Monday, December 31, 2012


To finish off the year I thought I would post some of my favorite photos from 2012.  So I put together 20 photos that I took during the calendar year.


When I put together the set of photos, I did not pay attention to how many of each category of photos that I was including.  I do a lot of macro photography and enjoy it a lot.  But when I looked over my list, only three macro shots were included.  Here they are.

I took this first shot at the Mitchell Domes in February.  I especially liked it because of the blossoms' soft, pastel colors and almost dreamlike quality.  It didn't bother me that only portions of the flowers were in focus.

The second shot was of a bromeliad that I . . . ahem . . . had gotten Geri for Mother's Day, but perhaps subconsciously thought might make an interesting photographic subject.

This shot was actually of just a portion of the central stalk of the plant that was being backlit by sunlight.

The third shot, which i converted to a B&W, is of a weed in an open field at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

Again, the leaf was being nicely backlit by the sun.  The key was that the leaf was nearly flat, i.e., lying in a single plane, enabling me to keep the entire leaf in good focus.  It also helped that there was virtually no wind to deal with.


Architecture is another area that I am becoming more interested in.  The first is an interior shot of Milwaukee's City Hall.  I discovered that although one is allowed to take photos inside the building, it is only after one has answered a number of questions posed by Milwaukee's finest.

The building's interior is a joy to photograph and I know I will be returning in 2013.

The shot below is from my second visit to St. Josephat's Basilica, which has a so-so exterior but an absolutely stunning interior.

In late September, I took advantage of an event known as Doors Open Milwaukee that permitted public access to Milwaukee venues not otherwise generally available.  One of these is the Mackie Building's Grain Exchange, an absolutely magnificent interior.  Here is one of a number of shots that I took there.

Another venue available for the Doors Open event was an older office building at 735 North Water Street that had recently been extensively renovated.  Perhaps the interior is not spectacular, but the following shot I got was technically very good, particularly for hand-held.

Although most of the architectural shots I picked were interior ones, I also very much liked the following exterior shot of the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

This building has been [photographed a million times but this shot worked because of the evening light.


This is a fairly diverse category.  The first of these was a shot of an abandoned farmhouse near our home that I found myself going back to on a number of occasions, despite the presence of abundant no trespassing signs.  The house made a nice subject because I could capture it without any other manmade structures to complicate the composition.

I took the landscape (actually cityscape) shot below when we were visiting New York City in late January.  It was Sunday morning and there was essentially no traffic, so I could stand in the middle of the street without getting run over by a taxi.  I only wanted to capture the sunlight striking the buildings, but then noticed the family that was most likely leaving a hotel with their luggage in tow.

We spent March in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I discovered some very flat farm fields with extremely straight furrows.  My post of these shots has become far and away the most viewed post on my blog, primarily because a couple of photos from the post somehow got picked up by Google in a collection of shots of farm fields.

As I have explained in other posts, the following was a serendipitous shot that I took from my son's car while we were traveling in central Utah to do some hiking.

At first I thought the shot was a bust, but came to like it because of its impressionistic quality.

And here is a shot from one of our hikes, this one of Little Wild Horse Canyon, a really fun, and not difficult, slot canyon.

The photo's probably not as good as my memory of the hike.

The following shot was also serendipitous in a way, as I had stopped my car to get some shots of some fruit trees in Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine and then noticed the fence when I had given up on the trees.  Again, I was fortunate to get some good images despite the lack of a tripod--which I failed to retrieve from my car out of sheer laziness.

The following landscape shot was more intentional, as I was looking to get some good photos of the National Mall in the morning light before a light fog was totally burned off.

I have another wider-angle shot that includes the entire Washington Monument, but I have come to like this one a bit better.  I think that the small tree in front of the monument adds a lot to the overall composition, as do the few pedestrians.

This and That

The remaining photos rounding out this collection are harder to classify.  This first is of a storage tank located in an extensive petroleum depot on the northwest side of Milwaukee.  I was taken with the shadows being created on the side of the white tank by the spiral staircase.

This was another instance where I was kicked off the premises.

The following is of a small, simple, but beautiful adobe mission located in Old Town Scottsdale.  Again, the abundant sunlight helped to make this shot.

I got lucky again during a class I was taking in night photography when I pointed my camera at what I thought were simple reflections in the Milwaukee River and discovered that the shot I got was a lot more complex than I had anticipated.

Here is another shot of "my" abandoned farmhouse that I took later in the year.  I realized that I was quickly losing my available light and took this shot just as the sun was touching the horizon.

