I travel a lot for work. My travels often take me through Chicago’s O’Hare International airport. It’s a large, usually crowded building. Connecting the B and C concourses is a long underground walkway complete with moving sidewalks. Long ago, it was changed into a bit of an oasis. Instead of a long sterile corridor, whimsical abstract neon and other lighting effects were installed. A variation of a familiar Gershwin tune is usually playing softly in the background. In spite of the large groups of travelers constantly passing through, this corridor is my favorite part of my voyages through ORD. It is also ripe for making interesting images, especially long exposures.
Chances are, your tripod is safely and inconveniently stashed in your checked bag. Mine too…
So I got a little creative to find camera support for the long exposures I was planning. At one end of the corridor is a shoeshine stand. At the times of day I usually pass through, it’s usually not staffed, so I don’t have to interrupt anyone. It’s solid and makes a great impromptu camera stand. Also, there are numerous other spots to steadily support your camera, such as some very sturdy trashcans.
My lens of choice for this challenge is the Tamron SP 10-24mm Di-II. The lens is designed for use on APS-C sensor size cameras.
So, why long exposures, you ask. Simply to make the crowds of people disappear from the image.
I found after a couple of test shots that I liked the effect of making people disappear at a shutter speed of 5 seconds. Then it was just a matter of choosing aperture to set the mood and choosing a location. The variation of “Rhapsody In Blue” playing also helped set my mood. It was an unusual version that I can best describe as “Peanuts” character Linus’ plinking at the piano, meets Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”. Different and definitely haunting. PERFECT!
Abstracts, strong leading lines, great reflections, ghosts. These scenes have everything.
Also remember, zoom lenses zoom and feet move. Remember to do both if you need to, in this or similar locations. Experiment with exposure times, apertures, and ISO sensitivities to find what works best for you.
The long exposure time of 5 seconds makes nearby people walking past, or riding on the moving walkway virtually disappear. People in motion at greater distances appear as ghostlike objects, and those in the far distance have some form but appear so small in the frame as to be almost unnoticeable.
To save time, rather than digging out my release cable to ensure sharp pictures, I simply set the camera self-timer to fire the shutter, allowing any vibrations to fade away.
My inspiration came from a friend, and fellow photographer, after he showed me prints of images he had made from a similar trip through O’Hare. I asked if he minded if I used his idea. He was happy to allow me to share.
Get out, experiment, and create some ghosts. You can always do it in your neighborhood, if your plans don’t take you out of town.