by Sally Cohen
Bruno’s Restaurant at 9800 Germantown Ave., across the road from Chestnut Hill College, is currently featuring the photography of Steve Powell, possibly for several months. Steve’s first image at Bruno’s was a picture map of Wissahickon Valley Park. The picture map shows all of Wissahickon Valley surrounded by dozens of photographs of the famous landmarks that make up the park. The Valley Green Inn, the Indian Statue, the many bridges that cross Wissahickon Creek and, of course, the beautiful natural scenery of the park are all shown in the picture map as small photographic images.
Bruno’s owner, Tim Bruno, recently called Steve and said, “There’s been an interest in the photos used in the picture map, and people have been asking me where they can get larger versions of these.” Tim asked Steve if he would be interested in hanging more photos, and Steve agreed to do it. Now when you walk into Bruno’s, half of the restaurant is covered with large colorful photographs of the Wissahickon Valley and Schuylkill River.
One of the photographs, “Crew Team at Dusk,” won the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation photography contest and was featured in their annual calendar last year. “That’s my daughter, Laura, in the far boat,” said Steve. “She was a varsity rower on the Mount Saint Joseph Academy crew team. (She graduated in 2010.) I’m glad I took this picture. I never imagined it would end up in a calendar some day.” (Laura, 20, now attends Emerson College in Boston.)
Steve, 57, a software developer and business analyst from Plymouth Meeting, combined his love for the Wissahickon Valley Park and digital photography many years ago. Steve and his wife of 30 years, Vicki, the company controller for a firm in Bala Cynwyd, have hiked just about every trail in the park over the years, and they sometimes bring their cameras.
Steve explained, “One day I went through our entire collection of photographs and realized that with just a few more images I would have a complete catalogue of the most well known features of the park. From there the idea for the picture map came about.” The photographs on the map begin at Chestnut Hill College and work their way down the Wissahickon Creek to the Philadelphia Canoe Club, where the Wissahickon meets the Schuylkill River.
The most prominent photo in Bruno’s is the six-foot-long photograph of Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Art Museum taken from the west side of the Schuylkill River with the river in the foreground. It is a composite of over 60 different photos pieced together using PhotoShop to create one long continuous image. It took Steve 60 hours of work to make it.
The image covers a distance of seven-tenths of a mile beginning with the last boathouse and moving to the Art Museum on the right. “This is not a panoramic photo.” said Steve. “A panoramic photo is taken by pivoting your camera from a single spot or using a wide angle lens to gain the same effect. This is a continuous photograph in that I changed my position by about 40 yards for each photo. Then I pieced it all together to maintain a consistent perspective of the entire landscape.
“To my knowledge, an image of Boathouse Row has never been done like this before. Maintaining consistent lighting and color balance throughout the entire image is the key. The finished image looks as though it were taken as a single photograph. You can see people along the river and walking around the boathouses. Then down the other end of the image are a bride and groom in the gazebo at the Art Museum. You can easily make them out. This wouldn’t be possible with traditional panoramic photography where images disappear into the distance.”
Steve is currently working on a continuous photograph of the Stotesbury Regatta. “After spending four seasons on the Schuylkill watching my daughter row, I got to know some of the people who run the events. So last year I had someone take me slowly down the river on a launch while the regatta took a short lunch break. I took about a hundred pictures of the racecourse that runs a mile from start to finish.
“The riverbank on the Kelly Drive side is a mass of humanity during the Stotesbury Regatta, filled with tents, boats, crew teams and thousands of cheering fans. I’m happy with the way the photos turned out considering the boat never came to a complete stop. I had to shoot with a faster than normal shutter speed. Fortunately it was a sunny day, and there was plenty of light which makes faster shutter speeds possible.”
Steve’s photos will be on display next March in the Philadelphia Visitors Center at Love Park on the Parkway in Center City Philadelphia. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.MaximusPhotography.com.