Monday, September 9, 2013


During our trek to Chicago this past weekend, we paid a visit to the Art Institute, Chicago's world-class art museum.  Usually when I visit an art museum I have three main photographic goals--take some shots of the physical facility itself, take some shots of sculpture, and take shots of interesting works of wall art that I have not seen before.

So, first the facility itself, starting with the main entrance hall.

Lighting in almost all interior venues is tricky.  First, there is usually much less light than is present outside.  This is something our eyes don't register but our cameras certainly do.  Second, the color of the light is often much different.  It may be incandescent, fluorescent, sunlight, or a blend of two or more.  Again, our eyes (or more properly our brains) automatically adjust to these colors, but our cameras don't.  Often the solution to the white balance problem is to put the setting on Automatic.  But sometimes it requires playing around in post processing to find a color blend that seems close to what our eye saw at the time (something one can do best when shooting in raw).  Finally, as in the initial shot above, there may be great variation in the amount of light in different parts of the image.  In the shot above, the window at the rear of the hall was much brighter than the remainder of the hall.  I worked in post processing to reduce that differential.

OK, so here is a shot across an atrium of the landing leading to the European art galleries.

I wound up taking this shot several times.  This photo had the advantage that it is nicely centered and doesn't include any patrons.  I'm not necessarily opposed to including people in the shots, but here I did want to feature the statue of Samson and the Lion (which is situated nicely off-center), and having other figures in the shot might have been a distraction.  And following is another sculpture on a stairway landing that I converted to a black & white, because I was as much interested in the lines of the staircase as I was the sculpture.

I did like this composition.

Now on to a couple of other sculptures, starting with an Asian piece that again I converted to a black & white.

I'm not crazy about this shot, but I knew that I wanted to open up the lens aperture to blur out background distractions, and I wanted the figure off-center just for compositional interest.  And that points out one of the reasons I like shooting sculptures:  They are three-dimensional and offer me more variables to work on in getting the shot.

Here is another piece that I took several shots of, including from one floor above it.  I finally settled on this shot in which I used a dark background to clear all distractions and to act as a nice contrast to the white marble that the artist used to showcase the subject's delicate features.  Note the separate fingers in the subject's left hand.  The piece was nicely illuminated and I was able to set the camera at the lowest ISO setting without sacrificing shutter speed.

Our friends advised us to be sure we visited the Chagall stained glass windows and we were glad that we did; they were superb.  There were actually three separate windows.  Here are a full shot of one of them and a detail from another.

Finally, we came across some pieces that were either recent or that I simply had not seen in past visits (which admittedly were a number of years ago).  The first is just a detail from a larger work.

And here, successively, are two shots of complete pieces along with details from each.

Each of these works is notable for its clean lines and the absurdity of its subject matter and characterizations.  I am still trying to figure out exactly what attracted me to them, but I love their creativity and knew that I wanted to share them on my blog.  So here they are.


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