Sunday, February 22, 2015


I have been complaining that architectural photography is particularly challenging, given the limitations of my camera and lenses.  Well, I finally got my new camera, a full-frame sensor Nikon that allows me to capture a wider view than the "crop sensor" Nikon I had.

Armed with my new camera, I visited one of my old friends, the atrium of the downtown branch of the Milwaukee Public Library.  I have shot this venue a number of times previously because of its extraordinary beauty but have always lamented not being able to capture it in wider angle.  My new camera helps to solve that problem.

I thought I would demonstrate the difference by comparing a couple of similar shots.  One of my tactics for shooting ceilings has been to set the camera in the center of the floor pointing up and shoot with a remote release.  Here are a couple of photos of the library dome taken with my prior camera.

I realize there is a significant difference in white balance, but try to ignore that (it can always be altered in post processing anyway).  I think these are great shots, but I have wished that I could capture more of the surrounding walls to provide more context and depth.

So here are roughly equivalent shots with my new "toy."

I think the addition of the support pillars add a dynamic quality that was simply unavailable previously.

One "technical note": When I place the camera on the floor, it is important that it point precisely vertically.  Otherwise, I need to crop out some of the image's edges so that the overall image is centered properly.  I didn't do such a hot job with these photos.  If I could be more accurate in getting the camera vertical and properly centered, the difference would be even more striking.  I'm working on it.

In my mind the library is most notable for two features, its dome and its extensive marble work, including its numerous balustrades.  Here are a number of shots of the balustrades.  In this first I wanted to capture the detail of the balusters on one of the staircases, but I also wanted to include the stairs for context.

I then decided that it might be better to capture a wider view and to show the balustrades leading into a corner of the image.

I thought the lines in this shot might work as well in black & white.

I took several photos of small numbers of individual balusters straight on, but, though the balusters were beautiful, none of those shots really worked out.  I did, though, get a couple of OK shots of larger arrays.

In the above shot I liked how the light was creating different colors.  I also liked trying to capture the zig-zag lines that the balustrades created.  I think I would have done better to have elevated the camera to reveal more of the balustrade in the rear.

Finally, here is a shot of a balustrade that I cropped severely to emphasize the robust lines of the individual balusters.  OK, I thought.

Earlier I said that one of the library's outstanding features was its dome, featured in the photos at the top of this post.  Here are a few more shots that included the dome.  The first is a "traditional" shot taken from one side of the first floor.  It serves to show off the wider views available with my new camera.

The following are less orthodox.  I did like the overall feel of the shot below, even though I mis-positioned the camera just slightly off the corner of the support pillar.  

The following are also unorthodox, in this case taken from the third floor balcony overlooking the atrium.

Novelty abstracts that I did like quite a bit.

Finally, here are a few shots of the third floor hallways.  In the first below my goal was to highlight the varying curves extending from the right side of the image.

I didn't quite catch what I was aiming for, but I still like the idea.

I wanted to highlight the repetition of arches on the third floor and had taken a shot that only featured the arches.  But it didn't really work because it needed the floor as an "anchor."  The following worked better, I thought.

The final shot is of another hallway next to one of the stairways.

I felt particularly good about this shot because I thought centering the photo on the railing extending away from the camera worked really well.  Also positioning the camera just above the railing served to create more depth.

One of the techniques I employed in this series of photos was to set the camera so that when I took a shot the lifting of the camera's mirror was separated in time from the activation of the shutter.  This served to eliminate any vibrations resulting from the lifting of the mirror before the actual shutter release.  It worked particularly well, as the images are all very crisp.  Of course, this only makes sense if you are using a tripod rather than shooting handheld.


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