The sun breaks through storm clouds and highlights the steeples of St. Mary’s Church and creates a rainbow over McKees Rocks, PA.
I’ve wanted to photograph this church for years, its steeples rising far above the industrial buildings around it as it stands before a hillside of homes. I knew I wanted to capture the moment when sunlight illuminated the steeples and crosses as the church would stand out against the landscape.
Today was an oddly warm January day, all of yesterday’s snow washed away by heavy rains and warm winds whipping the trees in all directions, clouds racing at all levels across the sky. I was lost in what I was actually looking for but found the tiny intersection of brick streets where the church stood. Watching the coming storm knew there was a chance I’d get the photo I wanted so I abandoned the junkyard I’d been looking for in order to purchase a back window for my Ford Escort and raced for the best vantage for the church with the hill of homes behind it as the rain battered my car and the plastic over the missing back window opening flapped in the wind.
Following the contour of the land I wound around a tight little suburban street and found a spot where I could see the entire valley except for a privacy fence in someone’s yard. I waited in my car until the rain began to slow and I could see the brilliant pale yellow light spilling out from the edge of the storm cloud. The clouds continued to move to the east, behind the church, forming the perfect deep purple backdrop made even darker as the light increased. The sun finally washed over the church and the houses on the hill and…
…a huge, perfect rainbow! Rainbows can be prosaic, used as symbols for far too many things, but this was truly the rainbow after the storm, simply a result of the conditions, interpret it as you will. I only had my little point and shoot, but I held it as high above the fence as I could as the last of the rain soaked my hair and jacket, hit the focus button and took a few shots.
McKees Rocks is a pretty rough and tumble place to say the least. On the outskirts of Pittsburgh, heavily industrialized and settled by thousands of East Europeans the mills and manufacturing were built along the Ohio River and in the valley where the rail lines followed the flood plain along Chartiers Creek. Houses were built on narrow winding streets clinging to hillsides, and the huge square-block-sized Catholic and Orthodox churches built in the center of each neighborhood. Along with the mills went the jobs and much of what is there has fallen into disuse, buildings are condemned, neighborhood assistance programs spring up to help those who live there now.