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Honoring the Colorado Capitol Dome Exhibition

Who knew a simple act of kindness towards another photographer might lead to such great things as being included in an art exhibition honoring the Colorado Capitol Dome in Denver? That really is how my photo of the Colorado State Capitol came into existence. Here’s the story…

Colorado State Capital Building in Denver: As Seen by Janine

Colorado State Capital Building in Denver: As Seen by Janine

Back in 2011, Chris Lord, a fellow photographer I’d been corresponding with on Facebook and Google Plus, came to Colorado on a business trip. We’d “met” through a very trusted mutual friend, so when I saw posts on FB that Chris was miserably stuck in some airport hotel, and riding a shuttle back and forth to a consulting job in Aurora, I cringed to think this was all he was seeing. His posts sounded like he was depressingly stuck in the armpit of America, but we all know that is Trenton and I’ve been a refugee from New Jersey since 2000, so I knew his perspective of Colorado must be broadened!

I promptly wrote to Chris informing him, “Nobody comes all the way from New York to Colorado and only sees ‘Saudia Aurora’ my friend. I’m busting you out and we’re going on a Denver Photo Walkabout!” That is exactly what we did.

Chris and I spent a splendid afternoon on September 26, 2011 photographing the full length of the 16th Street Mall, starting at the Millennium Bridge and, by an act of pure serendipity, ending at the Colorado State Capitol building just at sunset.

Thus, Chris was with me when this photograph was taken of the late sun reflecting off the gold dome of the Capitol. The shot was hand-held (we’d both been too lazy to carry tripods but regretted it), with me standing on a concrete traffic median and bracing my camera against a light pole. I never imagined I’d end up with a salvageable shot!

To show you how unlikely a successful outcome was, here is my first attempt, before I decided to climb up onto the concrete traffic median and use the light post you can see in this shot to brace my camera. YUCK!

First Attempt showing Traffic Median & Light Post I Eventually Used

First Attempt showing Traffic Median & Light Post I Eventually Used

Luckily, a lifetime of climbing trees, mountains, towers, and anything else which needed to be climbed, made me not hesitate for a moment to jump up onto that traffic median and use the light post as a brace!

I knew I wanted an HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo to intensify and capture the drama of the clouds, the vivid bright gold dome in the late sun, and the details in the shadows in the foreground foliage. But using three shots taken with no tripod whilst precariously balanced on a traffic median was likely to be dicey at best.

To show you just how dicey, here is one of the three images taken while perched up there, before any post-processing to create an HDR:

Original Photo Prior to HDR Processing

Original Photo Prior to HDR Processing

Luckily I have a workflow which involves using a “Stack Align Crop” Photoshop script by Uwe Steinmueller, making it possible to obtain better HDR photos from hand-held photos. For more technical info, see this post about Uwe’s Script and Hand-held HDRs. That is the workflow I used to prove I’d been wrong about not ending up with a salvageable shot.

Not only was I wrong, but I ended up with this beautiful photograph.

Colorado State Capital Building in Denver: As Seen by Janine

Colorado State Capital Building in Denver: As Seen by Janine

Better still, my photograph was eventually was accepted into a major exhibition, the “Honoring the Colorado Capital Dome” exhibition at the Colorado State Capitol from October 2014 – March 2015.

Honoring the Capitol Dome Exhibition Poster

Honoring the Capitol Dome Exhibition Poster

The exhibition is sponsored by Colorado’s Creative Industries, Colorado’s state arts agency. Restoration on the cast iron structure of the Capitol‘s dome started in 2010 and culminated in the renewal of the gold surface of the dome. The exhibition was organized to celebrate the completion of the restorations at the Capitol’s re-dedication ceremony on October 2, 2014.

When I found the Call for Entry, I knew instantly I had to submit my photo and was overjoyed when I learned my piece had been selected for the exhibition.

Sadly, I had to miss the exhibition’s opening at the grand re-dedication ceremony due to a death in the family. Ever since then, I’ve been meaning to get down to the Capitol to see my artwork and the rest of the exhibit. Finally the chance arose over the holidays this year.

My neighbor, friend and fellow pro photographer, Andy Schwartz, agreed to come along to photograph me with my artwork at the exhibit. This shot shows some context of where my image is displayed in a high traffic area through the Rotunda, the round area in the basement directly under vaulted ceiling and the dome.

I had originally heard mine was one of the artworks in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, but wow am I glad that turned out to be wrong. It is a closed office which, even if someone were to knock and go in, the art is spread through 3 different rooms where government officials are busy working. I can’t imagine people stay long to browse in there.

