Thursday, June 23, 2016


I had always had an interest in visiting the Library of Congress, but my interest had primarily been in the facility as the world's greatest repository of knowledge.  So when we visited Washington, D.C. last week and I determined that where we were staying was fairly close to the Library of Congress, I decided to make a special point of visiting it.  What I hadn't realized until our visit was what an architectural gem the building itself is.  

I wound up visiting the Library twice during our stay, bringing my camera both times.  Here is some of what I got during those visits.

First, a couple of shots of the exterior of this Italian Renaissance-style building, formally known as the Thomas Jefferson Building, that was first opened in 1897.

I thought the lone individual sitting on the steps helped to provide perspective in the above shot.  Below is a detail shot of a bust of Franklin that sits above the building's main entrance.

If there is a space in the building that is in the public consciousness, it is the library's Main Reading Room.  Access to that space is strictly controlled and is available only by reservation.  What is available to the general public is a mezzanine area that overlooks the reading room.  On our first visit to the library, the building was very crowded with visitors and there was a long line of people waiting to get to the overlook.  However, on my second visit things were much quieter and for a time I had the overlook basically to myself.  There is a glass partition between the overlook and the reading room, but it was not really an impediment to getting some good photos of the overall space.

Admittedly, it's a big space and I simply couldn't capture all of it, including the beautiful coffered dome, in a single shot.  Here is more of a detail shot of one of the semicircular windows.

As beautiful as the reading room is, the Great Hall, between the main entrance and the reading room, with its ornate pillars and archwork, is even more dramatic.  

And I couldn't resist taking a couple of shots of the ceilings, the first of a side ceiling and the second of the skylight directly above the center of the great hall, that I turned at an angle to incorporate more of the ornate surroundings.

The Library of Congress is a true national treasure, not just for the knowledge the building contains, but also for the architecture of building itself.  A must see.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Last weekend my wife and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to do a little sightseeing and to visit our daughter.  We stayed a few blocks north of the Capitol and, as it turned out, were only a five-minute walk from the city's Union Station.  I had heard that Union Station had some interesting architectural detail, so I took my camera and walked over to the train station a couple of times.  Here are a few of the shots that I got.

The exterior of the complex featured a number of nicely detailed colonnades.

And here is a shot that includes detail of the ceiling of one of the colonnades.

Beyond the main colonnade was what I referred to as the great hall, a large open space covered by a ceiling consisting of a series of arches.  Here are a couple of shots of that feature.

Here is a closer shot of a smaller series of arches in a side hall that I converted into a black & white.

To provide perspective, note the same four statues in both of the last two photos.

Here is one of those statues that I wanted to position against the glass ceiling arch.

Running perpendicular to the arches of the great hall were a series of arch features to accommodate upper level windows.  Here is a shot of one of those that also features a couple of statues.

Between the great hall and the actual boarding platforms is another multi-level space that includes restaurants, retail stores, etc.  

One of my goals for this shot was to capture the pedestrians and their shadows in the light being reflected off the polished floor.

This space also featured an arched ceiling but one that was not nearly as highly curved.  Here is a shot of that space.  The light streaming in from the windows at the end of this space was creating an interesting reflective pattern off the arched ceiling.

And here is a closer shot of the same scene that I took on a different day, that featured stark slanted shadows of the vertical elements between the panes of glass.


Monday, June 13, 2016


Perhaps it's because I don't have the vision or it's because I have a need to control the entire composition.  In any event I find myself gravitating toward "small" scenes that involve abstract elements that are nevertheless recognizable--usually.  On my last few treks to Milwaukee's urban areas with my camera, I found myself doing the same thing.  Here is what I got, roughly in order of increasing abstraction.

The first is a street light set against a downtown office building.  My goal here was to set the street light a little off-center.  I also wanted to make sure that I included two sides of the building, which has a non-rectilinear footprint.  I chose to convert the image to a black & white to emphasize the lines and shapes.

On the other hand, color was important in the next photo of a portion of one of Milwaukee's iconic bridges, the Hoan Bridge, which spans the Milwaukee River as it empties into Lake Michigan.  Here I was most interested in the bridge's shapes and colors, which took on almost a cartoonish quality in the afternoon sun.

The next is not really that abstract.  It is a shot of some older buildings in Walker's Point, south of Milwaukee's downtown.  I'm not sure why I like this shot so much.  In one sense it is a nothing shot.  It really includes parts of four buildings, plus a wall, none of which are particularly interesting.  But somehow the overall composition seems to work.  Plus the afternoon light was really helpful.

Next up is a brand new office building with a glass facade that was reflecting a crane involved with the construction of another nearby office structure.

One of my longterm addictions has been my penchant for decrepitude.  Here another example.  In this case I wanted to contrast the more or less random pattern of paint failure with the strict symmetry of pattern in the construction of this garage door.  Besides, the color was really ugly.

I have photographed the seating in downtown's Peck Pavilion previously.  In this case I decided to provide more context by showing a bit more of the seat legs.  There was little color in this shot, so I just converted it to black & white to eliminate any potential distraction from stray colors.

We've all seen the grids featured in the following shot, which appear at spots in sidewalks where they border a street or driveway.  I had always thought their purpose was to help give traction to those using a wheelchair.  But I have been informed that their primary purpose is to alert blind individuals of a change in level of sidewalk.  On this occasion there was a strong late afternoon sun, which helped, I thought, to intensify color and pattern.

The following is an example of the type of shot that I pursue because I can control all of the elements of the composition.  This shallow stairway led from street level down to Milwaukee's Riverwalk.  

Nearby was a circular steel grate with contrasting elements and I took the following shot.  Again, I converted it to black & white to eliminate any color that may have distracted from the powerful pattern.  I wanted to place the center of the grate off-center in the photo.

The morning I was wandering the Riverwalk featured bright sunlight, and I used that to take advantage of the shadowing that it created, as in the following shots.  Shots that feature shadows are naturals for conversion to black & white.  Not only does that help to emphasize the patterns the shadows create; it allows me to darken the shadows even more in post processing.

One of the ways of creating abstracts is to narrow the depth of field, focusing on nearby objects and letting more distant objects to blur out of focus, as in the following shot.  

I particularly liked this shot, where I focused on some fencing and allowed the yellow parking ramp in the background to go out of focus.

Finally, is a flawed shot of a storm drain grate.  Here I significantly underexposed the grate and then further darkened it in post processing.  The shot is flawed because I was too lazy to use my tripod and there is a bit a motion blurring if one looks close.  Still, it came across as close to a pure abstract.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016


On Memorial Day evening I visited Milwaukee's VA cemetery, which extends south of I-94 west of Miller Park.  There are military cemeteries scattered across the country.  I have always been impressed by the sheer numbers of markers and I wanted to capture some of that with my camera.  I don't really think I did that.  I need training on this sort of thing.  In any event, here is what I got.

And there was also this plaque.