Wednesday, May 20, 2020

CALLA LILIES

In this time of coronavirus, a couple of weeks ago I acquired a new houseplant, this time some healthy looking calla lilies.  The plant included a number of fairly tightly packed blossoms, and I wasn't sure how to capture them in photographs.  I finally decided that my best bet would be to take photos of isolated blossoms against a suitable background.  I was able to isolate individual blossoms, and then it became a matter of depth of field.

The blossoms have a variegated green and yellow exterior and a primary yellow interior. My first effort was to isolate a single flower against a generic red background (a chair in our library).


I decided to crop the shot as a square, and I ramped up the color saturation.  I like the color combination, and I thought the increased saturation matched my aesthetic sensibility.  The issue was the depth of field.  This was shot at f/8 with my 90 mm macro lens, focused on the flower's top front edge.  Because the macro lens allows me to shoot from very close range--a matter of a few inches--the depth of field is quite shadow. Close inspection reveals that the back edge of the flower, just 2 or 3 inches further away, is quite out of focus.  There is something to be said for that, but I decided to shoot at a much smaller aperture to pull more of the flower into reasonable focus.

This next shot, which is of only a portion of the blossom, was shot at f/36.  This was an 8 second exposure.


The back edge of the flower is in better focus, but still not great.  I like the composition of this shot better than the first, even though (or perhaps because) it only includes a portion of the blossom.  Again, I increased the color saturation.

Here, for the record, is the same shot in black and white.


In this case I darkened the red and lightened the yellow.  I didn't think the black and white was quite as effective as the color version.

A few days later I spent some more time with the lilies, in this case against a textured white background (our bedspread).  First a shot of an entire flower.


This was shot at f/16, which produced fairly good depth of field for the flower.  The background was far enough away that its texture is sufficiently out of focus to eliminate it as a distraction.  But there is a different problem with this composition--the camera is positioned too low relative to the flower so that very little of the flower's yellow interior is visible.  So following is a second shot taken from a higher angle that does a better job of revealing the flower's yellow interior.


I then noticed that two of the plant's blossoms were positioned "back to back" and felt that that composition might provide some interesting near-symmetry.  My first shot was at a very narrow aperture of f/36 to bring both flowers into fairly good focus.  The focus was on the front edge of the flower on the right.


It is evident that the texture of the background is a significant element in the shot.  That's not all bad, but I thought I would take one more shot in which I separated the flowers further from the background to eliminate it as an element.



Here there is very little remaining background texture (except a faint line running diagonally in the upper right.  I like this shot, although it almost looks like the background has been removed artificially.  A matter of artistic preference.

John

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

WOODS IN FOG

The other morning we experienced some dense fog in our neighborhood, and I took advantage of it to get a few photos of the woods in a nearby park situated on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

Fog can be a real friend to landscape photographers because it can provide added depth to their photos.  In some cases fog can also be useful in eliminating background distractions.  In this case I did some post processing to emphasize the fog and the depth that it creates.  I did crop down the shots to improve the shots' compositional balance.  I felt too that the photos worked better as black and whites.  I also softened up the shots' apparent focus to emphasize the fog.  This is most apparent in the shot cropped as a landscape.




 John

Monday, March 2, 2020

MILWAUKEE CENTER/SAINT KATE

One of the more interesting building complexes in downtown Milwaukee is the Milwaukee Center, which includes four theater venues, an office tower, and a hotel, all surrounding a central atrium.  The hotel recently changed hands and was remodeled as one with an arts motif that goes by the name Saint Kate--The Arts Hotel.  I recently visited the complex and hotel with my camera.

I was impressed with the new hotel.  Its common areas included a number of small galleries that feature, shall we say, "different" art displays.

One gallery included displays of items of dated technology devices.  Here are a couple.



The first is an array of laptops, the second a handsaw that is covered with a circuit board.

Another unusual piece was located in a stairway.


Other pieces were slightly more conventional, including this one that is comprised of symmetrically arrayed drawings of butterflies.


One piece that I especially liked was a mobile located in the hotel lobby.  I worked quite a bit in post processing to isolate the mobile visually from its background.


Here is a shot of one portion of the mobile.


But my favorite piece of art was a painting of an individual.  What was interesting was not the subject matter but the artist's technique, sort of a pointillism that featured "blobs" of paint rather than small dots.


In keeping with past practice, I took a number of shots of just a portion of the painting, which highlights the technique and shows that a seeming random collection of blotches of various colors can collectively create a recognizable subject.


It was at about this point that a security guard for the hotel approached to inform me that photography of the artwork in the hotel was forbidden.  Oops.  I thanked him and left the hotel with my camera to photograph the central atrium and related public portions of the building complex.

I did like the composition of one shot of an open staircase from a second level.


But most of the shots I took were of walkways between the various areas of the complex leading to the entrances.  It was a sunny day and I liked the patterns created by the sunlight streaming through the glass-panelled arches above the walkways, including the reflections off the highly polished floors.   Here are some of those shots.  Some I left in color.




