From time to time I’ll try to put up little notes about the events I’m taking part in or the places where you might spot my work. Keep an eye out!

The City Panorama Project: Installed!

It’s “Bachmann”. I’ll try not to vent too much, since it’s totally thrilling to have my panoramic artwork (‘Dancers’, ‘Traffic’ (or ‘Walkway’) and ‘Half the Bike, Twice the Rider’) now viewable in public, especially in downtown Seattle, but how is it possible to spell my last name three different ways? I mean, I KNOW how it’s possible; I grew up with this name! But I’m pretty sure when I submitted my digital files they were all labeled the same way: FIRSTNAME_LASTNAME_ID_TITLE_YEAR.jpg

On the off chance that someone sees my artwork and wants to find me online, do I need to optimize my site for “Christopher Bachman” and “Christopher Backmann” as well as “Christopher Bachmann”? Google does a better job with “Backmann” than Bing or Yahoo, but at least they all manage “Bachman” pretty well. To be fair, I don’t think this was a King County Metro issue. They didn’t handle the template overlays.

‘Traffic’, ‘Half the Bike, Twice the Rider’

Find them in downtown Seattle!

Find it in Kent, WA!

The City Panorama Project: ‘Half the Bike, Twice the Rider’

Early on in the brainstorming process for the City Panorama Project, I found myself doodling on a piece of paper, trying to fit something — anything — into a 4×1 frame. The inspiration for “Half the Bike, Twice the Rider” (view it larger here) ended up being the first thing I scribbled down, a series of overlapping circles with a dot on the edge, “rotating” along a path that would perfectly fit the panoramic format. But how would I do it? After several weeks of experimenting and prototyping, I came up with a tentative solution, and I put a post on Craigslist looking for a unicyclist!

Luckily for me, a friend of Rachel Randall sent her the link. She is a dancer and an instructor in the fine art of unicycling at SANCA Seattle. We met at a Seattle park and I explained my concept to her. I tried to ignore the bemused look upon her face.

While we also shot Rachel in motion from a variety of angles, in the end what I used ended up being less about actual unicycling and more about the illusion of unicycling. It worked best to have her pose her wheel and pedals at specifically marked locations along a bike path, so I could later composite each shot into my final image. Below you can see one of the raw images, and then a portion of my first composited image, comprised of 15 separate photos.

After lining all my image components up correctly in Photoshop, it took me a while to get exactly the post-processed look I would ultimately submit to King County Metro. The first version was very hard to look at. With all the overlapping and translucency, so much detail was lost, and the vividness of the colors was a bit painful to look at. It helped somewhat to use selective masking to highlight the path of the feet on the pedals, but the color was still not right. I tried several iterations of tinting the shoes in an attempt to draw them out and force the viewer to focus on them, but nothing I did could win me unanimous approval in critiques from my classmates or instructors.

Finally, my deadline was imminent, and I made one last decision and submitted it without a final review. Except for the shoes and the yellow line on the bike path, I dropped all the color and let the extraneous elements go dark. What resulted turned into (I think) a rather striking image, one that pulls the viewer in and really lets them ponder the repetition of the unicycle wheel as well as the arc of the feet.

I’ll be very curious to see how this turns out when printed on the plywood lumber. Will the grain of the wood be a distraction? Will the color (or lack thereof) hold up? I’ll give you my assessment as soon as I see it in person!

Original concept

UPDATE: It’s been installed in downtown Seattle!

Map to ‘Half the Bike, Twice the Rider’

Find it in downtown Seattle!

The City Panorama Project: ‘Traffic’

UPDATE: Looks like “Traffic” did make the cut after all, which I’m pretty happy about. Funny enough, when I submitted it, I had named it “Walkway” and only later did I decide “Traffic” was a more clever title for it. Still waiting to hear where KC Metro ends up installing it and the others…. But read the original post:


‘Traffic’ is an image that didn’t make the cut during the King County Metro curation process for the City Panorama Project. I held special affinity for it (view it larger here), because it was the first image I completed, at a time when I was searching a bit for subjects and topics that would be compelling and fit the 4:1 format ratio.

