Saturday, January 6, 2018


Milwaukee has experienced a long cold snap with temperatures not reaching 20 degrees for nearly two weeks.  Because Lake Michigan has not iced over, the water temperature is significantly higher than the air temperature.  The result is "sea smoke" or in this case "lake smoke"--a layer of fog extending several hundred feet above the surface of the lake beginning a a few miles offshore.  This is a temporary seasonal phenomenon that lasts only as long as the bitter cold continues and until the lake water freezes over or drops to very close to freezing.

The current cold snap is due to end, so I thought I had better take a shot at photographing the lake smoke while it is available.  This meant getting down to the lakefront before sunrise.  I did this once before 8-10 years ago, but I am always trying to better what I have done previously.  So Saturday morning I got down to the Lakefront south of downtown by 7:15 a.m. (sunrise was at 7:23 a.m.).  The air temperature was 3 degrees below zero, but the 10-15 mph wind brought the windchill down to the 15-20 below range.  In other words, bitter cold.

The location I chose included an old shoreline lighthouse and a U.S. Coast Guard station located at the end of a breakwater in the lake around 3/4 miles out from the shore.  Here are a few of the photos that I took as I was rapidly freezing.

First, a couple of photos of the lighthouse, which I assume is no longer in use.

These were shot after sunrise but before the sun had risen above the top of the sea smoke, creating some very attractive "warm" light.

Note in the second photo an individual standing at the base of the lighthouse tower.  There were quite a few other photographers at the location with the same idea as me.  In fact, a couple guys had the fortitude to spend perhaps 20-30 minutes standing out in the cold with their equipment, including tripods, waiting for just the right moment.  I had brought my tripod but did not have the patience or endurance to use it.  As a result, these photos have some technical deficiencies.

I also took a number of shots of the Coast Guard station on the breakwater.  I liked the following shot because it nicely highlights the lake smoke.

I spent some time playing around with the files in post processing and came up with the following image in which I tried to keep the Coast Guard station in decent focus but let the surrounding lake and fog go "soft."  This is how it came out.


Sunday, December 31, 2017


As I have done in prior years, I am posting a number of my favorite photos from 2017.

January included some mild days that featured serious fog, certainly a major friend to landscape photography.  I took a number of shots of a nearby stand of woods bordering Lake Michigan.  This shot seemed to work best as a wide panoramic.

At the end of January I visited St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, located on Milwaukee's South
Side.  I had asked in advance, and the staff were gracious in giving me as much time as I wanted to photograph the cathedral's interior.  The interior is virtually covered--walls and ceiling--with exquisite mosaics.  The following of the venue's modest sized dome is simply representative.

I took advantage of a mild day in February to visit the Milwaukee County Zoo.  I thought this iguana came off nicely,

But my favorite in this series was this photo of a female mandrill.  She was looking right at me.

In May my wife and I spent several days in New Mexico, and I felt good about a number of the photos that I got on the trip.  On our initial drive to Santa Fe, we met the "mayor" of Golden, New Mexico, an interesting fellow.  Here I decided to crop the shot down to include just his fabulous beard.  The light was great.

Speaking of Santa Fe, here is a shot of some typical Santa Fe architecture.

I also liked the following sculpture in the courtyard of one of Santa Fe's art museums.

I actually liked that I had offset the sculpture's face and converted the shot to a black & white.

Outside of Albuquerque we toured a historical home, and I caught this simple "still life" that I liked for its simplicity.

Here is a shot of a courtyard of one of Albuquerque's principal art museums.  I thought the shot worked because of the converging perspective lines, in part created by the shadows.

In August we attended the wedding of the daughter of good friends.  The wedding took place in Ludsen, Minnesota, and I took this extemporaneous shot in an antique shop in nearby Grand Marais.  The silhouetted plates served to set off the complex light coming through the glass block exterior wall of the shop.

One of my favorite local architectural venues is Milwaukee's Basilica of St. Josaphat, but most of my shots previously have been of the venue's stunning interior.  This was a shot of the exterior.  The morning sun was illuminating the building's east facade, and I was able to accentuate that by turning the image into a black & white and darkening the sky for increased drama.

In September we visited our daughter in Washington, D.C.  Here is a shot of the city's Metro subway system.

Later, I returned to the Library of Congress and got this shot of one of the building's side ceilings.  From a symmetry point of view, I pretty much nailed it.

During the trip, we also had an opportunity to visit the stunning FDR memorial and I took this shot of one of the sculptures.  The shot itself was just OK, but I thought the hands expressed great emotion.

Later in the fall, I found myself wandering around in the woods attached to our subdivision, looking for fall color.  I finally realized that by looking up I could capture that color by focusing on the leaves above me and letting the foliage further up go out of focus.  The dark mini-branches added to the effect, I thought.

I haven't visited Milwaukee's botanical gardens much in the last couple of years, but in late fall I did pay a visit and got this black & white of some pincushion cacti.

Finally, is a photo of an abandoned dairy farm a few miles from our home that I have shot any number of times.  In this case, I shot the farmhouse through a window in the barn.  But in truth the subject of this photo was the window rather than the house.


Saturday, December 30, 2017


During our recent visit to Salt Lake City, we returned to the Natural History Museum of Utah, an facility located on the campus of the University of Utah.  The building is contemporary in style, perhaps reflecting the state's convoluted canyon structure.  Here is a shot of the building's main entrance that I rendered in black and white to emphasize the architectural lines.

The museum was featuring a very nice Viking artifact exhibit.  Here are some photos from that area.

The entry to this exhibit featured a beautifully rendered Viking boat.  I am sure it was simply a modern replica, but the boat's sweeping lines were very nice and the light from the side added to its drama.  Again, I thought this shot worked best as a black and white.

