Friday, May 29, 2015


Based strictly on my personal observation, Milwaukee, at 600,000, the nation's 31st largest city, is blessed with a below average skyline for a city of its size.   The commercial district is quite spread out and does not feature a distinct cluster of office towers common to other cities of its size or larger.  So the thought of capturing clusters of towering skyscrapers was not a promising one.  What occurred to me, however, was the fact that two of the city's newer condominium towers, the University Club Tower and the Kilbourn Tower, were built unnaturally close to one another.  So I wondered if I might get into the space between the two towers and get some shots looking up.  It worked.

This was an evening shot, with the sun coming from behind me as I faced east.  Even though the buildings are only around 30 stories high, the shots look impressive (sort of, anyway) because the buildings are only about 25 feet apart.

Here is similar shot, which I liked better actually.  The evening was partly cloudy, which meant that the intensity of the direct sunlight varied from moment to moment.  And in this shot the intensity was stronger than in the prior shot.

I converted the following shot, favoring a curved section of the University Tower on the right, to a black & white.

And here is a shot taken from the eastern fronts of the buildings looking west.

I thought that "leaning" the buildings to the left made the shot more dynamic, improving the overall composition.

I was feeling on a roll and decided to try my luck with the US Bank Building, a few blocks away, at 43 floors, the tallest in Wisconsin.  Here, first, is a shot of the front of the building, which faces north.

Even though this shot features nearly perfect symmetry, it really isn't doing what I was looking for, which is to provide a sense of height.  The following shots do a much better job, I think, including one that I converted to a black & white.

The question with these shots is whether the tower should point up or "lean over."  Up, I think.

Clouds can have an impact for such shots.  If I do this again, ideally I would look for an evening with dark clouds overhead but with horizontal sunlight streaming from the west.  That's asking a lot, I suppose.


Sunday, May 24, 2015


Despite its conservative reputation, Salt Lake City is a vibrant community with a growing economy, an increased emphasis on technology, and a good deal of new construction.  Following our recent visit there, I thought I would include a post of some general (though certainly not representative) scenes of the city.

First up, a shot of the LDS temple, a dominating feature of the downtown area.

This is an "end view" of the building, which I found more interesting than a broader side view.  I would love to see--and photograph--the temple's interior, but, since admission is generally limited to LDS members in good (and perhaps high) standing, that is not going to happen.  Still the temple has an exterior that is more than normally interesting for a religious venue, despite its lack of representational sculpture (other than the golden sculpture of the angel Maroni at the top of the highest pinnacle).

And here is one of a series of specially trimmed trees on the grounds of the LDS temple area.

What caught my eye was not so much the way the branches had been trimmed but the corresponding pattern of their shadows on the lawn.

As I mentioned, Salt Lake City has experienced a significant amount of new commercial construction.  Here are a couple examples of that.  The first is really more of an abstract, reflecting a neighboring structure.

The second is intended not to feature the building in the background (not the same building that appears in the photo above) but the shoes in the foreground that had been tossed over utility lines.

This was shot at a wide-open aperture of f/4 which blurred the background.  My only disappointment with this shot was that I wish the shoes had been facing into the image rather than out.

Whoops.  I guess the above is not exactly new construction, but I liked it for its decrepitude.  It also includes those same shoes featured in the prior shot.

As a sort of interlude, here is a set of soda crates outside of secondhand shop that caught my eye.

I think these were actually for sale.

Salt Lake City appears to have a vibrant graffiti/public art community.  There are pockets in the downtown area where so-called public artists appear to have been given nearly free rein.  Here are some examples.  These are too stylized and studied to be considered graffiti.

I especially liked these final two photos.  The last particularly came out well, despite the presence of the car in the lower right that I would have preferred not be there.  The building in the background actually looks fake, in part, I think, because it is essentially the color of the sky but is separated from the sky by a bank of white clouds.


Friday, May 22, 2015


During our recent trip to Salt Lake City to see family, I paid another visit to the Utah State Capitol, actually two visits on consecutive days during our visit.  Unlike with my previous visits, this time I brought along my tripod.  Here first is an exterior shot of the building (which didn't require a tripod).

Utah's capitol is not as large or as ornate as some of the other state capitols that I have visited, but it is one of my favorites.  Its large atrium includes a central dome flanked on either side by stone-clad staircases.  I took a couple of shots of the dome from directly underneath, with the camera on the floor pointing straight up.

These shots were trickier than they might appear.  The ring of circles in the images is actually a light fixture that hangs down considerably below the level of the dome.  As a result, if I had simply set the focus on the center of the image, it would have brought the base of the light fixture into focus but might have left the remainder of the ceiling and dome area out of focus.  So I moved the focus point off to the side so that it was focused on the base of the dome.  These were shot at f/16 with a shutter speed of 0.4 second.

Here are a couple of photos that illustrate how far down the light fixture extends.

Following is one more image that features the dome.

I liked this shot as a quasi-abstract.  It reveals that the dome includes a mural that features a partly cloudy sky, including a flock of gulls primarily in the upper right, representing one of the legends relating to the Mormon history of the area.  (Don't strain your eyes.  The gulls are only visible in a blown up version of the image.)

On to the staircases.  Here are three shots of the same staircase that demonstrate how different perspectives can result in very different images.

This first was taken from the second floor at the other end of the atrium.

