Minneapolis Daily Photoblog

A photo outpost on the edge of the great western prairie, Minneapolis Daily Photoblog records life in the beautiful rugged northern land of Minnesota. Minneapolis is a bustling metropolis with beautiful greenspaces, rivers and truly epic winters. This unique city was created by the railroad and lumber barons in the wild frontier leaving lots of awesomely rusty hulks and quiet wooded corridors to photograph.

Hydraulic Truck Crane

Hydraulic Truck Crane

Had a visitor in my neighborhood today. I’ve already professed my fondness for gunpowder, but hydraulic anything is pretty neat too.

I spent some time a while back watching a tower crane assembled and I finally get how they add sections to make them taller; but now I have another crane mystery. How do these things work? I know how hydraulics work, but these big telescoping booms make my head itch. I know there’s not one big hydraulic ram inside the boom, that won’t work. They have to be integrated into the sections somehow. Where are the rams and lines and what do they look like? What’s pushing against what? If you know of a good cut-away illustration, please link to it as a comment, I need to know this.

I asked the guy working on it and he started explaining hydraulics. After trying to explain my question I felt like I was asking a squirrel about how a tree gets water up from the roots and he keeps showing me the acorns. Besides, I didn’t want to pester a guy with ten-pound wrench in his hand working a crane that probably costs $500 and hour.

Back to the picture: what did I do here? I centered the subject because I wanted to show the weight of the tackle — you don’t get to see this end of a crane much either. By centering an image, it makes it a little jarring, which is bad for nature & people, but it makes sense here.

This crane has seen some use. The industrial scuffed-up nature influenced me to give it a “direct positive” look: that’s the torqued-out contrast and saturation. I think it reminds me of Legos, so the color processing goes with the giant-toy appeal of the crane. I took it a step further and gave you a larger image than I usually do as well to add to the effect I’m going for. I’m trying to recreate for you the experience I had when I wandered out for my walk and found this massive machine jammed into my narrow little street & hemmed in by trees.

I hope you’ve been inspired to get some serious work done this Friday. Hop up into that big gear and crank — ’cause tomorrow’s Saturday!

Full Moon Over Lake of the Isles

Full Moon Over Lake of the Isles

It’s the biggest full moon of the year (seriously, it’s 14% wider and 30% brighter). Make sure you get out and see the “Hunter’s Moon” come up! I managed to get up early this morning and catch it before it went down. No better way to start your day than fumbling with a telephoto lens in the dark on a 38° morning without mittens (true Minnesotans don’t wear them ’til it’s at least 10°).

All lunatic blogger references aside, I was out last night and was amazed at how bright the moon was, so I looked it up and found out why. This morning’s picture isn’t the best moon shot I’ve taken, I was using my 70-210 Nikkor that I’m starting to not trust. It’s doing some weird stuff that looks like chromatic aberration, but the guy at National Camera said it was a good lens… I guess I’m going to have to spend more, oh well. I might set up the spotting scope tonight and mount the camera on it and try again. Now that the sun is coming up and I’m enjoying my dark roast at Caribou, sanity is sweeping lunacy from my mind and the fruits of clarity suggest otherwise — everyone knows what the moon looks like. We’ll go look for some more colorful things to shoot today and get back on track with daylight, after all, there’s less and less of it everyday.

Boom!

Boom!

I’ve lived in Minneapolis for a long time, but as usual, it took having someone from out of town to get me to see the sites in my home town. The TFTTF Photography Workshop expedition to Fort Snelling gave me a chance to chill out with some heavy field artillery. No matter how old, boys will be boys and a bag of gunpowder the size of a kitten is a rollicking good time.

The deafening blast of the cannon was a true dude delight, but my experience there had an additional geek delight sound added to it. A small contingent of us photographers were gathered together to record the cannon fire and we all had the same idea and technique. We watched the soldier on the left bring the golf-club-sized matchstick down to the back of the gun and when he got close, we all held down the triggers on our DSLRs — a chorus of 3, 5 and 11(!) frames-per-second cameras clicked away hoping to capture the blast.

This weekend is the last of the season for the fort to be open, so I might head back. If you get a chance, the cannon is fired at 1:00pm and 4:00pm. If you don’t think that’s worth the price of admission, then go check out the old-time cooking at the commander’s house and leave the marching field for us boys and our toys…

Minnesota Autumn Colors

Minnesota Autumn Colors

AAAAGH! It’s all coming to an end! Just like the fireworks grand finale, the best colors mean the end is near. Stiff wind and crisp air send a biblical shiver down the spine of any good Minnesotan. Remember 35 below? Yep, not far off. It’s time for us proud citizens of the most Northern Metropolis to start thinking about snow tires, new car batteries and the high-tech members of the crowd to ponder the lithium batteries in our cameras. Will Mitchster.com survive the winter? If the batteries hold out and I can find my snowshoes.

