Behind the Shot – The St. Louis Arch

In the early spring of 2014, my wife and I took our youngest on a trip to the St. Louis area to tour some colleges and in between stops we planned on visiting the St. Louis Arch. It was a beautiful day when we arrived at the park and the three of us crammed ourselves into the funky little elevator for the ride to the top. I hadn’t ever been to the top until this trip. I have driven past a few times on family road trips when I was a kid, but we never made the stop for the arch.

After we came down and did the museum and store we headed out to the park grounds. Thats when I started to get excited about what I was seeing.

St. Louis Arch
St. Louis Arch reflected in water (Pentax ME Super, 24mm f16 @ 1/4 sec. Kodak T-Max 100 film)

This was not a photo trip so I didn’t pack a ton of gear for what ever situation came my way. I packed up my simple travel kit for this trip. The kit is a Pentax ME Super body and a 24mm, 50mm and 135mm prime lenses. I had a few red and yellow filters, cable release and a little table top tripod. This, along with 5 rolls of T-Max 100 film,  all fits in a nice little single sling pack.

The reflection of the arch was coming into view more and more as I walked along the edge of the reflecting pool.  I made my way around the pool, fending off a goose protecting its partner sitting on their nest, until I came to the spot where I took the photo above.  I chose the 24mm wide angle so I could get the whole scene in the frame. Shooting at ISO 100 with a red filter late in the afternoon meant I needed to use a tripod, but the only tripod I had was the little table top one that fit in my little pack. So, thats what I used. Getting down on my knees I set the camera up on the little tripod, attached my cable release and metered for the shadows.

My in-camera meter told me that at f16 it would be a 1/4 of a second exposure. I knew the red filter would really make the blue sky darken because the sun was to my back and I would get some nice contrast with the white clouds building on the horizon. And the reflection lined up perfectly at the low angle that my camera was sitting. So, with my camera on the little tripod at the edge of the reflecting pool, I bracketed three shots at 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 of a second at f16.

After I took those three shots I finished our stroll around the park and finished off the roll of T-Max. I knew I had some good frames and couldn’t wait to get home and develop the film. I have several really nice abstracts of the arch but this image had the most drama when I printed it.