Vestibule with a View: Cracked Glass and Framing Windows

sharp on L side of broken glass

With another winter storm having rolled across the East Coast I was inspired to look through my archives for a wintry image to share. As I was scrolling through thumbnails a winter image did indeed catch my eye, but it wasn't a snow or ice photo just one that happened to have been shot during the winter months. Maybe I'll come back with another post about a "real" winter photo.

I found this unexpected photo-op at the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens in Baltimore, Maryland. I stepped into the vestibule of the conservatory after having been outside photographing snow and ice. All the window panes were cracked in a similar fashion, and in the lower left pane there was a hole. I don't know what would have caused all six panes to crack so evenly, but I was glad I showed up before they replaced the window.

Hilz_110113_4432 (1)

The cracks formed a wonderful pattern that I couldn't resist layering with the windows on the side of the building. I began working with the lines of the windowpane dividers. I found a perspective where the dividers fit right between the sections of far windows. Notice how when the perspective is shifted to the right or up higher, the dividers overlap the windows leaving more of the empty space between the windows visible. The windows are more appealing than the empty space which causes the "misaligned" compositions to waste space.

Ideal perspective
Misalignment
Hilz_110113_4438

Next I turned to the pane with the hole that you see in the lead image. Working with the hole I went for a tighter shot to bring more attention to the details within the cracked glass. For all of these image I use a moderate aperture of f/11 to keep separation between the cracked window and the background windows. I also shot these photos at f/22, but the greater depth of field made the background windows too well-defined. Having the background slightly softer enabled the cracks to better stand out. As I've been discussing perspective was critical to creating these compositions, however the primary composition technique is framing. I used the windowpane dividers to frame the background windows, and then I used the hole in the glass to frame a single window.

While taking these photos I hadn't noticed was that the window was double-paned and it was the outer glass that was cracked and broken. I realized this when suddenly my view through the hole wasn't so clear. What was happening?! Condensation on my lens? Nope. A thin layer of condensation had coated the inside glass. Apparently I was breathing too much. At least there was an easy fix for that problem.

Condensation blocks the view.