Friday, August 5, 2011


The second field trip that my travel photography class took was to Cedarburg, Wisconsin, a modest-sized, charming town about 20 miles north of Milwaukee.  Cedarburg is surrounded by rolling farmland and is characterized by a number churches in addition to a well-preserved shopping district.  Historically, the initial economic foundations of the town centered on milling operations located on the MIlwaukee River, which flows through the town.  There is no commercial milling operation remaining, but the historical buildings have been nicely preserved.

The focus of the class was to create photos that provide a sense of place.  This is not a natural strength of mine.  I am usually looking for shots that have some sort of artistic component and in many cases may, frankly be abstract.  The class has been good in that it has sensitized me to the need for creating a sense of place, at least with respect to some of the photographs that I take when traveling.

Following are a couple of photos intended to represent a sense of place because of signage that places the photo in Cedarburg.

There is a dam on the MIlwaukee River where it runs behind the old mill building, creating a glassy surface ideal for reflection shots.  I was very much attracted by the red building on the right.

This first shot takes advantage of the reflection in the river.  However, it seems to have just too much going on.  Another problem with the shot was the presence of a large green dumpster located in front of the red building.  To reduce the "clutter" and eliminate the green dumpster, I took a shot that centered on the two buildings on either side of the chimney and that cropped out the dumpster:

There are things to like in the simplicity of this shot, which highlights the red building.  However, perhaps there just isn't enough going on; moreover, the reflection in the river is missing.  The third shot provided a focus on the two buildings adjacent to the chimney and included the reflection in the river, but I could not exclude the dumpster.

I specifically decided not to try to incorporate the full height of the chimney, which appears to be leaning slightly away from the red building.  In retrospect, it might have worked to have a created a narrow vertical image to capture the full height of the chimney.  A pleasant image, but pretty "cliche," and there is that dumpster.

Cedarburg's downtown offers ample opportunity for detail shots, including the kitschy craft sculptures for sale.  Here are a few that I took:

I liked the way the wreath in the third photo was lit by sunlight filtering through a nearby tree.  The last shot includes the wall of a building that had recently been painted a brilliant and startling blue.

The Cedarburg Winery is one of at least three wineries in the area, and I tried to get some interior shots.  I was not really happy with any of them.  Here is one featuring a long row of wine bottles.

As with most interiors, the lighting was not good, and I knew that I would have to open up the aperture and would lose good depth of field.  I decided to focus on the first bottle in the series and let the rest go gradually out of focus.  The idea was good, but there were (at least) two things I should have done differently.  First, I should have turned the label on the first bottle to better show the name of the winery, as well as the type of wine.  Second, I should have positioned the camera lower and at the left side (bottom) of the bottles rather than the center.  This would have provided more dramatic lines of perspective.

As stated, Cedarburg is surrounded by gently rolling farmland, and I felt that part of the Cedarburg travel experience included that farmland.  I went out early (6 a.m.) the morning following the group field trip and caught the following "farm" shots:

The warm sunlight and long shadows of the early morning helped these shots.

Finally, I took a number of shots that really could not be termed travel photos, including another neon sign:

As well as some "abstracts":

This last is a shot of a portion of the water falling over the dam on the Milwaukee River.  The bright spots at the top are reflections of the sun.  I took a number of shots at different shutter speeds to see if it would be better to give the water a softer appearance.  I finally decided that I liked capturing the complexities in the turbulence of the water.  This photo was shot at 1/400th of a second.  I liked a lot how this shot turned out, but I may be all alone in that regard.

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