Friday, August 24, 2012


The other night my wife and I decided to catch dinner at the Highland House, a couple of miles from our home.  We then discovered that it was hosting a classic car show that night and, in fact, did so each Tuesday night, at least in the summer.  I decided I would return after our dinner to shoot some photos of the cars.

On this night, the featured cars were Corvettes, and there were perhaps 25-30 classic Corvettes in the parking lot.  However, all other classic cars were also welcome, and there were perhaps another 20-30 classic or near-classic cars in attendance.

By the time I returned with my camera, it was perhaps an hour before sunset.  There was still ample light, but it was declining over the 45 minutes or so I spent taking photos of the cars.  I didn't have the courage to bring my tripod, so all of the shots were hand-held.  Even so, I was able to start with the ISO set at 100.  However, at some point in the evening I started increasing the ISO to 500 or 800 to keep the shutter speed high enough.  I took all of the shots at f/9.  So much for technical stuff.

Probably the first car that caught my eye was a dark cherry Corvette.

As usual, I found myself taking shots of only portions of the cars.  (That wasn't always the case, as is shown below.)  Even as I was doing this, I was asking myself why I have this penchant for such "partial" shots.  I think in part I am trying to exclude extraneous, perhaps distracting, elements from the photo.    In part, too, I am trying to capture the car's artistic lines.  After all, one of the primary attractions of these cars is the fact that they have come to represent art.  For the most part these cars had been beautifully restored, and the high gloss that their owners had brought out in the sheet metal was nicely reflecting the surroundings, accentuating the curves in their lines.

Another car that caught my early attention was a dark green Austin Healey.

This shot was something of a mistake: I should have taken it from much lower down and should have panned out far enough to include the entire front of the car.  (I did get better later in the shoot, I think.)  This car, too, had great lines, I thought, and had been lovingly restored.  Here are some more "partial" shots.

I did take some pains to ensure that my camera was directly on the car's mid-point.  I have learned that if you are trying to get a straight-on shot, you need to take care to position the camera directly on the midline--no amount of cropping will compensate otherwise.

Here is another, taxi-yellow Corvette.

Just OK.

In this last shot, it would have been better if the entire Corvette name was visible.  My experience was that the lighter colored cars did not show as well as the darker ones, because reflections in the darker sheet metal were more pronounced, providing a better idea of the curves and just in general providing more visual interest.

That was illustrated in the following two Corvettes, one white and one black.  Here are a couple of shots of a white 1959 Corvette.

See, I did manage to get the entire front end of this Corvette in the shot by taking it at about 18 inches off the ground.  It helped a lot that this car was at the back edge of the parking lot and there were no distractions, such as people, behind it.

And here is a 1965 Sting Ray.  Its owner had advised me to focus on the backend of the car.  And he was right--that was the unique feature of this model of Corvette.

Even though this car was next to the white 1959 Corvette (which is partially visible in the right portion of the image) and therefore also parked at the edge of the lot, I was able to sit on the ground behind the car and capture the entire backend by panning out to as wide angle as my lens would go.  But note the "junk" in the background.  Not the worst thing, and perhaps it is good to include some of the "scene" in the overall series of shots.  Although this car's backend could be considered "controversial" in design, I think it makes for a great photo.  Here is a closer image that eliminates the background distractions.

I like this shot quite a lot, in part because it is limited to the unique lines of the car and in part because I was able to include the insignia as part of the image.  I wound up cropping this shot a little narrower vertically to eliminate everything I wanted to.  This car was black, but it has a bit of a blue cast reflected from the evening sky.

Keeping with that dark vs. light theme, here are some more black vs. white cars.  First, a detail from a Porsche (I think).

And here is an MG from the 1960s . . .

Compared with a black Austin-Healey.

Here is another red Austen-Healey, including a shot of the interior.

For some reason, the color on this second shot of a portion of the trunk (boot in England) seems pretty flat.

There were two Amphicars at the show.  These vehicles are, frankly, hideous and have been designated among the 50 worse car ideas of all time.  Besides their "style," they were very underpowered and lacking in aerodynamics.  They had one thing going for them:  They were amphibious and could go on water as well as on land.  No need to buy a separate boat if you owned one of these guys.

Their tail fins give them away as products of the early 1960s, and in fact they were produced during the years 1961-65.  I think the anchor on the front of the aqua one says it all--clunker.

Back to the legitimate cars.  Not all them were classic; some were just fast.

Here is a Cobra.

