Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bike Night

In one of the galleries on First Street there was a small collection of watercolors of river district scenes. One in particular caught my attention. In the foreground was a row of small racing yachts on their trailers, their bows in a line against a background of familiar buildings. I had seen them there, those yachts, but never had tried to make the photograph. In that painting, I saw an opportunity missed.

A week later I was planning my weekend forays. I hadn't been down to the river district for quite a while. I like to photograph the downtown in the early morning, but more and more lately I had been thwarted by some event – barricades in the streets, vendors setting up their tents, trucks, generators – unpicturesque things. So I checked the River District's website to see what's going on. Bike night! Hey, that's great. They don't let anybody park in the heart of downtown, and so the next morning, after the party's over, the streets are empty and there aren’t any cars parked on the streets. Good for me! Then I decided I ought to go down there tonight and see what I can get. And so I did. There were hundreds of motorcycles parked on the street, a couple of bands, lots of people having a great time, and that big, deep, Harley sound. I had visualized rows of bikes reflecting street lights in shiny curves and chrome and bikers and their biker chicks, partying, blurred by seconds-long exposures and the plastic cups of beer in their hands. I had a fun time making pictures, but didn't manage to get anything I liked. All deletable.

As I walked back to the car, I saw them. Those yachts. Those yachts in the painting. It took a telephoto zoom to work the composition, to weave it in amongst the people sitting around in the park watching their kids play on the swings. Occasionally children ran through my frame while the shutter was open, but at the long exposures I was using, they became as diaphanous as ghosts. This is the picture I ended up with. Not my usual fare – grittier, with more urban chaos. Not nearly as nice as the painting I had admired; hardly even similar to it. But, as one of the aging rockers up on the stage tonight sang, “I know it's only rock and roll, but I like it, I like it, Yes I do.”
Days later, I went back to the gallery where I had seen the painting to learn the name of the artist. The painting I had seen was gone. I turned around and saw it on another wall. It was the same yachts in the same location but it didn't look as I remembered it. Was it the same painting or a different painting of the same scene? I don't know. But I do know the artist's name is David Belling.

© 2012 Buck Ward        The Photographist

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