Sunday, May 20, 2018


With the weather finally getting warmer, recently I ventured out with my camera looking for something to shoot and stumbled across a metal sculpture outside the entrance to a building that was part of what had been the Schlitz brewery.  The brewery had closed years ago and the cluster of brewery buildings had fallen into disrepair until it was successfully converted to an office park several years ago.  Here is the sculpture, which stands perhaps 20 feet tall.

Not particularly impressive, but what caught my eye was the complex of rust circling the sculpture about 18 inches above the base.

Embarrassingly, even though I took a number of shots of the rust that first time, I wound up coming back another three times in an attempt to capture the texture as an abstract.  The rusted metal featured a number of defects--scratches and patches--that I didn't notice at first but that I felt were creating a distraction.  In short, there were a lot of wasted shots (nothing new there) that drew me back three more times, hoping to finally get it right.

The sheet metal of the sculpture was wrapped in a cylinder and the seam was then welded.  Here are a couple of shots that feature that weld.  I had tried setting the seam in the center but felt it worked better off to the side.

The remainder of the "keeper" shots featured one particular irregularity in the texture of the rust.  Here they are, generally in order of closeup.

Some of the shots for this post were made handheld, which necessitated ramping up the ISO to minimize motion blur.  For the last few images in this post, though, I did use a tripod and also employed my macro lens to maximize detail.

I realize that these shots are almost purely abstract, but I liked the complexity of the textures as well as the earth tones.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Milwaukee is no longer the center of the brewery world.  I don't believe there are any breweries in Milwaukee that are still owned locally, other than small craft beer makers.  Two of the major breweries that were purchased years ago were Schlitz and Pabst.  After those breweries were bought out, the campuses remained vacant for years and suffered major deterioration.  However over perhaps the last 10 to 20 years, the campuses have been undergoing a renaissance, with former brewhouses and warehouses seeing renovation and occupation primarily by commercial tenants.

Last weekend I visited both campuses with my camera, something I have done before but not for a few years.  Here is what I got.

Not much caught my eye on the Pabst campus.  Here are a couple of shots of older buildings that feature the fine brick masonry that was prevalent a hundred years ago but is now largely a lost art.

One of the buildings has been converted into a hotel and bar, and, it being a sunny day, the shadows cast by some outdoor wireframe tables caught my eye.

Then it was on to the Schlitz campus.

The above was shot with my wide-angle lens, set at a wide open 15 mm, yielding some distortion that I sort of liked.

Laid out at the base of one of the buildings were some ceramic pieces that had been created over 100 years ago and fortunately had been preserved.

These pieces were perhaps 2 ft. by 5 ft.  I particularly liked the 1903 piece.

At the east end of the campus were a couple of smokestacks.  I  don't know if they are functional, but I thought they made a nice black & white study.

In front of one of the buildings was a cylindrical structure, a piece of art, I presume, that may have had a practical function at some point in the past.  This was a quiet Sunday afternoon, but I must have triggered some sort of security alert.  So as I was taking photos of the cylinder, a couple of security personnel came on the scene.  They asked me what the object was I was taking pictures of and what in particular I was photographing, and I had to confess that I had no clue what the object was but that I was interested in decrepitude and was taking pictures of the rust that the cylinder was exhibiting, as in the follow shot.  Then they left me alone.

There are parts of this shot that are something of a mess, but through post processing I was able to soften the image to give it an abstract impressionistic look.

Here is another detail shot of the same structure.

Finally, as with the Pabst campus, the Schlitz campus also features some interesting masonry.  Here first is some detail stonework at a corner of one of the building entrances that I converted to a black & white.

I also liked the stone masonry that featured larger stonework, as in the following photos.

© 2018 John M. Phillips

Monday, April 30, 2018


Last weekend I returned to one of my favorite photo venues, a farmhouse a few miles from my home.  The house was part of a dairy farm that has been abandoned for many years.  I have been inside the house a number of times, but not recently, as there have been additional No Trespassing signs posted on the property.  Despite that, I decided to venture into the house, which has gotten even more decrepit since my last visit a year or two ago.

First, as a refresher, here is a black & white of the house's exterior.  Every lighting condition carries its own features.  This was taken in bright sunshine around midday.  Not the best lighting, but it did accentuate the deterioration of the exterior.

And here is a shot of the front porch, also in black & white.


Now for the interior.   I took quite a few photos of the interior, but in the end I wasn't particularly happy with most of them.  I did like a few shots that illustrated the massive paint failure on those few areas that hadn't been stripped out at some point in the past.

A close look reveals at least four separate paint surfaces, all of which have failed.

And here is a shot of the newel post at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor.

