Friday, June 10, 2011

Making Do

Alone Together 1, 2011

I’ve mentioned it enough here that when I start the sentence, “The best camera is….” it ought to be automatic that you would complete the sentence, “…whatever camera you have with you.”

A couple of weeks ago what was supposed to be a quick 45-minute layover and change of planes in Detroit turned into a nine-hour delay and a missed third connection. We boarded the plane no fewer than four times between 2:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and were taken back off three times. It was like the movie “Ground Hog Day.” We’d trundle off the plane with our bags and sit in the departure lounge getting to know each other. Then they’d load us back on the plane where we’d take the same seats, stow our bags in the same places (and in some cases repeat the same disputes about overhead storage space) and resume the same conversations.

Needless to say, there was time to spare, more than could be occupied with a smart phone or Delta Airlines dinner voucher. I even finished the book I’d hoped would see me through the whole week’s travel.

The old Detroit Metro Airport used to be my least favorite airport in the country. I’m still not convinced the planes actually didn’t land in Canada. When you stepped off your plane, you had to trek up and down stairs and through a rabbit’s warren of concourses before you reach a clean restroom, much less a connecting gate. Even lab rats in a maze had less anxiety. (Plus they got cheese at the end of the exercise. All we got was the shock of another crowded plane.)

Northwest Airlines finally built a cool new terminal in Detroit, actually two of them. The commuter terminal is predictably crowded, noisy and seemingly designed to suck from your travel experience whatever joy there might be.

The main terminal, now owned by Delta following its acquisition of Northwest, works well. It’s bright and spacious. You can walk from one end to the other or ride a light rail train that runs under the peak of the roof and gives you not only a quick ride, but also a bird’s eye view.

I lost count on this recent trip of how many times I walked from one end of the terminal to the other. A few times I climbed up the stairs and rode the train. One time, just as the train came to a stop at the center of the terminal, I looked down and noticed a man standing by himself against the window. Something about the moment caught my eye. The light. The other people coming and going. The giant airplane outside the window.

I knew I wanted to capture the moment. The only camera I had handy at the moment was my iPhone camera, and even that takes a moment or two to open the camera app and line up the scene.

My first shot is the one you see above. I took that quickly because I didn’t know if I’d have enough time to get a second shot. While the train lingered, I tightened the scene so that the man leaning against the wall became the main subject. I clicked the second picture as the train started to move. This is the scene you see here.

Alone Together 2, 2011

I don’t like the way it turned out. But that’s not the camera’s fault. The slight movement of the train changed my perspective enough that the profile of the man changed. The moment was lost. In the end, I decided that I liked the busier scene better.

This is what passes for photo composition logic when you’re stuck on the ground in Detroit.


  1. The first one has the feel of being trapped in a garage and looking out longing for escape, which the plane may provide if we weren't stuck behind this cage of glass. The second feels more solitary, as if we're alone with our misery and suffer from a case of "terminal" uniqueness and self pity.

  2. Elizabeth A FriedrichJune 12, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    The name of the photos, for me, fits better for the frame with more people in it. I like the wider shot better, too, because we can see more of each of the elements and their interaction is more dynamic. I didn't focus in on that character, though, in the larger shot, so the tighter shot is better for just noticing him.