Thursday, December 31, 2015


As usual, I am finishing the year with a post of some of my favorite photos from 2015.

Early in the year we had a day of unseasonably warm weather that coincided with a free admission day at the zoo, my only visit to the zoo during the year.  My favorites from that visit were the baboons, who seemed to be in the mood to look directly at my camera.  Here is one of those shots.

I paid a number of visits to one of my favorite architectural venues, the Basilica of St. Josaphat.  But, to be honest, most of my efforts were a revisit of prior shots.  But I was happy with the following shot from beneath one of the basilica's prominent crucifixes.

Fairly early in the year I splurged on a new camera, a full-frame sensor Nikon and wanted to revisit some of my favorites sites, knowing that I could now command wider angle shots, including this one from directly beneath the dome of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

During that visit I was also fortunate to capture a group of Hutterite girls posing for a photograph.  Their arms and similar headwear made the shot, I think.

Another familiar venue is a century-old office building in downtown Milwaukee that has been converted to a boutique hotel.  This is a shot of the central staircase in the building's atrium that I liked for the depth that the supporting pillar provided.

Another architectural venue that I visited a number of times was the Milwaukee Art Museum, particularly the Calatrava addition.  Here is a shot that I took at dusk on a summer evening.  This was one of those shots that was very time-dependent.  It needed to be late enough but not before they turn out the lights.  It also helped that it was a clear night.  This was a 4 second exposure (with tripod, of course).

Another venue I revisited was the St. Joseph Chapel on the School Sisters of St. Francis campus.  I had shot this chapel in 2014 and was anxious to return with my new camera with its ability to take wider angled shots.  It didn't disappoint, as indicated by these two photos, one of the apse ceiling and the other of the transept at the rear of the nave.

In July I tried a little night photography, including a shot of a stand-alone building and the general scene on the Milwaukee River.

These were longer exposures (15 and 13 seconds, respectively), and that really helped "calm" the water in the river in the second shot, smoothing out the reflections in the river.

In years past I have done more macro than I did in 2015.  I think part of the issue is that I have gotten more demanding in what I take and keep.  Here are a few of the keepers.

This last was of the backside of a backlit sunflower.

I also did a little landscape photography and plan to do more, as weather permits.  The first was in the spring when I caught a set of trees in full bloom.  There was some fog and I softened the shot a bit in post processing to enhance the effect.

And I wound up taking (and keeping) two different shots of the same bench and tree in Virmond Park, located on the bluff above Lake Michigan.  One featured  couple on the bench and I converted the image to a black & white to focus attention on the couple.

I took the other on a very cold predawn morning.  I kept this as a color shot to employ the dawn sky as an important element of the shot.

In the spring we visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and I took this shot of a powerful sculpture outside the main entrance to the museum.

In September we spent nearly two weeks in Italy.  Here are a few highlights from that trip.  First, the iconic duomo in Florence.  The duomo is a difficult photographic subject because it is surrounded by urban Florence and there are no clear long range shots.

We also visited the Santa Croce church and I caught this shot of an exterior colonnade that was being bathed in direct sunlight, creating a great series of shadows.

I really liked the composition in this entryway in Assisi, even though the shot's focus was a bit "soft."

I felt lucky to get the following landscape shot in the Umbrian countryside that featured some iconic cypress trees.  I thought the vertical cypresses complemented nicely the horizontal farm fields and vineyards.

On our visit to St. Peter's Basilica I wasn't sure how to try to capture the statuary atop the colonnades surrounding the great courtyard before the basilica and finally settled on a silhouetted black & white treatment.

In November we visited our daughter in Washington, D.C., and I took the following shot of a spiral staircase in the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Finally, is a shot of a steel silo on an abandoned farm a few miles from our home.  This is the sort of shot that I find myself looking for--what I refer to as a quasi-abstract.

Now it's on to the new year.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015


You can say what you want about the LDS church, but they know how to put on a great Christmas light show.  We were out in Utah again this Christmas to visit our son Jeff and family and spent part of Christmas Eve at the Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City to take in the light show.  I don't know  the number of lights used to decorate the square; my best guess would be in the hundreds of thousands.  It had snowed earlier in the week, but the weather on Christmas Eve was fairly mild (low 30s) and calm, nearly idea for walking around the grounds, along with thousands of other visitors.

Here, first are a few photos of the lights on the trees around the Temple itself.

I find it difficult to capture the lights in isolation from the larger context.  In the first two shots I wanted to pose the lit trees against the Temple, which was itself awash in light.  In this last shot I was intent on posing the lights against the trunk and limbs of the tree.  The tree lacked symmetry and the street lamp just to the right of the tree detracts a bit from the effect.  Still OK, I thought.

