The Seattle Great Wheel is the Ferris wheel at Pier 57 of Seattle’s waterfront. Constructed in 2012, the Great Wheel is one of the city’s youngest landmarks, but very recognizable alongside the growing number of skyscrapers that comprise Seattle’s downtown district. Although the Great Wheel, at 175 feet (53.3 m), is the tallest Ferris wheel on the American west coast, it is diminutive in comparison to the London Eye, Singapore Flyer, and Las Vegas High Roller, among several others.
Interestingly, I only recently visited the Great Wheel for the very first two times in March 2021. Alas, maybe I’ve succumbed to being a certain someone who I’ve fervently tried to resist becoming for such a long time — a resident of a city who doesn’t visit the city’s own popular sites despite their availability and proximity, like Parisians who have never visited the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.
I visited the Great Wheel on Friday, March 12th and Monday, March 15th, shortly after learning the site had reopened since the pandemic era commenced last year. The reason for the two visits is somewhat peculiar — the photographs I obtained on the Friday visit were horrendous. No amount of post-processing or editing could have saved them. (Granted, I am my own most severe critic of my own photography, but the original images were truly terrible). There was absolutely no way I could have presented them in a blog article or social media without feeling some level of embarrassment. As a result, I resolved to make a second trip the following Monday to reinvest my efforts. The grand majority of the images featured in this article are from that Monday visit.
To be honest, I might not even have visited the Great Wheel at all had some of my social media contacts not responded so well to the photograph below, in which the nine year old landmark appears as a brightly illuminated disk among the conglomerate of downtown buildings. After I shared the image on Twitter, there was a consensus that I would try to ride the Great Wheel and get some images of the surrounding scenery. Given that I like to capture atypical views of cities, visiting the Great Wheel was ideal as I had never considered the possible views it offered its visitors.
Nevertheless, there are some points for professional photographers to take note of when visiting. Firstly, your camera will likely capture the reflection and glare from the windows inside the gondolas of the Great Wheel. Using tripods are also prohibited while on the amusement ride. As a result, you are left to your remaining devices. For me, that meant a fairly steady left hand positioning Ananda (my camera) against the glass and a black t-shirt in my right hand to blot out the glare and reflections that my lens would capture. Somewhere in between, my right hand’s index finger had to find a way to press the shutter button. When I failed spectacularly to achieve this feat on the first Friday trip, I was determined to correct the nuisance immediately. I am moderately content with the final results of the images I have shared here. They were difficult to obtain given the constraints I described previously.
Lastly, I will advise that if you wish to avoid crowds, visit the Great Wheel on any day except Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The ride itself is about 20 minutes long with three full revolutions, but on Friday the 12th, the weather was lovely so people were out and about. As a result, the wait in line was about 40 minutes long, which caused me to miss the blue hour by the time I got onboard a gondola. The following Monday, there were so few people that I had to deliberately occupy time at the pier before lining up so I wouldn’t be too early to capture the blue hour ambiance. Masks are still mandated to be worn in order for visitors to ride. Because I was the only person in my “group”, I had my own personal gondola during my visits. I believe the maximum capacity for a gondola is four people.
Alas, enough prose. Time to let the images illustrate the mini-adventure. I am now re-invigorated to be a tourist in my own city. Besides, I have few alternatives until travel restrictions are lifted when the pandemic era ends. It’s the perfect time to reacquaint oneself with his or her own city!
From inside one of the 42 gondolas that comprise the Great Wheel
Views of Seattle from the Great Wheel
Thanks for reading this article. If you enjoyed the photographs here, please visit my official website @ www.tia-international-photography.com for an indelible, visual experience.