Having grown up in California there are many things that I've discovered that I take for granted. Temperate weather, easy access to the coast, and diversity of city life to name a few. On the flip side things like excessive traffic, apathetic people, and expensive living are facts of life. Going to school and living in the St Louis area for a few years taught me just how much I both under and over value living in California. While I love the bay area sometimes I need a little slice of the midwest to put things back into proper perspective.
One of my best friends who has made several appearance on my blog already is Jo. She is just the person to provide me with proper perspective and show me around the lesser known parts of St Louis.
The weekend excursion began with some mild urban exploration. St Louis being on the Mississippi river has always been a major hub of industry. However with shifting times many old factories and warehouse now lie dormant and vacant. Making our way one of these areas we braved the freezing 30 degree weather to scout and snag a few shots.
Working with my usual Pentax 6x7 workhouse I was shooting a mixture of Fomapan 100 and Tri-X 400 for b/w and Portra 400 for color. With these urban areas the past era structures had begun being reclaimed by nature. Those forces have rusted, eroded, and weathered much of the iron and brickwork; cracks in the road and cement ground providing convenient opportunities for brush and other plant life to make its presence known. I wanted to incorporate much of that bygone atmosphere and plentiful texture as possible.
Eventually the coldness and our hunger dictated we migrate onward. Unfortunately rain also added to the migration and left us somewhat stranded in a local coffee house. Taking advantage of the cozy tone I snapped a few quick shots before finally being able to move on. However the light, what there was of it behind the rainy skies had petered out for the day. As we walked back to our car I managed to sneak in a shot or two in that last bit of light.
Inline with the urban exploration theme, the following day Jo introduced me to an artist friend of hers who rents space in an old warehouse. The location simply exuded a photographic radiance. The warehouse was in a state of limbo; neither completely setup as a place of production nor decrepit and deserted. Rather it was a beautiful blend of repurposed artist spaces where local bands practiced and creators explored their craft.
After resolving some minor trespassing issues due to miscommunication with the owners we were granted permission to use nearly the entire space. The first location, my favorite for the whole trip, was an baren end of the floor we were on. Currently this space was configured as an impromptu dance floor or yoga studio. Being at the end of the structure it had three walls all with large windows bringing in oddly warm day light. That light, reflecting off the warm wood floor and cinnamon bricks gave the area very airy and light feeling. In addition there was also a ragged old chair and other small props that added to the forgotten yet familiar nature of the volume.
I worked with the sublime window light as much as possible. To not waste those natural warm hues I also stuck with the equally sublime Kodak Portra 400 in color. With the contrasting light levels of shadow to highlight I opted to generously over expose the color negative film to not lose any of the texture detail in the shade. This worked out well with no detail lost in either dark nor highlight areas.
With that light streaming in I noticed how well it brought out Jo's rich hair. I had her pose backlit as much as possible. Working mostly with the 105mm f/2.4 lens I did my best to also build a sense of depth. With that very shallow depth of field I was also able to isolate dust particles streaming in air, although this detail is only visible on the raw high resolutions scans.
Roaming around more we found a darker corner where recent construction was going on. Taking a few shots there, again with wonderful window light. But being on the opposite side this light was all indirect and was extremely soft. Fortunately I was prepared for the low light and loaded up some high speed Ilford Delta 3200. Exposing it at a lower exposure index of 1250, to keep shadows detail, I was able capture softly grainy yet crisp images.
Another great spot was the main staircase. Also a touch dark each half floor had a giant window that provided wonderful soft light to the sable toned worn stairs. An old recliner topped it all off.
To end the excursion we went further upstairs to a small lounge. After snapping a some frames there we ventured out onto the roof to grab several more. These last shots however lay on a final roll of film which I forgot to include in batch I sent to the lab. I look forward to seeing those frames the next time process color film.