Jason Carter has been “serious” about photography for about 10 years, and he often trains his lens on Milwaukee.
He sees photographing his home city as a way to give its residents a glimpse of a better self that many of us don’t see, either because it’s the wrong time of day or we don’t have the ability to hover in the air. He captured this month’s Big Picture, a gleaming January sunset shot of the BMO Tower on Water Street reflecting its neighbor, historic City Hall. “
It gives me great joy to create photos and share them with others,” he says.
What’s the story behind this shot?
The photo was taken on New Year’s Day this year. Great sunsets are few and far between during the winter months, so when I saw how the clouds were setting up, I knew I had to get out there. I monitor the weather every day to get an idea of what the sunrise and sunset might look like when they happen. The clouds were plentiful but there were enough gaps for the sun to shine through when it was time to set. I decided to check out Fiserv Forum first. The Bucks were doing great, so there is always a good energy in that area. I flew my drone for a bit and captured some great sunset photos. It was time to switch to a fresh battery, so I decided to move locations. Earlier in the week, I dropped a friend off near City Hall and noticed the incredible reflection on the BMO Tower. I made a mental note to stop by there for sunset. Now was the time. I didn’t have a great view of it from the ground but once I got in the air, the magnificent scene was revealed. I could not believe my luck. The reflection looked amazing, and the sun and clouds were making some terrific colors. It is these kinds of scenes that make me grateful for photography. Not only do I get to see it myself, I get to share it with others.
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What “makes” this image, to you? Obviously, the reflection the BMO Tower provides to iconic City Hall seems to me like kind of the main feature, but I enjoyed peeking inside those lit offices, and I thought the logos of the competing banks was kind of funny, too.
I love building reflections because they remind me of how cameras work. In both situations, it is rays of light bouncing off glass to produce an image. So, taking a photo of a reflection is light bouncing off glass then bouncing off glass a second time. I like the juxtaposition of old and new buildings. The BMO building is shiny and new, but you can see the old building in the reflection so both the past and future are sharing the same space. The line of office lights was interesting because it almost looks like you are seeing behind the scenes of the reflection. I imagine it as a team of people working to create the reflection. Someone forgot to turn the lights off in that row, so the illusion is revealed for a moment.
Representing Milwaukee in a beautiful way is a big part of your photography. How do you approach putting the city’s best foot forward?
I started taking photography more seriously around 10 years ago. At a seminar I attended, the presenter said the only times worth photographing were 30 minutes before and after sunrise and sunset. I went down to the Milwaukee lakefront to photograph sunrise, and I was immediately hooked. All this magic was happening while I was normally sleeping. I spent some time visiting the Lake Michigan beaches in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas. When I posted those photos, people said it looked like I was on vacation in some exotic place. It was then I realized we have all this incredible scenery in Milwaukee that many people don’t even know about.
When I got a drone in November 2021, I started taking photos like it was my immobile regular camera. I stuck to photographing the city from the outside looking in. One time, I flew into the city and discovered a magical world that was never visible to me on the ground. I have lived in
Milwaukee my entire life, and only knew the spots that I knew. Drone photography lets you see the entire forest at once so you can decide what trees you want to get a better look at.
I really believe photography turns you into a tourist in your own city. You want to find all the coolest spots then show them to everyone else so they can either check them out for themselves or just enjoy what you have shown them. A lot of times when you are in the city, the buildings are blocking the sunrise and sunset, so you don’t even get a chance to really see it from that level. I am glad I can be the eyes for the people that can’t see. On Instagram, I have many followers from around the world. It is so cool to me when people from other countries like Italy, Greece, and France say how amazing our city looks. I feel like I am representing Milwaukee in a very honorable way.