Tag Archives: creative commons

Pittsburgh’s transcendent Cathedral of Learning

There is a gothic skyscraper on the University of Pittsburgh campus called the Cathedral of Learning. It’s a beautiful building that does indeed resemble a vertically stretched cathedral. But inside are 29 nationality rooms that are even more astounding. Each one is themed around a different nationality (or culture, in the case of some like the African Heritage Classroom or the Israel Heritage Classroom). The oldest were dedicated in 1938, and the newest was dedicated in 2012. Each room is a highly detailed presentation of the culture of its country, down to the light switch panels, lights, and chair backs. Most are designed by architects of the country and decorated by artists of the country. And they’re all incredibly beautiful.

I visited the cathedral about a year ago now, but I’m still enthralled by it. I wrote about it then too. But recently I was editing my pictures from my visit, which gave me an excuse to post about it again. Check out the photos below, or the hundred full-res images I posted as creative commons works on Flickr.

The Ukrainian Classroom, dedicated in 1990.

The Ukrainian Classroom, dedicated in 1990.

The Turkish Classroom, dedicated in 2012.

The Turkish Classroom, dedicated in 2012.

The Israel Heritage Classroom, dedicated in 1987.

The Israel Heritage Classroom, dedicated in 1987.

The Greek Classroom, dedicated in 1941.

The Greek Classroom, dedicated in 1941.

The Chinese Classroom, dedicated in 1939.

The Chinese Classroom, dedicated in 1939.

The Swedish Classroom, dedicated in 1938.

The Swedish Classroom, dedicated in 1938.

The Lithuanian Classroom, dedicated in 1940.

The Lithuanian Classroom, dedicated in 1940.

A detail from the Irish Classroom, dedicated in 1957.

A detail from the Irish Classroom, dedicated in 1957.

A detail from the Polish classroom, dedicated in 1940.

The tempura painted ceiling in the Polish classroom, dedicated in 1940. 

The Hungarian Classroom, dedicated in 1939.

The Hungarian Classroom door, dedicated in 1939.

The Czechoslovak Classroom, dedicated in 1939.

The Czechoslovak Classroom, dedicated in 1939.

A detail from the Yugoslav Classroom, dedicated in 1939.

The ceiling in the Yugoslav Classroom, dedicated in 1939.

Style: University of Virginia Lawn

There are three manmade UNESCO world heritage sites in the United States: The Liberty Bell, The Statue of Liberty, and The University of Virginia Lawn with Monticello. The UNESCO designation basically means there is something noteworthy of distinctive about the site. I happen to live near to the University of Virginia, so I get to take a lot of photos. (As of this post, I just discovered that all the modern photos on the lawn Wikipedia page are mine. I love to see where the creative commons take my works. Side note: check out my very large Flickr collection of mostly creative commons images.)

Many years ago, Benoit Mandelbrot, the creator of fractal geometry, visited the university to give a talk. He said it was like walking into the lion’s den of Euclidean geometry. I always liked this description; everything about the university is columns and arches and perspective points. Monticello and the University were laid out by Thomas Jefferson, who one gets the feeling never actually died living around here. He was the ambassador to France for a while, and greatly admired the architecture. He came back to the states with those architectural inspirations.

The UVA lawn, shown below, has the rotunda at one end (the second one… the first one burned down and blew up when a professor tried to save it with TNT) and is lined by ten pavilions. Between the pavilions are dorm rooms that distinguished fourth year students still live in. Each of the ten pavilions is architecturally different, and behind each is a garden in a different style which no doubt will be the topic of a future post. Pavilion 2 is pictured below. Professors still live in the pavilions. The pavilions were built in a strange order, to ensure that diminished funds would not diminish the scope of the project.

It’s very easy to find plenty of reading material on Jefferson and the University if you are interested, so I won’t try to write a tome here. However I’ll include a few of my pictures that may hopefully spark your interest.

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Monticello, i.e. the back of a nickel

 

Sports photography

When I go to sporting events, I like to take pictures. Sports photography is really challenging, especially if you operate on a limited equipment budget and don’t get any kind of special access. I’ll list a few challenges I’ve encountered, and how I solved them. I shoot with a Sony α-850, but learned on a Sony α-100, so my experiences should translate to any basic SLR camera.

