Monday, June 25, 2012

Photowalk #2: East Troy Electric Railroad Museum

Saturday afternoon, I participated in my second Photowalk with one of my Flickr groups, Cream City: Milwaukee.  One of the members, Randy, suggested the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum since they were having their Train Fest, and he knew there would be more trains on display than on any of their normal days.  I thought this was a great idea for a visit, especially since I wanted to continue my "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" theme of photos that I have been taking lately.

Normally, the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum offers train rides to and from The Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago, a popular area tourist attraction that is a working farm and has wonderful produce, dairy items and baked goods for sale.  They are best known for their fresh, homemade apple pie in a bag.  The train ride only costs $12.50 and you can ride the train unlimited all day.  I decided to make this outing a full train experience by buying a ticket and riding the Chicago Elevated to the farm and back.  The trip takes about a half-hour one way, but not only do you get the experience of riding on a historical train, you get to see some really nice rural scenery along the way.

I didn't go into the Elegant Farmer on Saturday since I had to get back to the station on the next train going back for the photowalk.  But I did spend some time taking photos at the train station.  The red train, above, is used primarily for the museum's special dinner train service which costs $68.25 per person.  This particular train travels from East Troy to Phantom Lake, and diners get a four-course meal including appetizers and desert, as well as access to their onboard bar.  For the Train Fest, this train was also used during the day for a wine and cheese trip (not sure how much that cost) which traveled back and forth to The Elegant Farmer. 

Before the Chicago Elevated train departed the station, I was able to board and take some pictures of the historic interior.  You can see them below.

Once I got back to the station, I met up with my fellow photographers and the photowalk began.  Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the historic trains that were outside that day were being put away by the time we started at 2:00.  But, we were granted access to the garage where the trains are kept, and, despite a lot of dust and some oil on the ground, we all had a lot of fun going onto the trains and getting our shots.  I decided to make this even more of a challenge by only using my telephoto lens, and, except for having to back away from the trains for some of the longer shots, I'm glad I made the decision.  The shots below were taken inside and outside the garage.

After we took our pictures inside the garage, we went around the small downtown square and had ice cream at this really cute, old-fashioned parlor.  The parlor even had antique cameras on a hutch against the wall.  We then returned to the East Troy station, and I took a few shots of some of the memorabilia they had displayed inside.

I had a really good time at the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum, and had fun getting to know some more of my photowalkers.  It is a great way to spend an afternoon, and it's always a learning experience to see how others interpret the area we visit.

If you would like more information on the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum, visit  For more information on The Elegent Farmer in Mukwonago, visit

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Composition Class 1: Scenery and Landscape

Last Wednesday, I started my very first photography class at my local technical college, WCTC.  I figured that, since taking snapshots is now my primary hobby, I should learn some things about technique.  Our first assignment was "Scenic Photos", and we had to bring in 5-10 shots to be shown to the class and critiqued.

I'm so glad I signed up for "Photography Composition" because not only are we learning how to frame photos, cut out extraneous objects before we push the shutter, and include interesting objects in our photos to make them more interesting, there is a lot of post-production techniques we're learning as well. 

A year-and-a-half ago, I took my first Photoshop class, and I believe I retained about 25% of what I learned (I have mostly used Photoshop to crop, lighten, and provide contrast, but not much else).  I forgot about all of the other tools you can use to enhance the quality of your photos.  But, since everyone in the class has to see and critique each other's photos every week, we are given tips to use these tools to our advantage.

Take the photo above.  I took this photo in Racine at a beach on Lake Michigan, and presented it as one of my Scenery photos.  I hadn't even noticed that it had a very pronounced bluish tint to the photo.  The teacher suggested I use a yellow filter to balance the colors in the photograph, which I did at 25%.  The result, as you can see at the top of the page, is much better.  The beach itself, as well as the rocks, no longer have a bluish tint to them, and the photograph looks more realistic.

The photograph above and the two below were new photos I took over the weekend west of where I live and in St. Francis by Lake Michigan.  The compositions looked good, but the sun wasn't low enough in the sky, and therefore cast a brightspot at the top of the photos.  The teacher made the suggestion that I go over the highlighted areas with the burn tool.  So I did at about 50% and, although they are still a little too bright, it made a big difference.  I did try at a higher percentage, but then the photos looked like a storm was approaching, and I didn't like them as much.

The last tip I received about my scenery photos was for the one below.  I took this at the side of the road, and in front of the sign, there was a post that I couldn't get a good shot around.  So the teacher suggested I use the clone tool to take part of the grassy area and brush it over the post.  I did so, and I love the result. 

The last picture I presented, shown below, hit all the right notes, so to speak.  Good framing, good use of the rule of 3 and good use of an interesting object in the photo (the smoke house to the right).

