Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting rid of McCormick Place


I’m having a lot of fun these days, taking photos around the city as green turns to yellow and orange.  Yesterday I wrote about a spot I discovered on a bike ride a couple weeks ago, a site just south of McCormick Place dedicated to the victims of the race riot that began on the nearby lakefront  on July 27, 1919.

I found a camera angle that really intrigued me because the shot seemed to convey so much more than just the subject matter.  The fallen tree and its relationship to the city . . . the victims of that 1919 riot and the continuing resilience of a city where the riot occurred.  The brutal starkness of the downed tree and the violence, fueled by hatred, mistrust and prejudice, that occurred during that week in July of 1919.  And always, always, the presence of nature in the middle of a thriving city – urbs in horto.

The original photo with scrub tree and McCormick Place (JWB, 2012)
A couple of things bothered me about the image, though.  For one, there was that little scrub tree just beyond the fallen tree that clogged up the very middle of the composition.  It hogged the eye’s attention and gummed up the relationship between the limbs of the fallen tree and the blurry vision of the city skyline to the north.

Also, there was the black outline of the mid-century wonder, McCormick Place, just beyond that little, scruffy tree.  Same problem.  C. F. Murphy’s black box, amazing as it is with its massive trusses and fantastic clear spans, was in the way.

So I went to work, removing the little tree and McCormick Place.  It took seven hours or more for a fire to burn down the first McCormick Place in 1967.  I got rid of the second one in less than five minutes.  And the scrubby tree, as well.  I also cut off that protruding broken branch from the middle of the limb second form the bottom of the shot and removed the shadow just below where the small tree had been cut down.  From there it was just a process of extending the downtown skyline to fill in the spot where McCormick Place had stood, plant some new grass where the little tree had been removed, and add some additional foliage to the trees in the middle distance to make up for the loss of the exhibition hall.

The new shot, not perfect, but a fairly successful experiment (JWB, 2012)
I know that removing a 300,000 square foot exhibition center from an image seems like radical surgery, to some, I suppose, even a dishonest act.  But the photo now does what I want it to do in a much clearer way.  I also know that to seasoned pros this is all simple stuff, but I’m just getting started at the PhotoShop game.  I’m like a kid with a brand new bicycle . . . I want to be on it all the time.