The museum included a section that featured live animals, designed to appeal to younger patrons, including our two grandsons.  A extremely large frog.

And a beaded lizard.

Lighting is always an issue in museums.  Light may appear adequate to visitors whose eyes have adjusted to the lessor amount of light, but the camera is not deceived, forcing the use of higher ISOs and greater apertures to compensate.  Glass cases can present their own problems, including reflections and smudges on the glass.

Utah is known for its dinosaur fossil deposits, and the museum reflects the state's prominence.  Here are a few photos of the museum's extensive dinosaur collection.

I think most of the skeletons are replicas, but the teeth in the last shot are real.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017


We  bought a white amaryllis this holiday season and it has been a real winner, boasting seven large, fundamentally white blossoms.  Nice.  Today I decided to take a few shots of a couple of the blossoms, using my macro lens.  The blossoms are quite large, several inches across, so, in keeping with my preferences for capturing recognizable abstracts, I limited my shots to what I thought were interesting parts of the blossoms.  Here is what got.

All of these shots were taken at very narrow apertures ranging from f/36 to f/51.  Even so, at the close range involved, there were still limits on depth of field.


Monday, December 4, 2017


We live in a suburban neighborhood that was largely farmland a few decades ago.  Five miles north of our home is a dairy farm that has been abandoned for a number of those decades.  It is situated on land that is potentially commercially valuable, as it is located at the intersection of two busy roads, one if which features a north-south freeway interchange.  There has been a For Sale sign on the property for several years, along with a couple of No Trespassing signs.  Recently, the No Trespassing signs have multiplied, and I have been reluctant to visit the property with my camera.  But last Sunday--during the Packers game--I did pay another visit to the farm.

The farmhouse continues to deteriorate.  It is, in my view, beautiful in tis ruined condition.

I figured getting caught in the house might be harder to explain than getting caught in the dairy barn.

Earlier I had taken a photo of a barn window in connection with a Facebook black & white photo challenge.  I liked the photo but I thought it was flawed because, while the window looked out on the house,  the view of the house was not very well centered in the window.  I tried to correct that problem with the following shot.

Better, I think.  Often when I am processing photos from a shoot, I regret that I didn't get the shots quite right.  But where I have had a chance to return to "get things right," I have more often than not been disappointed.  In this case, I thought, the second shot was actually an improvement.

Here is a shot of another, now vacant, window that I also turned into a black & white.

The farm features a steel silo, which also is slowly deteriorating.

The barn was basically empty, but there was a stack of firewood that I suspect has been there a long time, since I doubt that the farmhouse fireplace has witnessed a fire for decades.

I thought this shot worked because of the light coming in from a doorway to the side and because of the diversity of color in the pieces of wood.


Saturday, November 25, 2017


Earlier this month I was tagged to participate in a challenge on Facebook: seven days, seven black & white photos, no people, no explanations.  I was flattered to be tagged and took up the challenge over the following week.  Here I am posting the same photos, this time with some explanations.

Day 1:  Library Books.

I felt that I should get going with the challenge, even though the weather was bad, so the easiest subject at hand was my personal library.  I chose two shelves of books on science.

I picked these because they were easy to set up with my camera and tripod and because I wanted to express the fact that science is important to me.  I spend a fair amount of time in my library, not always reading but always comforted by my books, which  I consider friends, many of which I have owned for well over 50 years.

Day 2: Fence.

I did get out the next day, visiting a local park, Doctors Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan in Fox Point, a neighboring community.  I had not been to Doctors Park for a couple of years, and, though the weather was cold and windy, I found a number of photo opportunities.

I thought this shot worked best.  I softened the photo a bit, which I thought helped the shot's overall feel.

Day 3: Stained Glass Window.

This was a "cheat" of sorts.  I'm not sure what the unwritten rules of this challenge were, but this shot was actually borrowed from a September shoot I did of a church in Milwaukee.  I did think the shot was representative of what I am interested in photographically.  That's my excuse, anyway.

I thought what made this shot was not the actual window but the lighting underneath the gothic arch.

Day 4: Manhole Cover.

The following day was cold and rainy, typical for Milwaukee this time of year.  Even so, I found the opportunities interesting.  My thought was to photograph one of the rectangular metal plates with raised bumps that one finds wherever a sidewalk slopes down to match the level of a cross street or driveway.  And I did take a few shots of one of those, but I chose this shot for how it revealed the wet surface.

Day 5:  Farm Window.

I knew that I wanted to return to an abandoned farm a few miles from our home that I had shot many times in the past.  And I had this particular window in mind because of the distortion in the shape of the window relative to the frame in which it is situated.  

Initially I took a shot of the window from the outside.  The photo did a great job of showing how the window had turned into a parallelogram, but it had no character because of the bright sun shining directly on the window.  The breakthrough was to move inside the barn and to shoot out.  My regret is that I should have centered the house better in the frame so that there was sky showing above the roof of the house.  Next time.

Day 6:  Basilica Steps.

This is another "cheat."  This was actually shot at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., where we were visiting our daughter in September.  And the shot wasn't among the ones I was looking to take.  

The basilica was actually something of a disappointment as it was too new and just a bit too gaudy.  But this shot was just the reverse of gaudy: It was all about geometric order.  It did garner a lot of comment on the challenge when I posted it.

Day 7: Library Atrium.

Milwaukee's central library is a favorite venue of mine, and this is a shot I have done a number of times before.  But I didn't cheat for this shot.  Rather, I did return to the library for this shot.  

I used my newish Tamron 15-30 mm zoom lens and was really happy with the shot overall.  In the past for this type of shot I have placed the camera on the floor pointing up and used a remote to trigger the shutter.  But here I simply stood in the center of the atrium and shot up handheld.  I was impressed with the lens's ability to eliminate camera shake.