Monday, March 18, 2019


This winter has been more severe than average, including some bitterly cold days (with air temperatures exceeding minus 20F) and substantial snow that at times reached depths of 15-18 inches.  Our subdivision includes a 10-acre woods which has been home for some time to a flock of wld turkeys.  As often as not, I hear their gobbling as I start my early morning walks, and they frequently wander through our subdivision streets foraging for food or whatever.  I have wondered how well they have fared during this difficult winter.  Not to worry.  This morning on their daily walkabout, I counted 18 of them strolling through the yard of the neighbors across the street from us.  They didn't seem to be in a hurry, so I grabbed my camera and ran out in the sunny, 30-degree weather to catch a few shots.  Here is what I got.

First a couple of group shots, mostly of toms in full display.

It wasn't realistic to try to get all of the flock in one shot, as the 18 birds were strung out across perhaps 50-60 feet, with some obscured by remaining piles of snow.  In addition, several were bunched so close together that it was difficult to distinguish individual birds.  So I focused on smaller sub-flocks, particularly of toms, which were in full display.

Here are a couple more shots of five of the toms when they mostly had their backs turned to me.

The toms were clearly "on the prowl."  Here is a tom attempting, I presume, to "court" one of the hens, who didn't seem particularly interested.

None of the toms appeared to get "lucky" at least while I was watching.

Finally, here are a couple of close-ups of toms that I cropped from wider shots.

The closest I got to the birds was about 20 yards.  Any closer and I would have felt that I was intruding on their territory and they may have moved off.  So I took these with my 70-300 mm telephoto cranked up to a full 300 mm.  Even so, I needed to do some cropping on all of the shots.

John M. Phillips

Saturday, February 23, 2019


St. Robert Church is a Roman Catholic parish, located in Shorewood, Wisconsin, that includes both church and elementary school.  I had (sad) occasion to visit the church to attend services celebrating the life of a personal friend who passed away late in 2018.  The church, an example of Lombardy Romanesque architecture, has a somewhat indifferent exterior but a lovely interior.  It was built in 1937.

The church is generally not open to visitors outside of scheduled services, so I called the parish office and asked permission to take some photographs of the interior, which they graciously granted.  On February 21st I spent perhaps an hour taking pictures.  Here is what I kept of the photos I took.

First, a very traditional shot of the sanctuary from the rear of the nave.

Here is another traditional shot of the sanctuary area.

And a third of the upper portion of the apse that includes a fine mosaic of a typical Christian depiction of the resurrection (I think).

Unfortunately, the parish personnel did not give me permission to enter the sanctuary area (some facilities do, some don't).  So I could not get a particularly close shot of a lovely cross situated on the altar at the front of the sanctuary.

The two sides of the nave include a series of lovely stained glass windows.  Here is one example of those.

The narrow window pairs are topped by a small circular window.  Unfortunately, the interior lights obscure those circular windows, as in the above shot.

The pillars that support the nave area include lovely detail and decorations.

I also took a traditional shot of the back of the church from just in front of the sanctuary, that shows the balcony at the rear of the nave.  This was taken from a low angle, perhaps two feet off the floor.

And here is a shot of that lovely balcony that features a pipe organ and traditional rose window.

I liked how this shot emphasized the contrast between the bright organ pipes, coffered ceiling, and rose window and the dark balcony background, so I emphasized that contrast a bit in post processing. This was my favorite shot of the group.

I also was able to isolate the rose window and blacken the background surrounding the stained glass.

I wound up using all three of my general purpose lenses for this shoot--a Tamron 15-30 mm wide-angle, my Nikon workhorse, go-to 24-120 mm, and a Nikon 70-300 telephoto.  I took a total of 55 shots and kept 9, about par for me.  I do wish I had had more time to try to get more creative and to capture more detail images.  Perhaps they will let me back in for a second shoot later this year.


Sunday, December 30, 2018


Keeping with a tradition I have followed for a number of years, I am posting some of my favorite photos for 2018.  Because we didn't take any major trips this year and I had some additional responsibilities and commitments, all of the photos were of local subjects, several of which I have shot previously.  Here they are in chronological order.

First is a shot of the Coast Guard lighthouse at Milwaukee's harbor, a subject that I have shot a number of times.  This was taken in January on a bitterly cold day, which gave rise to the winter fog several miles offshore and to the mist rising off the still liquid waters of the lake inside the breakwater.

Next are a couple of abstracts shots of rusted metal that I took later in the spring.

The first actually earned third place for macro in a local photo contest.  But I have come to like the second for its diverse colors.  It was simply rusted sheet metal of an old piece of farm equipment at Pioneer Village, in Saukville, Wisconsin, an outdoor museum that features a collection of reconstructed 19th century buildings and equipment.  I realize the shots are not everyone's cup of tea, but for me they represent my attempt at an outlet in abstract art.

Pioneer Village is located about 20 miles from my home and I found myself going there two or three times over the course of the summer.  Here is a shot of lace curtains that graced a window in one of the village's reconstructed houses.  I was happy with the resolution of this shot, which I took handheld at f/11 for 1/80 second.  I realize that the image is monochromatic, but I liked how the screen behind is faintly visible and that I caught off center the gap between curtains.

Milwaukee is known for its ethnic festivals each summer.  The one I took in this year was Bastille Days, the French festival.  I took the following shot while strolling around the downtown festival grounds.  The shot is not of the festival, but it did include candid shots of four (if you count the baby in arms) individuals in an alley leading to the Federal Courthouse.

