Wednesday, February 22, 2012


There is a large petroleum terminal in the very northwest corner of the city of Milwaukee, an area that goes by the historical name of Granville.  the terminal includes a large number of large petroleum tanks.  We pass the terminal on our occasional trips to Mayfair Mall.  Last weekend I noted that many of the tanks, nearly all of which are painted white, have spiral exterior staircases that create an interesting pattern against the tank surfaces.  I decided to return on Sunday morning, the 18th, to see what might be available.

I immediately ran into a problem.  The tanks were all set behind a high chain link fence.  I had my telephoto lens, which helped.  However, it meant that either I had to stand a considerable distance back from the fence and shoot over its top or I had to stand next to the fence and shoot directly through it.  I chose the latter.

Here is one of the early shots that I got.

The stairs and the shadows they cast against the white walls of the tanks provided interesting patterns that made them naturals for B&Ws.  I liked this shot quite a lot, but there were some elements in the upper part of the image that I thought might be distracting and so also took this as a horizontal.

I liked the amount of "negative space" incorporated in these shots.  Also, I felt the "521" on the right served to balance the stairway on the left.  In nearly all of these shots, I increased the contrast to create more "pop," particularly with respect to the shadows.

Here are a couple more B&Ws.

The above shot included one of the few tanks that was not stark white.  I liked the composition for the two stairways that were curving in opposite directions.

The dark space in the upper left of the above shot is actually the blue sky with a single puffy cloud.  I was able to darken the blue sky in this B&W to provide contrast with the white tanks.  Again, I liked the use of negative space to provide focus on the curve of the stairway.

I did not turn all of the shots into B&Ws.  In the following two shots I was attracted by the contrast between the bright yellow of the stair railing and the stark blue of the sky.

As with the other photos in this group, these shots are very simple and perhaps could not stand on their own.  But as part of this series, I think they provide some interest.  Again, the use of negative space works well here.

Unfortunately, at about this point in the shoot, I was approached by an individual who demanded to know who I was and why I was taking pictures and who informed me that I was trespassing on private property and would have to leave.  Since he outweighed me by at least 50 pounds, I just meekly got in my car and left the property.  I did take one more shot (from a greater distance, of course) that featured more exaggeration in the shadows created by one of the stairways.  Here is how that shot looked as initially taken.

What attracted me was the way the stairway shadows became more stretched out the further up the tank they were.  Since I was so much further away, I had to crop the shot substantially.  I also turned it into a B&W and increased the contrast to emphasize the shadow pattern.  Here is the result.

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