Friday, July 04, 2008

Olympic Mettle

Tower Power in Montreal

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON



Ever checked out the place at 4549 Pierre de Coubertin Avenue in Montreal? It's big. It's prime real estate. It's instantly recognisable. But it ain't for sale.

The Stade Olympique (or Olympic Stadium) is not just a symbol of the city, it is also a reminder of the 1976 Olympic Games. The famously angled tower, la tour de Montreal, is 175 metres tall, the highest inclined tower in the world.

I posted this shot in my very early days as a blogger, when I was lucky to get half a dozen visitors each day, so if there is a bit a deja vu here, then you must surely have been one of the first visitors to this blog. I guess I like the shot because it makes you look twice. Yes, it's easily recognisable as the main stadium of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, but there is also something about the image that is not quite normal.

That's because it's a reflection. So sit back and allow me to tell you the story.

I was in Montreal for a couple of days in late 2005 and tried to cover as much of the city - on foot and by car - as possible. I used to get up before the crack of dawn and I was still shooting as the clock approached midnight. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I think I was so tired at the end of the trip that I must have switched my brain off.

Yes, there I was at Montreal airport, checking in for the next leg of my flight when I realised I had left my blazer and formal trousers in my hotel room.
Okay, if you must know, the airline rep let me use her phone and the hotel very kindly and very efficiently mailed the clothes to me so that they were waiting for me in Port Carling a couple of days later. And yes, I have since switched my brain back on again. And yes, I can hear you whispering irreverently that it's made no difference!


Anyway, the morning I visited the Olympic stadium there was some interesting cloud in the sky, so I got several moody shots of the controversial roof and the angled tower. I thought this shot (above) was about as good as I could get, because the top of the tower is not visible in the main shot - but it is clearly visible in the reflection in the window. It was an interesting way to frame it, especially with the undulation of the roof through the shot.

I shot the sight from every conceivable angle and then crossed the street to get back to the van. As I did so, I realised that I had stumbled on the best shot of all.

The stadium was reflected in the passenger window, so I lined it up to give an intriguing view. I framed it really painstakingly - so that the back-to-front lettering is visible. It's as if you're looking at a hazy shot of the Olympic landmark - then you notice the edges of the vehicle's large door and the roof rack, as well as brickwork in the background. The shot would not have worked this well in the smaller door or window of a sedan.

And the really interesting observation, in retrospect, is this - it's my favourite shot of the entire hour, but it was taken with my back to the stadium, looking away from it.

Just goes to show, never put your camera away until you've exhausted every angle, even the inconceivable.


Visit Mama Geek and Cecily, creators of Photo Story Friday.

29 comments:

Working mum said...

Funnily enough I was thinking about the 1976 Olympics this week. I was only 7 and can't remember much except the gymnasts (I so wanted to be like them). We had Sharron Davies (the Olympic swimmer) as our speaker at Speech Day this week who talked about it being her first Olympics at the age of about 14. Unbelievable!

Nice to see some of the buildings on Montreal displayed in such a fashion. Thank you.

Hilary said...

I'd like to say that I was only 7 at that time too.. but alas, no. I was however living near Montreal '76, and I instantly recognized "The Big O" reflected in your photo.

Great shots and wonderful telling of how it came about. Thanks for the memories. :)

Shoshana said...

This is amazing. I'm also amaze at how often I take many pictures and not come up with a single decent shot. I should join this for a story about not getting any story on my pictures.

I would like to invite you to my mailboxes across the world [MBATW]. Please check it out and I hope you can join.

Baino said...

Love, love, love, the reflective shot. My daughter has just spent a few weeks in Montreal . . not one picture! Obviously party central during the summer! (not telling how old I was during the Montreal Olympics either)

Sandi McBride said...

Talk about taking a sideways view of the world...this one is so unique as to be,,,well, what else, unique! Mac has never understood my fascination with the Olympics, winter and summer...I tell him it hales back to my early days in Greece...say 82 BC...
Sandi

cheshire wife said...

You take some amazing photographs. Hope you get more than six visits today.

Sandi McBride said...

Oh me again...see Hilary at comment two? I'd like to nominate her post Sum Sum Summertime for post of the day...talk about some photography! I'm still gasping at the park bench and that's just the beginning!
Sandi

SandyCarlson said...

Thanks for these great photos and the story, David. I didn't know about this building until now.

Hilary said...

Sandi! You're too sweet.. thanks. :)

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

When first I looked at the lead photo, I thought "what a strange looking airplane!" Well -- this is my first blog visit today, and my eyes are not working up to speed yet!
I very much enjoyed your explanation of how you captured the image.
Wishing you a peaceful weekend.

Kimberly said...

I have not seen near enough of my own country. Beautiful!

D Herrod said...

Very cool shots.

Daryl said...

I love the angle .. and the 'history'

:-Daryl

Katney said...

You never cease to amaze.

BeachysCapeCodCupboard said...

FABULOUS shots, David! Hubby and I went to Montreal while I was pregnant with our first child. We stayed at a hotel that resembled a "cheese grater". Perhaps you are familiar with it, as it is somewhat of a landmark I hear. Beautiful city!

katherine. said...

...or just never put it away...period.

Travis said...

That's quite the illustration of something I always try to do in my life...look at things from as many points of view as possible. I'm not always successful because I can get stubborn with my own thoughts and ideas.

But I do try.

Jeff B said...

Since starting my blog, the camera has become another piece of clothing to me. It goes wherever I do.

Raven said...

That really is a wonderful shot and all the better for the great story that goes with it. I really like the last shot too.

Raven said...

Just noticed your title. Love it.

Mima said...

What a fascinating story to go with the shot, and I agree with you that the top one is by far the most interesting of the set - I love the curvature of the glass as well and what this adds to the shot.

I have never been to Montreal, but it looks like an amazing place.

MamaGeek said...

SIMPLY WOW. Honestly, I think that first photo reflection in this post is my favorite of yours of all time. WOW. Nicely done again David.

Alexandria said...

Awesome awesome awesome post and pictures!!!

I've never seen that building. I wasn't even born at the time the Olympics were there in 1976.

hotmamabeads said...

1976 olympic joke: How do they fill the Olympic pool?

I'll post the answer on my blog. Great Pics!

lisaschaos said...

I love how stumbled upon the perfect shot of it. And I always enjoy reflections. :)

carrie & troy keiser said...

I knew right away that it was taken into a a van window {maybe because we own a nice big van}! It is an awesome shot and a great story.

Cecily R said...

Hmmmm. I was a baby during those Olympics and suddenly I feel like I am no longer part of a really cool club.

I LOVE that first shot. Stunning. I look forward to your PSF entries every week!!!

Sorry I am so behind in commenting. This is the first day we've had internet access since the move!

Maggie May said...

Looks very impressive! Never been there!

polona said...

fascinating photos and a great story!