Saturday, November 11, 2017


Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary is a Roman Catholic basilica located about 35 miles northwest of downtown Milwaukee in Wisconsin's Kettle Morraine glacial area.  The surrounding wooded terrain is beautiful, especially in the fall.  I made this trip to the basilica in early November, a bit late for the fall color season.  My time at the basilica was limited, a scheduling mistake.  Perhaps another time.

I failed to get any decent shots of the exterior, in part because it was a cold and blustery late fall afternoon that featured increasing overcast.  Most of my shots were of the interior.  Here is what I kept.

First is a standard shot from the rear of the nave, looking toward the sanctuary.

The basilica has an especially hight ceiling, which projects a feeling of spaciousness, and I thought the neutral color palette added to a sense of majesty.  Here are some detail shots of the sanctuary area, including the apse ceiling.

There is much detail in this venue, including some whimsical faces on the nave's supporting pillars.

Here is a shot toward the back of the nave from just in front of the sanctuary area.

Following is a detail shot of the rose window behind the balcony at the back of the nave.

The basilica sit atop a hill, one of the highest elevations in southeastern Wisconsin.  There was a good deal of haze in the afternoon air, and seeing conditions to the west were difficult because of the afternoon sun, despite a heavy overcast.  Even so, I did take a few shots to the west.  Here is the one that I kept.

I had to do a lot of work in post processing to bring out some of the colors, which were muted by the haze.  I did like the white limbed trees in the lower left of the image.

On my way home from the shoot, I ran across this scene on the side of the road.

After all it was just a few days after Halloween.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017


It had been several months since I last traveled to Milwaukee's botanical gardens at the Mitchell Park Domes.  So last week I put my macro lens on my Nikon and paid a visit.  There was a fair amount that was new, and, moreover, perhaps my eyes were refreshed.  Having said that, I kept very few of the shots that I took, and even then the results were "mixed"--"good, bad, and ugly.

First, the "Good."

Maybe I should say "OK" rather than "good," as these are by no means great.  But I did like the black background for the second shot, which allowed the flowers to pop a bit more.  These first two photos are not really macro shots, but I liked the compositions.

Next the "Bad."

The above, from the tropical dome, was more of a macro shot, which created depth of field issues, as the photo reflects.  I took a number of shots at varying apertures.  I chose this as the least objectionable choice.  Smaller apertures resulted in the background creating a distraction, and larger apertures left too much of the image out of focus, with only very small "islands" of focus.  The above image was shot at a middling f/8.

For my choice of "Ugly," I offer the following agave in the desert dome.

I was attracted to this plant for the white margins of its leaves and, believe it or not, for its brown color.  Maybe it was dead.  I tried this as a black and white, but that wound up emphasizing the wrong elements, so I kept it as a color shot.

Finally, I offer the following as what I thought was actually a very good shot.

This was a "family" of barrel cacti in the desert dome that I thought did work as a black and white.  Compositionally, the center of attention was actually the smallest cactus in the lower center of the image that appears to be surrounded by and under the protection of the rest of her family.   I would also comment that the bit of gravel in the lower left and in the extreme lower right corner provided some "grounding" for the shot.  I used a narrow aperture of f/25 to make sure everything remained in good focus.

Of the 60 or so photos that I took during my visit, I kept only five, less than 10 percent of what I took.  That may say something about my rustiness in macro, or it may be about how picky I have gotten, particularly on technical issues.  Even with the few photos I kept, I was not happy with all of them.  Hence the title of this post.  It may seem odd, but in some cases if I feel good about even a single shot from a session, as I did here, I can be happy.


Friday, October 13, 2017


Our subdivision includes a multi-acre woods of deciduous trees.  The woods represent a great addition to our subdivision, and I should wander around in them more often than I do.  However, this afternoon I did, hoping to catch some of the fall colors.  The weather was overcast and threatening rain.  That's not necessarily a bad thing if your object is to capture that color, as, paradoxically, fall colors can be more saturated in the absence of shadows.

Here first, is an indifferent shot of the woods.

I found myself fumbling around looking for opportunities and feeling disappointed . . . until I looked up.  Again, it was overcast and shadowless, and I noticed that the leaves were showing their colors nicely against the background of leaves higher up.  So I concentrated my efforts on capturing the leaves against that multi-colored background.  Here depth of field was all-important.  I wanted to keep the closest leaves, along with the accompanying small branches, in focus, while allowing the background to go out of focus.  Here is what I got.

Some backgrounds were more uniform in color, but I liked the effect for the shapes of the leaves.

In others the varied background served to create color without distracting from the foreground leaves.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Milwaukee's Fire Department Museum was part of the Doors Open Milwaukee event in late September.  It is sincere, if small, located in a former firehouse on Milwaukee's South Side.  I wasn't sure how I would try to capture the venue.  There were a few antique vehicles . . .

