Tuesday, January 31, 2012


On Friday, the 27th, we visited the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), a world-class museum for 19th and 20th century art. Although when I visit art museums I generally wind up focusing on individual pieces (and in many cases parts of individual pieces), I did manage to take some shots of broader views in the museum, and here are a few of those.

Following, without comment, are some of the works of "wall art" that I found interesting.

Wow! Even though I know very little about art, I was impressed with collection in this museum.

Here are some three-dimensional pieces, i.e., sculptures, that I enjoyed.

Not that I could see having this last piece in our home.

One thing about photographing sculptures: It helps, I think, to position them so that the background provides some added interest and context.  That was not always possible, as some of the above shots illustrate.  Another thing: Photographing bronze statues creates added challenges in that the metal is generally dark against a much lighter background, so the metal's texture can get lost in the relative darkness.  Here I did my best to brighten up the bronze to allow that texture to come through.


New York City has it share of churches, and we saw a few on our recent visit.  In fact, one, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, was right across from our hotel, and I took a few shots of it from our hotel window, including the following.

I particularly liked this shot for the blue reflected off the church's wet tile roof, which came from a brilliantly illuminated skyscraper behind the church.

Here is another shot of the same scene.

To the left of the steeple there is just a hint of a building that is otherwise hidden by the evening's fog and rain.

Here is another shot of the church's tile roof taken at another time with a much different (and even moodier) effect--and many more pigeons.

Below is a shot of the front facade of the church, also taken from our hotel window.

All of these shots were taken after dark and at a very high ISO (3200) to shorten the exposure time, so they contain a good deal of "noise," but otherwise I thought they were quite effective.

On Friday morning, before touring the 9/11 Memorial, we visited Trinity Church, located on Wall Street a few blocks from the Memorial.  We first visited the graveyard on the north and west sides of the church.

Following is some detail on one of the elaborate headstones in the cemetery that I turned into a B&W.

My guess is that that's Noah on the right, holding a replica of his ark.

Here is one of the entryways to the church.

I liked the rich colors of the doors and the copper stains (or is that mould?) on the stone walls.  I also liked that I was able to include the top of the spiked wrought iron fencing around the church building.

Here are three shots that I took in the church sanctuary, one of the front of the sanctuary, one of the vaulted ceiling, and one that features the curves of the side arches.  The general shot and ceiling shot are pretty mundane, but the arch shot is more unusual and I like it for that reason.

I tried this last shot as a B&W, but it lost the warmth that the walls' colors provide.  As with most churches, this one was dimly lit, and I wound up taking these last three shots at an ISO of 2000.

Finally, on our bus tour to the north side of Manhattan, we passed the Riverside Church, near the Hudson River northwest of Central Park.  The church includes a nearly 400 foot high carillon tower.  Unfortunately, my only shot was through the badly scratched "clear" plastic roof of the double deck bus.

The good news was that the skies had cleared, and the tower stood out brightly against a dark blue background.  I turned the shot into a B&W and was able to darken the sky even further.  Although the shot is marred by the scratches in the plastic, the definition and detail on the tower are quite good.

Monday, January 30, 2012


We spent last weekend in New York City with our friends, the Petersons.  This is the first of a number of entries that I plan to post to my blog of the photos I took on the trip.

Coming from the humble city of Milwaukee, I found myself photographing the multitude of skyscrapers that grace New York's skyline.  There is a great diversity of architectural styles to choose from and one of my goals was to capture that diversity, in some cases in a single shot.  Here is one of those.

I particularly liked this shot because in included four modern buildings with quite different architectural styles but also included a much older church steeple in the foreground.  It also provides a sense of the density of the buildings.

Here is another shot showing some diversity of architectural style, including a building under construction.

Photographing skyscrapers presents certain challenges.  One of these is the problem of perspective.  This is particularly the case when the camera is pointed up.  All of the buildings appear to be leaning toward the center of the shot, as in the following B&W shot.

There is a hint of chaos in such shots.  Even though the distortion in this shot is quite severe, I like the sense of elevation that it conveys.  I chose to turn this into a B&W because the taller building in the background appeared a bit faded due to the foggy atmosphere.

Here is another shot that I turned into a B&W.

These buildings are near the site of the 9/11 Memorial.  I especially liked that the two buildings project a very geometric pattern that is accentuated by conversion to B&W.  There was no way to exclude the large crane in the left foreground, so I decided that I liked it.  I didn't mind that the top of the building on the left is cut off, since I was focusing on the geometric patterns.  I also felt that if I had shown some sky above the buildings, the image would have appeared out of balance.

Perspective distortion is reduced to the extent that the camera is perpendicular to the line of the buildings--that is, horizontal--as in the following shot.

There is still some distortion, as evidenced by the fact that, while the building on the left is lined up with the left margin of the image, the lines of the building on the right lean slightly inward.  This shot caught my eye as an abstract, particularly the apparent randomness of the contrasting colors of light and shadow on the building on the left.

I also found myself taking shots of fire escape stairs, as in the following few shots of a building across from our hotel.

I liked the above shot because of the shadows cast by the stairs in the early morning light.  Converting this shot to a B&W helps to accentuate the patterns of the shadows.  It also projects a sense that the shot was taken a log time ago.

Below is another image of fire escapes shot pretty much straight on (from our seventh floor hotel room), to eliminate perspective distortion.

Here is another shot of the building (and stairs) taken from ground level.

I particularly like this shot because of the contrast of color between the red of the bricks and the blue of the sky reflected in the building's windows.

