Tuesday, December 2, 2014

OLD FRIENDS

Maybe it was because the late fall weather had been so disagreeable or maybe it was because I kept thinking I could find something new to say about some of the local interior spaces I have shot in the past.  But whatever, recently I found myself returning to some architectural haunts I have photographed before . . . many times.  Old friends.

First up was the downtown branch of the Milwaukee Public Library.  What I found interesting was the fact that few if any of the visitors patronizing the library were paying any attention to the architectural features that the space offers.  And that surely had been my experience as well until I got interested in photography.  For that I am grateful.

The highlight of the entrance to the library is the rotunda ceiling, and I have shot it numerous times in the past.  Here is one of those shots that I take by setting the camera on the floor pointing up to the center of the ceiling.


I like the symmetry of this shot that I cropped as a square, but I keep regretting not having wider angle capabilities with the camera and lenses that I currently have.  One thing I decided to do was to rotate the camera 45 degrees to get the following.


Suddenly a lot more interesting, I think.  Sure, I had to give up the round features in two of the corners, but I've gained a lot more, I think in bringing in some of the side features.  Despite my best efforts, I didn't quite nail the positioning of the camera.  It's not as easy as it might seem, since the camera must not just be in the geographical center of the floor, it must also be pointed directly up.  So I needed to crop the shot slightly to make it fully symmetrical.  However, I realized that if I cropped the shot more narrowly, I could extend the ends just a bit more, making the shot a little more abstract.


Here are a couple more shots that emphasize the border between the rotunda dome and the side walls.



Again, I thought the narrow crop on this last shot helped to create an abstract quality that I was seeking.

Although the dome is the star of the show, some of the other architectural details are worthy also.



Next stop, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.  These first shots are familiar ones, including the second floor archways above the side aisles at the back of the nave.


What I thought helped the above shot was the quality of light on the lowest of the arches.

There are a number of most unusual features in this church, including the fact that the pipe organ is at the front rather than the rear.  I took this shot with the intention of converting it to a black & white to emphasize the reflections off the cylindrical pipes.


I shot this as an asymmetrical image, but decided in post processing that it worked better when cropped symmetrically.

Among the church's more attractive features are the pairs of supporting pillars and arches along the side aisles, and I have shot them a number of times before.  This first shot below is very typical of the kind of composition I have used in the past, except, for some reason, my camera recorded the image as a black and white.  I decided it worked OK anyway.  Again, I was employing my camera-on-the-floor-pointing-up technique.


But I also decided to take another shot with the camera rotated about 45 degrees.


Once more, I thought I lost something but that I also gained something by this orientation.

One of the subjects I have worked on in the past has been that of a handsome statue along one of the sides of the nave.  Last time I realized I could get a much more interesting image by shooting the statue between one of the pairs of supporting pillars.


In this case, I moved close to the pillars, set the aperture wide open, and focused on the statue behind the pillars.  This served to blur out the pillars some, allow the statue to pop.

Stained glass windows can be very difficult photographic subjects.  First, they pose extreme dynamic range problems, since they can be very highly lit by exterior sunlight, while the surrounding interior can be very dimly lit.  There is also a great temptation simply to shoot the window, not leaving much in the ay of context.  Here I thought I was able to find an attractive way to frame one of the stained glass windows.


Never mind that there was a light fixture hanging in front of the window and that the arch crops out the upper portion of the window.

Finally, is a shot of the altar that sits nearly in the center of the nave.


In this case I darkened the background to set off the altar's white marble and ramped up the contrast, creating a chiaroscuro effect.

Then it was on to the Calatrava addition of the Milwaukee Art Museum.  But first a scene looking west down Wisconsin Avenue from the museum, showing off the eclectic nature of the Milwaukee architecture.


I walked over to the museum just as it was opening at 10 a.m. and had not realized that the museum raises the brise soleil at that time each day, so I happened to catch it in mid-rise in the following shot, something I didn't realize until I had downloaded the shots to my computer.  A little weird, maybe, but I liked the contrast between the light on the north and south sides of the structure.


I have photographed the interior of the Calatrava addition so many times that I find it difficult to find new compositions.  This first is simply a symmetrical shot looking up at the ceiling, not exactly unique, I'm afraid.


At least the fact that the next shot is asymmetrical makes it different.


Not bad, actually.

I wanted to catch some of the patrons and their reflections on the polished floor.


Didn't quite work.

In looking over the shots, I found that some of them were pretty standard, mundane really, but others at least are not cliched, not the sort of shots that the typical visitor might expect to come away with.

John

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