One scene that I especially liked was a shot through a couple of doorways showing paint failure on a curved wall adjacent to the stairway.  I liked both shots but for different reasons.  The first shot features the exposed lath work on the left and above the nearer doorway.  There is something of a mess on the floor, but maybe that is just part of the scene.

The second shot emphasizes the paint failure on the curved wall.  I also liked it for the way that the woodwork surrounding the partially obscured doorway serves to frame the window and helps to create depth to draw the eye toward the window.

© 2018 John M. Phillips

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


In there past I have seen artsy photos of tire tracks in snow and haven't thought much about the requirements for such shots.  But earlier this month while on a Sunday morning walk, I noticed some tire tracks in a parking lot in our neighborhood.  It was then that I realized that the conditions for such shots were actually quite unusual.  First, if the snow is too deep, the tire tracks will not show up well.  In this case we had received less than 1/2 inch of snow the night before.  Also, the temperature cannot be too low or the snow will not melt under the tire pressure.  On this morning the temperature was right around freezing.  Finally, too many tracks would just appear as clutter.  This was early enough that there were just a few tracks.  In any event, when I got home I grabbed my camera and returned to take some photos.  Here is what I got.

First, a confession.  I probably took about 20 shots of the snow tracks but kept only these four.  This, actually is about par for me--I probably discard about 80 percent of what I shoot; sometimes even more.  In any event, this first shot is a bit indifferent.

The next is a little more interesting, in my view, because there is some direction to the tracks.

More interesting is the following because it includes footprints (not mine), giving the composition some context.

Finally, is an abstract that I liked for the fact that some of the tracks are white rather than black and because some of the pavement is black rather than white.


Sunday, January 28, 2018


For the past several years Walker's Point, a neighborhood south of downtown Milwaukee, has been undergoing a gentrification, with construction of upscale condos and repurposing of abandoned factories and warehouses as restaurants and funky retail outlets.  But the neighborhood still has its share of buildings in need of repair or updating.  Recently, I spent some time in the neighborhood with my camera looking for a little decrepitude.

The first shot is of an opening in a wall of a building that had been boarded over at some point in the past.  This was in an alley between buildings, by the way.  All in all a bit creepy.

I liked this opportunity for the three different colors that the boards had been painted for some reason and the subsequent failure of that paint.  After thinking about the options for a while, I decided to capture it on an angle.  But after experimenting with just showing the painted boards, I decided to expand the shot to reveal portions of the surrounding concrete borders, if only for context.

I was attracted to the following shot for the shadows being cast by the vine extending in front of the painted concrete wall.

I focused on the vine but decided that I also wanted to maintain detail in the failed paint on the concrete blocks.  So I narrowed the aperture to f/16.  The steel cable was still  a bit out of focus, but I didn't think that was a big deal.

I liked the following shot of a hasp and padlock arrangement because of the variety of textures that it included--and because of the overall decrepitude.

The last three shots are of handles that had witnessed a good deal history.

For this last shot I played around with just including the handle and none of the blue-green metal border.  But in the end I thought including not just the color border but the stonework to the right helped to tell a bit more of the story.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018


I have driven past St. Stephen Lutheran Church hundreds of times.  The church, which has a prominent steeple, sits just to the east of the north-south freeway in the Walker's Point neighborhood, south of downtown Milwaukee.  From the outside the building appears to be in a long-term state of neglect, and I finally decided that it might be interesting to attempt to capture some classic architecture in a state of decline.  I had assumed that St. Stephen's, if still active, was a a Catholic church, but, in fact, it is and always has been a Lutheran church.

The building has an interesting history.  It was first built at its current location in 1866, with a steeple featuring a four-faced tower added in 1879.  With major repairs looming the congregation razed the church (except for the tower) and rebuilt it in its present form in 1901.  At that time the tower was preserved and refaced in red brick to match the new building.

The day I photographed the church was sunny (and relatively warm).  But there were still challenges. First, the interior was locked and inaccessible, so I was limited to the exterior.  Moreover, only two sides, the south and west, were accessible.  The other two sides were behind fences.  Still, it was fun to look for photographic opportunities.

Here, first, is a not very good photo of the entire church, taken from the southwest.

The main entrance faces to the west.  (Note the change in spelling from "Stephan's" to Stephen's.")

Note the stonework in the pillars on either side of the entrance.  Nice.

As mentioned, the tower features a four-sided clock.

Which appears to be in good repair--and keeping reasonably accurate time.

The church appears to feature very fine stained glass windows.  Prominent is the large window on the south side of the transept.

Here are some detail shots of that window.

The church also features some interesting stonework, particularly above the keystones of the gothic windows and doorways, such as the following.