Monday, November 10, 2014


In my last post I featured some of the works of art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  In this post I wanted to include a few images of the facility itself or at least where the artwork was not the primary subject of the photo.

A feature of the museum was the system of hallways leading through the galleries, and the museum was savvy enough to position prominent sculptures at the end of those hallways, as in the following.

I also found myself looking down from the upper floor at the scenes below.

I would have liked to have been directly above the statue in the following image, but that was physically impossible.

Surprisingly, some fall colors were hanging on the Minneapolis, and here is a shot of the park outside the museum.

Barely OK, I thought.  Perhaps I should have incorporated more of the support pillar on the left.  However, then I realized I could shoot the city skyline through an interesting decorative wire screen.  I took a bunch of shots, focusing either on the screen or the skyline and at varying focal lengths with my 24-120 mm lens.  Here was what I thought was the best of those.

This was shot at a middling focal length of 58 mm.  I shot this at the narrowest aperture available with this lens, f/22, with the focus on the skyline.

I saved for last my favorite shot of this visit.

To me this looks almost like a painting, something by Edward Hopper, perhaps.  But in fact I made very few modifications to this shot other than some minor cropping.  There simply wouldn't have been anything to shoot without the figure, who might have been texting his girlfriend.



On our most recent trip to the Twin Cities, we paid another visit to the museum at the Minneapolis Institutes of Art, and again I was extremely impressed, both with the facility and with its collection.  In this post I am going to focus on some of the artwork that we saw.

The museum has a substantial collection of Asian art, and that is where we began our visit.

For the above piece, which was a life-sized terra cotta Chinese figure, I wanted to focus on the figure's hand, which was in an unusual and striking pose.  So I opened up the lens's aperture to f/4, forcing the remainder of the figure to go out of focus and allowing the hand to "pop" somewhat.

The above sculpture was behind glass, so I placed my camera lens directly against the glass to reduce glare.  Loved the ears.

I wasn't as successful in avoiding glare with this photo of a horse.  The reflection of my left hand can be seen above the figure's hind quarters.  Still, I thought this beautiful and dynamic piece worked well as a black & white.

The museum also included a large collection of Pacific region art, although it vintage was generally much more recent.

I particularly liked the above piece, which I though worked best by only showing a portion of the figure's face.

The image above represented only one side of a two-handled wooden bowl.

I thought the above pottery piece was very representative of Pacific/Australian art.  The same could be said for the following, which reminded me somehow of a sleepy Dr. Seuss figure.

Even though these pieces were not particularly old (generally less than 100 years), they are much more primitive that Western art from much older periods.  My question then is whether such primitivism was stylistic and intentional or whether the artists simply didn't have the skills that European and mainland Asian artists had.  Compare the above, for example, with the following.

Not only is this sculpture of John the Baptist (I think) more anatomically correct, but there is a great deal more emotional expression.

Speaking of antiquity, below is a beautifully transcribed page from the Qur'an from around 900 CE.

OK, on to some more modern art, beginning with a stylized weathervane of a horse jumping through a hoop.

And below is a portion of a large pottery vase.  Here for some reason I chose to create an abstract by featuring the near side of the top of the vase, allowing the far side to fall out of focus.

I liked the following piece, again as an abstract, which is difficult to interpret in the absence of its explanatory placard, which describes it as stoneware covered in pigments and a glaze.

Then there was this large "cloak" that was comprised of many hundreds of dog tags, creating a powerful image.

Perhaps even more powerful was the following photograph of Jewish concentration camp prisoners, which was shown as the sole exhibit in one of the museum's alcoves.

I liked the large semicircular stained glass piece shown below that apparently originated in a Jewish setting.

This window was situated well above eye level, and I spent some time in post processing rectifying its perspective to avoid converging lines.

The above was a portion of a painting by Joan Miro entitled,  "Head of a Woman."  I didn't get it, but I did like the painting for some reason.

Finally, a couple of 19th century American paintings.

I very much liked the treatment of the subject's eyes in the above painting.  I'm not sure I can say the same for the eyes of the child shown in the photo below.  But then this was described as a posthumous painting of a young boy who had died.

During our visit I took nearly 200 photos, keeping about 60.  I consider the selection for this post to be an interesting, and in some ways arbitrary, subset.  We spent nearly three hours at the museum on our visit and probably saw less than half of the collection.  Hopefully, we will get back for another look in the near future.  Perhaps the most amazing thing is that this museum is free to the public.


Sunday, November 9, 2014


We've been traveling a lot over the past several weeks, and I haven't used my macro lens in some time.  So I returned to the Mitchell Domes to see what might be new and to do a bit of close-up nature photography.  Here is a little of what I shot.

The first shot is of a couple of flowers that seemed to be in a struggle for room.

These daisy-like flowers posed a depth of field problem.  The flowers were quite "deep" from the tips of the pedals to their centers, and I couldn't keep everything in focus.  So I chose, instead, just to keep the petals in focus.  This was an exposure of 0.8 second at f/40.

I was drawn to the following fern leaves for the one leaf that had apparently met with an accident.

It also helped that some yellow flowers beneath the fern provided a uniform colored background.  This was shot at f/16 at very close quarters, which kept the leaves in good focus but let the yellow flowers a couple of feet below blur out to create a uniform background.

