Saturday, March 26, 2016


We've been blessed with a mild winter.  That doesn't mean, however, that we can't get a snowstorm in late March.  This past week we had a moderate snow event, as these things are sometimes called.  It started with a gentle fall of silver dollar sized snowflakes (actually a lot of snowflakes hitched together), and I tried to capture that with my camera.

My initial goal was to pose those flakes against an interesting background.  This proved more difficult that one might think.  Here was an early effort, taken looking into a stand of woods in our subdivision.

Whoops.  Obviously, I wasn't able to "freeze" the flakes against the woods.  This was shot at 1/50 second, much too slow, particularly given the strong wind that was driving the snow.

Here is a similar image shot at a faster shutter speed of 1/640 second.

And another, more telephoto shot at 1/400 second.

Its appears that I need to keep the shutter speed above around 1/200 second to effectively freeze the flakes.

Most of our snows are fairly short-term events.  It might snow for a few hours, but then the storm moves on.  This was a much longer event, and we had another round of snow the following afternoon.  This round was more serious in terms of the rate of snowfall, and I pulled my camera out again.

First was a shot looking out our backyard at a spruce.

The snow had already started to coat the tree's branches.  I was able to freeze the falling flakes (now more normal sized) with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second.

Then I returned to the subdivision woods to get the following shot.

I thought this image, taken at 1/320 second, portrayed a more wintry feel than did those I took on the prior day.  The snow acts in a fashion similar to fog in creating more depth and in simplifying the overall scene.

I then drove over to Virmond Park, a nearby county park located on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.  There I took a shot of a bench on the edge of the bluff.

While at the park I also shot a curving wood rail fence.

I thought the overall composition in the second shot was better.  In the first shot the fence is positioned too high, and it just doesn't give the appearance that the scene would have for someone experiencing it at the time.  I thought, too, that the negative space created by the sky in the second shot helped to create the mood of the storm.

To wind things up, I took a shot of the pond in our subdivision that borders the woods.  The scene includes a couple of smaller spruce trees posed against the deciduous woods.

If I had a quibble with this shot, it would be that the reflections of the spruce trees in the pond were cut off.  On the other hand, I liked that the snow created a plain bright white band to separate the pond from the woods.  This image seems to convey a quiet mood, belying the relatively heavy snow that was falling at the time.  Perhaps it is that the pond had refrozen.  This shot also has a somewhat grainy appearance, even though it was shot at a relatively low ISO of 400.  I think most of the graininess stems from the snow in the air.

I converted all of these images to black & whites.  First, given the snow and the late afternoon overcast, the original images had little color to start with.  Second, I felt that converting the shots to black & whites served to draw attention to the snow and also acted to eliminate any distractions that color might have posed.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I think I have now photographed Wisconsin's State Capitol building five or six times.  It's a gorgeous venue, and I headed back there a few weeks ago.  But I think I am approaching the saturation point in terms of what I can achieve with my limited photographic vision.  Here is what I got this time.

First, approaching the building I got this shot of the exterior, capturing at the same time its reflection in one of the office buildings that surround Capitol Square.  Something of a novelty shot, I suppose.

The dome is the building's most significant architectural feature, and it's featured in a number of the shots that I took.  First is the obligatory wide-angled shot centered on the dome.

I also took a number of off-center dome shots, attempting to capture something different and at the same time to zoom in enough to emphasize some of the abundant detail.  The question is how much to include without making the shot overly complex.  For example, here is a relatively complex shot.

Maybe too complex.

Here's another that is much more limited, with the intention of drawing more attention to the details.

My favorite of these shots was the following that features the dome shot at an oblique angle.

The dome features four large mosaic murals.  I captured three of them.  (The fourth was experiencing a large amount of direct sunlight, so I skipped it.)

Here is a closeup of the central portion of this last mural.

The Capitol has a cruciform structure consisting of four wings leading away from the central dome and rotunda.  Here are a couple of shots of the corridors leading, respectively, toward and away from the central dome.

As an interlude of sorts, following are a couple of detail shots, one of a stairway leading to a lamp in an alcove, the other of a small ceiling above a side corridor.

The stairways on the upper floors of the corridors carry their own interest.  Here are a couple of the shots I took of one of those.

The corridors on the upper floors also feature ornate bronze guard rails.

In these cases I wanted to focus on the railings, so I opened up the lens aperture to f/4 to reduce depth of field.

My favorite shots of this series were a couple I took on the upper floor of one of the corridors looking through the stone clad arches toward the corresponding archwork on the other side.

Although the last shot has better symmetry, I liked the asymmetry of the first shot as well.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Walker's Point is a Milwaukee neighborhood south of downtown.  It is an older part of town that until fairly recently was in a state of increasing deterioration.  More recently, however, it has been undergoing a renaissance with a large number of interesting retail shops and restaurants.  On the other hand, many of the buildings date back to the 19th century and reflect their age.  A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday morning I grabbed my camera to take advantage of some unseasonably warm weather and walked the neighborhood for a couple of hours to see what I could shoot.

Walker's Point has more than its share of street art, including a very large mural on the side of a building just off the north-south freeway.  Here is a small piece of that mural.

In contrast, here is a portion of a small mural featuring stylized fish.

What caught my eye was not so much the fish as the written comment, which was added at a later date.  Note the spelling.

Speaking of verbiage, here is part of other public "art" located under a major freeway that features an Eric Clapton lyric.

In this case I wanted to emphasize the general scene, including the underside of the underpass.  

Then there was this dramatic jalapeƱo pepper painted on the side of, yes, a Mexican restaurant, of which there are many in Walker's Point.

There was also graffiti, of course.  I actually liked the following abstract that I converted to a black and white.

Speaking of black and white, here are some other shots that I thought worked better as monochromatic.

I'm still trying to figure out the intended function of these sidewalk grids inserts that are becoming nearly ubiquitous, at least in urban neighborhoods.

For whatever reason, I liked the following very simple shot of a very white, very plain doorway and surround.

To get this image, I had to fool my camera's light meter by overexposing the shot to keep the walls a bright white.

I also played around a bit with shallow depth of field, in a couple of cases focusing on chain link fences and letting the backgrounds go out of focus.  In some sense my intended objects were in the background--the distant building in one case and the chicken "artwork" in the other.

Once the weather warms up again, I think I will find myself returning to the Walker's Point neighborhood.