Looking back, I’ve done a lot of 3D photos in the past couple months, but have been neglecting my full spectrum photograhpy. So, lets correct that. During my 2019 road trip, I had two places I needed to visit on my itinerary, Henderson, Nebraska and the Cahokia Mounds (because if you’re driving close to a UNESCO site you have to stop at the UNESCO site; that’s one of my unbreakable rules of travel). Between the two… well, that was up to me, and I build extra time into my trips because I don’t usually follow a straight line. Maybe I’ll see an interesting park, or a billboard for a tourist site, or maybe I’ll just follow a funny-looking bird for a while. Or maybe I’ll just stop at a big city with a giant arch.
The St Louis Arch is easy to find; it was also fairly easy to reach, as it is very close to the interstate. Still, I had other things to do first, and some detours from construction. By the time I found parking, that nice blue sky above was quickly disappearing; I honestly think that the same cloud had followed me from BC, as I kept driving through a big storm, just to to have it catch up to me later in the day. I left in August, and had to drive through 5 cm of hail an hour after starting! I got hit by it again in Alberta, Wyoming, Nebraska, and western Missouri…this storm was stalking me, I know it.
St Louis, Missouri, is one of those areas I knew little about. They have a big arch, which I mentioned, and they’re well known for their barbecue. That sums up everything I knew about the city. It isn’t much to go on. I like to prepare, so I studied up on St Louis through watching this in-depth documentary on the city, only to realize it is woefully out of date. Not only are you not allowed to drive a vehicle to the top of the arch, but any errors in the physical laws of universe have been corrected. Yes, there is gravity around the arches now. In fact, it appears to be illegal to climb the arch at all! Another example of government overreach! It put a bit of a damper on my plans to go to the top of the arch.
However, a wise local suggested that instead of continuing on my newly-revised plan( which were: finding a way to avoid the authorities, Ignore gravity somehow and/or take a big jump, and enjoy my time at the top of the arch), I might just take the elevator up. Yes, there’s an elevator. But before I write about the top of the Arch, I should probably mention the grounds around it.
The Arch(officially the Gateway Arch) and the land around it is now a US national park. It is
probably undisputed the centerpiece of the park(and only an idiot would suggest otherwise), but there area is surrounded by small ponds and landscaped trails, all part of a manicured parks, as well as historic sites. The park and landscapes were all part of the design of the Arch, but some buildings predate them. Probably the big site other than the arch is the ‘Old Courthouse‘. The building started construction in 1839, and in 1847 and 1850 was the site of a major legal case on the rights of slaves… a case which was a very, very dark mark in American History. I really don’t feel like I’m qualified in any way to go into it, but I wasn’t going to ignore it when writing about the area. Suffice to say, look up the Dred Scott case; it makes some tragic reading. I try to keep things lighter here, and I’d rather pretend to be an idiot and write about whatever amuses me on this blog. The courthouse archectecture is impressive despite the history, and stands out among all the towers in the city.
The Gateway Arch itself is a bit more recent, being commissioned in 1948 and completed in 1965. It is built on the western shoreline of the Mississippi River as a monument to the Pioneering spirit of the early Americans. The Arch was supposed to be symbolic of the “Gateway to the West” according to the designer, Eero Saarinen. The Gateway Arch is 630 feet high(or 192 m in real measurements), and is the tallest building in St Louis. Excluding radio towers and chimneys and the like, It’s actually the tallest building in Missouri.
There aren’t any buildings under the arch; instead, there is an underground plaza with a restaurant, shops, a museum dedicated to the arch, and access to the elevators. Well…elevator’s a good a word as any, at least until someone invents a word for an elevator/ferris wheel hybrid. Because arches are curved, and this arch is also narrow, a regular elevator car would be slowly tilted until it was almost sideways by the time it got to the front. Which would be fun and interesting, but perhaps not ‘safe’. Instead, the ferris elevator thingie(I really need to think of a better name) keeps upright as it ascends. It even has a small window on the door of the…car isn’t the right term either. It isn’t an elevator car, more a small cylinder with benches, so…. capsule? This window provides an excellent view of… not much, actually. Just the interior of the arch and the structural supports, as there aren’t any open windows in the arch wall to provide a view of the city. It’s interesting to see how the structure was built, but not very scenic.
I didn’t get any photos of the ferivator(change of plan; I like this word much better!), as there isn’t any photography allowed while waiting for it. Probably a good idea, as tourists would be delaying the transit to the top while they took endless photos. I know I’d be doing that. The ferrivator(it looks better with the extra ‘R’, i think) takes about four minutes to ascend. The elevtris(that sounds even better) doesn’t go all the way to the top; there are still some steps to ascend. Unfortunately, it isn’t accessible to anyone in a wheelchair; even ignoring the steps, the entrance to the elevris(Perfect!) is narrow, as is the capsule interior. It doesn’t affect me, but I work with someone in a wheelchair, and I always keep a lookout regarding accessibility(for the record, Mammoth Caves do have accessible cave tours, but I didn’t go on those ones, so I can’t vouch for them).
