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CLASSICAL TWIN CITIES A day capturing the architectural beauty of THE TWIN CITES: Minneapolis and st. paul, minnesota

I had a rare day off between seminars…

I had wrapped up the launch of my new full-day seminar in Indianapolis, and I took a night flight to Minneapolis on Tuesday so I would have Wednesday off to go shooting before my seminar there the next day.

I had planned on shooting some of the classic old building interiors in the area, and as luck would have it, one of my readers, Jay Grammond, hit me up on Linked In and asked if I was doing any shooting during my visit. He offered to take me around shooting if I was, and well, son-of-a-gun I was thrilled to have a shooting buddy for the day, so we started making plans.

I had done some research on my own (via 500px.com and Pinterest and Google), but when I arrived, Jay had a wonderful day, with a ton of cool sights, already lined up. We got started around 8:15 am and headed out in the rainy, cold, windy, yucky weather, but mostly we would be indoors, so we didn't sweat it. Our first stop of the day was in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota:

The Cathedral of St. Paul

The cathedral was on the top of my list, and luckily Jay had it as our first stop in nearby St. Paul, Minnesota. They welcome photographers, but they ask that you apply for a photo pass before just showing up, so Jay did apply and the credentials were waiting for us at the info desk. We had about 15 minutes to ourselves, but then…two tour buses packed with tourists arrived and that made things a bit more challenging. We tried to shoot around the tourists, and in some cases, we simply waited them out. I would have loved another 30-minutes with the place empty, but I was still thrilled to be able to shoot there at all.

The amazing domed roof of the St. Paul Cathedral — the third largest cathedral in the US.
Here's a behind-the-scenes shot of the shot directly above this one. On a 3-legged thing travel tripod; RRS ballhead; and shot with 16-35mm f/4 lens at f/11. Three exposure-bracketed frames
Here's another behind-the-scenes (this one from Jay).

It's the third largest cathedral in the US, and it was magnificent! This Roman Catholic cathedral reminded me of on ones you'd see in Europe, but here it was in St. Paul. The ceiling was quite amazing, and there's just an awful lot going on here architecturally. I could have spent hours there, but our pass was only for one hour. Here are a few shots (taken mostly with my Platypod, but a few with a tripod, and two handhelds after I thought we were done for the day but on the way out, I couldn't resist grabbing a few handhelds).

The light in this hallway was just beautiful. If you look in the back, you'll see a man sitting in the pews looking upward. It would have made a great shot of him with a longer lens.
This is one of those hand-held shots, on the way out; taken at ISO 800 at 1/5 of a second.
This is just a reference shot of the exterior, taken in the rain from the street. It's a beautiful cathedral exterior — this is just not a beautiful picture of it, but I wanted to at least include a reference shot so you could see it.

The Minnesota State Capitol Building

Our next stop was right down the street from the cathedral; the Minnesota State Capitol building. It was way better than I was expecting. Just beautiful, and there were some historians there that gave us some background on this fantastic building, and showed us lots of things we would have missed on our own. It opened in 1905 and was just recently completely, and the place looked like new.

We just walked in the front door (it's open to everyone). Once we started shooting, everyone was very accommodating, and we were allowed to shoot pretty much everywhere that wasn't currently in session. According to Wikipedia, this Capitol building "…houses the Minnesota Senate, Minnesota House of Representatives, the office of the Attorney General and the office of the Governor." So worth a visit, even if you didn't take a camera (but bring your camera for sure!).

The dome in the center of the Capitol Building shot from down low. It kinda has the same tones as the Cathedral, but just in this one dome area.
Here's the Behind-The-Scene shot. Jay and I joked that it's like they put that little circle there so you'd know where to put your Platypod. LOL!! ;-)
Here I picked my Platypod up and rested it on the railing that you see in the previous dome shot, and instead of aiming up, I just aimed it downward. No changes in settings.
Jay sent me this BTS of me steadying my Platypod on that railing and aiming it down to get the previous shot.
Quite a view from the top of the staircase. I wish I could have moved those two signs in the center of the staircase. Heck, if I had asked one of the historians, they probably would have not only let me, but helped me do it. They were super friendly and helpful. I guess I could "Photoshop" them out, but…nah.
Here's a behind-the-scenes shot of me taking the shot before this one. My hand is right near my rig just in case it were to tip, I could catch it. Well, that's the plan anyway. Thankfully, it never did tip at all.
In this BTS shot, you can see how my Platypod Ultra is hanging off both ends. That why I was in "ready" mode to catch it just in case. Same lens as before: 16-35mm f/4.
This is the staircase leading up to where I took the previous shots. My Platypod is balanced on a sign here as well. This was actually the first shot I took upon entering the capital.
Here's the State Senate chambers in-between sessions. The low angle with an ultra wide-angle lens really gives you a neat epic perspective. BTS to follow.
Here's a BTS of the shot you just saw. It doesn't get much simpler than this. Place it on the floor; angle it up with a 16-35mm, take three exposure-bracketed shots. Boom. Done.
The House of Representatives chamber.
Here's the view from the steps of the Capitol back toward the Cathedral. It's like a straight shot from one to the other, so if you're thinking of photographing one, you've kinda got to add the other.

