Tuesday, June 20, 2017

CORNFIELD

Coming home from a meeting recently, my eye was drawn to a newly planted cornfield.  The evening sun was backlighting the corn, lighting up the young plants and making the rich soil appear especially dark.  A couple of days later, I returned with my camera to try to capture the scene.  This proved a bit more difficult than it might seem.  The scene only worked when the sun was relatively low in the sky, which meant that I had to deal with sun glare.  In addition, because the corn extended from quite close to the camera to several hundred yards distant, I had to be mindful of depth of field.  I felt I was only partially successful in that regard.  The most distant plants were not in good focus, but perhaps the eye assumes that loss of sharpness for distant objects.  In any event, here is what I got.

This first is a "straight-on" shot looking down the rows.  It includes the horizon, even though the sky lacks interest.


The next shot, taken at an angle to the field, shows some curvature in the rows, as well as the beginnings of some greenery beyond the cultivated field.


The last two shots show even more complexity in the patterns of the rows.



This last was the most successful, I thought.

John

Monday, June 19, 2017

DRAGONFLY

A dragonfly decided to take a rest on our deck this afternoon and I was fortunate to get a few photos of it with my macro lens.  The dragonfly was huge.  In fact, when I first saw it flying around the deck, I thought it might be a hummingbird, come to drink out of our hummingbird feeder.  The good news was that the dragonfly was nicely perched on our patio umbrella and seemed totally unfazed by me or my camera, regardless of how close I got.  The bad news was that the dragonfly was perched on our patio umbrella, which has a close-grained plaid pattern that created a terrible background fro trying to capture the dragonfly's delicate features.

In any case, here is one of the better photos that I got.


This was taken with the lens only about three inches from the insect, so distance was really not a challenge.  Use of a tripod was a virtual necessity because at close distances depth of field can be extremely shallow and any change in distance from the subject can put things out of focus.  To minimize depth of field problems, it is best to use a a narrow aperture, which necessitates a longer exposure.  This was not a problem in terms of the activity of the dragonfly--it was being a very quiet subject.  But even a small breeze could move the umbrella back and forth by enough to put things out of focus or to create motion blur.  For the record, the above was shot at an extremely narrow aperture of f/32 for 1/60 second.  I tried to minimize background distractions by opening up the aperture to f/4.5 (with an exposure of 1/400 second) in the following shot.


The eyes are in good focus.  However, while the umbrella is blurred out more, so are the legs and, more importantly, portions of the wings.  Not so good.

Another option was to convert the image (one taken at an aperture of f/32) into a black and white in the hopes that this would help.  It didn't.


Maybe another time, the fellow will land on a more neutral surface.  Meanwhile, I did want to show some of the closeup features.  Here are two heavily cropped shots that show portions of the insect's thorax, including body hair and nearly transparent wings, and its head, featuring enormous (relatively speaking, that is) compound eyes.



To view this detail, it might be necessary to click on the photo and then expand it on your device.

John

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

ST. JOAN OF ARC CHAPEL

The oldest building in Milwaukee was not originally built there.  The St. Joan of Arc Chapel was originally built in a small village in France, probably in the 15th century.  It had fallen into ruin but was discovered by a young architect following World War I.  The chapel was acquired by the daughter of railroad magnate James J. Hill and moved by her to New York where it was reconstructed in 1927.  Following her death, her heirs decided to gift the chapel to Marquette University.  The chapel was reconstructed and rededicated on Marquette's campus in 1966.


The building is modest in size and in architecture but has great charm, in part by reason of its simplicity.  Here first is a shot of the entrance to the chapel.


I visited the chapel on a Saturday afternoon and was a bit surprised to find it open to visitors.  A number of other individuals joined me during my visit.

The interior of the chapel is quite dark, even though there is some overhead lighting, as well as stained-glass windows (not original) on all four sides of the chapel.  I had my tripod in the car, but I didn't bring it with me for my visit, thinking either that the chapel might not be open or that it might not be appropriate to use the tripod in such a small setting.  Instead, I ramped up the ISO and/or just tried to hold the camera steady.

Here is a shot from the back of the chapel.  This was actually shot at an ISO of 100, with an exposure of a whopping five seconds.  In this case I was able to set the camera on a table at the rear of the chapel.


I regret that I didn't take any shots of the chapel's furnishings.  They consisted of simple wooden chairs and accompanying wooden kneeling stands, of some antiquity.

The ceiling about the sanctuary features ribbed stone archwork, which I attempted to capture by sitting in the front row and holding the camera in my lap.


And here is a photo of the stained glass window behind the sanctuary.


The chapel included a number of interesting icons and artifacts that added to its overall charm.







Finally, a detail shot of the interior of the entrance door.


It's not clear how this chapel is related to Joan of Arc other than the location where it was originally built and the general period when it was constructed.  It is also not clear which, if any, of the artifacts in the chapel are from the same area or period, although the small madonna and child icon, shown above, appears to have dated from the 14th century.

John

Thursday, June 1, 2017

RETURN TO OLD WORLD WISCONSIN

Old World Wisconsin is an outdoor museum located about 40 miles southwest of Milwaukee.  Situated on over 500 acres of rolling land, it includes a large number of reconstructed residences, farm buildings, meeting halls, and churches built by various mostly European immigrant groups from the 19th century.  The structures are furnished with household goods, farm implements, and other equipment from the same era.  And it is staffed by volunteers dressed in clothes of the era, who provide information and demonstrations that help bring the era to life.

