Thursday, January 1, 2015

FAVORITE PHOTOS: 2014

As I have done in prior years, I am including here a collection of my favorite photos from 2014.  This time I am simply going to show them in chronological order, beginning with a couple of pics I took in February while visiting our friends the Deans at their place in Captiva, Florida.

The first is of a colorful picket fence in "downtown" Captiva, really just a little crossroads on this largely linear island in southwest Florida.


I had tried to capture this fence by positioning the camera perpendicular to the fence, but those shots lost the depth gained by shooting the fence at an oblique angle.  Additionally, I liked the paint-spattered planking in the lower right corner.

I took the next shot while on a day cruise in Pine Island Sound north of Captiva.  Most of what I got on this cruise was pretty indifferent, but I did like a series of fish houses located in the sound.


I liked the negative space that this photo includes, creating a simplicity that helped to focus attention on the fish houses.  Conversion to black & white served to emphasize the houses' lines.

We spent four weeks in Austin, Texas in the spring.  I thought this nightclub sign spoke to Austin's active nightlife that we barely partook of.


I don't do much night photography, but it's surprising how well many of them turn out.  Maybe that's a lesson.

While in Texas we took a day trip to San Antonio, a visit that included tours of a number of the city's restored missions, including Mission Concepcion, where I took this shot.


If nothing else, the Texas state capitol is big, and I wound up going there at least three times to take photos.  I liked the following shot because of how I was able to convert the symmetry of the building's dome into asymmetrical arcs.


One of my visits to the capitol building was in the early evening, and I was able to catch one of the many live oaks in the extensive grounds around the capitol building just before I lost available light.


In this case I decided to crop the shot to within the field of the tree's gnarled limbs.

Later in the spring on one of our trips to see Geri's dad in the Twin Cities, I brought my camera on a visit to the Minnesota State Capitol and got this shot of archways on the building's ground level.


This was a particularly lucky shot as I did not have a tripod and took this handheld with a shutter speed of only 1/6 second.

And then there was the following shot of one of the many tanks located in the large petroleum depot on Milwaukee's far northwest corner.  I was lucky again to get this shot . . . before I got kicked off the premises by one of the depot's security guards.


I thought that the conversion of this shot to black & white and a ramping up of the contrast helped to create a mood that simply didn't exist with the color version of the image.

In May I learned of the St. Joseph Chapel situated in the complex of buildings housing the headquarters for the School Sisters of St. Francis order of nuns.  The chapel was beautiful and the sisters let me have it to myself for over an hour.  I was happy with a number of shots from that session.  Here is the one I chose for this post that featured the skylight of the ceiling of the chapel's apse.


In June we took a land tour and cruise in Alaska.  Here are a couple of highlights from the trip.  The first is one of many humpback whale breechings that I was fortunate to capture on our whale watching excursion in Juneau.


The second is a shot I took during our cruise through the Inner Passage.


I was just so impressed with how remote this land was, even though any number of cruise ships were plying the waters, my guess is that there was simply no one on any of these islands.

In reviewing my photography for this past year, I was surprised to see that I had little in the way of nature macro photography, and this shot of a poppy taken at the Mitchell Domes doesn't really qualify as macro, as I took it at distance with a telephoto, but I did like the composition.


Over Labor Day weekend we spent time with friends in the Spring Green area, where two of the couples have second homes.  We were fortunate (from a photographic point of view) to have fog one of the mornings, and I got this shot of a bucolic scene.


I thought the struggle between the fog and the morning sun helped to make this shot.  The lifting fog created an interesting negative space. 

Each September, Milwaukee puts on a "Doors Open" weekend when anyone interested (and especially photographers) are invited to tour various venues around the city that might not be accessible to the general public.  I took the following shot at the Old St. Mary's Catholic Church just west of the downtown area.  


I liked the juxtaposition of the two semicircular stained glass pieces, one over the exterior entrance to the foyer and the second over the entrance from the foyer into the nave.  Frankly, I thought the stained glass was undistinguished, particularly as to color, but I thought it made a much more powerful statement as a black & white abstract.  

In October we took a great trip to Portugal and Spain, and below are a number of the photos that I took on the trip.  The first is of the ceiling in the cathedral in Lisbon.  


Although the ceiling structure was the primary subject matter of the photo, I also liked that I was able to include the supporting pillar.

We spent two nights in Evora, Portugal, where we toured the city's cathedral.  Although it wasn't the largest religious venue that we visited, I thought in some ways it was the most beautiful.  Here is a shot of the ceiling about the cathedral's apse.


I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to shoot the charming narrow streets in the old sections of the Portuguese and Spanish towns that we visited.  Along the way I realized that I needed to shoot these scenes in landscape orientation rather than portrait.  It also helped when I could include human figures in the shot, to provide perspective and context.  Those two factors worked in the shot below that I took in Carmona, Spain.


Of the major Spanish architectural masterpieces that featured a significant Arab influence, my favorite was the Mezquita in Cordoba.  Originally built in the late 10th century by the Arabs, it featured a stunning muslim shrine, known as a mihrab.  At first, I had the hope that I could get a "clean" shot of this shrine but in the end realized that the crowds in front of it actually added to the shot's compositional strength.


When the Christians retook southern Spain in the 15th century, forcing out the Arabs, they tore out the mosque located in the Mezquita and replaced it with a cathedral.  Yikes.  But actually it makes for an interesting lesson in the cultural history of the area.  And the cathedral is beautiful in its own right.  Following is a shot I took of one of the cathedral's ceilings.


A lot of my attempts at ceiling shots were less than great, but this one worked out in terms of how well I was able to center the camera on the floor underneath the center of the ceiling.  This was shot at f/5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/6 second.

On our trip we stayed two nights in Ronda, Spain, a beautiful mountain town situated about 40 miles from the Mediterranean coast.  The two photos I have included from that leg of the trip could be considered a matter of spotting what was available.  The first is of the hinge of a massive door that I spied on one of our walks around the town.


For whatever reason, I decided to crop this shot to within the iron hinge itself, rather than including a portion of the door as a border.  I think it worked, though.  The second photo is of a scene across a valley of a line of umbrella pines that were silhouetted against a more distant set of hills.


I suppose this shot could be from anywhere, but I did like the composition.  

During our time in Madrid we toured the Palacio Real (royal palace).  Its extreme opulence was difficult to capture, but I was happy with this shot taken from behind a sculpture in one of the main halls.


I thought the silhouetted figure added to the story of the scene.

I also took the following shot through windows overlooking one of the palace's courtyards.  I was drawn to the shot by the distortions that the old glass was creating in the facade across the courtyard and ended up liking this shot quite a bit.


On our final day in Madrid we took a walk through the city's largest park.  I was fascinated by the line of two-sided benches located in the center of one of the park's walks and took the following photo.


After our return I spent a very pleasant afternoon visiting the Minneapolis Institutes of Art on another of our trips to the Twin Cities to see Geri's dad.  Toward the end of our visit I spied an individual working on his smart phone in one of the museum's elevator foyers.


I liked that this shot somehow came out looking more like an oil painting than the candid photograph that it is.

In December I visited an old "friend," the abandoned Solvay coke plant, located in Milwaukee's Walker's Point, and took this shot of a clerestory window that had definitely seen better days, but whose decrepitude and graffiti had created an interesting abstract.


And finally, I would be remiss as a grandfather if I didn't include a photo of my grandson, Stanley, taken during our Christmas visit in Salt Lake City.


John

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