By contrast, the Rotunda is a beautifully lit, open and public space, with benches to sit and enjoy the art in the exhibition. My photo is right beside the major walkway through the Rotunda, so gets a lot of exposure.

Janine With Artwork in Capitol Rotunda - Photographed by Andy Schwartz

Janine With Artwork in Capitol Rotunda – Photographed by Andy Schwartz

It was a thrill to see my artwork grandly displayed and to see my name on the poster listing all the participating artists!

Exhibition Artists

Exhibition Artists

Andy got a closer shot of my photo and me and my artist’s placard.

 Photo of Janine with Her Artwork taken by Andy Schwartz

Photo of Janine with her artwork taken by Andy Schwartz

Janine Fugere Artist Placard

Janine Fugere – Artist Placard

Nice that they include the artist’s website on the placards identifying the artist and the artwork. It will remain displayed like this through March 2015, so that is some decent exposure!

Andy and I had a great time on our visit because we also decided to make it a fun outing and take the “Mr. Brown’s Attic and Dome Walk” tour.

According to the Capitol tours description, “Mr. Brown’s Attic is an exhibit area located between the third floor and the dome. It is devoted to Colorado’s early history, Capitol construction and architecture, and the legislative process, and has a children’s interactive space featuring a voting machine and a Colorado state symbol display. The dome walk is a 99-step climb to the observation area where there is a 360 degree view of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains.”

For the record, Andy says he only counted some 60-something steps, but we laughed that they must have been counting all the other stairs to get up to the attic and base of the dome in the first place!

Before we headed up to Mr. Brown’s attic, we each could not resist taking shots from the Rotunda in the basement, looking straight up to the inside of the dome. Andy got a beautiful simple ambient light shot using his new Nikon D-750. I love the point-of-view he chose for this shot; I often miss such interesting perspectives out of my own fascination for symmetry.

Andy Schwartz Dome Interior Photo

Andy Schwartz Dome Interior Photo

I decided to make the day more just a play day, so was shooting with my Galaxy cell phone, playing around with very cool app called HDR Camera+ which takes three exposures bracketed by 2 stops.

It also creates an HDR from the merged shots; however, I don’t often use the in-camera merged HDR; I prefer to edit the individual shots in Photomatix Pro, my HDR software of choice. That is what I did on my shot of the Dome Interior.

Here is my resultant whimsical HDR, which was taken from the same location as Andy’s shot, only my aforementioned love of symmetry is evident in my direct point-of-view.

Capitol Dome Interior Looking up from Basement Rotunda

Capitol Dome Interior Looking up from Basement Rotunda

Onward and upward we headed to Mr. Brown’s Attic, where we enjoyed seeing lots of cool artifacts, and learning more about the history of Colorado as well as the history of the Capitol building. For example, who knew that the Colorado State Capitol was originally named “Corinthian” by its designer, architect Elijah E. Meyers?

Mr. Brown's Attic Artifacts A Design Named Corinthian

Mr. Brown’s Attic Artifacts – A Design Named Corinthian

The dome was also originally copper, but was later clad in gold, and the gold has been restored several times, including during the recent restoration being honored by the art exhibit. Anyone who’s ever felt the sting of dust blowing at high speed across Colorado’s Front Range of the Rocky Mountains will understand why such a soft metal as gold would need regular refurbishment. This display explains the importance of gold to the state and as the symbol represented by the gold dome.

The Importance of Gold to Colorado and for the Capitol Dome

The Importance of Gold to Colorado and for the Capitol Dome

In the mid-1950’s Colorado’s governor, Daniel Thornton, was known as “The Cowboy Governor” and during his term, Capitol tours were led by Colorado Cowgirl Capitol Guides like these two gals in western wear.

Colorado Cowgirl Capitol Guides in the Mid-1950's

Colorado Cowgirl Capitol Guides in the Mid-1950’s

Funny, the woman on the left looks almost a dead-ringer for how my mother looked in the mid-1950’s but, at that time, she was finishing college at University of Rhode Island, marrying my dad, and starting our family, so unless she was leading a double life, it can’t be her! But I couldn’t resist posing with the ladies anyhow, just for fun, because she reminded me of my mom so much. Seriously, look at the shape of my eyes and smile, and compare to the brunette woman on the left…

[Addendum from Janine: Visited my mom several days after publishing this post and compared this photo to her wedding portrait. OMG, the brunette Colorado Cowgirl Capitol Tour guide looks sooooo much like my mom on her wedding day! Okay, Mom was wearing a veil, not a cowgirl hat, but I’m telling you, the resemblance was uncanny!]

