Saturday, September 24, 2016


Wandering around Milwaukee during the Doors Open event earlier this month, I took a few random shots mostly unrelated to the venues that I visited, and I thought I would post them here.

I took the first three shots along the Riverwalk, which borders both banks of the Milwaukee River in the downtown area.  The first I converted to black and white to emphasize the abstract pattern the shadows from an iron railing were making in the bright sunlight.

The next was of a coiled rope on a dock along the river.  Someone had taken the pains to wind the rope into a tight spiral.  I wanted to put the rope off-center and focus on the planking, and I thought it worked to convert the image to a black and white to create a semi-abstract.

I left the following as a color photo, even though the image didn't include much in the way of color.  But I wanted to retain the yellow stripe as a point of interest.

The following was actually taken at one of the Doors Open venues, which was a disappointment, as the only portion of the building that was open was the marble-clad foyer.

I took the following shot of a light fixture at the Mackie Building.  I liked it as a black and white abstract.  The one aspect I didn't like was a dark area in the lower portion of the main light globe.

I liked the alley doorway in the following shot enough to keep it.

Wandering another alley downtown, I noticed that I was looking at the Federal Courthouse two blocks to the south and decided to compose the following shot.

I have realized through trial and (a lot of) error that when taking such urban landscape shots it is generally important to include the pavement to "ground" the shot.

In walking from one venue to another, I discovered one of the newer nightclubs in the downtown area called Plum Lounge.  The place was closed, but what caught my eye was a row of plum-colored high-backed chairs.  I took the following shot, which I underexposed to isolate the chairs' color.

My favorite shot of this series was one that featured an interplay between black, steel-wire tables and chairs of an outdoor cafe and the shadows they were casting on the pavement.

In post processing I actually softened this shot a little to create more of an abstract quality.



Calvary Presbyterian Church is an enigma.  The church is something of a Milwaukee landmark.  It is located on Wisconsin Avenue west of downtown and just to the east of the north-south freeway.  It's red painted brick exterior and extremely tall and narrow spire set it apart from other religious venues. Here are a couple of shots of the exterior.

The interior of the church is surprisingly bare.  Here is a shot looking toward the rear of the church.

The colored glass windows above the balcony are lovely, even though they are "fake."

I found the prominent dark-stained support timbers informal and somewhat off-putting.  But the most prominent feature of the interior was the cloth drapery in the sanctuary area, as shown in the following shot taken from the balcony.

I asked one of the church representatives what the function of the drapery was.  I assumed it might have an acoustic function.  No, he said, it simply serves to reduce the apparent size of the church.  The congregants, he said, don't feel as overwhelmed.  I asked him what the size of the church's congregation was.  He said it was about 50!  But, he said, it is growing.



One of the venues I visited during the 2016 Doors Open Milwaukee event was St. James Episcopal Church, located on Wisconsin Avenue between downtown and the Marquette University campus.  The interior of the church is undistinguished. (or maybe I'm just getting jaded).  Here is the one wide-angled shot of the interior, looking toward the rear, that I kept.

But the stained glass windows are much more impressive, including a pair commissioned to Tiffany.



Each of the times that I have explored the various of the venues during Milwaukee's annual Doors Open event, I have included the Mackie Building, in downtown Milwaukee.  The building was constructed in 1879 and originally housed the city's chamber of commerce and its grain exchange, which for a time was the largest in the country.  The chamber of commerce moved long ago and the grain exchange was discontinued in 1935.  Fortunately, much of the grain exchange room's decor has been preserved or restored.

The building's stone exterior is very ornate but is undergoing renovation and was draped in scaffolding at the time of my visit.  The grain exchange room was also undergoing some restoration, but was otherwise available for photography.  it remains a gorgeous space.  The room is three stories high and includes a second floor balcony on the south wall.  I took the following shot from the center of the balcony.

A few comments regarding this shot.  First, it was a sunny day, and there was great contrast between the light pouring through the windows and the relative darkness of the interior, so I had to work in post processing to rescue this shot.  I do think the shot gives a good sense of the space that the room presents.  The room serves as a banquet hall for private parties, and it is obvious that it was set up for a party later that day.  I just wish the tablecloths had been a color more compatible with the earth tones of the overall decor.  Note that while the major arches are symmetrical the windows and pillars on the opposite wall are not.  I chose to center on the middle arch and let the windows go.  My guess is that the asymmetry in the windows relates to the fact that this room occupies only one side of the building.  I assume that the front facade of the building offers an overall symmetry from the outside.