. . . including this Ford emblem on a fire truck.

But in the end, I decided that my best bet was to focus on the human side of the museum's exhibits:



And an old pay phone.

It had been a while since I had seen a dial phone.



St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church is located on the north side of downtown Milwaukee.  The building, a classic example of gothic revival architecture, was completed in 1889.  It was one of the venues open to visitors during the recent Doors Open Milwaukee event and the last that I visited.

Here first is a photo of the exterior, which shows the church's dual steeples of unequal height.  The taller of the two reaches just short of 200 feet above street level.

I was dissatisfied with this shot for a couple of reasons.  First, there were cars parked in front of the church.  Grrr.  I suppose I could have returned at a time when there were no cars parked on the street . . . if I had had the patience.  Second, the top of the higher steeple is cut off.  The reason for this was that I really could not get far enough from the church to eliminate the keystone distortion that my lens was producing.  When in post processing I corrected that distortion the best that I could, it necessitated losing the peak of the steeple.  

Here is another shot taken from directly in front of the church.

More interesting perhaps, but . . . . 

The church's interior is unusual in one respect:  Virtually all of the edges of the support arches are lined with lights, as illustrated in this shot from the rear of the nave, looking toward the sanctuary.

Not to my tastes, as it seemed to give the church a bit of a carnival feel.

On the other hand, I liked the interior's light, pastel tones, as exemplified by the powder blue tones of the sanctuary ceiling.

Following is a shot from the sanctuary toward the rear of the nave, showing the balcony organ.

The organ, a feature of pride for the church, was last rebuilt and enlarged in 1919.

Finally, a shot of one of the church's lovely stained glass windows, my favorite of the series.


Monday, October 2, 2017


The Public Service Building, in downtown Milwaukee, has had an interesting history.  Completed in 1905, the block-long four-story building initially served as the depot for both Milwaukee's interurban rail line and its street car line.  And it still sports large panels on both its east and west facades where the rails entered and exited the building.  When those services ultimately ended, the building eventually became the corporate headquarters for what is now We Energies, the Southeastern Wisconsin power utility.

The building was open for the late September Doors Open Milwaukee event, and here are some photos that I took during my visit.

First, the building's ornate entrance facade, including the beautiful semicircular window over the entrance.

To give an idea of how well maintained the building's interior is, here is a ceiling detail.

There is a lovely skylight above a staircase landing in the lobby leading to the building's second level.

But the building's best showpiece is its main lobby, including its chandelier.

I was particularly happy with this last shot taken from directly beneath the chandelier.


Friday, September 29, 2017


St. Joseph Chapel, part of the School Sisters of St. Francis campus on the South Side of Milwaukee, is a true hidden architectural gem.  I have photographed the chapel twice before and took the opportunity to revisit the venue during the Doors Open Milwaukee event in late September.  Here is some of what I shot.

First, a couple of classic shots from the rear of the nave, one featuring a couple of the supporting pillars and one a bit closer to the sanctuary.

I modified both of these shots in post processing to rectify the vertical lines for perspective distortion.

During my visit, I spoke to a young woman with a camera who also seemed intent on getting some shots of the facility.  It turned out that she was affiliated with the School Sisters and "authorized" me to visit the balcony to get a couple of shots, so long as I stayed out of sight of other visitors.  "Hiding" behind a pillar in the balcony, I took the following oblique shot of the main space.

I also took a shot of the stairway leading up to the balcony that I liked for the pattern of stair railings.

The apse ceiling makes a terrific architectural semiabstract.

And here is a shot of the ornate altar.

The space features a modest glass dome.  Here is a shot of that feature (somewhat flawed because of lighting issues).

Finally, a shot of the rear of the chapel from the sanctuary.

Most of these images were shot with my new lens, with which I am quite happy, even though I am still learning its uses.  Lighting in an interior is virtually always difficult, and I did not have a tripod, so I am particularly pleased with the overall quality of these shots, given that limitation.

Considering that it is well over a hundred years old, the chapel is in terrific shape.  And the facility's light color palette adds to its attractiveness.  If you have not visited the chapel previously, I recommend doing so if you have that opportunity.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Milwaukee held its annual Doors Open Milwaukee event last weekend, and the first venue that I visited was the St. Nikola Serbian Orthodox Church, located in a quiet residential neighborhood in Cudahy.  The modest sized church was, in my opinion, delightful both inside and out.

Here, first, is an exterior shot.

But it was the many murals that covered the interior ceiling that showed the church's emotion.

Here is a mural, presumably a depiction of Christ, over the sanctuary.

The stained glass windows were also interesting, including the wording written in Serbian.

Finally, a couple of details of the exterior, including the front entrance and the steeple.

The Serbian orthodox congregation purchased the church, then vacant, in 1963 and transformed it over the subsequent years to the church that it has now become.