Wednesday, May 20, 2009

University of Virginia Rotunda

When I go on a trip I always debate whether or not to bring a tripod. It's a hassle -- lugging it through airports and security, not being sure the situation will even come up where you need it, etc, etc. I normally try and travel pretty light, and the tripod just seems to be counter to that. But in the end, I normally talk myself into bringing it; and on this last trip to Virginia I'm glad I did. The photo above is the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After dinner at a nearby restaurant, it was too early to start shooting and too late to try and do something else and come back for the photos, so my wife Kim and I parked ourselves on a bench -- where we enjoyed the great spring weather, watched a wedding photographer take some photos of a bridal party on the steps, and basically waited patiently for dusk. The photo here is a 5-shot bracketed HDR just as some great clouds were moving through near the end of the shoot. The longer exposures in this series were in the 8-second range (so the tripod was absolutely necessary). At first I was a little bothered by the movement of the clouds, but the more I see this image, the more I like them. There are alot of landscape photographers who, I think, see blurred clouds as a badge of honor. Like, "Yes, of course the clouds are blurred. How else could I shoot that scene." It's sort of the photographic equivalent of foie gras and sushi - that only foodie types can appreciate those foods; and only more advanced photography aficionados can truly understand and appreciate blurred clouds ... or maybe I'm just making a bigger deal than necessary out of something technically necessary to get a good exposure.
Never having been to Charlottesville before, what really struck me about this building and Monticello was how similar they both are to the Jefferson Monument in DC -- a pantheon design with a large center rotunda and columns along the entrances. In this shot at the university, a life-size statue of Jefferson sits on the north side (shown here). The blurred clouds, however, just take some getting used to.


  1. Steve, it is a beautiful photo. My first reaction is that it is surreal. I am thinking that bec/ of the sky and the lamp post. Thinking it is night time with a blue sky. Secondly, I know this sky at dusk through personal experience, but you just don't readily think of it when you are looking at what you think is a night time photo with the lamp posts. All in all this type of photo is growing on me as I see more of them.

    A beautiful job and I'm sure a great memory with Kim!!

  2. The vibrant colors really stand out to me in this image. Maybe HDR is growing on me? I like the sky, the blurring does not bother me. The lights move your eye all around the shot from the lighted porch to the sky to the lamps. Lots of texture and detail to take in also. Very nice.

  3. Another great shot from your trip Steve. It's hard to be HDR for adding interest to an already exceptional scene.

  4. Really good use of HDR. I think this type of photo may be the very best use of HDR. I think you kept every thing within the believable category. Really good photograph.