I took this at the telephoto range of my lens, 120 mm.  As a result, the components of the image are foreshortened, typical of telephoto shots.  Note, too, how the pillars on each side appear essentially vertical (of course they actually are).  Contrast that image with the following.

Here the pillars are "leaning in," and the staircase appears to be retracted.  This was taken on the main floor with the lens set as wide angled as my lens allows, 24 mm.

Finally, below is another wide angled image, again, at 24 mm, but from a spot much closer to the base of the stairs.

Note how the stairs seem to project toward the camera.

Lastly, here is a shot of one of the staircases from the side that features a couple of the pillars.  Just a little Escher-esque, I thought, particularly as a black & white.

I felt that including the pillars in the shot added depth.


Thursday, May 21, 2015


Salt Lake City actually boasts an interesting Roman Catholic cathedral.  Who knew?  During our recent visit to Salt Lake City to visit family, I took the opportunity to shoot the cathedral's interior.  Actually, I took some photos in this venue on our previous visit last December.  However, on this visit I had my tripod, which allowed me to get some shots with less noise.  The exposures of all of the photos in this post ranged from 1.3 to 3.0 seconds.  In addition, I now have a full frame sensor camera, which allowed me to capture wider angled images.

So . . . as usual, my first shots were from the rear of the nave looking toward the sanctuary.  Here's one, taken from a low angle.

While the architecture is fairly typical for religious venues of this vintage--completed in 1909--and style, the same cannot be said for the color scheme.  In a phrase . . . not exactly to my taste.  But at least it is colorful.

One of the cathedral's outstanding elements is its pipe organ, situated, as usual in the balcony at the rear of the nave.  Here, first, is a photo of the organ from in front of the sanctuary, looking toward the rear.

The organ includes an interesting array of trumpet pipes that extend horizontally from the front of the balcony, and I wanted to get a shot toward the ceiling that would include those trumpets.

Visible in above shot is an interesting star-shaped mural above the sanctuary.  As is usually the case, entry into the sanctuary was prohibited, so I was unable to capture the mural using the technique of placing the camera on the floor pointing straight up.  Here is the closest to a vertical shot that I could get of that mural.  Still interesting, I think.

And here is a closeup of the angels at the heart of the mural.

The apse is way too complicated for my taste, but here it is, complete with a star-filled ceiling.

Again, it might have been interesting to get a vertical shot of that ceiling, but that was not an option.

I did take a closer look of the Christ figure at the back of the apse.

Now a few shots to round out the post.  First, a shot of the ceiling.

Pretty mundane, really.

Next a shot of the ceiling of one of the side aisles.

Finally, a photo of the rear of the nave that I took from a low angle.

I did like the triple arches in the rear as well as the reflections off the polished floor.

It remains surprising to me that so many Catholic churches are open to visitors at most hours of the day.  I am just grateful to be able to take advantage of that hospitality.


Monday, May 11, 2015


I have been neglecting any efforts at landscape photography lately, in part because of the weather.  More recently I have given it a little more attention, and here is what I have come up with.

The first was a fence I have shot before.

Really no better (or worse) than my previous effort from a couple of years ago.  This was taken in the late afternoon looking west.  The sun had swung around to the north side of the fence, providing some reflection off the fence boards.  This was taken at f/11 for 1/100 second.  Holy Hill basilica is just visible at the top right of the image.

Last week we drove up to the Twin Cities.  On one of our stops along the way, I spied a line of trees at the crest of a hill and took this shot.

By converting the image to a black & white, I was better able to separate the line of trees from the hill behind on the right.  I like the "negative space" created by the overcast sky.

Later on the drive we took a small hike at another rest area, and I took the following shot at an overlook.

It is evident that the focal point for this shot was the red-leafed tree in the lower right.  Otherwise, the the spring scene is a little diffused.  In post processing I was able to keep some clarity in the foreground while letting the background become a little "impressionistic."  Since there wasn't much going on the background, I thought the tactic worked pretty well.

More recently we have "enjoyed" some dense fog (the landscape photographer's friend).  First of the fog shots was of a cluster of trees in bloom.  Here, again, I used post processing to soften the background a bit.

I then headed for a local park on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, hoping for some denser fog.  On the way I passed a heavily wooded private lot that I have attempted twice to shoot in the past.  Both times the owner came out questioning my camera, in effect chasing me off.  This time no one came out and I was able to get a few good shots.

The virtue of these woods is that they primarily include mature trees and not too much undergrowth "junk."  In this shot I chose to focus on a younger sapling.  Here,  again, I was able to soften most of the trees while keeping the sapling in sharp focus.  I thought this helped to emphasize the presence of the fog.

Below is another, similar shot that I converted to a black & white.

Not the best, perhaps, but you have to take advantage of what is available.

Then it was on to Virmond Park on the bluff above Lake Michigan.  Here is a shot of my favorite tree in the park, a smallish evergreen that sits in an otherwise open field.

OK, but I thought the fog would be more of an element in the shot.

Finally, I noted a bench near the edge of the bluff that had been paired with a fairly large evergreen and took this near-silhouette shot that I converted to a black & white.

Although it was getting dark, I was able to take this shot at f/7.1 for 1/40 second at an ISO of 100.  I chose to place the tree and bench on the left to emphasize the fog as negative space.