My view of the interior of the arch top isn’t great either, mainly because I don’t like using my camera flash when there are a lot of people around. The top is fairly dim, the light shining through the windows wasn’t bright, and the arch sways slightly in the wind. I’m not bad at keeping my camera still for a long exposure, but unless people stand still, they’ll still look blurry from their own movement. When I order them to stand still, however, they ignore me or call the authorities. They have no respect for my photographic needs.
The top is disorienting, to say the least. I’ve never stood on a curved floor with a curved ceiling that I can remember, let alone a curved floor that has a faint wobble in the wind. Not much, but enough that my balance felt slightly off when walking briskly. The windows are very small, and recessed in the wall, so to get a good photo, people have to lean waaayy over. It looks ridiculous, as you can see.
Of course I did it anyways, because I respect my photographic needs.
My first photo of the courthouse hopefully showed how large it was… this one hopefully shows how small it is compared to the arch. The circular structure below the courthouse is the entrance to the underground plaza; in the centre of the circle is a fountain(the dark smaller circle). Looking up from this angle, there’s a spectacular view of St Louis.
I realized up top that I’d made a mistake and not respected my photographic needs enough: I forgot to bring a wide angle lens for my full spectrum camera. My 50mm f1.8 lens is great for letting enough light in for UV photography, but really isn’t a good choice for landscapes. So, I don’t have much of a one-to-one comparison here, as I couldn’t zoom out to get the entire city. Instead, I focused on the courthouse for comparing the other photos. Here’s a cropped version of the photo above, for comparison.
I did my UV photo first. I’m not going to post it, as it turns out that the windows block a lot of UV light. I did get a few… photos is too generous a word… but they were blurry and awful. I thought I could minimize the blur by resting the camera on the windowframe, but forgot that the whole building was swaying. Like I said, there was some UV light, and maybe on a sunny day when the sun’s was at its highest, I could do better, but not on a cloudy late afternoon.
Instead, I’ll just show the short pass(violet+ultraviolet+ a bit of blue light) photo. It’s as close to UV as I could get.
The real standout feature of the photo is the ‘Peabody’ name on the skyscraper behind the courthouse; it is the only thing that is a different colour. I have no idea why, so I’ll just file it under the category of ‘Huh, that’s weird’. I have a lot of things filed under that category.
A bit less obvious is that the courthouse dome and the trim around the edges of the roof seem to be a different shade than the front. Looking at the visible spectrum photo, they are a slightly different shade, but it isn’t that noticeable. They might be different materials, or they could be more recent or restored, less weathered by the sunlight.
The foliage has a very faint greenish tint with my dual band photo. That mean that UV light is getting through to my camera, but not much when compared to some of my other photos. I guess this photo is primarily infrared. The different shade of the courthouse ‘white’ is still clear, though. In fact, it’s observble in all the succeeding photos, but the short pass one probably illustrates the difference most clearly.
With my Zomei 680 nm filter, it is easy to see that infrared light can get through just fine. Te foliage is its usually bluish-white. There sure are a lot of trees in downtown St Louis, and they stand out clearly in this photo.
Deeper into the near-infrared range, the photo is monochromatic. The grass is the same shade as the courthouse, and it looks like it was carved out of the ground.
Finally, my ‘autumn simulator’ of choice, my unfiltered full spectrum camera. It normally allows visible and infrared light in, with a minuscule trace of UV, but I don’t know if even that UV gets in. The brownish/red foliage looks pretty, though, so here’s another photo.
I was annoyed with myself that I forgot to bring a better lens, but I did try a work-around. The best I could do was to combine my photos to create a panorama. I’m really not sure how this will look on my website(this is kind of an experiment). These photos are saved at a higher resolution than my normal ones, so it might work better if you open them in another window or download them.
Here’s my visible spectrum panorama of St Louis:
And here it is with my Zomei 680 nm IR filter. No courthouse this time, as I was going insane trying to splice the pictures in more than one row, and it seemed to be pretty much impossible. Instead, the horizon:
That’s about it. I went back down to the plaza, and the restaurant was still open. I had ribs. In my short time there, I had improved my knowledge of the city immeasurably. I now knew it was famous for an arch, barbecue…
… and toasted ravioli.
The above photos were taken with a modified Canon Rebel T3i…
Wait! Did someone just ask if there were windows on the other side of the arch? And how am I hearing you through the computer? Well yes, but as I mentioned, the arch is the gateway to the frontier. No city on this side. St Louis is the last bastion of civilization, and across the mighty Mississippi River are the primitive, untamed wilds. This is a land so frightening that no Missourian dare speak of it. However, my goals lay across this eastern frontier. It is a land of mystery and it is a strange and mysterious place in which I would soon have to traverse. It is called Illinois.