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.


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.