• Mark White

Four Views Seattle's Great Wheel During the 2018 Wildfires


The Great Wheel, August 2018.

In August 2018, millions of acres of wild fires burned up and down the west coast, with hundreds of fires around Seattle. That year, the first wildfires started in April, and by July 31 the Washington State governor had called a state of emergency. Fires as far away as Siberia impacted the air quality around us.

Next week I'll share photos of the city during those darkened days, but given the Waterfront's closure this week, I wanted to share a few shots I captured of the Great Wheel at the time.


From a pure aesthetic point of view -- and ignoring the horrible health effects the fires had -- the haze caused by the billions of micro-particles was a photographer's dream. They caused a "natural" filtering of the sun that made these images of the Great Wheel possible for me.


These images were taken with a 300mm equivalent telephoto at f/2.8 and +/- 1/2500 sec shutter.


Northewast View of the Great Wheel Spokes. August 2018.

By filtering the harsh elements of the sun -- I suppose technically by severely altering the sunlight's K value -- the 280,300 pounds of steel that made up the Great Wheel took on a paper-like, matte finish that you don't see in most other images of the wheel. The Wheel feels more akin to a battleship in these images than a carnival ride.


These shots were taken in mid morning, on a cloudless August day. You can see the shadows from the sun that was just rising above the city skyline to the south east. Normally at this time of day, and under cloudless conditions, the metal would be too washed out to capture with any value of detail.


Southeast View of the Great Wheels Spokes. August 2018.

Imagine if you could clothes-pin a giant baseball card to each spoke as the wheel turned. I suppose I'm old enough to remember such such things, turning my Schwinn banana bike into a Harley with a few clothes pins and cards of the players I didn't care about. Doing that created an incredible roar as we tore through the neighborhoods. And what a rumble across the bay it would create on the spokes of this wheel.


The Great Wheel from the East. August 2018.

It took 580 tons of concrete to secure the base to hold the Great Wheel. I have to admit, until I processed these images, I never paid much attention to the massive work of engineering that resulted in the Great Wheel -- 175 feet tall with 42 gondolas that can carry 27 tons of riders. Since taking these shots, I've become a bit obsessed with the Wheel during my walkabouts. When I'm on the Waterfront, I always look for a new angle from which to explore it. I have no desire to ride it, but for some reason I'm enamored by it's design and overall presence.


Here's a piece of Great Wheel trivia for the books: Dustin Boehlke, a 21-year-old University of Washington, weighing less than 200 pounds, was the Great Wheel's first rider in 2012.


Let me close with that shared piece of history.

© 2016-2020 MARK WHITE  |  mark@mjwhitephotos.com I 206.409.1247

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