Friday, January 18, 2013


I have photographed Milwaukee's Public Library before.  But since the weather is cold and I am too much of a wimp to look for outdoor venues, I decided to return to the library.  The library building was completed in 1898 and originally housed both Milwaukee's Public Museum and its Public Library. The museum got its own building in the 1960s, but I recall that when we first moved to Milwaukee in the 1970s the library building still housed a hands-on children's science museum, which eventually moved out sometime in the 1990s.

The building was designed in a neo-renaissance style that includes robust pillars in front and a central dome above an entrance atrium.  Incidentally, Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the architects who bid on the project and lost.  The building would undoubtedly have had a very different design had Wright won the bid.

I spent virtually all of my time photographing the interior of the very ornate entrance atrium; that is, after being questioned by library personnel who wanted reassurance that I would not take pictures of people and would not use the photos for commercial purposes.  Not a problem.

Deciding what to photograph made me think about what I should do to capture the building's architecture.  Of course, one of the first things I did was to shoot the central dome simply by putting the camera on the floor pointing up.

I could have cropped this as a square and included just the circular dome.  However, I did want to show as much of the side walls as my lack of a true wide=angle lens will allow.  The widest I can do is 24mm, which is fairly "wide."  However, my camera has a "crop" sensor, which makes the field of view equivalent to 36mm, not really wide-angle.

Since I could not get a shot of the ceiling as well as all of the side walls, I decided to shoot what I could, as in the following.

I think this shot actually gives a better sense of the atrium space. and some of the architectural detail.  In trying to capture the architecture, I felt there were two components.  One was the richly textured detail in the hallways and granite stairways, as in the following.

The stonework is gorgeous, but I'm not sure my photos have done justice to it.

The other component consists of the symmetrical designs of the upper walls leading to and including the dome.  I found myself compelled to try to capture those symmetries in effect as abstracts.  One thing I had learned was that to shoot those symmetries, it was important to get the camera lined up accurately.  If the camera is off center by even an inch or so, the imbalance is noticeable in the image and just cannot be fully corrected in post processing.

In this shot I liked that I was able to include both the patterns in the background as well as the arch in the foreground (although a close inspection reveals a lack of symmetry).

Here is an HDR shot that I attempted.

And a wider shot . . .

that I also turned into a B&W.

Finally, here are a couple of wider angled shots.

In the end, I am still wondering how best to shoot architecture.  Am I just creating abstracts out of the symmetrical detail or am I reflecting the character of the architectural design.

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