The Lakewood Cemetery Memorial Chapel

This is one I had discovered online in my pre-trip research, but I had no idea how remarkable this tiny chapel in a cemetery would be. The architectural design was inspired by the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. I saw the original Hagia Sophia in Istanbul on a trip there years ago (it was original built as a mosque, but it's a museum now). Sadly I never got inside, so I had just seen the exterior, but the exterior is distinctive enough that when I saw this small chapel in Minneapolis, my first thought was, "That looks like a mini Hagia Sophia"). Inside, this little chapel was stunning! Plus, it was open to the public, and we had the place to ourselves for about an hour, until a couple came in and just looked around. That was it. Glorious emptiness!

Shot from the alter looking back toward the chapel entrance doors. Only 10 rows deep from, from the alter to the doors (six rows deep on the sides).
This behind-the-scenes shot (courtesy of Jay) of me taking the previous shot gives you a better idea of how tiny this wonderful little chapel really is.
Here's a shot from down low at the chapel entrance.
Here's a little farther back from the previous shot to include the two lamps in the small foyer area in front.
Three rows back.
The view from the Alter.
I wanted to get a shot aiming straight up the dome, so here's my "not-too-exciting" behind-the-scenes shot of taking the shot of the dome you're about to see next. It's my platypod on the ground, with the camera aiming straight up toward the dome. You just try and find the exact center of the dome and place your camera there. I really could have used my 14mm here to capture the entire dome…if only I had brought it with me on this trip. Oh well, it still looks fairly good.
The dome looking straight up.

A few quick exterior snaps

It was gray and raining outside (all day, everywhere we went), and it was cold (it called for snow in that night's forecast), so I just jumped out of my friend's truck real quick with an umbrella and took a few hand-held shots just to have a reference photo of the outside. These are not great shots on any level, but on a nice summer's day, without the dead trees, and beautiful sky, you could make some wonderful images of its exterior (even though I surely didn't). Still a magnificent little chapel, even on a gray, rainy day.

The James J. Hill Center Research Library

Not far away from the Capitol, in nearby St. Paul is a beautiful library that Jay found (I always search for old classic libraries like this when I do my research before a trip, and I missed finding this one, but Jay nailed it). We asked at the front desk if we could come in and take photos, and they were happy to have us in (everybody, everywhere on this day was so nice and welcoming. I freakin' love the Midwest).

We only spent about 30 minutes there, but it was a fun 30. We had access to the 2nd floor, which I think gave the best views. I balanced my Platypod on the railing, aiming down to get the shot you see below.

You can see the railings along the sides — that's what I balanced my Platypod upon. It actually fit there fairly nicely.
Balanced on the side railings upstairs
Here's the downstairs view.
Here's a behind the scenes from the above shot. The tables were in a u-shape, so I moved it to different places on these tables to find the best position, but this gives you an example.
Down low on the floor.
One of my favorites from the library. Had to do a little Photoshop magic to remove some rope and stanchion. If you scroll up to the next larger pic above, you'll see this scene in the back of the library.
A selfie of Jay and me in the State Capitol Building (thanks, Jay!).

Thanks for letting me share these with you.

I was delighted to have spent a rainy day in Minneapolis, mostly indoors shooting such beautiful, fascinating, and just gorgeous interiors. Thanks to Jay for finding these excellent spots, driving me around to them, and for making my day in the Twin Cities so memorable. My seminar the next day was an absolute blast (thanks to all the friendly and gracious photographers in Minneapolis who came out), and I can't wait to go back again on a nice summer's day.

CAMERA INFO: Canon EOS Camera 5D Mark IV with a Canon 16-35mm f/4 lens mounted on a Platypod Ultra base with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ballhead. All the shots taken on my Platypod or tripod were taken at f/11 at 100 ISO shot in Aperture Priority mode with exposure bracketing turned on (2-stops + and –). There were a few hand-held shots in the Cathedral; those were at ISO 800 at f/4.5 - 1/5 to 1/8 of a second shutter speed, single exposures.

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Scott Kelby
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