I know I'm going to learn a lot of useful tips on how to create more interesting photos through this class.  I'm even planning on taking some other photography courses at WCTC while finishing my Medical Coding diploma.  Next week's assignment is "Texture".  If you would like information on the classes WCTC has to offer, go to

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Photo Friday: Clothing

Another week, another Photo Friday topic.  This week's is "Clothing."  I'm expecting to see a lot of unusual, stunning photos of outfits or parts of outfits, hopefully from other nationalities.  My entry, above, is from my blog post on my hometown's Armed Forces Day/Historic Preservation Day, and was taken prior to a historic fashion show.  To see more entries, please go to

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Art On the Lake: The Lakefront Festival of the Arts

This weekend, Milwaukee will be host to the largest art festival in the area this year, the Lakefront Festival of the Arts.  The festival is located on the grounds of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and it the best place to find (and buy) the widest array of paintings, photographs, ceramics, jewelry, hand-made furniture, glass and mixed-media items.  I go to this festival just about every year, and I love the diverse selection of art it presents.  It is truly inspirational for anyone who is in the arts or wants to be in the arts, and a lot of the same artists attend every year.

A few years ago, I brought my camera to the festival, and took some great photos (if I do say so myself) of some of the art that was available for sale (such as above).  The majority of the art for sale is located under two large tents that are located next to the art museum, but there is also a garden outside the tent that features fabulous art as well.  I took the three photos below in the garden:

The other photos above and below were taken in the tents, and truly show the diversity of art that you can find at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts.

For the price of admission, you not only get to see the great art for sale in the tents, you get free admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum (a $15 value).  For me, this is the one time of year I get to visit the art museum, but I did visit this past weekend, and saw some great sculptures in the lobby (also known as the Calatrava) such as below:

You can also see the permanent glass sculpture in the lobby, which is I believe from Murano glass, shown below:

When I visited the museum last weekend, many wedding photos were taken on the grounds, since it was so gorgeous weather-wise.  But there was also a wedding being set up in the Calatrava lobby, which I found fascinating, so I had to take a photo:

Also, if you visit the museum this weekend, you can see the featured exhibit, "Posters of Paris: Tolouse Lautrec & His Contemporaries" which I saw last weekend, and is really interesting.  I had no idea that the heyday of poster design was so short in Europe and that many of the famous prints we've seen, and bought, were produced in a 20-30 year time span.

If you visit Milwaukee the 3rd weekend of June and are looking for something interesting to do that's off the beaten path, you must check out the Lakefront Festival of the Arts.  You will not find the great quantity of art for sale in one place anywhere else in Wisconsin.   It's fun, fascinating, and, in my opinion, a great way to spend a day in Milwaukee.  For more information, go to

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Old Photos: New Life

I have always loved photography.  Even as a teenager, when my late father gave me my first film camera, I have been intrigued by capturing forever the places I have visited.  I received my first digital camera in 2008 as a 5-year anniversary present at my former employer, which has made my interest in photography much more accessible (not to mention cheaper) than my previous hobby as a photographer using film.  As a theatre publicity major, which granted me my Bachelor of Arts degree, I used film photography to capture the candid moments that made my university's productions so great, but I believe I could have been much more affective using a digital medium to create my publicity photos. 

Anyway, the great thing about today's technology is, even if you have only used film photography as your main method of expression, your photos can be adapted to the digital world.  Last Christmas, I treated myself to a printer/scanner/copier from Kodak, and it was truly one of the best purchases I've ever made.  I have been been able to scan the photos I took using a film camera and turn them into digital photos, even improving them using Photoshop Elements. 

Back in 2004, for my 30th birthday, my mom and I stared a tradition of vacationing to a different city every year.  The first stop we made was Las Vegas, which was a place my mom had been twice already (once to see Frank Sinatra with my aunt) but was a first-time treat for me.  The two photos above and five below were taken from that trip:

The Belagio hotel

The New York, NY hotel

The Paris hotel

Inside the Venitian hotel

Our next trip, a year later to Cleveland, OH, was specifically for me to see the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame.  As a rock-and-roll scholar, I was excited to see the home of many historical artifacts, but the high point was a video they show of all of the inductees to the hall-of-fame year by year.  Another high point was the fact that I visited the year that my favorite band, U2, was inducted.  Outside the Rock-and-Roll Hall of fame was this interesting sculputre of a stamp that read "Free" that I had to take a picture of:

The following year, to continue our rock-and-roll tradition, we visited Memphis, TN, the birthplace of the blues.  I thought it was very interesting to see all of the different homages to the blues and rock-and-roll, but the highlight was visiting Graceland.  The bad part was, you couldn't take pictures of the inside of Graceland without using a flash, so I used my "free" digital camera to take those pictures, and the only way I could print them at the time was at work on plain paper, which didn't turn out so well.  Luckily, I also bought a point-and-shoot disposable camera once we arrived in Memphis, so I was able to take the photos posted below:

Long before I took on photography as a hobby, my parents treated me to a visit to Orlando, Florida a year after I endured a difficult back surgery to install titanium rods in my back for scoliosis.  I took the photos below at Cape Canaveral, a side trip we took after visiting Disneyworld. 

My father died in 2010 and my mom and I don't have the financial resources to travel as much as we used to, but I'm thrilled to have these photos to remind me of the great trips we took.  And I'm so grateful technology as enabled me to revisit these places and make them even better.