My favorite photo: Oil and water

Photo by Tim Schoon. (Click photo to enlarge)

There is a lot of talk about flooding right now. Levees are failing in western Iowa. Levees were hastily built in several South Dakota towns to try to hold back the Missouri River. It never seems to stop raining here. It reminds me of three years ago in Iowa City.

The Iowa River crested in Iowa City three years ago this week. I spent a lot of time that summer covering the University’s effort to hold back the water and even more time photographing the flood’s aftermath. A collection of those images is here:; or here in video form:

As awful as the event was, I’m proud of many pictures from that summer. Covering the massive sandbagging efforts leading up to the flood made me proud to be part of the University community. Shooting the water as it overtopped the sandbag wall near the Museum of Art scared me. The picture I shot of the nearly submerged street sign at the intersection of River Street and North Riverside Drive told the story of the flood in one photo. The list goes on.

Of all the photos I shot that summer, I keep coming back to this one as my favorite. I was shooting photos of Art Building West and there was this oily scum sitting on top of water trapped in an exterior stairwell. The light was hitting it just right. I thought it was pretty. I shot a couple of frames and then went back to shooting the postflood yuck.

I’ve always been partial to patterns, and this one grabbed me. I can’t exactly say why it’s a favorite. Maybe because it’s so different from everything else I had been shooting during the flood. Maybe because it’s not obvious what it is when you first look at it. Maybe because it’s a little bit of beauty amid such ugliness. I don’t know. But I like it.