Winter Night at the Milwaukee Art Museum

One night in mid-December several years ago, we decided to head down to the Milwaukee lakefront to take photographs of the Christmas lights on Wisconsin Avenue. We knew the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) was open later on Thursday nights, but we had no idea that the wings would be open. What a sight! When the winds are calm, the wings (the Burke Brise Soleil) will stay open. There are sensors on the wings that detect wind speed. If the wind gusts to 23 mph or more for 3 seconds, the wings automatically close.

There was some snow on the ground at that time, though it was not excessive. You can imagine how cold it was after the 4:30 p.m. sunset on Lake Michigan’s lakefront. If I had to guess, I would say that the temperature was in the 30s.

Night image of the Milwaukee Art Museum
Night Side at the Milwaukee Art Museum (link to purchase wall art here)

Fortunately, the wings were open for the entire time we were downtown shooting (1-1/2 hours). I did not know this at the time, of course, so I moved quickly and got as many shots as I could from as many angles as possible. To get the second photograph, I had hustled up the stairs with my camera and tripod and around to the street-level entrance to the MAM on East Wisconsin Avenue. I had to wait a bit for people to come and go from the museum, but not too long.

What you do not see in this photograph is the full (or near full) moon. The moon had just risen and was not that far above the top of the museum when I framed my shots. The light from the moon was far too bright for my photographs. The lighting of the museum and the walkway is perfect here!

Print of Milwaukee Art Museum in Winter at night
Milwaukee Art Museum in December (link to purchase wall art here)

This is one of my favorite vantage points of the museum. In this photograph, I love how you can see the snow on one side of the walkway. It adds to the overall feel of the image and suggests just how cold it was that night. 

After getting several more shots of the museum, we spent the next 45 minutes taking shots of the Christmas lights decorating East Wisconsin Avenue. When we turned to go back towards the museum, the moon was much higher in the sky.

Print of Downtown Milwaukee at night with Christmas lights
December Evening Downtown (link to purchase wall art here)

The next photograph was a stroke of luck. I never would have gotten it if I had gone home early because my feet were cold. The moon had risen higher in the sky, so I no longer needed to frame the shot to crop out the moon. The full moon was so bright, it created a beautiful blue backdrop of clouds behind the museum. I could not believe my eyes. It was absolutely breathtaking!

Night print of Milwaukee Art Museum under a full moon
Under a Full Moon (link to purchase wall art here)

Even 8 minutes later, you can see the moon is rising further in the sky and the blue cloud backdrop is starting to fade. I consider myself lucky that we started walking back towards the museum when we did, or I would have missed this spectacular effect.

Horizontal Print of Milwaukee Art Museum Under a Full Moon at night
Milwaukee Art Museum Under a Full Moon (link to purchase wall art here)

After stomping around in the cold for another 15 minutes, we finally made our way back down to the parking garage to our car. Of course, I had to stop and take several more shots of the museum. This was my last photograph of the evening. 

Print of the Milwaukee Art Museum at Night
Side Profile of the Milwaukee Art Museum (link to purchase wall art here)

To see more photographs of the Milwaukee Art Museum and other night images, please visit my Night Views gallery at Beautiful Sun Photography. All are available for purchase as wall art (art print, canvas, acrylic, metal, or framed).


Beautiful Sun Adventures is brought to you by Deb Beausoleil, a landscape photographer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her photography can be viewed (and purchased!) at her website, Beautiful Sun Photography.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. LA says:

    Gorgeous shot

  2. Steve Heap says:

    Fantastic shots! It’s great when luck is with you on a photo expedition and also great that you braved the cold and got the image with the moon lighting the clouds.

    1. It was an exhilarating night in so many ways!

  3. Bob Decker says:

    Beautiful photographs and a well crafted story to go with them. Enjoyed this greatly.

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