Challenge 1: The lighting isn’t strong enough

Whether you are indoors or the light of day is fading, this immensely effects the kind of photos you can take. My camera is susceptible to graininess at higher ISO numbers, which I hate. I set the ISO to the highest number I can stand, then I shoot in aperture priority mode in the smallest f-number (largest aperture) possible at the zoom required. I like to turn down the exposure by a couple of stops; it is easier to add brightness to an image than to remove blur. You may also need to add some saturation if you under-expose.

I used this procedure to take the picture of Michael Phelps swimming, below. Incidentally, this is the picture for breast stroke and swimming on wikipedia, and for swimming on Facebook. If you aren’t trying to make money off your photos, you can have some great fun seeing how they spread if you add them to the creative commons. (support the creative commons!)

 

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Challenge 2: The lighting is not white light

This can happen both outdoors with twilight or cloudy conditions, or indoors with certain types of lighting. The indoors case is a lot harder to deal with because it is harsher and more unnatural. There are a couple of different strategies– you can be proactive and take a reference picture of a white object during your shoot. You can change your white balance to match this reference during then shoot, or later in the post processing (I post process in Aperture), you can set the temperature/tint for all the photos to the combination that makes the reference shot a neutral color. If you change angle, the color of the light may change, so if you shoot from many angles this gets hard no matter your strategy. I always do my color changes in post-production. If you wish to, it’s important to shoot in raw (rather than jpg), otherwise you can degrade the image.

The pair of images below show a picture with and without temperature/tint correction. (I have also increased the brightness and saturation, but little else.) Note that the skin tone is more ashen in the first picture. I used the bonnet and the goal posts to hone in on a good neutral.

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Challenge 3: The focal plane changes rapidly and fast movement

When shooting sports, I always want to shoot with the largest aperture. This way, I can shoot at a lower ISO (i.e., less noise) and still have fast photos. Additionally, uninteresting stuff in the background gets blurred out by the focal depth. However, this shallow focal range ruins the picture if the objects of interest aren’t in that range. For some events, getting the objects in the focal plane is harder than capturing without motion blur, so I increase my aperture to the f5-f8 area.

Below is a picture I took at a horse race. Horse races are the best example of what I described above– the horses thunder towards you so quickly that in the time it takes for a cheaper SLR to focus, the distance of the horse has changed a lot. If the focal depth is shallow, the horse is likely not in it. But there is plenty of natural light, so I can increase the f-number without getting too slow.SONY DSC

Happy photoing! There are myriad other sports photo problems to solve, but I think I’ve been long-winded enough for today.

 

Artists: Walter Crane

I love to go to art museums to new style ideas. On a recent trip to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), I visited the art nouveau section and saw a piece by English artist Walter Crane:

Walter Crane plate at VMFA.

The plate mentioned that Walter Crane did children’s books.

So I went home and ordered a couple of his books. A Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden anthropomorphizes the flowers of the gardens in beautiful art nouveau fashion. Below is a photo of one of the pages. This page depicts bachelor’s buttons. All the little details, down to their boots, are done to match the characteristics of the plant. Another panel shows a battle between a thistle knight and a snapdragon. Walter Crane has several children’s books besides this one. Since Walter Crane died in 1915, his works have entered the creative commons, and they can be had very cheap, especially digitally.

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Walter Crane also did more adult works. Neptune’s Horses reminds me of the scene in Lord of the Rings where the elf summons up the waters to fend off the nazgul, but it was painted over a century before.

Summer is gone, waiting for spring

Tomorrow is the first day of December. In the last week, the last of our colorful leaves have fallen. Even the confused daisy shrub in my yard is no longer in bloom. The daylight is short, and the foliage is bleak. This time of year, I love to review photos from more colorful times. The colors will be back before very long. Starting in February, the Lenten roses and the crocuses will return. Until then, photos can be our flowers. Every year when spring breaks, I walk through the gardens at least once a week and see what new flower has opened.

Check out my Flickr feed for thousands of other photos. 95% of my Flickr photos are fair use for non-commercial purposes, so feel free to use them, but please attribute and link to my flickr.  Most of all I love seeing where my photos get used. (Side note: the first picture on the Wikipedia swimming article is mine. That’s neat!)

Here’s some color for your Friday.


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