I liked that the house was thrown into a dark, bluish shadow.

And, finally, there is the frog from Schlitz Audubon.  I actually took a number of photos of frogs, some of which were technically better than this one.  But I liked this one because it seems obvious that the frog was looking right at me.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


We spent Christmas this year in Salt Lake City, visiting our son and his wife, as well as our daughter and her boyfriend, who flew in from Washington, D.C.  The LDS (Mormon) Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, creates a stunning light display each holiday season at their Temple Square area.  Twice during our visit we spent time enjoying the light show, along with thousands of other sightseers.

I, of course, brought my camera to try to capture what I could of the show.  This posed a number of technical challenges.  First, the scene was generally low-light, so I needed to ramp up the ISO on my camera to compensate for the fact that all the shots were hand-held.  In addition, white balance was an issue.  I wanted to capture the colors as I was seeing them, but that is not necessarily what my camera was registering.  As a result, there was some variation in color balance, as I was frequently adjusting my white balance in an attempt to get the color "right."  Finally, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other visitors, so "clean" shots were, in most cases, simply not possible.

First, there is the temple itself.  A very impressive building, it is bathed in light for the holiday display.  I could not capture the entire building in a single shot, but here are some shots of parts of the building.

This last shot has been modified.  Normally, when one photographs a building from ground level, the top is further away than the base, so the top of the building appears smaller and the sides of the building appear to be leaning in, as is most apparent in the second shot above.  However, I have a Lightroom application that allows me to compensate for that problem in perspective, as appears in this third shot.

And here are a couple more shots of the temple.

I understand that the gold figure on top of the temple represents the angel Moroni.

This tree was one of the few not covered with lights.  I liked how it is silhouetted against the temple.  The wrought iron fencing also helped the composition.

Although the temple served as the centerpiece for the show, the lights on the trees were simply spectacular. The challenge was to create an understandable composition.  Here are a couple of the general scene that I think illustrate the problem.

Colorful, but it is difficult to understand what is going on.  Here are a couple of shots in which I tried to show tree trunks and branches that were outlined by the lights.

This last shot gives some sense of how densely the lights were strung on the trees.  

One of the issues I ran into was that to my eyes, the lights appeared larger than pinpoints, whereas the camera was able to show the lights as being closer to point sources.  The result of this was that the lights in the photos don't appear as bright as they did to the eye.  In an attempt to compensate for this, in some photos I used the technique of intentionally putting the lights out of focus.

. . . perhaps too much out of focus.

And here is a shot that features tree branches that had been flooded with light.

Within a minute after I took this shot, the lights illuminating the branches were turned off, so I was happy that I got my shot before that happened.

There is a reflecting pool in front of the temple and for the holidays it features a nativity scene.  Here are a couple of shots of that scene, taken on different nights.

Note the difference in white balance between the two shots.  I like the second shot better, even though it seems a little too blue.  The dark area behind the scene in the first shot is simply the large crowd of visitors.  The second shot was taken Christmas night, when the crowds were significantly smaller.  And here is a shot taken with my back to the temple, showing the lights in the background.

There were statues for other elements in the overall nativity scene, including a shepherd and his sheep and a wise man on a camel.

Finally, here is a shot of the general scene.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


On Tuesday, December 18th, Milwaukee had its first measurable snowfall of 2012.  It had been over nine months since the last snow, setting all sorts of records (the kind that TV weathermen conjure up to try to create viewer interest).  The snow, about 3 inches in our area, was beautiful and heavy for the period that it fell.  I was so excited that I went out twice during the afternoon to do some photography, heading over to Virmond Park, which is only a couple of miles from our home.  I first went out early in the afternoon at the height of the storm and then again "late" in the afternoon, when the snow had nearly stopped.

I actually took this first shot in our subdivision, which features a stand of woods on the far side of a small pond.

My intention here was to place the evergreen to one side and to make sure the ground at the base of the image was more or less a featureless white.  That's a bird or squirrel nest above the lone evergreen.  Might have better if it had not been there, but there it was.

Here is a stand of trees in Virmond Park that I have shot before and that I shot both times on Tuesday.  This first was taken at the height of the snow.

And, for comparison, here is another shot taken later in the afternoon.

There appears to be a greater buildup of snow on the tree limbs and low-lying vegetation in the second shot.  Perhaps, too, there is more clarity in the background tree on the left in the second shot, as there was less snow in the air by that time.  In addition, there is more color in the tree trunks in this second shot.  I liked the first one better.

