Saturday, February 7, 2015

A return to Madison, Wis., to photograph
... and to see the Badgers' basketball team

Until early this week, it had been almost 40 years since I had been in downtown Madison, the capital of Wisconsin -- and home of the university whose men's basketball team currently leads the Big Ten Conference.

The UW Badgers football team still plays in Camp Randall Stadium, which I visited on several occasions in the mid-1970s, although that facility has undergone some dramatic changes in the interim. But the basketball team no longer plays in the UW Fieldhouse, which had abutted the football stadium. Since 1998, the men's and women's basketball teams and the men's hockey teams have played their home games in the more spacious Kohl Center.

My trip to Madison this week was to see the Badgers' men's basketball, which is enjoying one of its best seasons ever. Going into Tuesday's game against the Indiana Hoosiers, the Badgers had a win-loss record of 19-2, including 7-1 in the Big Ten Conference.

Traveling anywhere in the north Midwest is risky during winter, and I checked the 10-day forecast two weeks ago before pulling the trigger on buying tickets to the game. The forecast looked harmless for the three days I had hoped to be on the road; I'd wanted to swing through Milwaukee to visit my brother on the Sunday before the game before completing the trip to Madison via I-94 the next day.

But by Friday, weather forecasters started changing their tune, and they predicted a heavy snow system would move through the Midwest on Saturday night and Sunday, and sure enough, it did. I decided to skip the Sunday trip to Milwaukee and hope that transportation crews would have interstate highways passable on Monday.

Since Milwaukee was no longer part of the itinerary, I wanted to avoid traveling through Chicago at all costs, so I took I-74 west to Bloomington-Normal, Ill., before heading north on I-39, which took me all the way to Madison. Roads were fine till hitting the stretch of I-39 between Normal and Rockford, Ill. Spot patches of iced snow were in both lanes of the highway for about 30 miles or so till close to the metro area of Rockford. Roads the rest of the way were OK, but temperatures started to plummet.

I reached Madison safely just as it got dark Monday, grabbed a bite to eat then called it a night. The plan the next day was to spend the late morning hours and all afternoon strolling through downtown Madison and some of the UW campus and make photographs in the process. Monday night's forecast, however, warned that another snow system would move through Madison the following afternoon, and the weatherman was on target again.

I found a place to park under cover downtown then walked along State Street from campus to the capitol and back, photographing landscapes along the way. For the walk-around shoot, I used my Canon 6D and Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens, bracketing exposures for later processing in high-dynamic range (HDR) software.

By the time I approached campus on the return trip, the snow started to fall -- heavily. In fact, I was in the University Bookstore shopping when it started, and I didn't get outdoors to resume shooting until about 15 minutes into the snowfall. To protect the lens glass from moisture, I slid my camera and lens under my jacket, pulling it out only to compose and shoot. So my images from that outing are a mixture of overcast, clear skies and very heavy snowfall. The campus served as the line of demarcation, as it turned out, but the snowfall made for pretty striking images.

Rather than risk the Kohl Center staff not allowing me to bring that camera and lens into the area (they had a policy limiting lens focal lengths at 100mm for spectators and others who were not credentialed media), I packed the gear into the locked car and used my iPhone the rest of the evening. Everything from a stop for dinner at the Nitty Gritty, which is just two blocks from the arena, to the photos taken outside and inside Kohl Center was taken with my iPhone 6s.

The post leads off with a shot of the University Presbyterian Church, known locally as the Pres House, at 731 State St., just inside the eastern boundary of the campus. Pres House is across the street from the Memorial Union and a half block from Bascom Hill, where I lingered for quite a few shots during the snowfall. Flakes had been falling for about 15-20 minutes by the time I took this shot. The remainder of the campus shots were taken during the falling snow.

The images below start with a series of shots in which I featured or integrated the state capitol in the compositions. As usual, click on any image for a larger and sharper version of the photo (especially important if viewing on a mobile device). For a full gallery of images, visit my site at SmugMug.

Time restricted me from getting a straight on shot of the statue atop the capitol, but according to a wikipedia entry on the Wisconsin state capitol, the statue on the top "consists of an allegoric figure reminiscent of Athena, dressed in Greek garb and wearing a helmet topped by a badger, the Wisconsin state totem. In the left hand, it holds a globe with an eagle perched on top. Across the chest is a large 'W' for Wisconsin." There is a straight-on picture of the statue at the wikipedia entry.

The image above begins a series of various shots taken during my walk along State Street, a pedestrian-friendly stretch on which Madison prohibits motor vehicular traffic except for buses and emergency vehicles. Many diagonal streets intersect the east-west State Street, creating some architecturally diagonal buildings at intersections.

Above: Peace Park, located adjacent to the downtown Madison information center. Across Gilman Street from the park, in the background, is Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel.

Above: This shot of University Club along State Street and across from the library mall begins a series of campus shots taken during the snowfall.

Above: The first of three shots looking at structures situated along Bascom Hill, climaxing with Bascon Hall itself, UW's primary administrative building, at the hill's apex.

Above and below: Views of Bascom Hill at the top, looking down.

Above: A pedestrian begins the Bascom Hill ascent.

Above: A few days after I came home from Madison, I glanced through a reader-contribution photo feature in a recent edition of Shutterbug magazine that used the category "the decisive moment," inspired by a phrase coined by 20th-century French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson. This image reminded me of such a "decisive moment." The female in the foreground, walking down Bascom Hill, passed me as I trekked up up the hill, and after I'd gotten about 20 yards from her I turned around to compose a shot to juxtapose her and the other walker with the buildings, pavement and the weather. Perhaps sensing what I was up to, the woman turned toward me just as I tripped the shutter.  

Above and next several below: A series of images in which the Memorial Union is the focal point. The series include three interior shots, including one of a fireside table in the cafeteria area where I remember sitting in the 1970s while enjoying coffee and doughnuts with friends I was visiting in Madison when I was in town see a Badgers football game.

Above and below: Leaving Memorial Union's east doors, one has this view above. At the bottom of the exterior stairs after leaving the building, you get the view below if you turn around.

Above: Two blocks from Kohl Center is the Nitty Gritty, where I dined right before the game. This image begins a series of photos taken with my iPhone 6s.

Above: Just before the game, we dined at the Nitty Gritty, a favorite stop for locals before going to Badgers' athletics games. I had some fried cheddar cheese curds, a Wisconsin favorite, as an appetizer.

Above and below: Exterior shots of the Kohl Center as I approached it after leaving the Nitty Gritty.

Above: The Kohl Center concourse.

Above: My first view of the Kohl Center near where I sat in Section 128.

Above and below: Back on the concourse, this artwork dons the north wall of the center.

Above and next two below: Shots of the Badgers during warm-ups.

Above and next several below: Pregame fanfare, presentation of colors and player introductions.

Above: Mascot Bucky Badger hamming it up for the videographer during a timeout.

Above: Cheerleaders go through a routine during a second-half timeout.

Above: Badgers coach Bo Ryan answers a television reporter's questions in the moments following the Badgers' 92-78 victory. 

Above: The writer/photographer, dressed in UW colors and waving in response to a text prompt from a friend who I visited at UW 40something years ago before a football game. 

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