Tuesday, December 31, 2013

FAVORITE PHOTOS: 2013

As I did in 2012, I thought I would finish this year with a post of some of my favorite photos from 2013.

Macro.

Personally, this was not a great year for macro.  Perhaps I am running out of ideas or readily available material.  Or perhaps I am beginning to realize that I need to create more than just abstracts.  In any event, I took each of these shots at the Mitchell Park Domes.  The first was of a prominent lion's tail agave in the Desert Dome that I have shot numerous times.  But I liked this photo because I was able to highlight the plant's tip by positioning it against a broad leaf behind it, and I was able to keep dark the background between the plant's leaves.


This plant is very three-dimensional, and I set the aperture at f/36 to keep everything in acceptable focus.

The second macro is of a flower that was actually in the lobby area at the Domes, and might have been for sale.


I liked that I captured only a portion of the flower and cropped the image as a square, letting the viewer fill in the missing two-thirds.

But my favorite macro subject this year was a peacock plant located in the Tropical Dome.  Because this is a low-lying plant, I basically had to get down on my hands and knees to position the camera to be more or less perpendicular to the surface of the leaf.  I liked the fine network of lines that the leaves produced--even if the result is more or less just an abstract.


Architecture.

While 2013 was not the year of the macro for me, I did find myself taking a lot of architectural photography.

One of my repeats was of the Milwaukee City Hall.  This was not new ground for me, but I did like the following shot, which was actually a blend of three separate shots taken at different exposure durations and blended with HDR software.  The result was not so much an exaggeration of contrast or over-saturation of color as it was of variations of color in the undersides of the building's balconies at different levels above the ground floor.


Early in the year I traveled twice to Madison to shoot the interior of Wisconsin's Capitol building, which I found to be gorgeous.


I wound up taking 200-300 shots over the two visits, but I especially kept coming back to this shot that featured concentric arches.  I only wish that I had greater wide-angle range with my current equipment.

I visited two other state capitol buildings during the year, the Minnesota State Capitol, in St. Paul, and the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City.  Here are shots from each.



Technically, these shots are not as good as the ones from Madison, primarily because I did not use my tripod for either.  However, I did like that the shots had a lot going on and managed to tell "stories," about an unusual staircase in Minnesota and a prominent skylight in Utah.

One of my favorite photo venues has been the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. And though I have taken the following shot a number of times, I did like how this one worked as a black & white.  I particularly liked the contrast in lighting between the left and right sides of the ceiling and the way the light from the "prow" of the atrium shone off the polished floor.  The figures in the image also helped greatly to provide perspective.


And here is a shot of a side corridor of the Calatrava addition.  The light coming through the west-facing windows had created an interesting pattern on the corridor's floor that I was able to capture.


But my favorite aspects of this shot were the bench that I positioned in the lower portion of the image and the dark slanted support structures in the upper left.  It didn't bother me that the dark supports actually occupy perhaps 1/3 of the overall image.

Another venue I have returned to a number of times is the downtown branch of the Milwaukee Public Library.  The entrance rotunda features a dome that I have shot any number of times.  However, on my last visit, I got a shot of the archwork above a side corridor that I converted into a black & white.


The shot is pretty simple, really, but I thought the black & white helped to emphasize the clean lines that the arches had created.

Finally, during the Doors Open Milwaukee 2013 weekend in September, I discovered a real gem in downtown Milwaukee, the Loyalty Building, which has recently been restored and converted into a boutique hotel.  The interior is gorgeous.


I actually returned later in the fall to take more photos and got this shot on my second visit.  I chose this photo because of its unusual perspective, looking nearly straight up at the interior windows.  I was able to position the camera to create excellent symmetry, and the reflections in the windows also helped a lot.

Landscape.

I really hadn't taken much in the way of landscape photos during the first part of the year and was lamenting that the Milwaukee area's geography simply didn't offer much in the way of dramatic landscape photography opportunities.  But later in the year things picked up.