This was a wet, heavy snow that clung to the branches.  Here is a shot that illustrates that.

Not a great composition, but I did like the overall effect.  The shot also had nice resolution.  It was shot at an aperture of f/22 for 1/3 second.

One of the features in the park is a pavilion tucked back among a stand of trees, which showed nicely in the snow.  Here is a shot from the early afternoon visit.

The snow was particularly heavy at this point, which gave nice depth to the shot.  This shot was taken at an aperture of f/22 for 0.8 second.  As a result, the snow appears as streaks in the darker areas of the image.  In addition, as I noticed when I looked at the shot on my computer, the image was not as sharp as I would have liked.  Even though I was using a tripod, there must have been some movement, perhaps from wind, during the 0.8 second exposure.

I liked the composition of this shot and was disappointed in the lack of sharpness, one of the reasons that I went back out to take some more shots later in the afternoon.  Here is another shot of the pavilion from that second visit.

Now the shot is sharper, but the snow had diminished, making the scene "busier."  In the first shot, for example, the snow has pretty much blocked out the tree behind the pavilion, while in the second, that tree detracts from the pavilion's lines.  As a result, the shot has lost its depth--and a lot of its interest.

Here is another shot I took in the later afternoon.

This shot was taken with the same lens as the first two.  However, the first two shots were taken at a focal length of 85mm (modestly telephoto), while this third shot was taken at a focal length of 28mm--much more of a wide angle shot.  (The camera was actually closer to the pavilion in this last shot, even though the pavilion looks smaller and therefore farther away.)  I liked this shot because it incorporated the linear stand of trees on the left as well as the stand on the right, which appears to be wrapping around the top of the pavilion.  Still, I wish I had spotted this shot during the height of the snowfall--and gotten it right.

By this point, the light was starting to fail.  At this time of year in Milwaukee, sunset occurs around 4:15 pm, and it was now about 4:20.  Even so, I wandered into a stand of woods on the bluff above the lake.  I was hoping to take advantage of the remaining snowfall to create some "woods" shots that showed depth.  Here are a couple of those efforts.

Just OK, I thought.  Hopefully, I'll have a lot more opportunities this winter to improve my skills.

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I thought I would wind up the posts on our brief trip to Washington, DC with some general shots around the District.

First is a shot from a conference room at our daughter's law firm's offices.

That's right.  The White House is only a couple of blocks south of her offices, making for a great backdrop to conferences.

Following a brief tour of her offices, we did pay a visit to the area at the back of the White House . . .

where we got interviewed by Swedish Public Television, who wanted to know our opinion of the Nobel prize award process--as if we knew anything intelligent.  It is amazing how glib you can be when you think your comments will never be seen or heard by anyone you know (at least, that's my hope).

Earlier I took a shot of a flag reflected in a nearby building.

This was a spur-of-the-moment shot.  I liked the simplicity of the composition and the fact that the flag reflections are slightly different in the different glass panes.  I do wish I had taken a wider shot that would have included the building's stone panels above the windows shown, rather than having the upper windows cut off.  Still, not bad.

On Sunday afternoon we found ourselves walking west along the reflecting pool leading toward the Lincoln Memorial and I took a few shots of the trees reflected in the water.  Here is one of the shots.

I chose to put the edge of the pool in the center of the image.  In reviewing the photo, I decided I liked best the portions nearer the edge of the pool showing the remnants of fall color and decided to crop the shot to exclude the top of the trees but to emphasize the center portion.  Here is the result.

And here is a shot closer to the Lincoln Memorial.

I think I was being lazy at this point, as I could have positioned the camera closer to the edge of the pool to eliminate the low wall in the lower left corner of the image and included more of the Lincoln Memorial  along with its reflection.

Earlier in the day I took a few shots of the mall area before the earlier morning fog had dissipated and the crowds had arrived.

I liked this shot even though the objects in the lower center of the image appear to be trash containers.  

And then I noticed a small tree positioned in front of the Washington Monument and took a few shots.  Here is one of those.

This shot cut off the upper portion of the monument, but I didn't really mind that--everyone knows what it looks like.  I also thought the fog helped the shot.  I decided to take a second, wider angled shot that included the entire monument.

I decided to place the monument on the left to include the stand of trees on the right.  Those trees, I thought, added a lot to the composition, as did the small tree on the left.  In addition, even though there were not a lot of individuals in these shots, they helped a lot in providing perspective.  Of the 300 photos I took during this brief trip to Washington, this last was the shot I liked the best.

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