I really liked how clean the surfaces appear in this second shot.

And here is a Ford GT.

I felt this last shot was not very interesting--the grill work could have been anything, really.  However, I did like the license plate.

Here is an Excalibur.  I'm not sure how old this car is.  Its lines give it a classic look, but it may in fact be of recent vintage.  Very attractive, I thought.

Finally, as the light was starting to fail and I was getting ready to leave, I spotted this Jaguar, which must have been from the late 1930s.   It was superb--my favorite of the show.

I found myself taking numerous shots of the front of the car, trying to show off the car's lines.

And I did take one shot of the car's backend, which seems oddly diminutive compared to the massive look of the front.

The car has California plates, but I feel confident that it was not driven here from its home state.

Taken with my Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 24-120 mm f/4 lens.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Chicago has a terrific botanical garden, and Tuesday, the 21st, I made the 1-1/2 hour drive for my initial visit.  Admission to the garden is technically free, but parking is ordinarily $20.  Ouch.  Fortunately, parking for members is free and because I am a Friend of the Mitchell Domes, parking was free for me also.  The Chicago Botanic Garden, as it is called, is several times as large as Milwaukee's Boerner Botanical Garden, as one might expect for a metropolitan area many times the size of Milwaukee's.  In addition, nearly all of the exhibits are outdoors, rather than being under glass, as with the Mitchell Park Domes.

Technically, the Chicago Garden is built on a series of islands in a larger body of water, so there are ample opportunities for aquatic plants, and I shot of a number of those.

I like the composition in the above shot, contrasting the brilliant lily blossom with the relatively dull pad.  It was fairly easy in post processing to darken the pond water.  I feel similarly about the following shot.  It was a bright and sunny day, so generally speaking shutter speed was not a major problem.

Some of the blossoms had extremely colorful interiors, as reflected in the following shot.

Maybe it would have been better to have featured this blossom without its companion, but there it is.

I could have done that with the following shot, but I'm glad I didn't  because I was lucky enough to catch a bee mid-flight between the two flowers.

I just wish there hadn't been a shadow of the larger blossom cast on the pads behind.

Here are a couple of plain, osculating lily pads that I liked at the time I took the shot, though now they look a little, well, plain.  But I did like that I chose to include only a portion of each pad.

OK, as usual, I failed to identify the names of any of the plants that I shot, including the unusual one in the shot below, which I have seen before.  I do wish that a bit more of the plant had been revealed.

Here are a couple of larger scene shots of the gardens.

In general, the grounds were beautiful and extremely well manicured.

And here are a few more blossom shots.  Back . . .

and front.

The shot below appears a bit "soft," but I believe that is the nature of the flower rather than any kind of focus problem.

I like the composition of this shot, despite the notches in two the petals.

Objectively, I suppose, the flower below is relatively mundane in its design, but I was attracted by the out-of-the-ordinary colors.

I think it worked that I included only a portion of the flower and placed the center of the blossom in the lower right of the image.

I wasn't sure what the following "flower" was about, but, in a weird way, I liked how only a portion of the "fingers" were in good focus, because I feel it added depth to the image.

The main building in the garden, which includes offices, meeting and reception halls, etc., has a central courtyard, which featured a number of bonsais.  Although I couldn't see any reference to their age, they looked really old, which is one of the goals of bonsai-ers, I believe.  Each stood 3-4 feet high.

And then there was the yoga swan.  This bird appeared to have little fear of humans, as I was able to approach to within perhaps 20-30 feet without the swan showing any sort of concern.

I say yoga, because the swan spent most of its time standing on one leg.  Although I had to pan out some, I liked that I was able to include the swan's reflection in the pond in this second shot.

Then there were the backlit leaves that I like to shoot.  This first leaf was deceptively plain.  Even though there seems to be a deficit in detail, the leaf is actually in good focus and there is micro-detail visible on close inspection.

And I fell in love with some large hosta-like plants with very pronounced stripes that were accentuated by the backlighting.  I tried to find groups of leaves that were at contrasting angles that would accentuate the lines.  This is the best of those attempts.

There are actually five leaves in this shot.

And here is a leaf with holes chewed in it by some sort of pest.

Geri finally figured out that this must have happened when the leaf was still curled up when the insect could chew through several layers at once.

Finally, here is a nice flower (gladiolus?) that I was able to position against a dark background.

I definitely will be returning to this venue.

Taken with my Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 24-120 mm, Nikkor 70-300 mm, and Tamron 90 mm macro lenses.