On another visit to Pioneer Village, I shot this of weathered wood of an old barn.  I liked the shot both for the grain of the wood and for the overall composition.  I thought the conversion to black and white helped to bring out the weathering.  My criticism of the shot is that I might have increased the depth of field to bring more of the wood grain into focus.

In September, as part of the annual Doors Open Milwaukee event I had the opportunity to photograph some of Milwaukee's landmarks not ordinarily open to the public.  This time I visited Milwaukee's North Avenue water tower, including the interior's helical staircase, which visitors are not allowed to climb.

I also paid a couple of visits to Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Domes, a three-domed conservatory.  Here is one of the shots I took.

The original image included the entire flower.  However, for whatever reason, I chose to crop the photo to include only about 3/4ths of the blossom.  The flower looks largely two-dimensional, but in fact it had a fair amount of depth, with the center of the blossom significantly further away from the lens.  As a result, even at f/25 the focus on the petals is a bit "soft" compared to the center.  I liked that effect, actually.

Late in the fall, I came across a katydid just outside our front door.  The temperature may have been in the upper 30s and the katydid was quite lethargic.  When I brought her (?) inside, she began to move more quickly making photography more challenging.  Nevertheless, after some experimentation I managed the following shot, which is cropped down a fair amount.  (Note the dust motes on the eyeballs.)

Later I took the following shot of acorns fallen from a massive bur oak outside a church about a mile from our home.

Then it was winter.  Here is a shot of an early snow in our subdivision.  I did like the composition, even though it is a bit trite.

A later wind-driven snow resulted in an unusual effect on the trees in a local park.  I liked that the pattern of snow on the trees made for a drawing-like effect.

In between snows, I wandered in some woods in our subdivision and took these shots of leaves that were carpeting the floor of the woods.

Finally, in December I came across this composition of ice and rocks in a rain-retention ditch in our neighborhood.  I did like the gingko leaf that served as an accent for the shot.


Saturday, December 8, 2018


On one of my recent morning walks I came across a water detention ditch in our neighborhood in which the standing water had frozen, thawed, and refrozen, creating some interesting abstracts.

First, just the plain ice, which I converted to a black and white.

What might have been more interesting were areas where rocks were poking up out of the ice or whee leaves had been trapped in the ice.  (Note the ginkgo leaf.)

Sort of a feng shui effect.


Friday, November 16, 2018


I had thought that the fall color season was entirely over, particularly after a couple of early snows, as well as considerable wind that blew virtually all of the remaining leaves off the trees in our neighborhood.  However, this morning I noted that a light snow from last night, along with a bit of wind, had left a very modest drift on the small pond in our subdivision and thought there might be a photo op as we transition to winter (ugh).

So I walked back to the pond with my camera.  The drift was hardly an interesting opportunity.  I cropped the image a bit, turned it into a black and white, and increased the contrast.

Meh.  Abstracts are all right, but this one is essentially unintelligible.

However, when I was at the edge of the pond, now covered with a layer of ice, I noticed that the ice had trapped leaves from a variety of trees, including those from the trees in the neighboring woods. I thought that the distortions created by the layer of ice were interesting and gave the images an artsy look.

The definition in the leaves is dependent on how far they are below the surface of the ice.  Here is a closeup of a portion of the above shot.

I thought that the "white" leaf in the above shot added an interesting focal point.

I wish that the ice had not incorporated air bubbles, but there they were.  I think I should point out that I did ramp up a bit the color saturation and the contrast in order to bring out the colors in the leaves.


Friday, November 9, 2018


We had our first snowfall of the season last night. On my morning walk I noticed that some of the trees still bore leaves, along with the 2 inches of new-fallen snow. So I grabbed my camera to capture what I could before wind and sun eliminated the opportunity. Here is what I got.

First, a few photos of the trees in our front yard.

Below is a wider shot of the pond and woods in our subdivision.  I tried to frame the shot with a foreground shrub and overhanging branches of a tree still laden with leaves and berries.

On my walk I had also spotted a couple of trees, one still bearing red berries and one hanging on to leaves on its lower branches.

I thought what helped this shot was the fact that the snow had reduced the apparent color in the shot to just the leaves and the flag.  The flag could be seen as a bonus.

My walk also includes passing by a small creek.  I enjoy the scene that the creek and woods provides, but I find it difficult to capture that scene in a photo.

I enjoyed the following tree in the neighborhood.  Even though it did not feature any leaves, I thought the complexity of tree's branch structure offered some interest.

Then it was on to a nearby park, Virmond Park, which is situated on a bluff above the Lake Michigan shore.

The park features a large open field that serves to frame a small but well-proportioned evergreen that I have shot many times previously.  I felt this shot offered some placidity.

The park also includes a nice cedar fence that is backed by a line of trees at the north side of the park.

Finally, I visited a stand of trees in the park.  I was shooting to the east, toward the lake, and it was apparent that the snow and wind had come from the west, setting up an interesting snow pattern on the mature trees.

With these shots I was interested in trying to keep the depth of field as large as possible, to keep as many of the trees as I could in good focus.  So I shot these images at a narrow aperture of f/22.  As to this last shot, I generally avoid placing the object of interest--in this case the large tree trunk--in the center of the image, but I thought that composition worked OK in this shot.   The unusual snow pattern on the tree trunks, I thought, gave these photos the appearance of a painting or drawing rather than a photograph.