Stanley: Seeing Joliet from a different angle
By Brian Stanley Life of Brianemail@example.com May 11, 2013 11:10AM
Retired Will County Sheriff's Deputy Karin Kendzora (seated) and her granddaughter, Deputy Kim Topolewski (standing) listen as the names of Will County officers who have died in the line of duty are read. Karin's son (and Kim's uncle), Deputy Ray Topolewski, died in 1985 while on patrol. | Photo: Brian Stanley/Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 13, 2013 7:17PM
I was on my own Thursday if I wanted to visually illustrate Will County’s Law Enforcement Memorial Day event.
A reporter can be kept busy writing down what people are doing, what’s being said, what the mood seems like at any event, so I knew there wouldn’t be many chances to watch for those same moments through a viewfinder. But I wanted to save a thousand words while showing what was going on and thought I might get some time at the very beginning or the very end of the ceremony to “grab a shot.”
One trick I’ve learned from a professional photojournalist is that changing the height of the camera can make an incredible difference to an image. Since I wanted to show something involving a lot of people I thought I should find a new angle. I had to go high.
Across the street from the courthouse lawn is the seven-story Emco Building where the Will County Coroner’s windows overlook the memorial. I asked Patrick K. O’Neil if I could use the office for a few minutes. At the Mass before the ceremony I explained why I thought an elevated position of 35 feet could make an image worth for print or online.
“I figure the higher the better. So unless you can let me up on the roof, I’d like to use your office,” I asked O’Neil.
When the Mass ended, I beat the processional of police cars downtown and went to the courthouse lawn. I said hello to a couple Joliet officers and Will County deputies as I approached and was about to say hello to Sheriff Paul Kaupas before he interrupted me.
“All right,” he said. “You can go up on the roof for your picture.”
Unbeknownst to me the Democratic coroner had relayed my almost-completely joking request to the Republican sheriff. And Kaupas, the formal head of security for the county buildings, said OK. Kaupas thought the two evergreen trees would block most of the action, but if a maintenance engineer wasn’t too busy, I was welcome to try.
Reluctant to say thanks but no thanks to a bipartisan favor, I crossed the street and walked into the Emco Building.
“I’m waiting for the coroner. I’m going up on the roof,” I told the guard at the front desk.
Despite a fear of heights, O’Neil felt he had to come along. We rode the elevator with a maintenance engineer who prefers not to be identified. When we reached the seventh floor, we crossed to a locked door leading to a narrow spiral staircase and climbed up. After passing by the elevator motors we walked out the door and into the gray sky.
“There’s not much of an edge,” the maintenance engineer said.
He wasn’t kidding. If you can lift your feet more than two inches you can reach the sidewalks of Ottawa or Jefferson streets in two seconds.
I’m not a big fan of heights myself, so I mostly crawled to look over across the street. The sheriff was right. The evergreen trees blocked almost any photo opportunity.
“But how many chances will I get to do this,” I thought and started taking pictures across the Des Plaines River, over City Hall and the police station, straight past the parking garage to the Rialto sign and of a train pulling into Union Station.
“You can really see how Joliet has grown out of the river valley,” the maintenance engineer said.
He’s absolutely right. Without buildings in the way, you can see how the land rises to the east and west. I’ve flown in a plane over the city before, but hadn’t noticed the urban areas are eventually swallowed up by trees if you go far enough in any direction.
On a less overcast day, we could’ve tried to see Willis Tower in Chicago, the maintenance engineer said. The coroner and I had to be content with picking out water towers in Lockport, radio antennas by Homer Glen and the smoke from a fire near Elwood.
Thanks to the Pioneer Building, the Slammers owners don’t have to worry about losing any revenue to the county unless they can find a market for viewing just the outfield at Silver Cross Field.
I watched traffic crossing the Interstate 80 bridge and then turned to see there were no barges on the river south of Lockport. I could’ve stayed up there all morning looking at the same places I go to every day. But the national anthem was playing and I had work to do.
“Different way to look at the city, isn’t it,” the maintenance engineer noted.
I didn’t get a newsworthy photograph of the Law Enforcement Memorial from the rooftops.
But the experiment was a success. I was reminded there are plenty of new angles on things I’m very familiar with.