the software. I’m using it for urbex shots now of course, but I’ve also created some presets for my portrait photography as well and love the results. If you are interested in checking this software out, you can now use my awesome coupon code “OLBINSKI” to get 15% off. Just visit their site to get an overview.

Up in the Air

(Rebel XSI, Tamon 17-35 2.8, 24mm, ISO200, F5, 1/1600)

So this post title has changed since I published it just over an hour ago. I told my wife that I went with Far and Away as the movie title for this image, and she said…”Hmmm, I would have gone with Up in the Air.”

Argh! She’s always right, she’s better at this than me…and I’ve decided that now I will run all my Movie Title Wednesday photos past her first to make sure I pick the right film.

Thus, for the first time in the history of this series, I’m completely changing the name of the movie AFTER I’ve published the article. First off, I am not sure how much I really liked Far and Away anyways…but Up in the Air was brilliant. George Clooney and an awesome cast…a story about a guy who does nothing but travel on an airplane for most of his life, an empty apartment with nothing in it and failed relationships. This is a relatively newer movie compared to other ones I choose, so if you haven’t seen it, go check it out. Awesome stuff.

And of course, the film’s title is a great one to describe a photograph of one of the more iconic downtown Phoenix buildings, Westward Ho. It was built in 1928 when it was the the tallest structure in Arizona.

I just love the building. In fact, I plan on trying to finagle my way into some interior areas of the place because I know it’s gotta hold some secrets.

I snapped this photo right before a shoot at the Civic Space Park. The clouds were just amazingly fluffy and the sun was playing off them beautifully. There is nothing more beautiful to me than soft, cotton-candy-clouds like this, especially with a foreground as iconic as this one.

G. Love and Special Sauce

Until last week, I had never heard of G. Love and Special Sauce. I still couldn’t tell you much about the band except they are a bluesy, hip-hop alternative band and I kind of dug their music a bit when I listened to a few songs this evening. Then I saw some YouTube videos where they sang along with the likes of Tristan Prettyman (here) and Jack Johnson (here)…and, well…they are kind of awesome and I may need to buy a CD.

So where did that name even come from? Well, I honestly am not even sure it relates to the image above, but when I showed it to my buddy Brian Matiash and told him it looked like “Ghoul” to me, he said, “I think it says G Love.”

Well, I think the second letter is more likely an “L” than an “H”, so it may as well be G. Love for all I care. Either way, it’s kind of a weird word to be seen on an old loading dock doorway such as this one. Found in a back alley near Coach & Willy’s in downtown Phoenix last week, I didn’t even see the letters on the door until I started processing the image. Then they kind of stood out to me a bit more.

Also, I processed this image using Phototools and a little bit of Graddad Mike O’s Secret Sauce…Special Sauce…and that’s kind of weird how it related to G. Love on yet another level. Deep stuff. Does your head hurt?

So…I think when stormchasing is in the off-season, urban exploration is slowly becoming my secondary passion. Now I need to get me inside a building.

And listen to some more G. Love baby…mmmhmmmm….

(PS. If you are new to the blog today and coming from the Digital Photography School, I hope you have a look around and check out some of my work! If you are looking for the Backlit Nebraska Storm blog post, it’s right here. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me!)

A pair of rails at sunset

(Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, ISO100, F16, six exposures)

As I’ve talked about in a few recent posts, I’ve been exploring downtown Phoenix more in the past week. On two separate occasions I’ve been able to drive around just before the sun went down and just see what I see. And you know me…I don’t tend to go out shooting unless there is hope for something good in the sky…cool clouds, a sunset, whatever. Blue skies depress me.

This was a fun night with a fairly decent sunset, although it was pretty far off on the horizon. Still, a couple of contrails thrown in gave a nice parallel with the train tracks below.  I’m a sucker for lines heading to the horizon, so these tracks were perfect. Once again, I just found myself here at sunset and tried to compose the best scene I could. I find it a lot of fun to know a sunset is coming within the hour, head out downtown somewhere and just look for a place to frame the sky on the fly. I don’t plan a shot weeks ahead…I just let it happen organically. Sure, I sometimes see a spot that I think will be good at a later date…but those don’t always seem to work out as well as the random spots you find when you are crunched for time.

Please Kee Door Close

(Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, ISO100, F8, six exposure HDR)

No, the title isn’t a typo.

