Sunday, September 28, 2014


Fermilab is the premier particle physics and accelerator facility in the U.S.  It is located on 10 square miles of level land about 40 miles west of Chicago.  On September 27 I and a few others in SWiFT, a group of freethinkers in Southeastern Wisconsin, made a trip to tour the facility.

I think we were a little underwhelmed by the tour itself.  The docent who conducted the two-hour tour was pleasant and showed us what was available for public view, but I think we were hoping for more actual science and less gee-whiz.  Even so, it was worthwhile, I thought, simply to visit such an important facility.  Plus the architecture of the primary research building held my interest independently of the facility's significance from a scientific point of view.  Below is a shot of a table top model of the overall property.

I decided to show only a portion of the model, which was perhaps 12 feet across.  It does show the main research building, Wilson Hall, as well as a portion of the largest and second largest of the circular accelerators, which are marked at the surface by shallow linear ponds, even though the actual accelerator pathways are located some 30 feet underground.

Wilson Hall, according to the docent, was inspired by European cathedrals.  Maybe.  But it is an interesting building in any event, and I took a large number of photos both outside and in.  Here first are a few of the exterior shots.

This was taken from a reflecting pool extending from the front entrance of the building.  Maybe I shouldn't have chopped off the reflection in the pool, but there was a breeze that was rippling the water, plus I didn't want the building to be too diminished in the image.

Above is a symmetrical shot from just in front of the building.  I thought this shot worked pretty well as a black & white, although the symmetry is a little boring.

The locust trees at the base of the building were in full fall color, and I wanted to incorporate them into a few of the shots.

At least the tree served as a foreground point of interest.

And here is a similar shot, this time of the other end of the building.

This one is missing the locust trees, of course, but I did manage this time not to clip off the top of the structure.  I also thought the conversion to black & white worked well.  The cirrus clouds added some  needed texture to the sky, and I also liked the sunlight reflecting off the building on the left side of the image.  In trying to figure this out, I concluded that the light was streaming in through the atrium skylight and then out the windows at the end of the building.

OK, some interior shots.

Another photographer showed me the exact center of the interior atrium (although I probably would have found it for myself) and I took a few shots from that spot, including the following which I converted to a black & white.

I also took one that was squared to the dimensions of the building, but this was more interesting, I thought.  I was looking up, but it almost appears like I am looking down instead.

I also tried some asymmetrical shots, including the following.

Better, I thought.

Here are a few shots that incorporate other, "softer" elements, including flags of those nations who have representatives working at this U.S. government facility . . .

as well as the U.S. flag.

To my eye, the abstracts are too abstract and including flags and plants seems to help provide some context.  I did like the U.S. flag shot the best of these.

Now for a few novelty shots.  This first is a chart of the standard model of elementary particles, emphasizing the recently discovered Higgs boson.

The tour featured a number of pieces of equipment that may have been partially explained by accompanying plaques, but we didn't really have time to understand their significance.  But it gave me an opportunity to try shots such as the following, which was through a long tubelike corrugated apparatus.

The following shot is a bit more understandable.   The tour included a walk through an ancillary building that actually seemed operational.  The linear building included all sorts of impressive equipment that was not really explained to us.  But the overhead wiring was, if nothing else, impressive in it complexity and quantity.

Time for a visual puzzle.

OK, this is a shot looking down at a set of stairs on the exterior of Wilson Hall.  The scene includes a pair of railings that are casting shadows on the steps.

Finally, a couple more artsy exterior shots of Wilson Hall.

My favorites of the bunch for their abstract quality.

© 2014 John M. Phillips


  1. Great John!! Loved the tree inf ront of the building was a nice effect.

  2. I wish there were more places like this, because it was simply too amazing for words. I came here with my boyfriend the other night, and it was absolutely fabulous. At events in New York the use of wood throughout the place adds a very warm and inviting feel to venue.