When I found out I would be taking a business trip just outside of the Queen City, I knew where I would be spending my evenings. So, what’s the Queen City you might ask? Well, some of you might say Charlotte, North Carolina and some of you might say Cincinnati, Ohio. You both would be correct. Charlotte is called the Queen City because it was named for King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Cincinnati was called the Queen City by its citizens. They were very proud of Cincinnati’s tremendous growth in the early 1800’s. They dubbed the city “The Queen of the West” or the Queen City. There’s an ongoing feud between the two cities on which city is the REAL Queen City. They even have a “QC Bowl” on social media where they tally votes. The first QC bowl took place during a NFL meet up between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers. The QC bowl netted 51% in the favor of Charlotte. The actual football game ended in a 37 to 37 tie. It appears that Charlotte thinks they have the upper hand so they said the Queen City designation stays with them for now. I’m sure Cincinnati would beg to differ, but nonetheless, it’s friendly competition between two great cities.
It’s been over 17 years since I’ve been to Cincinnati. The last time I was in “Cincy” was when my wife and I passed through Cincinnati on our way home from Niagara Falls. We had just taken a road trip up the East coast hitting some popular spots in Williamsburg, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and finally Niagara Falls. I remember seeing the Cincinnati skyline for the first time. I was not a diehard photo bug like I am now, but I remembered being impressed by the skyline.
The weather forecast for the week did not look promising. I only had a short window to play around each evening. The window was even shorter given I did not know my way around the city, so I had to do some recon before venturing out. I decided to concentrate my efforts around the riverfront across from the skyline. Things were very grey and dismal when I first arrived. Looking West, I noticed a large rain cloud making its way over the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.
Raindrops begin to fall as the ominous cloud made its way over the Cincinnati skyline. I started walking east along the river’s edge to set up a shot. The rain started to fall a little harder, but I was still not discouraged as I setup to take the shot below.
I continued my trek along the river’s edge. The rain steadily began to increase. I decided to put the camera back in the bag. It wasn’t shortly after that, the bottom fell out. I quickly took refuge underneath a very large vacant event tent. If that tent was not there, the only option would have been making a mad dash to the cover of the bridge nearby. I probably stayed underneath the tent for a total of 30 minutes. The tent was large and very long. It was long enough that I could walk back west close to where I took the first shot of the skyline. At that point, the rain began to subside. I grabbed the shot below while still underneath the tent.
I called my wife while I was under the tent. I told her where I was and what I just photographed. She immediately googled the USS Nightmare and gave me the rundown. Further investigation revealed that this was a dredge ship named the Williams S. Mitchell. Its purpose was to dredge the bottom of the river to clear the waterways. Legend has it that it dredged up a burial ground which cursed the ship. One faithful day it broke away from its dock and floated down the river hitting bridges before it came to a stop. This was known as the Mitchell Massacre as it killed all crew members including Captain Mitchell and his only daughter Anna. Anna’s body was never found. Today it’s a haunted attraction and museum called The USS Nightmare. Although, it is currently out of commission due to flood waters.
As the sun descended closer to the horizon, the sky started to open up. The dark and grey clouds became saturated with color. It was as if the photography gods were rewarding me for not bailing. With the final raindrops falling from the sky, I grabbed one more shot from underneath the tent.
The lighting really started to take shape after the rain stopped. The sky became partly clear letting the sunlight shine through from the west. This light coupled with the emerging city lights mesh together quite well. As you look at the progression of these shots starting at the beginning of this post, you can see how the light makes a huge difference.
With the rain gone and the sky clearing, I was at the point where the night lights were beginning to dominate the scene. I was glad to see that there was a Cincinnati Red’s game happening across the river at the Great American Ball Park. The stadium lights play a big part of the nighttime skyline. Looking at the empty stadium, you might think there wasn’t a game. The rain may have something to do with that, but my son was telling me that the MLB is having some attendance issues. Nevertheless, I’m glad the lights were beaming.
After I made the above shot, I figured I would grab a bite to eat and head back to the hotel. As I walked back to my car, the scene of the illuminated John A. Roebling Bridge grabbed my attention. The clearing blue sky with a hint of color at the horizon was the perfect backdrop for the bridge and the reflections in the Ohio River.
I had to make one more stop before calling it a night. I was intrigued by the fountain on the brochure in my hotel room. When I saw that it was located in downtown Cincinnati at Fountain Square, I put its location down as a wave point in google maps. This fountain is known as the Tyler Davidson Fountain. After Tyler’s death, his brother-in-law and business man, memorialized him with this fountain. Fountain Square is one of the most visited places in Cincinnati. The statue is seen in the opening credits of the famous sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Ronald Reagan delivered one of his campaign speeches in this square. I settled on a up close portrait oriented shot because there were a lot of empty seats and umbrellas in front of the fountain that I did not want to capture. I also shot this with a 16:9 orientation to allow me to get the entire fountain. At the moment, the 17mm is wide as I can go. A wide angle lens is on my short list.
I knew I had to come back a second night because I could not leave Cincinnati without incorporating the John A. Roebling bridge into the foreground of the skyline. This bridge is an indelible mark on the Cincinnati cityscape. The second night turned out to be very nice. There was no rain and you could feel the presence of autumn. I got a late start that evening because I had dinner with my counterparts from different industries. Those who know me, know that the social dinner and bar scene is not my cup of tea, but I could not pass up the New York Strip! After finishing the entre, I skipped desert and headed to the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. Things did not go as planned because my gps led me to a construction zone where the road I wanted to travel was blocked. The gps kept directing me to take roads that I did not want to pursue, especially at night. I abandoned the gps and started to use my own sense of direction. I knew the general direction of the bridge, so I drove toward the area making turns that finally got me right up to the bridge on the opposite side I wanted to be. This was great, because I got to drive over the bridge to the other side. After crossing the bridge, I found a parking spot nearby. Below is my first shot of the night.
I did not have a lot of time to explore, so I stayed in the general area taking shots from different perspectives and using different lenses. One of my favorite shots from this next series is the shot of the moon rising over the bridge. I had to setup in the water to get that shot. I wished I could have gotten further out, but being swept down the river was not an option.
I ended the night after taking a couple of shots on the other side of the bridge. As I was messing around with the focus ring, I liked what I saw when the scene was out of focus. The defocused balls of light along the suspension bridge made a cool shot.
All around, this was a good trip. I gained some knowledge that can be used back at the job and I came away with some photographs that I really like. I wished I had more time to shoot the downtown area. There is a treasure trove of photos just waiting to be discovered. I bet the vibe on the weekend is similar to what I’m used to in Nashville. Cincinnati’s riverfront resembled Nashville’s in many ways. With multiple bridges expanding across the river and the occasional passing show boat, I almost felt at home. It was nice to see other photogs out doing their thing. I believe I counted a total of 5 photographers in the area I was working on the second night. I met one of them and we talked about photography for a while. He said he was new to photography. He ask me some questions regarding settings so I gave him some pointers. I noticed he did not have a tripod with him, so I mentioned before I left that a tripod is his best friend when shooting cityscapes at night. I hope he came away with some nice photos. On a tech note, I’m really enjoying the EM1m2. This is an extremely fun camera to use. The only thing I am missing at the moment is a fast telephoto and a wide angle lens. I believe I will go for the wide angle first. At any rate, thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed the images. Stay tuned for more adventures!