I’ve been teetering on the edge of buying the onOne Software Perfect Photo Suite for awhile now. My good buddy Brian Matiash just went to work for that company and I discovered yesterday that he named a couple of the Photo Tools presets after some photographer friends he has, including yours truly.

As most good friendships between buddies go, insults are the way we communicate. So of course instead of naming the preset “AZ Bad Ass” he decided to go with the more humiliating, “Graddad Mike O’s Secret Sauce.” This stems from an inside joke where apparently I’m much older than some of these guys, use a cane to get around and my death is imminent. The preset may or may not contain Metamucil.

Either way, I cried a little at first, but then I got over it and downloaded the Photo Suite. I mean, what else was I going to do?

So the image above was made using my Secret Sauce. It’s a simple wall in downtown Phoenix just a bit west of Coach & Willy’s. I liked the amazing textures and various colors of the wall, but thought the sign was kind of funny considering the door probably hasn’t been opened in a decade.

I’m having a serious  blast exploring downtown. The wife, daughter and myself drove around again tonight looking for awesomeness and I shot some brackets. I really want to spend a few hours down there in the near future to really take my time finding hidden gems. But when you are busy with work all the time, it’s nice to bring the family along for a short little drive around the desolate, abandoned areas of town right?

Perfect Photo Suite is pretty awesome and I’m slowly getting the hang of it. One thing brilliant about onOne themselves as a company is the way they go about helping you learn how to use their software, with webinars, video tutorials, etc. Brian even did a little webex for me to show me quickly how it worked with Photoshop, because I really want to be able to use it for processing portraits as well. Amazing customer service at onOne. That’s how you earn loyalty and good word of mouth.

There is a smashing deal going on right now for the thing…check it out (offer expires on the 8th).

Can’t wait to show off a few more images next week…and hopefully get out there to shoot some more.

Sunset over downtown Phoenix

(Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, ISO100, F16, six exposure HDR)

Phoenix sucks in the way that the freeway system tries its absolute very best to avoid the downtown area. I love how the bigger cities out there like Boston have freeways and large highway systems that gut the downtown area. In Phoenix, you have to try very, very hard to get any kind of shot with a freeway + tall buildings.

I had been eying this parking garage ever since I moved downtown and had been wanting for a nice sunset to go with it. It’s not the best spot in the world, but it’s one of the few with a bird’s eye view of Interstate 10, 7th street and central Phoenix. Gorgeous sunset on Tuesday for sure. It’s kind of fun to look at the late afternoon cloud, realize there is a great impending sunset and then go find a spot. I wont go back here, but I plan on exploring some urban areas up-close next time instead of doing a grand view of the city.

I’d click on the picture for the larger view, I think the bigger version looks better (that’s what she said).

Judgment Night

(Canon Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, ISO100, F8, six exposure HDR)

Back in 1993 in the late fall, a little movie called Judgment Night hit theaters and my wife (then new girlfriend, we had graduated that summer from high school) checked it out one Friday evening. We never knew exactly what it was…maybe the theater was cold and it made the atmosphere feel a bit more real…but my wife and I got totally sucked into this film and completely freaked out by it. And we loved it. I mean, it’s a vivid memory for both of us to this day, 17 years later. When I showed this image to my wife last night asking if I should call it “The Matrix” or “Over the Top” for Movie Title Wednesday, she looked at it for a few seconds and said, “No, it makes me think of Judgment Night.

And that’s why I love this woman. She is always there to make me re-think things or to give me that other point-of-view that I so desperately need.

So this movie was great right? Denis Leary chasing Cuba Gooding Jr. and Emilio Estevez across the urban slums of some big city. After Jina pointed out the name of that film, it made complete sense to me. I can totally see these guys scrambling up some stairs and crossing this bridge over the freeway to get away from the guys wanting to kill them.

I love this photo…it’s one of the first few I shot once we moved to downtown Phoenix and it’s part of a 3-image series…the first being “Speed” and the second a shot I used for First Friday. I’m a big fan of symmetry and depth in an image, hence a lot of my shots have roads in them. The shape of the protective cage on this pedestrian bridge was also fun. Of course, I think the sky makes this image complete…stormy clouds just after the sun went down…such a great night.

I’m really starting to get sucked into to the world of urban photography and finding the beauty in all of it. I need to get out there a bit more!

(PS. I just posted this shot to Flickr and for some reason it took me this long to see that it might not be perfectly level…sometimes I see that, sometimes I don’t. Hard to tell on this one)