Tuesday, September 24, 2013

DOORS OPEN MKE 2013: GRAIN EXCHANGE

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.

John

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