Friday, October 30, 2015

Finally Fall: My Visit to the Mequon Nature Preserve

I don't know about you, but it seemed like it took forever for fall to officially come to Southeastern Wisconsin.  Usually, by early October, our trees are completely painted in fall color.  But it took until the third weekend of this month to be able to get photos of the gorgeous red, yellow and orange leaves.  To do this, I decided to venture out to the Mequon Nature Preserve, a 400-acre park north of Milwaukee that has six nature trails, an observation tower, an education center, and ecologically-friendly wetlands.

Not only do they have large parcels of forest, but they also have a nursery for the cultivation of new trees.

I was pleasantly surprised by all of the autumn color in the trees, especially the vibrant orange leaves.

The Preserve hosts educational field trips where schools can come in and learn about the environment including hikes through the trails.  And there is no fee for the visit.

I decided to try something new with the forest photographs, mostly because I had seen other photographers doing it.  I raised by camera and shot up into the trees wherever I saw color.

I love how some of these came out with the contrast between the blue sky, the autumn colors and the remaining green trees. 

I also like how the trees look almost like watercolor paintings (at least I hope they do)!

The Mequon Nature Preserve is a really nice place to take a quiet, leisurely, relaxing hike in the middle of Milwaukee, and a great place for children to learn about the environment.  I will definitely go back!


Monday, October 26, 2015

More Fun on 4 Wheels: The West Allis Classic Car Show

A few weeks ago, I went to a really cool auto show in West Allis, Wisconsin, a southern suburb of Milwaukee.  It was named, appropriately, The West Allis Classic Car Show, put on by downtown West Allis and celebrating its 25th year.  If you've read my previous blog posts, you know this wasn't my first photography expedition at a classic car show.  But I did learn some new tricks to getting better photos at any car show.

First, it's best if you can go to one of these car shows on an overcast day.  Sunny skies tend to make the paint jobs on some automobiles too bright (especially reds and pinks), make reflections more noticeable, and cause glare and sunspots.  The same goes for photographing flowers.

Also, find unique angles.  It's easy to get into a rut of always photographing the automobiles' grills, bumpers, fenders, dashboards, etc.  Change up your perspective and don't be afraid to crouch low to make the automobile look massive.  I admit I'm not in the best of shape, and the "squatting" took its toll on my legs the next few days, but the photos were worth the pain.

One part of these classic cars that's always fascinated me are the hood ornaments.  As a big fan of art deco design, I think these unique ornaments add class, sophistication and all-around great interest to these automobiles. 

A good rule of thumb is to photograph these ornaments like you would flowers. If you have a DSLR, put the camera in Aperture Priority mode (for Canons) and bring your f-stop down as low as you can.  Then make sure your lens is on Manual Focus, lock the focus on the ornament itself, and push the button.  This will blur out anything behind the ornament (especially people if it's crowded) and make the ornament nice and sharp.

I think the car pictured below, is the oldest automobile I've ever seen at a classic car show.  I believe it is from 1909.

The West Allis Classic Car Show was a better event than I thought it would be.  There were tons of great classic cars to see it was hard not to photograph them all.  I'm already looking forward to attending my next classic automobile show.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Summer Recap: The Pewaukee Antique Boat & Classic Car Show

Normally in most areas, there will be a boat show or a car show.  But, as I found out this summer in Pewaukee Wisconsin, they have an annual classic boat AND car show.  Apparently, this show has been around for 11 years, and I just found out about it this year (oh, if only I'd known).  But I have to say, it was one of the most impressive events I've come across in southeastern Wisconsin in many years.

I actually found out about this event thanks to Art's Camera, which sponsors monthly "Focus Group" events where local photographers can get together and meet at various places and events.  I saw a lot of photographers at the event, as well as members of the Plein Air Painters of America.

First, let me talk about the boats.  There were a lot of custom-crafted boats from all over Wisconsin for people to see on Pewaukee Lake.  I was thrilled to see that each boat had its own theme as well as the creativity & pride these boat-owners had for their watercrafts.

They did have some classic boats on display as well.

The highlight for me was all of the classic cars they had on display.  I got to the event early (it started at 9:00 am) and enjoyed watching as the car owners maneuvered their way along the lakefront to get their prime spot to be viewed.

I have photographed classic cars before.  In fact, their one of my favorite subjects.  At this event, I tried using the same shallow depth-of-field I use when photographing flowers to isolate the most interesting part of the cars, especially the hood ornaments.  But three of the photos from that day became some of my most favorite photos I've ever taken.  They are shown below:

I will definitely make it a point to attend this event next summer.  It's not only a great way to spend a summer day but it's located on one of the most beautiful lakes in Wisconsin.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Behind Home Plate & Beyond: Free Day at Miller Park

Yesterday, I wrote about the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, a great organization that sponsors "Gifts to the Community", with free access to area places and attractions one day each month in 2015 to celebrate their 100 years of service.  One of the gifts mentioned was a free behind-the-scenes visit to Miller Park, home of the Brewers baseball team.  I was fortunate to attend this event in September and got some really cool shots of the stadium that a lot of fans don't get to see when they're at the games.

I spent a lot of time down by the field where we visitors has (restricted) access.  Although the Brewers were playing in Pittsburgh that day, the grounds crew still had to do their work, so we couldn't go onto the field itself.  However, we did get to see the visitors' dugout, and I spent much of my time practicing my architecture photography skills on the stadium's massive arches.

This photo was my favorite one of the day:

In addition to the field, we got to see many of the stadium's other features like the warm-up pitching area, complete with the phones to the manager and home dugout:

The visitors' locker room:

The reporters' room, which sits behind home plate, and apparently, gets hit with a lot of foul balls through the open windows.  Some of the batters are nice enough to autograph the damage they've done.

And we also got to glimpse Bob Uecker's announcing booth.  Uecker is the voice of the Brewers and played with the team starting in 1961.  You may also remember him as the announcer in the film "Major League", which was shot at our former baseball park, County Stadium.

I've only been to a few games at Miller Park, but still never noticed the nice statues they have around the stadium.  Two statues are of Brewer Legends Robin Yount and Hank Aaron (who started as a Milwaukee Brave) and one is of Bob Uecker.

The most poignant statue that lies a bit farther away from the stadium is of three construction workers.  On July 14, 1999, three men working on the construction of Miller Park were killed when a crane dubbed "Big Blue" collapsed.  This statue lies in tribute to those workers.  For more information on the tragedy, click here.

It was a fun and fascinating day to be at Miller Park on that September day and a fantastic end to an incredible summer in Southeastern Wisconsin.  I will be posting more about my other summer adventures soon.