Janine with Colorado Cowgirl Capitol Guides from the late 1950's

Janine with Colorado Cowgirl Capitol Guides from the late 1950’s


This brass placard explains the origin of the city of Denver’s name.

Origin of Denver's Name

Origin of Denver’s Name

Mr. Brown’s attic has countless other details about Colorado history, and all the state symbols. Of course, as a life-long lover of turtles, the one I honed in on to photograph was my discovery that Colorado’s state reptile is the Western Painted Turtle!

Western Painted Turtle Colorado State Reptile

Western Painted Turtle Colorado State Reptile

Colorado has two state songs; the first, “Where the Columbines Grow” by A.J. Flynn, was adopted in 1915. The second state song, “Rocky Mountain High” was additionally adopted in 2007 in honor of the late John Denver and his love of Colorado.

The song holds special meaning to me, dating back to singing it aloud with my best friend Elizabeth back in the 8th grade, and more recently, being sung on semi-annual weekend retreats my school used to take in the mountains with students each fall and spring. Over my lifetime, I’ve sung John Denver’s song more times than I could ever possibly count. Subsequently, I am one of the people who was very happy to hear of the song being adopted as our second state song.

Rocky Mountain High by John Denver Sheet Music

Rocky Mountain High by John Denver Sheet Music

Speaking of Rocky Mountain High, it’s a mile high to be exact at the Colorado Capitol, hence Denver being known as the “Mile High City.” There are actually three different markers of the mile high point. The official original marking is on the fifteenth step, which is engraved with the words “One Mile Above Sea Level.” A resurvey by Colorado State University students in 1969 led to a new bench marker being embedded in the 18th step. With the advent of more accurate GPS surveying techonology, the mile high point was more accurately determined in 2003, and a 3rd bench mark was installed on the 13th step.

2003 Mile High Bench Marker

2003 Mile High Bench Marker

This is my photograph of the 2003 Mile High Benchmark, taken on that same sunset photo walk with Chris Lord. I love this shot because not only can you see the sunset reflected in the marker, but you can also see the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. I also think I ought to donate this photo to the Capitol Tours, because the photo they have in Mr. Brown’s Attic really pales by comparison to this shot, in my own not-so-humble opinion!

Mr. Brown’s Attic did have something else I certainly never before had access to: reproductions of the building’s architectural drawings, which were originally on linen. They were far too large for any photo to do them justice, so you’ll just have to go take the Attic Walk Tour yourself to see the marvelous drafting.

This poster gives details about the building’s architect along with fascinating information on the Capitol construction details.

From Linen to Stone Capitol Construction Details

From Linen to Stone Capitol Construction Details

Among the artifacts in Mr. Brown’s attic is this incredibly detailed model of the Capitol. It blew my mind, reminding me of Lego on steroids or something! It is extremely accurate in every aspect of its details and perspective.

Model of the Colorado Capitol in Mr. Brown's Attic Artifacts

Model of the Colorado Capitol in Mr. Brown’s Attic Artifacts

Right near the model of the Capitol with its glorious gold dome are displays about the gold gilding process.

Gold Gilding Tools and Samples

Gold Gilding Tools and Samples

This photo shows the most recent gold guilding and iron restoration work in progress:

Gold Gilding Worker Gilding the Dome During Restorations

Worker Gold Gilding the Dome and Restoring Iron Supports During Restorations

As we neared the back reaches of Mr. Brown’s Attic heading towards the stairs to the Dome, I was really moved by this quotation from the Denver Post in 1957 about the significance of the Capitol building.

1957 Denver Post Quote About the Capitol Building

1957 Denver Post Quote About the Capitol Building

It was time to head onward and upward into the dome!

To Dome Brass Sign

To Dome – Brass Sign

As we began ascending inside the dome, it became possible to get a better view of the many stained glass portrait windows that surround the entire dome. This portrait of Kit Carson was the one which caught my eye:

Stained Glass of Kit Carson in the Dome as Viewed from Mr. Brown's Attic

Stained Glass of Kit Carson in the Dome as Viewed from Mr. Brown’s Attic

Once up inside the Dome, the child in me wanted to break the rules and run up this “closed to the public” spiral stairway all the way to the top!

