Monday, December 4, 2017

RETURN TO ABANDONED FARM

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.

John

Saturday, November 25, 2017

BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE EXPLAINED

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.

John

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

ABANDONED FARM WINDOWS IN BLACK & WHITE

Several years ago I spotted an abandoned dairy farm a few miles north of our home and have photographed it a number of times.  Recently, I have noticed an abundance of "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs at the entrance to the property (four signs by my count) which have kept me from venturing onto the property.  Regardless, last Sunday afternoon I decided I could chance a return to the property with my camera.

Here, first, is a photo of the farmhouse, which I have shot many times previously.  You get the idea.


But I spent the rest of my time in the barn, looking into or out of windows.




The window that most caught my eye was one whose window had somehow undergone a wrenching distortion.  Here, first, is how it looked from the exterior.


But I found it more interesting from the interior.  I tried a number of versions for this shot.  One version was focused on the farmhouse in the background, which left the window itself out of focus.  I did not think that that version worked.  Here is a cropped shot through the window that has the house in focus.


The shot with the window and frame in focus and with the house out of focus, worked better, I thought.


My one regret: I should have centered the house vertically, so that there was sky above the roof that was visible through the window.  Next time.

John

LOOKING DOWN ON A RAINY DAY

When I took my camera out recently on a particularly rainy day, I found myself looking down.  This is what I got.

First up was a manhole cover.  I liked how it was glistening in rain.


The next shot features a dead leaf, as a point of interest.  I chose the composition for the leaf, which was already there, but it still looked planted.


And here is the cover of some sort of electrical junction box, also glistening in the rain.


Neenah is a Wisconsin town between Milwaukee and Green Bay.  One of the major local industries is the Neenah Foundry, which makes basic iron products, such as manhole covers, sewer grates, etc.  I have seen their products throughout the U.S.

Here is another example, one of those plates located where sidewalks slope up or down at intersecting streets or driveways.  We've all seen them.


Finally, a patio of manufactured stones located in our subdivision.  In the 12-13 years since the patio was laid out, it has suffered some uneven settling.  But it does offer a bit of semi-abstract composition.


John

Saturday, November 11, 2017

RETURN TO HOLY HILL

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.

John

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

THE DOMES: GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY

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.

John

Friday, October 13, 2017

LOOKING UP IN THE WOODS

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.




John

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

MILWAUKEE FIRE DEPARTMENT MUSEUM

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:

Boots.



Helmets.



And an old pay phone.



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

John