There is something about windmills that has always fascinated Brad Lawrence.
The fascination began while spending time as a graduate student at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Lawrence eventually had the idea to turn that passion virtual.
The Sugar Grove native holds the position of a “Google trusted photographer” and recently completed a Google Virtual Tour of Fabyan Windmill in Geneva. He used high dynamic-range photography on a digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR. The camera was placed on a tripod with a panoramic head.
This helped Lawrence capture each of his shots at a 360-degree view. The images, also known as photo spheres, get linked together using a particular Google software known as Google Street View.
“The tour starts around the outside of the windmill and simulates the actual, physical guided tour of the Fabyan Windmill,” Lawrence said. “This windmill is so unique, and I love everything about it. I was really excited doing it and love how it turned out.”
The tour, which was finished during fall 2015 and took around four hours to shoot, allows people to click their way through each level of the Fabyan Windmill, including a look at the top levels – where the capstones are located; an area normally off limits to the public.
Lawrence also said he was excited to have this tour completed in time for the Fabyan Windmill’s 100th anniversary of being located on the Fox River.
Speaking of location, when Lawrence first began to shoot the windmill project, he was partially delayed due to work being done on the structure. While at first it seemed frustrating, it turned into a blessing in disguise, he said. The time of year played perfect into showing off Lawrence’s favorite part of the virtual tour.
“The day I photographed the windmill, everything seemed like it was perfect,” Lawrence said. “The tour allows you to go out on the second level’s stage. The views are just spectacular. We had really interesting skies that day – there were awesome clouds, and it was way better that it got delayed to the fall. I absolutely love the views from the stage.”
Another reason Lawrence thought the idea for the windmill tour would be good was Colonel George Fabyan himself. With Fabyan’s passion for cryptography – the writing or solving of codes – Lawrence felt as if Fabyan would have been in large admiration of Google Virtual Tours.
“He would have loved this,” Lawrence said of the deceased former owner of the Fabyan Windmill. “The combination of his cutting-edge cryptography combined with the unique Google Street View technology is so appropriate.”
Though taking the photos took four hours, Lawrence said “moderating the tour” – where he actually goes through the software looking at the placement of the panoramas to make sure everything is in the correct position – takes much longer than actually photographing it.
Lawrence did learn more about the windmill during his time putting the virtual tour together.
His discussions with the miller, the operator of the windmill, put some emphasis on Fabyan’s care for the structure.
“Windmills are normally like factories,” Lawrence said. “I was told that George Fabyan put a lot of time and effort into making this look really exceptional. It was his pride and joy. This was one of my favorite tours that I’ve done because it’s such a unique structure.”
The Fabyan Windmill joins a list of others places where Lawrence has completed a virtual tour. Other spots include Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva (home of the Kane County Cougars), Blackberry Historical Farm in Aurora (done in conjunction with Bob Lockwood of Full Armour Studios) and the Batavia Depot Museum.
Lawrence’s list currently totals 13 tours, with optimism for many more in the coming year.
• To view the Google Virtual Tour of Fabyan Windmill in Geneva, visit https://goo.gl/maps/dC2oLDQ59yL2.