Spiral Staircase Inside the Dome

Spiral Staircase Inside the Dome

I opted to photograph the staircase instead, figuring it’d be good not to get thrown out since I really, really, really, really (yep, that’s four reallys!!!!) wanted to go outside on the observation deck, which is right outside those huge window doors surrounding the spiral stairs. I’m glad I showed restraint because it was really fun to go out and get the 360 degree panorama view of Denver.

We were in horrible mid-day light, but luckily my HDR Camera+ app on the Galaxy can do an amazing job of getting a good set of bracketed exposures. Processing these in Photomatix Pro produced a couple of  decent shots, albeit a bit noisy, but still nice shots considering how bad the light was. I made two HDRs which I took from the observation deck around the dome.

The first was of a weather vane atop a steeple which caught my eye, because my late father had always loved weather vanes. I couldn’t get a closer shot of the weather vane, but then Andy mentioned that it happened to be just to the right of an apartment building where friends of his live, so I used the steeple and weather vane to frame the friends’ apartment building at the top left of the picture.

Cool Steeple With Weather Vane & Andy's Friends' Apartment

Cool Steeple With Weather Vane & Andy’s Friends’ Apartment

The other HDR I created with shots from the HDR Camera+ app was this view of the Capitol Flagpole in the foreground, with the Denver City and County Building across the street, backed by the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.

Denver City and County Building Viewed from the Dome Walk Balcony

Denver City and County Building Viewed from the Dome Walk Balcony

I’m surprisingly extremely pleased with this photo, given how grey, harsh, and lacking in contrast the view seemed like it would turn out.

After heading back downstairs, as Andy and I were getting ready to leave the Capitol, I happened to look up inside the dome from below again. It occurred to me that a black and white of that same view would be really cool. Thus, I decided to use the same shot I showed earlier of the dome interior, only process it as a black and white.

I merged the same three bracketed exposures into Photomatix Pro a second time, only this time I chose a black and white artistic style tone mapping preset. I then additionally processed the shot in onOne’s Perfect B&W8 using the “Ansel in the Valley” preset. How fitting, as I consider Ansel Adams as my first photography mentor.

This is the final result and it’s a fun memento of a great a play day!

Dome Interior Perfect B&W Ansel in the Valley Preset

Dome Interior Perfect B&W Ansel in the Valley Preset

In addition to being on display at the Capitol through the end of March 2015, I have an additional framed copy of my “Colorado State Capitol: As Seen by Janine” photograph hanging in my classroom where I teach.I am donating it to the school, partially to help instil interest in photography to my students,  and also to boost their awareness of Colorado History.

I will be using this blog post to make a presentation to the middle and high school social studies classes. The photo will travel from class to class and will eventually hang in the middle of our art gallery wall in the school cafeteria beside the U.S. Flag.

Matted Framed 20x30 inch print donated to Global Leadership Academy of Denver

Matted Framed 20×30 inch print donated to Global Leadership Academy of Denver

All of that came to pass from the simple act of kindness to take photographer Chris Lord of New York City on a photo walk of Denver.

The rest of this post came from the act of kindness photographer Andy Schwarz showed by coming along with me to photograph me with my art at the exhibit. His kindness also helped make it a great play day touring Mr. Brown’s Attic and taking the Dome Walk!

Thanks very much to Chris, Andy, and to Colorado’s Creative Industries for accepting my artwork into the exhibition and giving it such a very nice display location. This has been a fine honor to end my year of 2014 and ring in 2015 in style!

Be sure to go take in the Honoring the Colorado Capitol Dome Exhibition which runs through March 31, 2014. There are a very wide variety of beautiful artworks included in the show, all worthy of seeing – so be sure you go into the Lieutenant Governor’s office too, as well as down to the basement Rotunda, where my piece is displayed.

You, too, should make it a play day, and take the Mr. Brown’s Attic and Dome Walk Tours. They run at about 45 minutes past the hour on regular business days at the Capitol. Go all the way up and HONOR THE DOME!

By Janine Fugere

As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images

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11 Responses

  1. Great posting! I’m pleased out how well all the photos turned out. The images and your text gave a perfect sense of how the afternoon went! What a great time!

    January 6, 2015 at 8:07 am

  2. Thanks so much Andy! Here is some “COMMENT LOVE” as thanks for your comment on this post.

    Here is a link to Andy’s Soaring Light Images website, where you can view and purchase his incredibly beautiful photography:

    I, too, was pleased how well the photos turned out and enjoyed doing the write up to give a good sense of just what an informative and fun outing we had. Thanks again so much for going with me!


