Thursday, August 28, 2014


This last week I returned to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Milwaukee.  I had visited the cathedral last summer.  At that time I thought it was pleasant but not spectacular.  I have a bit higher opinion after this second visit.

Unlike the first time, on this visit I did not bring my tripod, so all shots were handheld.  This was probably a mistake, as the interior, as is common with virtually all building interiors, was quite dark, forcing me to increase the camera's light sensitivity dramatically, in this case to an ISO of 2500.  That, of course, led to more "noise" in the shots.  To some extent I could reduce the noise in post processing but at the expense of some crispness in the shots.  The other thing I realized is that I took different shots this time, but I have to admit that they were not any more interesting than the ones I took a year ago.  Hmmf . . .

In any event, here they are, beginning with a standard wide angled shot toward the front.  Note the absence of pews.

The cathedral is not especially large.  It is classified as a cathedral simply because it is the resident church for the Milwaukee archbishop.  But, though it is not large, it is quite distinctive.  And the primary features of distinction include the support columns, the side aisles, and, most of all, the crucifix suspended above the altar.

First the columns.

As I did on my prior visit, I tried to get creative with some up-shots.

I was a little sloppy with the first shot, but in the second I took care to have the decorative ceiling groining above the main part of the church centered between the twin columns to ensure symmetry.

I also focused on the side aisles.  Below is a shot looking up the aisle on the left.

And here is a close-up of the sculpture at the front of the aisle.

Here I was looking to capture the reflection of the sculpture and its setting in the polished floor.

I also liked the complexity in the two-story aisle facade at the rear of the church.  Here is a shot of the second floor portion that I intentionally left asymmetrical.

And another, wider-angle shot that I liked for the variety of archwork, as well as for the colors being created by the sunlight streaming through the stained glass window.

Here is another image that I converted to black & white to emphasize complexity of the various arch lines.  This is a bit overexposed, but I thought that brought out the lines a bit better.

The cathedral's most distinctive feature, evident to any visitor, is the extremely stylized crucifix suspended above the altar.

The circular feature above the cross is, I presume, intended to represent the crown of thorns.

Finally, here is one of the cathedral's several sculptures.  I thought this showed well because of the lighting.


Sunday, August 24, 2014


Last Thursday evening it was foggy near home, and I was hoping for some interesting shots along the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee.  The fog proved patchy and simply didn't make an appearance downtown, but I decided to hang around and look for other photo opportunities.

My first stop was, naturally, the Milwaukee Art Museum.  I've shot the Calatrava addition so many times that I find it difficult to come up with anything new.  First are a few "traditional" shots.

The second shot was taken a little later when the evening sun was nicely warming up the brise soleil. And here's a shot in which I was trying to be a little less orthodox.

I also took a couple of shots of the pavilion that fronts the Calatrava addition, again trying for something a little different.

The couple helped a bit, I thought.

On Thursdays the museum stays open until 8 p.m. and I wandered into the atrium.  The museum entrance is available to visitors without obligating them to pay for admission to the exhibits.  The atrium is an architectural goldmine, and each time I go I find myself taking similar shots, including the following.

I would really like a lens that provided a wider angled view.  I just couldn't quite include both the floor and the peak in the same shot.

It was late in the evening and there were few patrons.  While I was there I had the opportunity to make virtually the same shot with no one present in the shot.

Not as effective.  It's missing something: perspective.

One thing I've learned is that if I am attempting to get a truly symmetrical shot, the camera needs to be very close to the axis line of symmetry.  I mean within an inch or two.  I still like the symmetrical shots best, but I also tried to capture some asymmetrical ones.

A little difficult to interpret, but it does hold some interest.  I also took a shot from the lower level looking up toward the Calder mobile.

Discovery World is a science and technology center on the Lakefront south of the Milwaukee Art Museum.  In some ways its architecture complements the museum's Calatrava addition.  I strolled around the center to get a few shots.

And here's one looking up that seemed to work.

On the lake side of the center is a handsome amphitheater area constructed of unpainted lumber.   Here is an abstract shot of that area. 

Finally, I noticed that the lakefront's resident three-masted schooner, the Denis Sullivan, was sailing into port and waited to catch a few shots of it.

I didn't notice any passengers disembarking, so it may have been simply a practice cruise for the crew, who spent some time securing the rigging after the docking.

This last is not much of a shot, but I did like the combination of elements that it incorporated: the dock, the water, the reflections, and the line.



On my recent visit to the new Potawatomi Hotel in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley, I parked next to the 16th Street viaduct, one of the primary thoroughfares that crosses the valley from north to south.  It is elevated above the floor of the valley (otherwise it wouldn't be referred to as a viaduct), and, although it is situated next to the hotel, it does not provide access to the hotel, except by pedestrian stairways extending from the viaduct down to the hotel level.  Disappointed with the hotel's architecture, both inside and out, I found myself looking for something else to shoot and found it (sort of) on the underside of the viaduct.

The viaduct is old and not in the best of repair, though I assume it is structurally "safe."  Here are a couple of shots of the underside.

I've always been fascinated by examples of structural engineering, understanding that someone had to make decisions regarding the details, such as how many and what size bolts to use to fasten the steel plating.  I liked these two shots, in the first case for the diagonal and in the second for the arrangement of the lines.

