Wednesday, September 30, 2015


The Galleria dell'Accademia hosts Michelangelo's David, one of the great works of art of the western world.  I had high hopes for viewing and photographing this masterpiece, and I was not disappointed.  It was one of the highlights of the trip.

The museum does hold other art.  I captured this ceiling along the way, something I have a penchant for.

I also took the following shot of an oil painting poignantly depicting the body of Christ being lowered from the cross.

As is often the case, unfortunately, I failed to record either the artist or the name of the painting.

And here is a bust of Michelangelo done in middle age that I rendered in black & white.

Perhaps not classically handsome but powerful.

David is situated in a vestibule at the end of a corridor.  The presentation and lighting of the statue are superb, adding to the work's impact.  Here is a view of the work down the corridor.

Our guide first directed us to the figure's left, the direction in which David is looking.

Following are a couple of shots that I took from the figure's front and right side that I rendered as black & whites.  I thought the black & whites helped to emphasize the lines that the artist created.

For the record, I took these shots with the aperture at a wide-open f/4 to maximize speed and to reduce depth of field to help create separation between the figure and the background.  ISOs were in the range of 640 to 1000, excellent for museum lighting.

I did get a closeup of the figure's head and left hand looking up from below.

And another closeup of his right hand.  Note the rendering of the veins in the figure's hand and forearm.

Michelangelo began work on David in 1501 and completed the sculpture in 1504, when he was 29 years old.

On our way out of the Accademia, I spied the following sculpture located in an exterior courtyard.

Of course, it's another David!



Note: My wife and I just returned from a trip to Italy, and I plan to put on this blog a series of posts of photographs of our trip.  Our trip took us first to Florence and then to a series of beautiful towns and cities in both Tuscany and Umbria before concluding in Rome.  My plan is to organize the posts by city in roughly chronological order.  These posts are not intended as a documentation of our trip but as a personal reflection of what I happened to catch with my camera along the way. 

Anyone who visits Florence will be familiar with the Duomo.  It dominates the skyline, and in fact by city ordinance all the construction must be lower than the great cathedral's elegant but massive dome.  Here's a shot I took from a park overlooking the city.

Not a great shot, as the sky was hazy, but you get the idea.  The tall structure to the left of the Duomo is the campanile, the bell tower.

Construction on the Duomo began in 1296, but the dome was not begun until 1418 because no one could figure out how to build such a massive structure, and it was not finished until 1461.  The dome was conceived by the great architect/engineer Brunelleschi.  The facade for the cathedral was redone in the 19th century and reflects what we see today.  Here are a few shots of that facade.

The cathedral poses challenges for photographers.  For the most part it is surrounded by other buildings, so efforts to get a clear shot of the overall structure, including the dome, are nearly impossible, except for shots from an elevated position, such as the one at the top of this post.  My thought (fantasy, really) was to climb the campanile to get some lateral shots of the dome.  Here is a shot of the campanile looking up.

Yup.  There are "only" 414 steps to the top of the campanile, and my wife and I didn't get that far.  Here is the one shot I did get from the campanile through one of the slot windows on the way up.

I like this shot but, frankly, it is not of the central dome but of one of the smaller auxiliary domes.  Still, the stone walls serve to frame the dome nicely, I think.

I thought the following was the best of the exterior shots that I did get.

The shot nicely frames the Brunelleschi dome between the front facade of the cathedral on the left and the campanile on the right and provides a nice sense of depth.

In the end I had to content myself with photos of details, including these of statuary on the exterior.

the interior of the Duomo appears strangely barren and to some extent uninviting.  Perhaps it was the structure's enormous size coupled with the fact that much of the art originally held in the interior has been moved to the cathedral's museum.  I did take one shot of the central dome's interior.

Sort of an odd shot, resulting from the fact that I was not able to position myself directly under the center of the dome.  It should be noted too that the murals on the dome's interior, done more recently than the dome itself, while lovely, are a long way off.


Monday, September 7, 2015


My wife and I have been good friends with three other couples for over 30 years.  We all watched as our and our friends' children grew up to become adults who are now the age that we, the parents, were when we first became friends.  Two of the couples own second homes in Spring Green, a small town in the beautiful Driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin that, among other attributes, is home to a world class repertory theater.  For each of the past several summers the four couples have spend a weekend together in Spring Green to enjoy its natural beauty, the theater, and each other's friendship.  I thought I would post here a few of the photos I took during this past weekend's get-together.

This year we stayed with our friends, the Deans, at their home just off one of the greens of a golf course that their property borders.  Here is a shot looking out the back of their home of some deer browsing on and just off the green.

The Deans have a beautifully manicured yard that includes a profusion of perennials.

These shots share something of a misty look, one intended and one unintended.  When I took the shot of the spent flower, the morning was very humid, and I realized after the shot that my lens was fogging up from the humidity.  I didn't think the effect was too bad when combined with the shallow depth of field I was using, so I kept it.  In the second shot the reason for the misty look was post processing.  The shot was a bit soft to begin with, in part because of the shallow depth of field (f/5.6), and I thought I would just add to that quality by reducing what's referred to as "clarity" in my Lightroom software.  OK, I thought.

The following shot is not exactly "floral" but I liked it anyway for its composition.

Again, this was taken at a wide open f/4 aperture, using the closer plants as subject and keeping the background plants blurred but just sufficiently identifiable to create an overall effect.

We spent our final evening at a private recreational park on the nearby Wisconsin River, and I took a few shots of the river in the fading evening light.

The scene on the river was beautiful, but I have learned that landscape (in this case "riverscape") shots can usually benefit from a foreground element or at least a point of interest, and I tried to do that with these.  I could have used more of a telephoto lens, as I found myself substantially cropping these shots.   Just OK, I thought.

After sunset, we were treated to what felt like a private fireworks show.  The park had advertised the show and put it on even though my estimate of attendees was 40-50.  We literally had front row seats.  I have not attempted to photograph fireworks before, and really didn't know what I was doing.  Even so, I wound up getting a few OK shots.  Eventually, not sure what to do, I kept the camera on aperture priority, set the aperture at f/9, and ramped up the ISO to 3200.  I tried to time triggering the shutter for just when one or more flares were launched.  That allowed the fireworks to provide most of the illumination and, as it turned out, resulted in exposures ranging from 1/10 to 1/20 second for these handheld shots.  Here were the photos that I thought worked OK.

The two individuals who engineered the show can be seen in the lower center of each image.  A bit amateurish but it really helped that we had such a unobstructed view of the show.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015


A few evenings ago it was foggy and rainy, and I headed for some woods a few miles from my home, hoping to catch some interesting fog shots.  These woods are on private property, and I felt a little uncomfortable walking up a winding driveway with my camera and tripod, just hoping that the owner didn't come along.

Well, things were a bit disappointing because, as it turned out, the rain was worse than the fog and I just wasn't going to get the sort of photos I was hoping for.  I did, though, take a few shots of the broader scene in the dying light.  When I got home I decided that the photos as originally shot didn't have much to offer.  However, when I tried converting them to black & whites, they became a little more interesting.

The scene was actually much darker than these images would indicate.  Not only did I convert the shots to black & whites, I wound up increasing their exposure by two f-stops in post processing.  Basically, the only other adjustment I made was to reduce the contrast.  The overall result is unusual in that anything in the images that was originally green, including the ground cover, appears very light in the B&W.  This is not my usual experience with B&W, so I'm speculating that the unusual quality of these grayscale conversions was a function of the ambient evening light.

For the record, both of these were shot at an aperture of f/9 and an ISO of 250 for an exposure of 10 seconds.  I think the second shot has a better composition and tells more of a story.