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Aerial Photography – 2012

As you may know, I am probably the least-traveled┬ámember of the faculty at this very international school of architecture. But the money I might have spent on foreign airlines is spent instead on helicopter flights around Seattle. I love flying in helicopters (as a passenger), and so far I’ve made 16 flights in 2012. Sometimes I invite students or other photographers to share the costs of a 3-passenger R44 craft, but I’ll also take a one-passenger R22 for a half hour flight (with Classic Helicopter based at Boeing Field).

With rare exceptions – only twice in 2012 – I fly over the same general neighborhoods on each flight: the Duwamish River, Capitol Hill, the University of Washington and sometimes downtown Seattle. Mostly I am looking at sites related to building construction and how the landscape changes as buildings come ‘n go like little mountains.

Professionally I’m in the air to photograph specific construction sites, like the Bullitt Center for Sustainability on Capitol Hill or the new South Park Bridge on the Duwamish River. Along the way I see other interesting things down below, so in this post I’ve included lots of those too.

As a personal project I am interested in aerial photographs of the UW Seattle campus as new construction continues to change the campus landscape. Especially startling for us at Gould Hall has been the arrival of four massive “Bar Code Buildings” starting right across the street where an empty lot used to be. These are new student residence halls named Alder Hall (closest to Gould), Poplar Hall, Elm Hall and Cedar Hall (furthest from Gould). If you squint at them, the bar codes pop out, which is why I call them the “Bar Code Buildings.”

This first photo shows the general neighborhood west of Gould Hall and the state of different construction projects:

Dramatic photographs of the Bar Code Buildings are possible from ground level, but it is much more challenging to photograph them well from the air. That’s because the big white rooftops dominate in the aerial views, and the black & white aesthetic of the faces become less evident. The trick is to fly low enough, but where and how low? It’s so challenging that I’ve made at least eight flights this year to get a good aerial view of them, and I’m still not satisfied. This is the best so far:

Here are some other campus photos from 2012:

In May I flew over Vashon Island with two students from an Arch 402 studio. Flying over rural Vashon was rather boring compared to more urban neighborhoods, but nevertheless I made an interesting discovery (for me): Vashon Island is really Vashon-Maury Island because the two islands were joined with an isthmus by the Army Corps of Engineers, as shown in the following photo. I’m told there is talk of reopening the isthmus and building a bridge to reestablish the natural marine ecology at this place:

Here is a lucky view looking straight west on Yesler at the historic Yesler Terrace housing project. I did the black & white trick to make the neighborhood pop for you:

On the other side of First Hill I got this view of a newly legal “skinny” apartment under construction between two larger buildings:

Many of my Capitol Hill flights have been focused on the new Bullitt Center under construction:

Downtown the big deal for photographers is the new giant ferris wheel on the waterfront:

“Heading home” down the Duwamish River we frequently fly over the newly constructed Federal GSA Building. Here it is, almost finished:

The South Park Bridge is close to Boeing Field, so we stop by there either coming or going, and sometimes both:

Photos and text by John Stamets.
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