But what most caught my attention was a netting that had been secured on the viaduct's underside, presumably for the purpose of catching any larger pieces that might otherwise work loose and fall on anyone or any vehicles passing under the viaduct at the time.  Hmm . . .  Here are a few shots of the netting that I thought served as recognizable abstracts.

Initially I wasn't sure how I wanted to capture these shots.  I knew I wanted to focus on the netting closest to the lens and to allow whatever was behind to blur out a bit.  Otherwise, the closest netting, if out of focus, would, I felt, be something of a distraction.  This proved a bit of a challenge for my camera, as it had so many lines to choose from for a focal point that it kept switching from one object to another.  I wound up using apertures of f/7.1 or f/8 to retain a fair amount of detail in the background.


Saturday, August 23, 2014


Years ago one of the Wisconsin Native American Tribes, the Potawatomi, built an elaborate bingo hall in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley, which had been a wasteland of abandoned factories, rail yards, and manufacturing refuse dumps, virtually in the geographical center of the city.  Because it involved gambling and because it was located in an urban area, the bingo hall was nearly guaranteed to be a success.  It has been more than a success, as it has morphed into Potawatomi Bingo & Casino, then just Potawatomi Casino, and now Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, including restaurants and entertainment venues as well as lodging and, of course, the real economic engine--gambling, or as they call it, "gaming."

Over the past year or so, I have been watching the hotel tower rise above some of the still desolate portions of the Menomonee Valley.  I thought it might be an interesting photographic study, that is, until the structural details began to be filled in.  Even so, I decided that I would take a look once the hotel opened, which it did in mid-August.  Here are a couple of shots of the exterior, that I chose to render in black & white.

The style is boxy and, to my eye, reminiscent of the Seventies.  I'm not sure what the jutting windows are about, but they don't make up for the rest of the style.

I thought perhaps the interior might be more interesting.  Not true.  Here are a few shots of the lobby interior.

Note the really unattractive furnishings.  The ceilings, at least, are a little more interesting.

Still, I'm not sure what all of the irregularly shaped fake windows are supposed to do.

The only components that I liked were some overhead light fixtures leading from the hotel lobby to the floor of the casino.  Here's a shot from directly underneath.

Maybe the rooms are nice.


Saturday, August 9, 2014


Strawberry Reservoir is a recreational area on the backside of the Wasatch range, 70 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.  The recreational area includes a large body of water that, it turns out, is loaded with crawfish.  So, at Bei's suggestion, we went crawfishing on Sunday afternoon, August 3rd.  There were six of us on the excursion, Geri and me, Jeff and Bei, Bei's dad, Lin, and of course, Stanley.

Just in case you aren 't familiar with crawfish, here is an individual I photographed just prior to his/her demise.  They average perhaps four to six inches long when stretched out.

Bei is an experienced crawfisher, and soon after we arrived at the reservoir she had started to lay lines into the water.  Pretty simple, really, just tie a chicken drumstick to a line of twine, toss it out perhaps 20 feet off shore, and wait a few minutes. Generally, she could count on anywhere from one to four crawfish hanging on to the drumstick.  Here she is setting lines, as well as a trap, with the help of her dad.

Admittedly, I don't have a great interest in crawfish or in crawfishing, so I spent my time looking for photo opportunities.  I found a few.

The area's geography is fairly stark, featuring rolling, mostly treeless terrain.  Here is a shot of the overall scene.

I spent some of my time looking for detail shots.  Following are a few of those.

I actually like this photo of the backside of a thistle flower, a predominant flora of the area, shot against the cloudy background.  It was a fairly bright afternoon (at least early on), despite the cloud cover, and this was shot at f/13.  I did this to keep the clouds in fairly good focus--or at least recognizable.  The resolution on the flower is actually quite good.  I intentionally set the flower in the lower right of the image because I wanted to feature the clouds as negative space.

I also spotted some spent spiny, grasslike plants and got the following.

Here I wanted to ensure a relatively strong depth of field and set the aperture at f/14.  To ensure a reasonable shutter speed of 1/80 second, I increased the ISO to 250.  I liked the effect this produced, including the green strands of vegetation woven in with the subject plants.

Following is another shot that I rendered in black & white.  This was shot at f/8, which kept only one of the plants in good focus (the one in the lower left of the shot above, by the way).

In most places the shore was lined with stones, though I'm not sure if they are "native" or if they were placed there.  In any event, I wanted to attempt a shot that would incorporate both the stones and the water.  This is what I got.

The focus here was on the larger, algae-coated stone on the left, and the resolution for that stone was quite good.  I took this at f/9, and the stones in the near foreground are out of focus, but I'm OK with that.

As the afternoon wore on, the clouds and threat of rain became the story.  Here are a few of the cloud shots that I got.

In this first shot I wanted to include a foreground component, but I don't think this quite worked.  For some reason, though I kept the shot.

I found the bare hills set against the dark clouds to be appealing.  Most of these were shot at f/8 with plenty of light to keep shutter speeds at a comfortable level.

I liked this next shot because of the power boat scooting across the water.

But my favorite shot was one that Jeff had suggested.  It features Geri apparently rehearsing for an Xterra ad.

I really liked the dramatic nature of the clouds.  In fact I found myself moving over to the left some to position Geri more directly under the most threatening aspect of the clouds.

And Bei did indeed catch the crawfish.  My estimate is that in 2-1/2 hours she bagged around 300.   Yup, 300.