I took the shot below fairly early on Sunday morning.  What initially caught my eye was the way that the sunlight streaming from the east was reflecting off the buildings.  I saw the family in the center of the shot that appear to be leaving a hotel and liked the candor that they presented in the shot.

I think three factors helped to make this an interesting photo.  First was the family captured in an unstaged moment.  Second was the fact that I was able to stand in the middle of the street to provide symmetry to the overall image.  And third, and probably most important, was the early morning light.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


This is my 100TH POST since I started this blog on March 3, 2012.

In prior attempts to catch first light over Lake Michigan I have generally been a bit late to capture the richest dawn colors.  On Sunday, January 8, a clear and relatively cold morning, I made another attempt, getting to the bluff overlooking the lake at Virmond Park a solid 45 minutes before sunrise.

Here is one of the shots I took of a (now familiar) clump of trees at the edge of the bluff.  This time I used a wide-angle view to capture the entire clump, as well as a good portion of the pre-dawn sky.

The real subject of this shot, of course, is the sky, which was displaying a full range of colors from a deep blue high in the sky to a deep red-orange at the horizon.

The remainder of the shots were at the edge of the bluff and just featured lake and sky.  Here are a few of those.

The second and third of these shots were taken at more of a telephoto focal length, with the last shot being cropped in a more linear fashion to emphasize the horizon.

Although a close look does reveal some texture in the lake water in these shots, generally speaking, they are about as simple as they can get, Even so, I like them as color abstracts.

Late last year when I had attempted to get crisp images of the horizon, I had concluded that I would never be able to get a shot of a really sharp horizon over the lake because of the amount of humidity in the air.  These shots proved otherwise.

I noticed late in the shoot (I say late because the cold was really starting to get to me) that there were a few low clouds over the lake to the south and took a shot that I cropped to feature those clouds.

This is the last shot that I took and for whatever reason does not have the crispness of the others.  Moreover, it reflects the fact that the sky was getting lighter and I was losing the deep blue I had been able to capture early in the shoot.

One final note: To try to capture the rich predawn colors, I set the white balance on "cloudy" and underexposed most of the shots by one f-stop.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


On Thursday, January 6th, I took advantage of free admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Although the crowds to see the special exhibit during its final week were huge, the permanent galleries were much less crowded.  I took about 150 shots in the museum, but for this post I have decided to concentrate on photos of some of the museum's sculptures.

Two of the concerns I wanted to focus on in shooting sculptures were the use of background as context and selective use of depth of field.  The museum had placed a number of sculptures along the west side of the Calatrava addition, and that provided a terrific backdrop to deal with these two concerns.  One of the more striking pieces was a female nude featured in the following two shots.

I didn't really have much background to work with in the second shot, but in the first shot, I was able to capture some of the architectural detail.  The same could be said for the following shot of a male nude in the same area.

Below is another male figure.  Even though I tried to reduce the depth of field for this shot, I felt the figure in the background (a suit of armor, I believe), because of its brightness, is something of a distraction.

One of my shortcomings in the past has been my failure to show the broader scene.  Here is an attempt to remedy that.

Following is a shot of a recumbent male figure that I have taken before.  This time I decided to focus on the expression on his face, which is one of concentrated concern.

One of the pieces that either is new or that I had missed in prior visits was one of St. George slaying the dragon.  The figure, which is carved from wood and painted, is magnificent, although the dragon at his feet is really quite small (about the size of a small terrier) and decidedly wimpy.  Also, it seems apparent that the figure is missing the spear used to dispatch the dragon.  For the following shot I focused on the saint's face.

There is some flare in the photo from overhead lights, but I really didn't mind it much for this shot.

I liked how I handled depth of field in the following couple of shots.

I had initially taken shots of the bull from the side.  However, I decided that by reducing depth of field and focusing just on the bull's head and horns, allowing the hindquarters to fall out of focus, I could add apparent depth to the overall image.

Likewise, in the above shot I focused on the figure in the foreground, reducing depth of field to allow the figure in the background to fall out of focus.  However, I might have done better to have taken the shot as a landscape at an angle to the right to create separation between the two figures. that would have preserved the sense of depth without creating any conflict between the two figures.

Although I liked the dynamic quality in the figure below, there is not much background to provide context.

I very much liked the semi-abstract metal sculpture below.  I also liked the secondary pattern of the shadows cast by the lighting directed at the sculpture.  This probably would have worked well as a black & white also.

The sculpture below was obviously outside, and I took this shot from inside through glass.  I actually took a number of shots trying to capture the small trees set between the sculpture and the lake.  Reflections in the glass were a problem and I had difficulty taking a shot that was wide enough to take in several of the trees without the reflections being a problem.  Having a filter that could have eliminated those reflections would have been a help.

Even though the sculpture is set in the center of the photo, I felt the bare trees on either side provided a pleasing symmetry to the overall shot.

The following "sculpture" was located in the stairwell leading from the parking garage to the main foyer of the Calatrava addition.  It appears to be made of neon or fluorescent tubing. I do not know whether the piece can be lit up.

I liked the almost pastel, undersaturated quality in this image.  The sculpture also has a Wright-like quality to its lines.

Finally, there is Alexander Calder mobile hanging above the entrance to the main Calatrava foyer.  I did not have the lens needed to capture the entire piece, so decided to feature a part of it.

I might have done better if I had chosen a portion with more colors and taken the shot from a perspective that would have shown more of the stunning architecture of the Calatrava addition.