Until then, enjoy the colors, because soon there will be only one.

Golden Tree

Golden Tree

A beautiful crisp fall morning awaited me today as I headed out to Lake of The Isles again for my walk. This elm on the North Branch of the lake was reaching out it’s perfectly yellow boughs under the clear blue sky, begging for it’s cameo.

Something I have discovered is that the colors of leaves are very dependent on their background. Bright red leaves against a gray sky are very bland and unsaturated. Shooting up against the early-morning-dark blue sky (and a little post-processing) brings out the colors. Another way to do this is to find colorful trees against the darkness of a grove or forest. The black area between the leaves. The theory behind this is that colors of the same luminosity lose their impact when placed next to each other. Adding a dark line forces contrast into the colors and making them pop.

Sarah's Greenspace

Sarah’s Greenspace

I went out to the Minnesota State Fair Grounds today with Carol Anne. She and I were attendees of Chris Marquart’s Learning To See Workshop. We were working on the Challenge: Negative Space. This is her daughter Sarah.

One of the interesting things about these gray Minnesota days is that the local color of objects is much more saturated than you’d think. Without the harsh dynamic range of a sunny day, you can get some great colors on digital. This wall of green on the side of the Butterfly house caught my eye, since it matches the current color scheme of mitchster.com. It was great to have Carol Anne and her daughters with me, Sarah is a great model. This green wall would never work without a subject. I like images like this because they remind me of Mark Rothko’s paintings — it looks like a very simple abstract image, but there are little details that give it character like the dent in the wall and the patchy grass. Even Sarah’s akimbo stance adds tension to the otherwise static image.

Just a quick note, this photo won the Tips From The Top Floor Two-Week Photo Challenge! Thanks to all those who voted on and participated in the challenge titled Negative Space. The new Two-Week Challenge was just published. As the winner of the last challenge, I got to choose the the next one — Contrast.

Photographing Oil Paintings

Photographing Oil Paintings

This oil painting by Joe Paquet is an example of one of my more specialized services. I’ve been photographing oil paintings for Joe Paquet for a year now and over that time have upgraded cameras, purchased studio lights and have learned more about the behavior of light than I bargained for. Oil paintings present several challenges because they reflect light and cause little sparkly dots all over the image or worse, shinny gray where there should be black. As you can see above, the blacks are nice and solid.

Fine art landscape painters like Joe and Scott capture incredibly subtle variations in color. The accuracy of these colors are what give the painting air and a sense of space. The number of decisions they have to make while working is tremendous, it’s not just copying the local colors of the object, it’s the relationships of the colors and how they are effected by the light striking the object and how the light is changed by the atmosphere between the object and the observer. This is how you can tell if it is hazy or a clear morning, like in Scott’s painting above.

I was a student of Joe Paquet for several years and learned these techniques and how to observe the scene with them in mind. I also learned that I don’t have the patience or ability to follow that path. Though this did send me back to photography, it was a fantastic experience in learning to see. How a composition is chosen for painting is very different from photography. Where a painter spends time studying the light effects and the forms; a photographer looks for ways to show depth through the composition; because he doesn’t have the ability to change the colors and the line weights. The two fields are very different in execution, but both demand careful observation and the ability to really see. That’s one of the things that encouraged me to take Chris Marquart’s workshop, Learning To See.

So the upshot is I’ve invested lots of time and money in faithfully reproducing these incredible works of art by artists that I have a lot of respect for. I’m driven by the challenge and the opportunity to work with them and their art. I can now take these shots that require absolutely no post processing and use them on the websites that I have built for them and provide them for reprint in magazines and show catalogs. If you think that I am going to explain my techniques and provide a step-by-step guide — forget it. But if you are interested in having me photograph your art, give me a call!

Duck Portrait

Duck Portrait

Meet the fearless duck standing guard over the entrance to the Como Zoo. She didn’t mind my taking her picture, but I think she was a little upset over the lack of payment. She took it in stride though, like water off a… I must remember to bring food with me when I chase the local wild life.

Fall Colors around Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis

Fall Colors around Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis

A brief break in the rain and the desire to get a picture sent me out today to circle the lake. I walk around Lake of The Isles pretty much every day. Sometimes I bring the camera, but usually I don’t. There’s some kind of jinx thing going on that prevents cool things from happening when I have the camera. Now that the blog is officially up and running, I guess I’m going to have to bring the beast along with me. A Nikon D200 and lenses is a bit to carry, but it’s probably easier to manage than a kid, a stroller and two dogs.

Sunrise Over Lake of The Isles

Sunrise Over Lake of The Isles

A blue morning sunrise over Lake of the Isles, Minneapolis, Minnesota.