I was recently asked by the Cobb Photographic Society to provide them with a challenge to pursue for their upcoming competition topic on architecture. After some consideration, I decided to give the club two challenges to pursue, both intended to add interest and spark to their photographs. In this post, I will address the first of these challenges: getting them to look beyond the whole and capture the details and perspectives that tell a larger story for their subject.
In some ways, capturing architecture is easy. Buildings don’t move or flinch (except in earthquakes!). If you show up at the right time of day or night and under the right atmospheric conditions, you can take excellent photographs very easily. But capturing some aspect of architecture, especially iconic architecture, is harder. Too many people compose their photographs from the same perspectives. In my work as an architectural photographer, I always strive to move beyond the obvious. As a working photographer, I have certainly been blessed with opportunities to capture unique perspectives, whether from the roof of a property I am shooting or from a helicopter. But special access or equipment is not always necessary. Any photographer can find opportunities to capture something (relatively) unique with attention to the details.
To illustrate, I have included several examples below. In the first image, I have included two separate images of the Empire State Building, both captured from the same perspective. While the first image shows the immensity of the structure in relation to its surroundings, the second image, a small cross-section of the building, is the more powerful portrayal of this architectural marvel. The image captures an intimate perspective that gives a hint or an allusion to the building’s overall size without trying to cram so much detail that the power gets lost on the viewer. What makes the image “unique” is the fact that most people, when trying to isolate a detail in this building, will tend to capture the top, of the building and overlook this perspective, with all of its angles and levels.
The second image shows two perspectives on the Anchorage Museum. A fascinating subject, this structure responds well to the changing light of the day. I tend to favor the smaller, more intimate detail on the right, for some of the same reasons I elucidated above.
The third image provides two perspectives on the Duomo in Florence, Italy. While the first image, like the Empire State Building image above, shows how immense the church is in relation to the rest of the city. But for me, the most powerful perspective I have seen of this iconic structure lies in the second, where it emerges from behind the building next to it.
Further examples of what I am talking about can be found in the rest of the images below, intimate views of the Arc de Triomphe and Sacre-Coeur in Paris, the Transamerica tower in San Francisco, and the Lincoln Memorial.