Sunday, September 21, 2014

Into The Woods: Retzer Nature Center

Last Sunday, I joined a group of friends for a walk through Retzer Nature Center, a state trail located in Waukesha.  I have been there a few times in the past to take photos, but it was great to see the park through the eyes of some friends who hadn't been there yet. 

One of our favorite places in the park was the path into the woods shown below.

This part of the park had a great old tree with different angled branches that looked like something from a stage set.

Another first for me was seeing the vistas you can only get to by climbing hills in the trail that I had always avoided.  But the scenery was beautiful.

My main goal was to get different compositions than I had shot before.  Using this approach made me see things on the trails I had never seen before.

I kind of liked walking Retzer's trails in late summer since the last time I was there was mid-fall and most of the leaves had turned.  This has given me a great set of photos from this region from throughout the year.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Up and Away: Milwaukee International Kite Festival

Last Sunday, I attended day 2 of the Milwaukee International Kite Festival on Lake Michigan.  It was a gorgeous sunny day as you can see from the photos I took.  The only problem was there wasn't a lot of wind, so getting photos of groups of kites was sort of hard.  But the free festivaal was a great family- (and dog) friendly event. 

Although the event started officially at noon, they did have stunt kite flyers practicing their synchronized moves (as above).  And families started flying their own kites later in the morning.  There were some very fun-looking kites that they brought, such as the red squid below.

Prior to the "big launch" at noon, they had a special patriotic kite while playing "The National Anthem".

My favorite kite of the day was a dragon, which, when viewed from the side looked really cool.

Along with the kites they had bands, great food, sports celebrities and even a rock wall.  This festival was in its 34th year, and it looks like it was fun for all involved.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My Summer in Photos

I, for one, can't believe it's Labor Day Weekend and summer is quickly coming to a close.  What's worse, I haven't posted anything new since March!  It's not that I didn't do anything this summer, although not as much as usual due to money issues, but I did get out with my camera to a few fun places and events, and got to meet some new photographers in my area as well.

One of my most favorite places in my area is the Milwaukee Public Museum.  I've been going there ever since grade school, but hadn't gone in about 8 years.  I primarily went this year due to the "Body Worlds" exhibit, but also got to see some familiar subjects such as the dinosaurs (above), the Native Americans,

"The Streets of Old Milwaukee", one of the most popular exhibits,

All of the various ethnic exhibits,

and the Museum's "Butterfly Garden" where you get to interact with real butterflies.

I also met up with a new group in our area for a photowalk of Milwaukee's Walker's Point (or 5th Ward), which I knew about but never visited before.  Walker's Point is the home of Allen Bradley, and a very diverse cross-section of the city as a whole.  That weekend, they had rainbow flags on the light posts in celebration of the "Gay Pride" festival at Meier festival park.

On my walk, I came across a very nice alley garden.  Very jealous I don't have a green thumb.

While on the photowalk, my friend, her husband and I went on the brewery tour for Milwaukee Brewing Company.  I have to say, MBC's beer has become my favorite microbrew in the city.  Many different flavors and not too heavy for a hot day.

 And, they definitely have fun on the job.

And no summer of mine would be complete without an annual trip to the Boerner Botanical Garden for my flower fix.  Unfortunately, the long cold winter and spring kept a lot of my favorite flowers (especially roses) from blooming, but I managed to get a couple of good shots of them.

As well as other hearty little flowers.

And, I found out that I really like Dahlias, and they come in many different varieties.  My favorites were the Peony variety.

Hopefully with fall coming, I will get out more with my camera and check out some local festivals and areas I haven't been to before.  I hope everyone had a fun and safe summer!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Indoor Spring: Flower Photos from a local Floral Shop

As I may have mentioned in my previous post, it's been a LONG winter here in Milwaukee.  We've dubbed it the winter that never ends.  However, today is gorgeous outside - sunny, not too windy and almost 60 degrees!  So I'm sitting here writing this post in my living room with the patio door open enjoying the sounds and smells of the new spring (even though it's back to the normal 30's-40's starting Tuesday - oh well).

Yesterday was another nice day, and I spent part of it at Waukesha Floral & Greenhouse where, thanks to Art's Camera Plus, they opened their doors to Art's Camera Club and let photographers go in and take photos of anything they want.  Like any garden store they had a greenhouse, large indoor plant section and gift shop.  This is a great place to practice macro photography and other flower photography, and since it's indoors, you don't get harsh shadows that you would get photographing flowers outside on a sunny day (although some of the spots in the greenhouse did have harsh sunlight). 

I also did this last year, and learned so much about aperture setting, manual focus and focal length.  The best way to take macro shots of flowers, where only part of the flower is in focus and everything else is blurry, is to set your DSLR to Aperture Priority for Canon (not sure the equivalent for Nikon), take the aperture setting down to its lowest setting (mine goes down to 4.5-5.0) and then use the ISO setting (the one that measures in 100's) to make the photo brighter or darker, depending on how you want it to look.  I usually keep that setting to 100-200 unless the room is really dark, and then I move it up).  Then keep your camera on a tripod, get in close and use manual focus to get part of the flower sharp.  If you have a camera that has a lens with image stabilization, like mine, you can get in closer without a tripod, but keep your body as still as you can.  This is because the aperture is open so wide, any little movement is going to throw your whole photo out of focus.  This happened to me a few times yesterday, but, thanks to digital photography, I just deleted them and tried again.

Below are some of the photos I took.  Not all of them are macros, some are groups and a couple of vignettes, but I do like to change things up during photo shoots.  Unfortunately, there weren't as many flowers in bloom as there was last year, due to our February faux spring, but there was still a lot to look at and it was another fun experience.  Hopefully, the next flower photos you see from me will be from an outside garden!

Happy Spring everyone!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mini-Landscapes: Mitchell Park Domes "Steampunk Railroad" Exhibit

Well, I have to say this has been a winter for the record books in Milwaukee, and not in a good way.  It has either been snowy or freezing cold since late November, which has really put a damper on my photography.  But, I found an excuse to bring my camera out of storage from when I moved and use it again.  Even though the high today is 10, I went out to my favorite indoor botanical garden, The Mitchell Park Domes for the last day of their annual model train show.  This year's theme was "Steampunk" which I only know about through a couple of friends who do this type of art work.  If you don't know what Steampunk is, the Domes provided this nice sign as a description:

The exhibit seemed to focus on the Old West, complete with little industrial towns, bridges, tunnels and a train depot.  The way they planted the featured winter flowers was interesting, too, making them look like pink, red and purple trees dotting the landscape.

I started out taking photos with my 35 mm standard-length lens, which showed off the Old West design nicely.  But then I decided to switch lenses to my 200 mm telephoto lens, just to see if it made a difference.  It really did!  I was able to get close enough to make each area of the setup look like mini-landscapes and that's when the real fun began:

In addition to the train set-up, they had little vignettes around the perimeter of the Show Dome displaying the arts and crafts examples of Steampunk:

I'm glad I forced myself to get out into the cold to head to downtown Milwaukee and see this exhibit.  The Domes always has such great displays, every season, and this was one of their best yet.