Omaha’s History in Its Buildings

Downtown Omaha is an amazing treasure of buildings that speak eloquently of the city’s history. Pick up a brochure on the Old Market area and you’ll find a collection of historic photographs of old buildings along with descriptions of what they used to be, their current use, and their exact location. It seems that Omaha is into recycling, rather than demolishing, in a big way. The result is a Midwestern city with considerable character and charm.

Armed with the Old Market brochure from the Omaha tourist office and my Canon Powershot S95 (all I could afford to take on this all-too-brief, fly-very-lightly trip), I set out on many walks to locate and shoot some of the downtown sites. The early mornings offered quiet and space for reflection; in the evenings the place was bustling with people out to enjoy the pubs and restaurants, especially those that offer covered outdoor seating (as most of them do in the Old Market). Here is a selection of my photos.

Ed IMG_1534 sThe lettering that rings the upper stories tells the tale of this impressive building’s former life. The ground floor now houses the Spaghetti Works — a favorite Omaha restaurant, especially for families with children — and shops to attract visitors and residents alike. I processed this image in a straightforward way with Nik Color Efex Pro 4’s Tonal Contrast.

From this angle the plethora of signs tells of a variety of incarnations this building has enjoyed.Ed IMG_1543 s Turn the corner around to the front of the building and see the modern businesses it now houses. This picture was taken early morning after it had rained the previous night and I deliberately chose an angle to include the reflection in the puddle in the foreground.  Like the above photo, processed with a simple Tonal Contrast adjustment in Nik Color Efex Pro.

Ed IMG_1537 Top sThis was a complete surprise–I turned the corner off one of the busy Old Market thoroughfares and here it was — a diner, simply called The Diner! I just laughed in sheer delight. I love diners and only regretted that my program for this visit to Omaha didn’t allow me the opportunity to enjoy a breakfast or lunch here. For this image I used Topaz Adjust, tried two different Detail Strong presets and decided on this one, Detail Strong 2, because it’s far more vibrant. I altered the Details settings from the original preset, one reason being that I wanted to show that the splotch of sunlight on the building wall above the diner was left there deliberately–the different colorations show it to be a work of art in its own right.

Finally, this image is quite different from the rest; unlike the previous three, this building isn’tEd IMG_1479 s enjoying a present life. I struggled with how to interpret this image. I felt sorry for the building and for the fact that it had once housed a cooperative of artists who undoubtedly must have worked together, encouraged and supported one another, shared in other members’ successes and failures. And so I didn’t want to give it one of my grunge looks where every little detail is accentuated so that all you see is a somewhat disorganized network of lines more than the building as a whole. After several experiments I decided on this preset, which I found almost by accident — the Color Stylizer in Nik Color Efex Pro 4, with contrast and saturation adjusted and the tint slightly tweaked. I think it’s reasonably gentle on the poor building. Please, won’t you leave a comment and tell me what you think?

GREAT NEWS: Our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour has just been published! Click the book’s title to view the feature on the website of our publisher, Schiffer Publishing and to purchase your copy.