Student News Services

Kevin, Kelly, Jessica
This month’s Society of Professional Journalists Quill Magazine features the Point Park News Service and a few of my photographs. The news service is coordinated by Andrew Conte of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The service consists of a writing section and a photojournalism section. I coordinate the photojournalists. Each student in the News Service has an opportunity to have their fresh new stories and images published in the Tribune-Review and beyond. Have a look and see how student news services are changing journalism.

Abandoned Turnpike

Over an embankment at the intersection of Tannery Road and the Lincoln Highway in Breezewood, Pa. is a nearly nine mile stretch of abandon highway that served as the a part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike from 1940 though 1968.

Abandoned Turnpike

The stretch contains two tunnels, Sideling Hill and Ray’s Hill, the 14th and 47th longest tunnels in the United States according to Lotsberg, The World’s Longest Tunnel List. It is also the only known abandoned superhighway in America as touted by the Pike 2 Bike organization that oversees the trail.

Abandoned Turnpike

The roadway remains intact in places, but is crumbling badly in others. No identifying markings remain that would indicate that the roadway was once the Turnpike. The remote nature of the roadway provides a surreal experience, allowing a bike rider to experience a futuristic view of what the world may look like after superhighways are no longer useful. Photographically speaking there are two or three vistas that provide nice glimpses incorporating the abandon roadway and tunnels into the surrounding landscape.

Abandoned Turnpike

Evidence remains that the highway had a use as a proving ground after it was closed in 1968. Rumble strips, paint and reflectors appear in random intervals near the Tannery Road trail head. Otherwise, plants, trees and the forest are slowly over taking the roadway, adding to the deterioration. The tunnel control rooms are open but otherwise are a royal mess filled with mud, water and litter.

Abandoned Turnpike

The ride is very easy and can be done with children. My son was fascinated by the tunnels. There are no extreme grades or hills. The most challenging portion of the ride is ensuring that you have enough light to see through the darkened tunnels. At Ray’s Hill the opposite ends of the tunnel can be seen from either portal. At Sideling Hill you must enter the tunnel blind. The tunnel arcs from one end to the other and crowns in the middle meaning the opposite ends of the tunnel cannot be seen from the portals. You must ride a significant portion into the tunnel to see the opposing portal. A light is an absolute necessity.

A word of caution, vandals have left their mark near the western portal of the Ray’s Hill Tunnel. Normally, the content of graffiti does not bother me. I do find it childish to deface public structures, however, what I found is truly disappointing and cowardly. There is serious racist and anti-Semitic graffiti marring the walls and roadway near the western portal of the tunnel. On this particular day I had my three-year old son with me. I am thankful that he can’t read yet. I really didn’t want to have the conversation with him about what all of those words and symbols mean.

UCP Pittsburgh

UCP Pittsburgh, originally uploaded by StartPoint Media.

© 2009 StartPoint Media, Inc

Production shot from my recent shoot at the United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsburgh. Here, I am photographing program directors with a two light set-up. Both lights are Nikon SB-800’s. The front light is bounced into a Calumet umbrella, the rear light is direct. The exposure was made for about 1.5 stops under ambient light.

Iva Provias made this photograph with my Canon G9

The result is linked here.

USX Tower Exhibition

USX Tower Exhibition, originally uploaded by StartPoint Media.

© 2009 StartPoint Media, Inc

A Quick One Minute Tour

Earlier this week the finishing touches were added to my exhibition Our State Park:Western Pennsylvania. The exhibition is being held at the Photo Forum Fine Art Gallery which is located in the USX Tower upper lobby. It will remain in the space until mid-June 2009.

The Photo Forum Gallery is coordinated by Eric Mendolson. Some of the other artists Photo Forum has feature are Harold Edgerton, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Jerry Uelsman and Imogen Cunningham to name a few.

It is a great honor for me to display in the same forum as these photography greats and I am honored that Eric thought highly enough of my project to display in this noted space.

I’d also like to thank Tim Fabian for introducing me to Mendolson.

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Old Post Office

a foggy midday view of the US Capitol from the Old Post Office building clock tower.

The Old Post Office building contains an observation deck in it's clock tower. The deck is 10 stories above the District of Columbia. It is not as popular or as famous as the Washington Monument thereby making wait time for the elevator to the top reasonable. A visit can be done in under one half hour.

CMU Mod Snake

CMU Mod Snake, originally uploaded by StartPoint Media.

Mathew Tesch, a Carnegie Mellon University PhD student in the Biorobotics Laboratory, shows off the modular snake during the Carnegie Mellon in the Community: Technology open house at Newell Simon Hall Friday, March 6, 2009. Tesch said this version of the "mod snake" has a camera installed at the head and is hard wired to preserve batteries but can operate wirelessly and remotely in very small and narrow spaces.

After speaking to Tesch, I am very interested in seeing some of the photographs they take with the mod snake. I’ve got a few ideas I’d like to try if they’d give me a couple of hours with the snake camera.

Photographic Social Experimentation

On Monday, I conducted a small strobe light workshop with my photojournalism class. After the set-up and technical discussion in the studio my ambitious students took to the campus of Point Park University to practice quick light set-ups on unsuspecting subjects.

Armed with Nikon SB-800’s fired with Nikon CLS, they made their first stop at the Point Cafe and made a photograph of a patron eating dinner. They bored with that pretty quick and soon came up with a social experimentation concept of photographing people as they exited the elevator.

Two important things happened, first, they learned they are in control when the camera is in their hands. Most folks passing through asked the student photographers if they could still use the elevators, pretty humorous to watch.

Secondly they learned that most people don’t react negatively when photographed. This was a good lesson because students often express their fear of taking pictures of people beacuse they are initimidated by the reaction they think they will get from the subject. Some people didn’t react at all, most people smiled and walked away, only one person seemed annoyed at the experiment.

The experiment got their wheels turning about other ways to conduct the exercise and how it could be implemented into longer term projects for publication. Most importantly it helped them think quickly and creatively about the image making process.