Tuesday, September 23, 2014


This is the third time I have visited the Grain Exchange as part of the annual Doors Open Milwaukee event.  It's a stunningly beautiful space, and I always enjoy trying to capture part of that beauty in photographs.  This year the day I visited was rainy and cloudy and quite dark inside the Grain Exchange.  I could have benefitted from a tripod, but I made do with handheld.  The space seems almost cubical, and seemingly every surface has been decorated.

Some of my early shots were attempts to capture the room's sense of space.  Not an easy task.  Here are some of my attempts.

This first shot points out a subtle issue with the room's symmetry, or more accurately lack of symmetry.  The internal pillars appear to divide the room into thirds, and that is probably the case.  However, when you look carefully at the first floor (arched) windows, you will note that they are not spaced evenly across the far wall.  Moreover, the largest pillar on the far wall is not centered between the two internal pillars.  For someone who is a bit obsessed with symmetry, this was frustrating until I realized the problem was not mine.

Here are a few more shots in which I avoided the symmetry issue by featuring a corner.

A couple of points.  First, although the interior surfaces were quite dark, the light coming through the windows was bright, at least in a relative sense.  This is a common problem with interiors, and the best I could do in post processing with Lightroom was to reduce the window exposure and increase the wall exposure.  The effect is not bad.  The other point is that in the second of these two shots I wanted to include a least a portion of the floor.  My thought was that this would add context to the shot.  There were a fair number of people wandering the floor, and I decided to crop them out and still retain a bit of the floor.

Here is a "smaller" shot of another corner of the room.  I thought the vertical structures next to the windows provided some depth to the shot.

Almost incredibly, the Grain Exchange also includes elaborate stained glass windows, something that is pretty rare outside of religious venues.  And, they are gorgeous.  Here is a shot of a double-bank of those windows.

One thing to note is that the stained glass, as well as much of the rest of the decorative art in the Grain Exchange, has a grain motif.  For example, the woman featured in the upper window on the right is holding a sheaf of grain.  

This motif is carried through, as well, in the ceiling panels, as is evident in the following two shots of the underside of the internal arches.

Really quite impressive.  And a close look even of the shot below of a tympanum over the entrance to the room reveals more grain, though one needs to look carefully.

Two final shots of the Grain Exchange.  First, I discovered that I could set my camera on a ledge at the base of one of the internal pillars and shoot straight up.  Since the camera was stable, I didn't have to worry about camera shake.  This was a 1.3 second exposure.

The last shot I took was a "glimpse" of the Grain Exchange framed by the entryway to the room.

Not perfect, but it does provide some framing.  In addition, I don't think it hurt having other patrons in the image.


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