Others I converted to black and whites.







My favorite was this last.

John

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

SNOW DAY

For any number of reasons, I have been very neglectful of my Skeptic Photo blog.  But this past Sunday we had what can only be described as a beautiful snowfall, around six inches of heavy, wet snow that clung to trees and whatever else the wind blew it against.  So I got inspired and grabbed my camera to get a few pics in Virmond Park, the county park situated on the bluff above Lake Michigan a few miles from my home.  

Friday, November 1, 2019

HALLOWEEN SNOWSTORM, PRE AND POST

We had a surprise snowstorm on Halloween--six inches of wet, heavy snow.  The fall colors were past peak, particularly after we had had a couple of extremely windy days just prior to the snow.  Still, as I have in past years, I had visited our subdivision's multi-acre deciduous woods with my camera to capture some of the color, both the yet-to-fall . . .





. . . and the fallen.





Then the snows came, and even the local flock of turkeys that roost in the woods seemed surprised, as I watched this one in my backyard scratching the snow in search of breakfast.


In an attempt to capture the early snow and perhaps to tell a visual story, I tried to juxtapose the remaining fall color against the snow that was coating the background trees.



John

Monday, October 28, 2019

SKELETONS AT HOLY HILL

Sunday was a sunny day and warmer than normal for late October, so my wife and I decided to drive out to Holy Hill, formally known as "Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians," a catholic basilica about 30 miles from our home.  The basilica is situated at the top of a hill in Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine area.  The church itself is lovely, and from its exterior one can see miles of wooded land in all directions.  It was a little late for fall color, but still promised beautiful vistas on a crisp fall day.  I brought my camera, hoping for both exterior landscape and interior architectural opportunities.  Apparently, thousands of others had a similar thought, as there were at least 500 cars in the parking lots and it took us a good 10 minutes of driving around waiting for a parking space to open up.  I did get a few interior shots, but nothing that I haven't shot a number of times previously.  It was actually on the way home that an opportunity presented itself in the form of a Halloween display on the road leading to Holy Hill.

When I spotted the display of skeletons I recalled that I had driven by the display in prior years and had even taken a shot or two.  This year, though, I believe the artist responsible had outdone himself.  The theme this year was leisure activities, as the following photos indicate.

To give an idea, this first couple are of a rock band.



But there were other activities as well, including a poker game, a group having a hookah smoke, a pool game, and hanging out at a bar.






And finally (and my favorite) one poor skeleton appears to have had a bit too much to drink.


John

Monday, October 14, 2019

FIRST FROST 2019

This morning's walk revealed our first frost for fall of 2019, at least in our neighborhood, just about right on schedule for this area.  So I grabbed my camera to capture the frost before the morning sun burned it off.  Here are some of the shots I took amid some broader-leafed plants (aka weeds) a few blocks from our home.





This was shortly after dawn, and the amount of light was less than optimal.  But I was in a bit of a hurry and, let's face it, a bit too lazy to use my tripod.  As a result, these handheld shots involved some compromise among shutter speed, depth of field, and ISO.  In terms of aperture, these were shot at f/8, which at close range left some of the components somewhat out of focus.  In retrospect, I probably should have used my tripod or else ramped up the ISO further and reduced the aperture to, say, f/16, to maximize depth of field.  Still, after a hiatus of several weeks for some eye surgery, I was happy just to be out with my camera.

John

Sunday, August 25, 2019

NEW MEXICO MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY AND SCIENCE

As I mentioned in my previous post, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is just across the street from the Albuquerque Museum (of art and history), and both venues are essentially adjacent to Albuquerque's Old Town district.  The science museum is not huge, but it is extremely well organized, fresh, and consistent with current scientific knowledge.  It includes exhibits that can appeal to all ages.

We had a couple of hours available for our visit before our flight home from New Mexico and focused on those exhibits that traced the history of the universe, the earth, and life since the Big Bang.  We somehow found our way through the exhibits in reverse order chronologically, but it really didn't matter.

Some of the exhibits were aimed more at adults, such as the following regarding theories on the origin of life.


Others address the evidence concerning the earliest known forms of life, from some 3.5 billion years ago.


In addition to well done exhibits concerning the asteroid that led to the devastating extinction event, including the end of the age of dinosaurs, there was also an interesting exhibit on an even bigger extinction event from some 250 million years ago.


New Mexico has been a rich paleontological source, particularly during the age of dinosaurs, and there were plenty of displays of fossils, as well as what appeared to be a working paleontological lab.





There were also aquatic exhibits, both recreated extinct models, as well as living fish.



More recent exhibits included this saber-toothed tiger that I shot in silhouette.


One of the crowd-favorites was a model of an animated dinosaur.  Most of the time the model remained "sleeping," just gently waving its tail.  But the docents could "wake up" the dino, at which point it would make menacing gestures and sounds, much to the delight of younger visitors.



All in all, a great museum.

John