I was invited to present an Architectural Photography Workshop at the recent Professional Photographers of Washington Fall Conference held at the beautiful Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane, Washington. Man what a venue for a workshop!
The goal of this workshop was to create a beautiful architectural photograph of the grand old lady at dusk. This had us covering several aspects of this niche including determining the best angle of view, a proper working philosophy, camera & lens selection, compositional elements within the frame, preparation and key timings….all of which work together to help to ensure a successful image. The playbill as it read:
Commercial Architecture with Doug Walker, CPP, FP
Learn how to create an architectural exterior at the famous Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane, Washington. Work through the process of discussing (and choosing), the best angle of view, process and timelines that go into creating a stunning image at dusk.
I was thrilled this hands-on workshop played to some 30 + attendees on a balmy Saturday afternoon in October as the sun was escaping to the West. We began our workshop by rushing to and fro, up and down the Davenport parking garage seeking out our best height advantage. When photographing tall buildings it is considered best practices to be about 1/3 the way up for best rendering. We determined that the fifth floor provided us this best view (actually we were a bit higher than the 1/3rds rule because that height meant the rooftop gardens were oblique and hidden which was disconcerting. So moving a touch higher opened up that space to roam and created some diagonal lines while still maintaining good intimacy with the older lower street level elements. Height also reduced the ugliness of the street from occupying a larger part of our image foreground.
Once our floor was chosen we found the best vantage to set the Canon 5D Mark III proudly atop a Gitzo gt3542xls and geared Manfrotto 410 head. Our lens choice?…the mind-blowing, amazingly sharp, Canon 17 TS-E lens. This combination of gave us a combination of higher pixel-density, sharpness corner to corner, and a sleek form factor. A truly zen experience!
Note on Tilt-Shift lenses: The need to capture tall buildings without stretching images in post requires a Tilt-Shift lens. The Canon 17 TS-E lens (and its cousin the Canon 24 TS-E) are both legendary in this regard. Photographers who have not ventured into the Tilt-shift realm must rely on creating a panorama by way of a series of vertical images rotated left to right around the nodal point. 3, 5 or 7 images stitched into a panorama does raise the effective mega pixel resultant file but the image also suffers through heavy manipulation (pixels get stretched and lost) and the process is time consuming and MB storage heavy. Worst of all (IMHO) is the fact that objects close to the camera change perspective wildly with each successive image causing distortion issues in post often bringing a photographer to tears. Who needs that! The Canon TS-E lenses solve all this. Client satisfaction and a streamlined workflow is priceless….well almost…at least once the lenses are paid off.
After we were properly setup and our composition and focus were accomplished we began waiting for Dusk to arrive. (Those without long-sleeves were a bit chilled standing in the shade on concrete). As we waited we discussed the many issues architectural photographers face such as obtaining proper access and permissions to space, parking, security, obstacles, and other equipment needed such as remote shutters, tripod heads, camera settings, and basic shooting philosophy. Participants came away with a higher level of understanding about the processes taking their architectural photography to a new level.
In photographing buildings and spaces I am clearly in my element. I have been creating award-winning images of buildings and interior spaces for architects, construction companies, engineers, interior designers and manufacturers for some 23 years now…my passion since leaving Brooks in 1993. Though I miss the process of using a 4x5 view camera with polaroids and transparency sheet film, we finally have an elegant solution in the Canon 5D Mark III matched with the Canon 17mm & 24mm Tilt-Shift lenses. A killer combination that rivals film. And that which returns joy and provides a competitive edge is priceless!