The space includes a number of stained glass windows that have been nicely restored and maintained.

Note the grain motif.

That same grain motif is carried through in a series of murals and handprinted frescos.  This includes the undersides of the ceiling arches, as in the following vertical shots.

Here, finally is another fresco on one of the walls in the balcony area.

I consider this to be one of Milwaukee's hidden gems.  It is unfortunate that the space is only available for private parties and not the general public.


Friday, September 23, 2016


I have found that a number of Catholic churches remain open to visitors during periods other than formal services, and I have taken advantage of that to photograph those churches' interiors.  I had tried a number of times previously to visit the St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church to photograph its interior but had always found it locked.  So I was pleased to learn that the church was one of the venues open to the public during the recent Doors Open Milwaukee event.  So I made sure it was one of my stops.

Built in 1872 by Polish immigrants, the church, with its twin clock towers, is a familiar Milwaukee landmark located just to the west of the north-south freeway on the south side of the city.

I really could have used a wider angle lens for this shot, as I was limited by the fence bordering the freeway to the east.

The church has undergone a number of renovations, most recently in 2016.  And it shows, particularly on the interior.  Here, first, is a traditional shot toward the church sanctuary from the rear of the nave.  

I have found that these shots work best when taken from a low angle.  

The paneled ceiling is, I think, particularly attractive.

Here is a detail shot of one of the ceiling panels.

The sanctuary is also well done.  I liked the fact that the altar piece is set against a relatively uncluttered background.

On the other hand, the elaborate crucifix above the sanctuary, shown in the following shot, is set against the ceiling of the apse, creating some complexity that is difficult to sort out, particularly in 2D.  Still, very nice.

Here is a closeup of the crucifix.

And another of a mural at the base of the apse ceiling.

The nave included a number of lovely stained glass windows.

This shot was a difficult one, by the way.  The light coming through the windows was very bright relative to the otherwise dimly lit interior.  Still, I thought this photo came through quite well.  Even so, I might have had an easier time had I featured the windows on the north side of the nave rather than this shot of the south side.

The window designs were surprisingly abstract, reflecting, perhaps, the fact that they are true stained glass (as opposed to painted glass), consisting of individual pieces of colored glass pieced together with leading.  Here are a couple of detail shots of one of the windows.

The church appears smaller on the inside than what the exterior seems to promise.  Even so, it was a delight to visit and to photograph.


Thursday, September 22, 2016


One of the new venues for this Open Door Milwaukee event was Black Cat Alley.  This actual alley is located behind the Oriental Theatre on Farwell Avenue and includes a growing collection of public art.  There was a nice diversity of styles.  Here are some examples.

It appears that new pieces are being added on an ongoing basis, including at the time of my visit.

I thought following mural of a young black man dressed in red standing against a red background worked well.

The mural is quite large, standing perhaps 15 feet high.  Here is a closeup of the man's feet.

I especially liked the following, more complex piece.

Anyone finding themselves in the neighborhood of the Oriental Theatre should pay the alley a visit.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016


St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church was one of the venues for the 2016 Doors Open Milwaukee event.  The church is located just northwest of the downtown area and just east of the the main north-south freeway, I-43.  As with many of Milwaukee's older religious structures, this church's location is somewhat unfortunate, as many of its traditional membership have moved to the suburbs.  But the church, first opened in 1890, is very impressive, both inside and out.  Here is a shot of the exterior.

The spire on the right is 197 feet high.

I was the only visitor when I first came and went back to my car to retrieve my tripod to compensate for the much lower interior light.  Here is a shot from the rear of the nave.

I was struck by how lovely the interior is, particularly the pastel tones and the lighting on the archwork, which added a lightness that many church interiors lack.

The altarpiece looks delicate and, like most such pieces, seems busy to my taste.

But what I did like was the blue pastel of the ceiling above the apse.

Here is a shot of the rear of the church, including a major pipe organ.

The docents welcomed me to take photos from the balcony.

The church also features some lovely stained glass.