Soon after we arrived we came across this choir singing carols.  A nice touch.

One of the more interesting buildings on the 35-acre temple grounds is the Assembly Hall, which was also nicely lit.

The Mormon Tabernacle is an unusual, elliptical building, which, by reason of its shape, has amazing acoustic properties.  The interior is even more unusual than the exterior, as the shallow-domed ceiling is extremely plain, as seen in this shot of the facility's enormous pipe organ.

Here is a closer shot of the pipe organ, showing the choir loft on either side.

The temple itself has a very dramatic exterior.  (Admission to the Temple is limited to only certain important members of the church, so I have little idea of the appearance of the interior.)  


The temple also features a beautiful reflecting pool, featuring a nativity sculpture.

Bei's parents were with us, and I took this shot of them with lights as a backdrop.

Finally is a nice shot of Jeff and Stanley, enjoying the show.



This Christmas my wife and I visited our son Jeff and his wife Bei, along with our two grandsons, Stanley and Max, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Because the weather was snowy, we spent much of our time indoors, giving me an opportunity to take some photos of the family.

I did try to get a few family portraits.  Generally, they were not successful because it proved difficult for me to get everyone's attention.  Here is one of Jeff, Bei, Stanley, and Max.  In this shot Jeff and Bei are OK, but Stanley is looking to his left and Max is a bit blurry.  (Insufficient depth of field, I think.)

Another shot of everyone, including Geri and me and Bei's parents, Kay and Lin.

The was perhaps the best of some 20 attempts.  The adults are OK, but both Max and Stanley are a bit out of focus.  And the image should have included more in the lower portion.

Bei had me take a few shots of her and Max, and here is one of those.

Much better, I thought, although I should have had better depth of field.  The whole exposure issue is an interesting one, as indoor shots generally involve much less light, creating a tension among shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.  A solution is to include flash, but I am untrained in flash and am concerned that it will cause the images to appear artificial and "flat."

Most of the shots I took were semi-candids.  I didn't ask the individual(s) to pose for the shot and didn't try to stage the shot.  Instead, I took the shot that was available in the location available.  Here are a few of those.  First up, Max, who is 9 months old.

This shot appears a bit overexposed.  However, I think that's because the background, including windows looking out on a snowy scene, is very light.  For "portraiture" it helps, I think, if the subject is looking directly at the camera.  Here is another shot of Max when he was not as happy.

This is not a shot you would frame, but it is a keeper if only for the emotions it conveys.

I liked the following shot of Jeff and Max  Even though neither is looking at the camera, I think the photo says something important about their relationship.

Finally, a shot of Max enjoying his first Christmas experience, featuring a box big enough for him to sit in.  Isn't that what boxes are for?

In some ways Stanley is an easier subject because at 2-1/2 years he is old enough to follow instructions, such as "Look at the camera" . . . if he wants to, that is.

I didn't take the following photo, but it caught Stanley in a listening mood.

I also liked the following shot of Jeff and Stanley on the evening that we visited the light show at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.  Taken at f/4.

The best shots, though were the more candid ones that tell a story.


Monday, December 21, 2015


OK, so this is a little weird.

The other morning while on a walk, I passed a drainage ditch in front of a little strip mall near my home.  Our recent weather had featured substantial rain along with unseasonably warm temperatures. However, for the prior few days it had been colder and the temperature had been fluctuating above and below freezing.  As a result (I think), the water in the drainage ditch had experienced a series of freezes and thaws that had created some unusual patterns in the ice.  After my walk I hurried back to the ditch with my camera and tripod to grab some images.  The ground around the ditch sloped down toward the water, and at times I found myself balanced a bit precariously above the ice/water in the ditch trying to position my tripod and camera to get decent closeups of the ice without camera blur.  Following is what I kept.

In post processing I found myself converting all of the shots to black and whites on the theory that any color (resulting from vegetation and whatever else was beneath the ice) would simply be a distraction.  Later I thought perhaps I would incorporate that color and kept color copies as well, in some cases increasing slightly the color saturation.  I also increased the overall contrast in the shots and softened the texture somewhat.  I will say too that I moved the white balance on the color shots a bit toward the blue end of the spectrum, perhaps as a reminder that this was ice.  I also found myself cropping some of the shots to eliminate larger debris on the ice or to emphasize what I felt were the more interesting abstractions that the ice had created.

Here are the shots, both color and black and white versions.

Admittedly, some of these seem to work better in black and white, others in color.  

All the time I was struggling to get some interesting shots and to keep my balance, I kept thinking about the people in the strip mall who were wondering who that guy was and what he could find interesting to photograph in a frozen drainage ditch.