Monday, September 30, 2013


I live in Mequon, Wisconsin. which is the third largest city in Wisconsin by geographical area but has a population of less than 25,000.  While the eastern half of the city is basically a bedroom community for the Milwaukee metropolitan area, the western half is largely farmland.  The other day I took my camera looking for some shots at an apple orchard on the west side of the city.  The day was clear but was marked by patches of fog that the morning sun was burning off.  On my way to the orchard, I passed the Oldenburg Farm, a gorgeous horse farm.

There weren't any horses about, but there was plenty of pasture land enclosed by well maintained fences.  Here are a few of the shots that I took.

Each of these shots was taken looking east.  By this time the sun was a little to the southeast, but was still nicely illuminating the fading fog.  These shots are a bit redundant, but I was experimenting with the interplay among fences, pastureland, outbuildings, fog, and sun.  One thing that I think I have learned about taking panoramic landscape shots is that the composition usually benefits from significant points of interest in the foreground, such as the portion of fence running at an angle in the foreground of the last shot above.

In the following shot I wanted to show the parallel between the foreground and background fences.

I liked the prominence of the foreground fence and the tree foliage above, but I'm concerned that the background fence may be a bit lost.

I was also trying to be mindful of the shadows being cast by the fences, as in the following shot.

I also liked the converging lines of fence, shadows, trees, and rock wall, but the shot would have benefited from the presence of fog.

The shot below also illustrates converging lines but with the advantage of fog.

I did  eventually make it to the apple orchard, which was largely a bust, so I'm glad I stopped to get the shots that I did of the Oldenburg Farm.  There is no substitute for good light, and a little fog can also help.



On September 29 I paid what may be my final visit to the abandoned Solvay Coke Plant in Milwaukee's Walker's Point area.  I have visited the site a number of times this past summer and have posted photos from those previous visits.  However, I had driven past the site a week back and had noticed that there was a great deal of activity going on at the site, including the use of heavy construction equipment.  I realized that it would have been impossible to take my camera there while construction activity was going on, so I chose to return on a Sunday morning.  That worked, as the location was quiet except for one other photographer also trying to get in some final shots before the buildings were razed.  It's possible that the construction will spare the buildings, but it seems doubtful at this point.  I am just happy that I was able to get the shots that I have before the site becomes permanently unavailable.

I had not been to the site for several weeks and I was interested to see what developments may have occurred.  The answer was some but not a lot.  For the most part,  I decided to limit my photography to what was new, though I couldn't resist taking one more wider-angled shot of the general scene in the main building.

There was a fair amount of new graffiti, some of it quite well done.  Here is a sampling of that.

I liked how the artist of the above work used a dripping paint technique.  I'm sure it was intentional.

It was a sunny morning, and the following graffiti was on the exterior back (south) wall of the main building, so light, often an issue in interior spaces, was not a problem.

The following graffito is a recent reworking of a previous piece, something that seems to happen often with graffiti.

I particularly liked this latest iteration of the graffito for its combination of colors.  Here is a close-up of part of the piece.

Finally, following are a couple of detail shots.  This first is of a hinge to one of the interior doors in the main building.  This hinge was fairly massive; I am guessing that the image covers an area of perhaps 10x15 inches.

I had been concerned with the amount of light available for this interior shot and had upped the ISO to 640.  I was pleased with the resolution that I got on the shot, taken at f/6.3 for 1/5 second.  In truth, I liked the hinge better than either the wall on the left or the door on the right and decided simply to center the hinge in the shot.

And here is a shot of a handle on another door.

What had caught my eye was the knotted rope hanging from the handle.  The exterior light coming from the right also helped to create some depth.  But when I took a close-up of the handle and rope, I realized that the bright blue paint against the dark wooden door wasn't simply something to try to minimize but rather something that could add to the overall composition.  In the end I felt that the handle and the graffito complemented one another in a weird, contrasting way to make a photo that was more interesting than either the graffito or handle alone would have provided.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


St. Paul's Episcopal Church, located on Milwaukee's near east side and dedicated in 1884, was another venue in the Doors Open Milwaukee 2013 event.  St. Paul's is all about stained glass windows.  They are numerous and beautiful and include several Tiffanys, including the largest window ever created by Tiffany, shown in the photo below.

This window probably measured 10x15 feet, was gorgeous, and was in great condition, considering it is nearly 130 years old.  Not a great shot, but I did want to show the window's full scope.

Here are individual shots of the three main sections of the window.

A docent at the church was very helpful in pointing out some of the features of the windows, including the fact that the white robe of the Christ figure in this last shot had significant three-dimensional components.  Indeed, many of the Tiffany windows featured three-dimensional elements, and the docent had me touch several of the windows to demonstrate this fact.

Following are some other stained glass windows on the other side of the church that I believe were also created by Tiffany.

The colors in these windows appeared to be brilliant and subtle at the same time and were simply glowing.

The church also featured a number of round windows.  Here are a couple.

