Monday, March 31, 2014


Probably no visit to Austin would be complete without a tour of the Texas State Capitol.  During our visit to Austin I have been to the capitol three times and will most likely visit it at least once more.  Each time I have brought my camera and have taken a generous number of photos.

Like most state capitols, Texas's features a large central dome above an open rotunda, making it a major landmark for the city.  Here is a shot of the front of the building that features the dome, as well as the grounds that are amply treed.

Speaking of mature trees, here is an evening shot of a live oak on the capitol grounds that had not yet begun to leaf out.  Speaking technically, I took this at f/14 to keep as much of the branchwork in focus as possible.  The exposure was 0.6 seconds, requiring use of my tripod.  I do like the shot.  I could have lightened up the sky in post processing, but I think the darkening evening clouds add to the mood that the gnarly branches evoke.

Like most dome interiors, Texas's is very photogenic.  On one of my visits I was able to use my technique of setting my camera on the floor in the center of the rotunda pointed straight up to get the following shot.  We were informed that the star in the center, which is encircled by the word Texas, is eight feet across.

My 24-120 mm lens was wide open for this shot, but with my crop-sensor Nikon D7000 I simply can't get a wider shot without a true wide-angle lens.  Although the above shot is "classic," I think it is often more interesting to take shots that are off-center to pick up some of the curves of the various floors that encircle the rotunda and dome, as in the following shots.

On one of my visits was in the evening (the building is open most nights until 10 p.m.) I visited the upper floors and took some shots that feature the railings on the walkways on the lower floors.

Here, too, is a shot of one of the railings taken horizontally.  Note the portraits on the walls of the floor below.  These are of the state governors arrayed in chronological sequence.

And while I am on the subject of railings, here is a photo of one of the grand stair railings leading to an upper floor.

Here are a few more "detail" shots, including one of a statue of Stephen Austin in the foyer leading from the front entrance to the rotunda . . .

and of one of the original brass hinges on the building's interior as well as exterior doors.

Each hinge, we were told, weighs nearly eight pounds.

Texas's lone star motif is featured throughout the building, including in many of its glass-paneled doors.

Oops.  Unintended self-portraits are one of the problems with taking photos of reflecting surfaces.

The capitol's free tours feature a visit to the senate and house of representative chambers.  I enjoyed the detail in the senate chamber ceiling and took the following shot pointing nearly straight up.

The chamber had ample windows that were covered with shutters that I thought made interesting semi-abstractions.  I like the following shot that also featured the chambers desk chairs to provide some context.

The senate chamber also included two very large battle scene paintings, one (of course) of the battle for the Alamo, which the Texans lost, and one of the subsequent battle of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence from Mexico.  Here is a section from the latter painting.

Oh, and one of our visits was on a Saturday morning that featured some sort of exercise class on the plaza in front of the building that I thought seemed to share certain similarities to the photo above.

One of the tours also included a visit to an annex building that also featured some photo opportunities, including the following.

Finally, here is what was actually my first photo of the capitol, taken the evening before our first actual visit.  This was a quick shot I took from the middle of Congress Avenue, perhaps a half mile south of the capitol, while we were crossing the street (with the light).  Despite the low light conditions, the photo, taken handheld, worked out fairly well.

Texas's capitol is large, like just about everything else in Texas (as any Texan will tell you), and it is attractive.  But I have to say that, despite its size, it doesn't have the same ornate qualities as Wisconsin's, nor is it in as good condition.  Still, a must-see for any visitor to Austin.


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