First, the weather cooperated.  I'm not talking about clear days here; rather I am talking about fog.  One of the subjects that I have returned to a number of times is a smallish tree in Virmond Park, on the bluff above Lake Michigan.  I shot the tree a number of times but chose this shot for the way that the fog served to distance the line of trees at the edge of the bluff, particularly the trees in the right of the image that, as well, serve to balance the fact that the tree is positioned to the left.  I also liked that I managed to keep the tree itself in crisp focus while allowing the background to take on a soft texture in this pre-dawn shot.  It's a bit simply, but I think it works.  Of course, the fog helped.


Later the same morning I was lucky to catch the sun, distorted into an oval by the atmosphere, just as it came over the horizon that the bluff created and before it got tangled in the lower branches of the tree.


It was also in the late fall that I "discovered" a beautifully maintained horse farm on Mequon's west side that offered up its fencework for photo opportunities.  This first shot initially seemed a bit washed out by the early morning haze.  However, I came to like the shot because the faded appearance of the trees in the background contrasted with the more saturated appearance of the fences in the foreground.  I also liked the column of smoke rising on the far left of the image, although ideally I would have preferred that it be a bit further to the right.


The following shot of the same farm was taken on a very foggy morning.


I kept looking at this shot because of the way the fence line on the right faded into the fog and because the large bare-limbed oak in the background (which really wasn't that far away) was nearly invisible in the dense early morning fog.

Fog really helped the following shots taken in a dense woods also on Mequon's west side.  The blue light in this first shot was natural, a function of the way the fog was filtering the pre-dawn light.


I found myself continually returning to the knot of stunted branches in the tree on the left.

The following two shots were taken later the same morning when the light had changed but before the dense fog had lifted.



The fog is really a great friend of the landscape photographer, as it both creates depth and reduces or eliminates background distractions.

Finally, I had spotted a small tree farm northwest of the Milwaukee metropolitan area and had returned to get a number of shots, again in early morning, this time without fog but with a heavy ground frost that added a bit to the overall dynamic.  This was my pick shot of that series.  I cropped it some both top and bottom to center on and accentuate the line of trees toward the rear that had fuller branchwork.


This and That.

Although macro, architecture, and landscape photography are perhaps a bit easier to categorize, I spent a good deal of time in 2013 taking other types of shots, as well.

We spent March in Arizona and one of the places we visited was the Musical Instrument Museum, located in northern Scottsdale.  It's a real gem.  Here is one of the shots I took of a brass saxophone.


I thought this shot worked for two reasons.  First, I limited the image to only a portion of the instrument, and, second, I liked how the sax's polished bell reflected the surrounding scene.  The fact that the background was dark also helped, I thought.

In early summer I discovered an abandoned coke factory on Milwaukee's South Side and returned three or four times to capture what I could of the decay, trash, and graffiti that the location offered.  Here are a couple of shots that I thought exemplified what was available, including one wider-angled shot that was cluttered and complicated . . .


. . . and one detail shot that was quite simple.


I enjoy taking photos of sculpture because of the options that three-dimensional artwork offers in terms of depth of field and background elements.  Here is a shot of a sculpture that was located in the courtyard of the lakefront Festival of Art that I converted to a black & white.


I intentionally cut off the top and bottom of this sculpture because I wanted to focus attention on the piece's facial features that I thought might be lost in a wider shot.

And finally, I include a portrait of my grandson, Stanley, who turns seven months old as I am writing this.  I seem to have caught him in a very pensive mood, or maybe he's just eyeing a toy beyond his reach.


How could a brand new grandfather not include a photo of his first grandchild among his favorite shots of the year?

I estimate that I took at least 15,000 photos in 2013, and I am including 24 of those in this post.  There were others that I also liked quite a bit, maybe 300 shots in all.  Still, at 2%, that doesn't seem to be a very high success rate.  But maybe that's typical.  I do know that I have been getting more selective in what I retain, not because I am running out of storage space but because I just can't imagine coming back to a lot of those shots.

Let's see what 2014 brings.

John

3 comments:

  1. As I scrolled through your picks, I kept finding one favorite after. It quickly became clear that I cannot pick a favorite after all. They are all excellent! Now...as far as your grandson's picture, of all the pictures you have shared of this little guy so far this one has been my favorite!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. It continues to be a great hobby.

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  2. Exxcept for Stanley, I would be very hard pressed to pick any of your phottos. They are all so good. Of course I am always partial to the closeups and the B&W ones.You sure have a talent for taking photos and writng.

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