I know that the first was a Tiffany, but I'm not sure about the second, which was situated above the organ in the choir loft.  Some of the organ's horizontal pipes are visible in the lower portion of the image.

Finally, here are a couple of close-up shots that show off the beautiful detail in the windows.

I could tell that the docent was proud of her church's windows and rightfully so.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013


This year's Doors Open Milwaukee event featured what I consider a real hidden gem, the Loyalty Building.  I guess that I had always considered it just another of Milwaukee's many older downtown buildings.  But then Hilton acquired the property and converted it from a worn-out office building to a beautiful boutique hotel.  Here is a very indifferent photo of the building's somewhat indifferent exterior.

Here I just wanted to document the building and didn't have the patience to wait for the streets to clear of traffic or for the shadow on the south side of the building to disappear.  There is nothing wrong with the exterior and I know that the hotel has cleaned it up nicely, which presents some better than average archwork.

However, the real beauty of this building is in its central skylight and four-story atrium.

Because of how extensive the skylight is, I didn't have the problems with lighting that I had had with the Grain Exchange featured in my prior post.  Here are some additional shots that feature the skylight and atrium.

I particularly liked this last shot, which shows great symmetry.

I thought the base of the staircase created an interesting abstract, but there was constant traffic due to the Doors Open event, and I just didn't have the patience to wait until the traffic cleared.  So I took a tighter shot of the staircase than I would have preferred.

Something to return for on another day perhaps.

The staircase railing also offered very nice detail, as reflected in the following shots.

Perhaps because I hadn't expected it, this was my favorite venue of the Doors Open event this year.



In the late 19th century Milwaukee was the center of the nation's grain markets, the world's wheat capital, believe it or not.  And the Mackie Building was completed in 1880 to house the grain exchange, an opulently decorated, three story commodities trading room.  Milwaukee's prominence in the grain markets began to decline in the first part of the 20th century and by the mid-1930s, the grain exchange was closed.  Although the building went into decline, the building and particularly the grain exchange room were beautifully restored in the 1980s.  I visited it during the Doors Open 2012 event and decided to return this year.

I sometimes feel that I am constantly complaining about the lighting for interior shots, but the light at this venue seemed to be particularly difficult.  The day was bright, which meant that the differential between the intensity of light coming through the windows was very different from that of the light coming off the interior walls.  As a result, I either had to grossly overexpose the windows or underexpose the interior walls.  (My other option would have been to use HDR--blending in post processing multiple shots of the identical scene taken at different exposure levels, but that would have required a tripod, which I didn't have.)  By slightly overexposing the overall shot, I was able to calm things down OK in post processing.

Here is the most panoramic shot that I got, taken from the second floor.

One of the puzzling things about this building is its symmetry (or lack of it).  Note, for example, that the windows across the opposite wall are neither equally spaced nor of the same size.  Moreover, although the two prominent pillars and their arches appear to be evenly spaced across the room, they do not line up with the windows and support structures in the wall behind.  I kept trying to line everything up until I finally realized that the symmetry was just not there.  Even though the lighting was difficult, I did like how the exterior light seemed to fill the room.

Here are a few more shots that I thought nicely showed off the room's beauty.

The keys here, I think, were the the wonderful light (despite the challenges it created) and the sheer size of the three-story space.

An additional exceptional feature is the great deal of detail, that also has been nicely restored, as shown in these two shots.  Examples of the grain motif are abundant throughout.

Any opportunity to view this place will be richly rewarded.


Monday, September 23, 2013


The Shrine Tripoli Center was completed in 1928 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  I last visited it during the 2012 Doors Open Milwaukee weekend and decided to return during this year's event as well.

The center is a Shriners temple and was supposedly modeled after the Taj Mahal.  Here is an exterior shot that features the temple's characteristic onion-shaped dome.

Distinctive it is, but the Taj Mahal it is not.

The building's interior carries on the Eastern motif, including tile work and Byzantine(?) windows, such as the following.

I wanted to capture the lines of this window but felt the building visible through it was distracting, so I converted the shot into a black & white.  Not great, frankly.

The clear centerpiece of the building is the atrium under the central dome.  Here is a shot that I took from the second floor.

This shows the interesting lines leading from the walls to the ceiling dome.  The following shot shows more detail of those lines.

The earlier shot also reveals a large chandelier hanging from the center of the dome.  That chandelier poses challenges in terms of capturing the interior of the dome itself.  Shooting straight up from the floor below would not have worked.  I had to content myself with taking shots that excluded the chandelier, including the following.

Although I find myself taking symmetrical shots (and I am getting to be more careful in taking those), I did like this last shot above which discards the idea of symmetry.  However my favorite shot was a symmetrical one that captured about as much of the dome as I could without including the chandelier, although the chain by which the chandelier is suspended is visible.

I especially liked the series of windows that rings the dome's base.

And here is one last exterior shot I took from the building's front entrance, which features a couple of camels to complete the setting.  I think they were made from cast concrete.