Monday, February 18, 2013


In my last post, I mentioned that I had returned to Wisconsin's State Capitol in Madison on February 15th.  In that post I focused on my attempts to take some HDR shots--with mixed results.  But I also wanted to see if I could improve on or extend what I got last time, which I posted on February 1st.  To a large extent, my images were a repeat of what I got at the end of January, but there were some differences.

Here is the first shot I took--of the exterior of the dome.

The day was cold but mostly sunny.  Although I had my tripod, given the ample sunlight, I took this as a handheld shot at 1/400th second.  I actually intended to capture only a portion of the dome in the shot.  I'm beginning to think that there can be a real advantage in leaving some of the primary subject out of the shot.  This allows more focus on the subject's detail and gives the viewer the satisfaction of filling in the balance of the subject.  The flag provided context.

Here are a couple of shots toward the dome from one of the main corridors leading from the rotunda.  I took similar shots last time.  However, I thought these did a nice job in projecting the space involved.

It was a technical lesson to me that these shots were taken at apertures of f/8 and f/9, respectively.  I mention this because these are really in the mid-range of apertures.  As a result, there could be some compromise in depth of field as compared with a smaller aperture of, say, f/22.  Nevertheless, there is good focus throughout both of these shots.  When one can, one should use mid-range apertures for a couple of reasons.  First, a more open aperture translates into faster shutter speeds, leaving less opportunity for something to "go wrong," such as some sort of disturbance leading to camera blur, during the exposure.  These shots were taken at shutter speeds of 1/5th and 1/15th second, respectively.  Second, the mid-range of apertures is generally in the lens's "sweet spot" in terms of its overall resolution.

I am a sucker for circular ceiling shots and generally try to get a symmetrical shot, usually by placing the camera on the floor pointing straight up and taking the shot by remote shutter release.  I have not been very successful in this case.  I do not have a camera-lens combination that gives me a truly wide-angle view and I have not been able to photograph the full dome because of that.  This time I tried to narrow the shot to the mural painted in the center of the dome.  Again, I was not satisfied with the result.

Although the circular perimeter of the mural is in good focus, the mural itself is quite "soft."  Moreover, there is what appears to be a partially deflated helium balloon in the lower left corner of the shot.

I did take an off-center shot of the dome ceiling, actually a number of such shots.  Here is one of those.

I liked this shot because of its asymmetric composition.  I will also confess that I was inspired to take this shot because a similar image was on one of the postcards for sale in the capitol.  There was a very significant difference in light between the ceiling and the windows encircling it, and I had to work fairly hard in post processing to keep the windows from being "blown out."

Here are a couple of vertical wide-angle shots taken from the third level above the central rotunda.

Admittedly, these shots are very similar.  The primary difference is that the second shot is not quite as wide-angle as the first.  The second shot puts more emphasis on the quality of the light illuminating the major arch, while the first includes more of the sides of that arch.  I worked very hard both in setting up the shot and in post processing to make these shots as symmetrical as possible.

Here's another shot--with Bucky Badger in the background--that, I think, does a fairly good job of projecting the very large space in the wings off the central rotunda.

This was taken at f/11 for 1.6 seconds.

And here is a shot of the ceiling of a major hearing room on the third level, revealing the large skylight offering additional light for the room.  The murals reflect the extraordinary amount of specialized labor that went into the construction of this magnificent building.

Finally, here are a couple of "detail" shots.  This first is a bust of "Fighting Bob" LaFollette.

And here is one of the bronze eagles that adorn the pillars surrounding the rotunda.

Although this one looks a little knock-kneed, a closer inspection reveals that those are just its folded wings.  This beak-on shot also makes the eagle look a bit benighted.

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