A cactus about 18 inches across provided a nice abstract, and I turned it into a black & white.

A new plant in the tropical dome caught my eye.

Each of the oblong, purple-tipped "buds" was about an inch long.  I thought the primary colors gave the plant a clown aura.  I needed to tone down the intensity of the red; otherwise, it lost definition.  This was taken at extremely close range at an aperture of f/51 with a 6-second exposure.

I also came across some large and very yellow lilies.  Although the stamens and pistil were interesting, the flowers were large and those features created very serious depth of field challenges.  The back of the flowers, on the other hand, were relatively flat and much easier to capture photographically.  So that's what I did.  Here are a couple of the images.

Finally, I liked the following mums, primarily for the crisp and stark contrasts they provided.

The only problem perhaps was their hideous color.


Saturday, November 8, 2014


During our visit last weekend to Washington DC to see our daughter Michelle and her boyfriend, we stayed in the DuPont Circle neighborhood, and I managed to get a few shots of some of the local architectural detail that adds to the city's charm.

Here, first, are a couple of photos of the exterior red sandstone of the charming little apartment where we stayed.

For whatever reason, I liked that the wrought iron railing was curving to the right.

The aperture for this second shot was f/8, which seemed to provide plenty of effective depth of field despite how close I was.

I struggled with the following shot.  I was drawn to the green-tinted "face," but I didn't want to present it by itself without any context.  On the other hand, if I included too much of the surrounding scene, I risked having the face get lost.  Besides, the surroundings just weren't that interesting.

Here are a couple of detail shots that I converted to black & whites to emphasize the lines.

It continues to amaze me that this sort of detail, which never occurs in contemporary construction was so commonplace 120 years ago.

There are a number of embassies located in the DuPont Circle area, and in the small courtyard for the Zimbabwe embassy I spied the following sculpture.

The sculpture was larger, of course, but I thought this stylized face represented the heart of the work. There is enough texture in the color of the stone that I thought it worked better as a color shot rather than a black & white.

My favorite of the detail shots was this simple one of the front steps of a neighborhood apartment building.

Although the shot is a bit "simple," I liked its combination of stonework detail and slightly dilapidated steps.  I also liked the subtle and natural lavender and ecru in the coloration of the stone.  This also was shot at f/8.

Finally, there was this novelty shot.

Not beautiful but interesting.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014


The Manassas National Battlefield Park is located in northern Virginia about 35 miles west of Washington D.C. and was the site of two of the major battles of the Civil War.  We visited the park with our daughter Michelle and her boyfriend Tobias on Sunday, November 2nd.  Although it was a mostly sunny afternoon, the temperature was unseasonably cold and there was a persistent strong wind out of the northwest.  We made the best of it with a two-hour walk through the park's extensive woods and fields.

There were extensive open fields surrounding the visitor center that included, inter alia, a large equestrian statue and beyond that what appeared to be a handsomely restored historic residence and outbuildings.  Initially, I tried to photograph the statue with the residence as a background element.  

Maybe this was a good idea, but it certainly didn't work, at least given my location.  The statue overwhelmed the residence.  So then I tried the residence cluster as its own subject.  

Not great, but better, I thought.

There were a large number of cannon positioned in the field, and I assume that the cannon barrels, if not the wagons, were authentic.  My goal was to feature one of the cannon as a primary foreground element with one or more other cannon as background.

OK, except for one problem, at least in my view.  The cannon is pointing out of the photo instead of into it.  Perhaps that's unavoidable in that the cannon, wheels, and hitch pretty much take up the full width of the image.  Here is another shot that rectifies that, although the featured cannon occupies a much smaller portion of the image.

Some of the cannon were at the crest of a modest rise, and I wanted to capture the cannon in silhouette against the sky.

I missed this in this first shot, at least with respect to the tree on the right.  If only I had walked a little further, I think I could have eliminated this issue.

Better, but perhaps a little stark.  Too much negative space, I think.

Here is one more shot that takes a little different perspective, incorporating some of the distance hills on the horizon.

Although we spent time exploring the woods of the park, our favorite area was a large open field of tall grass that was showing its fall color.  I tried to capture this in two ways.  First, I wanted to focus on nearby grass with more distance grass as a background.  To do this I needed to reduce depth of field as much as possible so that only nearby grass was in good focus.  The theory was good, but one of the problems was situational--a wind running 15-20 mph.  In any event, here are a few of my efforts.

What helped this shot was that I was able to position the grass against a dark background.  Here are a couple more.  In this first shot I had set the aperture at f/8, in the second, at f/4.  

The background in both shots is too busy, despite being out of focus, but it is clearly worse in the first.

The other way in which I attempted to capture the grass field was to photograph Michelle as she was walking back through the field.  

And one shot of Tobias enjoying the photo opportunities.

One final interesting point.  I took a detail shot of a small chain attached to one of the cannon.  At this point there was bright sunshine and here is the shot I got on the sunny side of the cannon.

And here is a similar shot taken on the shaded side.

Same colors, same white balance but a very different feel to the shot.  I prefer the second shot even though it is considerably more muted.