    January 6, 2015 at 12:31 pm

  3. Well, that’s quite a story Janine. It’s so cool that our September photo-walk led to all of this and the wonderful acceptance of your picture for the exhibition. Who would have thought it back then? Definitely a terrific way to finish out the year. Must be the karma for your good deed. You certainly deserve it.

    Hope you meet with lots more success and good luck in 2015. Cheers


    January 6, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    • Karma yes, but largely determination to make something of those photos from our outing, just to prove I’d not been a fool to shun my Manfrotto Pro tripod that day! Go figure, I have had several from that day which have met with good success: The Civil War Soldiers Monument Sunset shot, the 16th Street Mall at Twilight shot, and of course this one…

      For sure readers should check out Chris Lord’s work. He self-describes himself as a Pixie-lated Pixel Pusher, and when you visit his site, you will instantly see the pixie in his art! Splendid works to be sure, so drop on by.

      January 6, 2015 at 9:55 pm

  4. A friend, Steve Cornwell, wrote to me directly and mentioned that my photograph is “Turneresque.”

    It has been a heck of a long time since Spring 1980, when I took Art History, so I had to look Turner up! As soon as I did, I can see that Steve’s reference is actually quite appropriate.

    Turner was known for elevating landscape oil painting to a level of style which, while not initially accepted at the time, eventually became very popular and was the style that was the predecessor to Impressionism.

    On my photo, the HDR (High Dynamic Range) style I used is specifically designed to have a surreal painterly look. AKA, Turneresque!

    Thanks Steve!

    January 7, 2015 at 10:35 am

  5. Karen

    I had to chuckle when I read what you said about your love of symmetry, in geometrically balanced shots. Years ago I found myself suffering from the same preference (limitation?), and started deliberately including BOTH perspectives — even when I didn’t prefer an ‘asymmetrical’ shot when taking it, I often found, afterward, while post-processing, that surprisingly often I really DID like that eccentricity better.

    So now I’m an eccentric afficionado … and I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that eccentricity refers to me or the photos I take. 😉

    Beautiful shot of the capitol dome, with its accentuated saturation and contrast, by the way. I’ve seen actual skies that looked just that dramatic, and it’s how one’s memory might remember the scene. 🙂 You really had to work for that one! Congrats SO much on getting into the capitol art display!


    January 7, 2015 at 10:37 am

  6. Thanks so much Karen!

    Yes, actually the skies were somewhere in between what the original SOOC shot looked like and the final image. It’s always best to expose on the bright side because it’s easier to recover highlights than shadows – you can’t recover what was too dark to be captured in the first place.

    Anyhow, since I wear amber polarizing sunglasses, our amazing Colorado cloudscapes do always look more HDR to me, plus I enjoy the dramatic effect in my art.

    And yes, I, too, will begin striving for some eccentric asymmetry. I love that you called yourself an eccentric aficionado; you do know, of course, that both you and your photos are eccentric, which is why we get along so great… Takes one to understand one!

    Hugs, Janine

    January 7, 2015 at 6:39 pm

  7. heidi rosvold-brenholtz

    Positively awesome. What a great blog, with great images and so personal. . . made me feel that I was there with you on your tour of the dome, snapping away. Thanks for teaching me some Colorado history and some photo techniques. The photo is lovely. Congrats on your success at being selected for display. Hurray!


    January 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    • Thanks Heidi, I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. You are the second person who’s told me they enjoy the personal style of my writing. It’s nice feedback because sometimes I worry that I find it hard to be more “objective” in my writing; but personal is the truth of who I am, and it’s nice hearing that this adds to the experience for my readers. Thanks again, Janine

      January 11, 2015 at 12:34 pm

  8. Here is another comment which was sent to me by email:

    Hi Janine,

    Very nice on your photography and blog…

    I love how you express yourself so freely in your writing… It’s welcoming and catches my attention to want to continue reading…

    Thank you,

    Pathways To Discovery

    Life Coach, Teacher and Healer

    January 11, 2015 at 1:13 pm

  9. Received another nice comment via email:

    Thanks for sharing this and congratulations!
    Your photograph is lovely and I so enjoyed your explanation/blog of the entire creative process. I read every single word and learned some Colorado history and some photographic technology, too.

    Keep taking those great shots!


    January 13, 2015 at 6:28 pm

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"As Seen by Janine: Eyes of the World Images Photo Blog"  by Janine Fugere. 

Come take a look at the world "As Seen by Janine." 

My cameras and lenses are my "Eyes of the World."  Please enjoy the view! 

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