I had been driving to work super-early one autumn morning, waiting in traffic on Western Avenue to reach the Alaskan Way Viaduct on-ramp. The low-angled sun filtered through a pedestrian overpass, and I saw one person crossing, on their own short commute from a parking garage to the Art Institute of Seattle. The walkway was long and immediately I knew it would fit the panoramic format almost perfectly. I vowed to wake up early the next day and shoot that overpass!

By a stroke of luck, Seattle was briefly between storms, and the weather was nearly identical the next day. The sun was still streaming through the grungy plexiglass windowing. I parked on Western, pulled out my tripod and zoom lens, ignored the fuzzy stares of commuters, and started shooting away. I knew right away I wanted many overlapping pedestrians in my final image, as well as all three traffic signals (red, yellow, green) to be “on”, in order to tweak the viewer’s sense of reality. With only one or two people crossing the walkway at once, Photoshop was going to be my friend.

I’m pretty proud of my final image, even if it didn’t make King County Metro’s cut. Most people viewing it have no idea that there weren’t truly that many pedestrians on the walkway, so until they become aware of the traffic lights being “on”, they don’t quite know what’s “off” about the image. I like the color of the sunlight, and the trees framing the walkway, and the one or two pedestrians looking back at my camera. I think it would have made for an interesting bus shelter backdrop.

UPDATE II: It’s been installed in downtown Seattle!

Map to find ‘Traffic’

Find it in downtown Seattle!

The City Panorama Project: ‘Dancers’

The first image of mine from the City Panorama Project is titled “Dancers” (view it larger here) and you might guess why.

The image is a panoramic composite of six photographs, some of them shown below in the raw image gallery.

I met Rachel Randall (leftmost individual, hair in a ponytail throughout) while trying to find a unicyclist for a different image, which I’ll highlight later. Not only does Rachel teach circus skills at a SANCA Seattle, she’s a former competitive gymnast and has her own dance troupe. She invited me to photograph during a dress rehearsal comprised of her and Morgan Nutt, and it was there that these images were taken.

Not knowing exactly what my lighting options would be during this rehearsal, I brought a tripod and a flash unit. As they ran through their routine with the music on stage, I found it best to just place my camera on the floor, slightly propping the barrel of my lens off the ground. This low angle gave me the reflection of the dancers’ feet in the floor that I wanted.

I triggered my shutter with a cable release once to lock up the mirror (cutting down on shutter vibration), and then once more to take each photograph. I kept the focus on manual setting since Rachel and Morgan typically were dancing the same distance away at all times, but I let the camera handle the shutter speed calculation, which is why some of the images are more defined, and others contain more light smear. It was then a question of trying to snap the shutter to capture the dancers in the most interesting poses.

Later as I went through the images on my computer, I was happy to see the variety. Some were relatively sharp, some had grand sweeps of motion and color, and I knew that I could stitch together an interesting panorama. I’m quite pleased with the result, and it sounds like King County Metro was too!

UPDATE: It’s been installed in Kent, WA!

Map to find ‘Dancers’

Find it in Kent, WA!

LONG SHOT: 24 hours in support of PCNW

This weekend I’ll be taking part in LONG SHOT, a 24-hour marathon in support of Photographic Center Northwest. I’ve taken perhaps 10 courses at PCNW over the past couple years, and they were all great.

During the photo-thon, I’m not exactly sure yet where I’ll find myself or what types of photos I’ll end up taking, but I’m sure it will be quite an experience. If you would like to support PCNW (or support my support of PCNW…), a small donation would be very much appreciated.

To anyone who donates and references my name, I will send an 8×10 or larger print from the photo-thon. If you want to make it interesting, pick an hour you’d like to select the photo from (1-24; the event goes 6pm Friday 4/30 until 6pm Saturday 5/1), and I’ll surprise you. Or you can select your own print as well. Drop me an e-mail just to keep me apprised.

Thank you for your support!