I spent about three hours walking from settlement to settlement trying to capture some of the history in photographs.  Following is some of what I got.

The first image is of the interior of a Catholic church  originally built in Milwaukee in 1839 and moved to and reconstructed on site.  Unfortunately, unlike with most of the buildings, I was not able to enter this church to obtain detail shots.


I took this shot of one of the church's lovely gothic windows that shows the corresponding window on the opposite side of the church.


A number of the buildings, particularly meeting houses, featured wood burning stoves.  As in the photo of the church above, most of these stoves were situated in the center of the room to maximize their efficiency.  Here are a couple of the other stoves.




This last is a closeup of the multipurpose stove shown in the previous shot.

The following was a larger home that was unfortunately closed for restoration.


I converted this to a black and white and darkened the blue sky.

As mentioned, there were a large number of outbuildings, including the following.


Here I wanted to incorporate the fence as a foreground element.  Unfortunately, the top boards of the fence coincided with the base of the building, which I thought created a bit of compositional confusion.

Below is an interior shot from one of the outbuildings.



Here is another tumbledown outbuilding.


But the surprise was when I entered the low entrance.


The light streaming through the building's cracks confirmed that the building was built for ventilation.

Many of the buildings, particularly outbuildings, were constructed of weathered, unpainted dopvetailed timbers, and I spent some time trying to capture some of the interesting grain that the weathering brought out.  Here are a couple of examples.



Interesting also was a home built by Polish immigrants in 1900.  The house is distinctive in that, in large part, the wood portion of the exterior walls consists of logs cut in cross-section and set in plaster  or stucco.  Here is the house as a whole followed by a detail shot.



My favorites, finally, were a couple of "still life" shots of household items bathed in light from nearby windows.



I particularly liked the lace curtain in this last shot.

I strongly recommend a visit to this outdoor historical museum.  But be prepared for crowds of school children during the school year.  There is also the opportunity for a good deal of walking, though there is a tram that runs through the facility.

John

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

SCULPTURE MILWAUKEE 2017

Milwaukee is hosting a special sculpture exhibit during the period June 1 to October 22.  It consists of 22 sculptures positioned along both sides of Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee's "main street."  Although the exhibit does not officially open until later this week, most of the sculptures have been put in place and, Saturday being a beautiful day, I spent some time photographing those sculptures then in place.  I didn't count the number of sculptures I saw, but I assume there are a few that had not yet been installed.  And there were a few others that were still being worked on, touched up, or positioned.

My initial impressions of the exhibit were that it is a major disappointment.  Most of the pieces were entirely abstract.   Some I didn't bother photographing or retaining the shots that I did take.  Personally, I have a strong preference for sculpture that is representational, even when that representation involves abstract (that is, nonrealistic) components, and some of the pieces fit that description.  I found those more interesting.

I enjoy photographing sculpture compared to plain "wall art" because there are more choices with respect to the use of light, shot angles, depth of field, and incorporation of background elements.  Here I was hopeful of incorporating some of Milwaukee's diverse architecture as background for some of the pieces.  But I was so disappointed with some of the sculptures that I despaired of getting any really interesting shots.  Here are some of what I took (and kept).

This piece I think epitomizes the weakness with this exhibit.


This large, totally nondescript piece is posed against the federal courthouse building, which has great architectural interest.  As a contrasting shot, here is the federal courthouse posed against a more modern office building.


This comparison worked much better, no thanks to the sculpture.  Moving on.

Here is another sculpture placed next to the modern building in the above shot.


This piece consisted of several large, different colored spheres stacked on top of one another, each with a stylized "happy face" that is frowning on the bottom sphere and smiling on the top.

One piece that was more interesting was of a horse made out of dead branches (I think).  I first tried to photograph the front part of the sculpture with that same office building as a background.


OK, but it doesn't quite work.  Better was to shoot the sculpture from across the street with an older red brick building as a backdrop.


For me the only interest in the double arrow piece below was that each of the sculpture's surfaces was painted a different color.


I tried shooting the piece as an abstract, but it was perhaps too abstract.


Next was a tall, very narrow spiral chrome clad piece.  It was nearly impossible to capture in its entirety.


But I found the reflections in the chrome surfaces to have some interest as an abstract.


Then there was a "sculpture" that seemed to consist of a couple of dozen yellow and blue metal posts.


This shot doesn't really capture the piece, but I guess I was trying for an abstract, since I thought the sculpture of itself had little aesthetic value.

Here is another sculpture on the avenue that I believe is not part of the exhibit but that I thought was more interesting than those that were.  (My personal bias.)


The "pregnancy" is a bit odd, but I liked the presentation of the face that I turned into a chiaroscuro.


Back to the exhibit.  I thought the following representation of roses was OK, but certainly not spectacular.


I liked the following sculpture of a woman a bit better.


As I did the following of, I believe, an immigrant/refugee (?) family.  OK, although it is a bit cartoonish.


A totally abstract sculpture that I actually liked was one made of stainless steel pieces put together in a circular shape.  The piece was still being worked on, and I was not able to photograph it in its entirety, so I just shot portions of it, the first against the clear sky.


The second against a dark building that I was able to blacken in post processing.


While I was at it, I took the opportunity to shoot some of the varied downtown architecture.


 


I had a good time trying to puzzle out this exhibit from a photographic perspective, despite my disappointment with the actual sculptures.  I definitely plan to do another shoot after the exhibit is fully installed and see if my second impression is better than my first.

John