Saturday, July 14, 2012

A second chance after two decades

Quite a few years ago, when I was still shooting only film (digital photography consisted only of CCDs used for astrophotography; consumer digicams were a decade in the future), I got it in my head that I wanted to try to make some interesting images out of one of the older structures in Raleigh. The NC State Fair began in 1853 at a site east of town, was moved to a location west of the town center in 1873, then was canceled when the Agricultural Society went bankrupt following the 1925 fair. In 1928 it reopened at its present site (about 2 miles further west) under the aegis of the state government.

The North Carolina State Fair Commercial and Education Buildings were built in Spanish Mission Revival style, and opened to the public at the October 1928 Fair. Their historic look has been maintained for about 85 years. When I got the urge to photograph them around two decades ago, I was frustrated by the difficulty of finding a time that the area was relatively clear, and when my available time coincided with "interesting" weather conditions. I got some "record" shots ("so and so was here") but nothing more.

Yesterday it occurred to me that conditions were shaping up to make attractive clouds a good possibility, and I had the time, so I put together suitable gear for what I visualized, and headed for the Fairgrounds. There was the usual need for patience - cars and trucks obscured architecture, the weather was ever changing - but at the end of a bunch of shooting, I was rewarded with a final shot that made it worthwhile for me. I hope you enjoy it. It will have impact as a large print, and I may even enter it at the Fine Arts division of the 2012 NC State Fair.

For those interested in photo gear and techniques, I used a 24 mm TS-E lens, that is, one designed to tilt and shift. Lateral movements of the lens relative to the image sensor were common in the days of large format sheet film (which was mostly shot in view cameras that allowed shifting the board holding the lens and the one holding the film, with flexible bellows between) but are less used by smaller cameras. Point and shoot digicam? Forget it. DSLR or 35 mm film camera? The camera body won't do it, so you need a special lens with the movements built into its structure. I wanted the vertical lines of the walls and flagpoles to remain vertical, so the camera had to be perfectly level. I wanted to show a lot of the sky, and only enough of the ground to anchor the building. How is that done without pointing the camera up? The lens is shifted upward on the camera body!


Jess Isaiah Levin

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