Saturday, February 22, 2020
OK, I hear ya, loud and clear. You want me to make up my mind what kind of photographer I am. In the last week I have shot waterfalls, barns, landscapes with light trails, and now this modern art approach to buildings. I don’t know what to say other than I am trying to find my creative voice again and I am starting to get some wild inspiration which I am listening to. This particular trek was kind of an odd one I will admit though. It kind of started suddenly without any sort of planning at all, and not even a clear idea of what I wanted to do. That is the way inspiration works sometimes though. here is the story of how these images came to be, as simple and kind of haphazard as it might sound. I had actually planned on having a very low key kind of day with the only thing on my agenda was taking Sierra to get some things that she needs for her riding lessons. Beyond that, I was quite content to just sit back and rest for the day. It was a good day for that rest actually with not a cloud in the sky, and a little on the chilly side.
It wasn’t until mid afternoon that I started to really think about doing any kind of photography, and I wasn’t even thinking about doing it that day. I was just thinking of things that I could photograph in the future. I was bouncing from location to location in my mind and then I had a memory from a few weeks back. I had been contacted through Facebook in relation to one of my rustic pictures that I had shared to a group. They asked if I had ever photographed the Pepsi building in Winston Salem. I had to stop and think for a minute to see if I knew anything at all about a rustic looking Pepsi building. I couldn’t think of one to save my life. The only two that I knew of was a distribution building that was close to my house and their headquarter’s building which wasn’t too far from me. Neither of which really fit the rustic category. I inquired as to what building he was talking about and he confirmed that it was the headquarter’s building by the fair grounds. I’m still not quite sure how that related to the rustic subject that he was commenting on, but he was asking about something that I had never photographed and had never really given any thought to.
With that memory coming back into my mind, I started to consider how I would photograph it. It was a very reflective building from memory, and I recalled it having some really nice angles to it. I knew that the parking lot was normally full during the week and there were trees that would be in bloom before long. How could I photograph this building? My first thought was a wide angle shot from the parking lot, but then I would be getting the light posts and some very tall trees in the shot that would take away from the building. By the time I expanded the focal length to capture the sky with any clouds I was going to more than likely lose the building entirely in the frame. I was pretty sure that I wanted to concentrate on the angles of the building, so that meant shooting isolations of the glass. That could be interesting with a colorful sky, but it could also make for some really nice high contrast black and white scenes as well.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to shoot this building since I hadn’t really paid any attention to it in more than 10 years. I had been relaxing all day, so I had the energy to go out and give it a look which might result in some images. Since the sky wasn’t all that great, I wasn’t expecting any real interest, but I knew that as the sun went down, the sun would be hitting the building at an angle to bring in some warm tones to the reflection if nothing else. It might work, and it was enough of a chance for me to give it a try right at golden hour.
Sierra and I had dinner early and I was out the door around 5pm so that I could get to the building in time to get things figured out before the 5:30 golden hour started. When I got there the trees were much larger than I thought and prevented a clear view from most angles. I drove through the parking lots and tried to figure out where the best shooting location was as well as the angles that would make the best use of the sun in the Southwest part of the sky. Ultimately, I found one area where I had a good view of the building but the angles weren’t right at all from here. I tried getting in closer but that just made it worse. I then went further away and found that the angles relaxed and started to look more promising. I went ahead and parked the truck and pulled out my equipment. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would be needing to use my long 70-200mm lens since I was shooting isolations. I wasn’t sure about using a polarizer though so I pulled that out and held it in my hand to see what the effect was going to be. It did add a little contrast to the glass and deepened the blue in the sky a touch. It was enough to justify screwing that filter onto the end of the lens. I then mounted the whole contraption to my tripod and started to look for compositions.
There were a lot of angles to this building and trying to find a good visual balance in them was not the easiest thing to do. However, I did find a good place to get the camera set up which blended the framework and the reflections to the best effect. I tried both horizontal and vertical compositions to get that balance just right. It was the vertical ones that I liked most at the time, but when I got home, it was the horizontal composition that really hit home for me. That was the first one that I started to edit and decided that it needed to be done as a black and white image since everything was largely blue in the frame. I had the ability to really get in and selectively adjust the tones in the image to get the final presentation that I was after. After the conversion was over, I had an image that was so much better than the one that I had captured, but that was pretty much the plan. I was going for a more artful approach here than an honest rendering of the scene. I had already told myself that the processing would be a large part of this creative process and the images that I captured would be just the raw material for the final images.
There was still something that wasn’t quite feeling right while I was shooting the different compositions though. I was feeling that the images were capturing too much of the scene and were lacking the intimacy that I was after. I needed to get in tighter, but to do that would change the perspective and introduce converging verticals. I did have another trick up my sleeve that I thought might just work out. I pulled out my 2X extender and mounted it between the lens and the body to give me a reach of 400mm. That actually did the trick and I found that my new sweet spot was around 230-270mm. With that I started to frame up some different compositions.
I went back to the vertical approach that I had been liking while at the location and found that I could really get some dramatic diagonals and some triangles through the image by concentrating on a reflected portion on of the building and pulling in just a little bit of the sky at the top. I tried some without the sky, but that ended up being a little too bland when I looked at them later on the computer. It was this second image that spoke to me during the editing process and it was the one that I decided to process. Much like the previous one, I wanted to do it as a high contrast black and white image. It just seemed to fit, although there were more colors starting to be introduced into the scene. It was still largely blue and that was not going to work. I wanted the focus on this image to be on the design, and not the cool color tones. The edit on this one went rather quickly compared to the first image which took the longest to massage to where I wanted it.
I really liked how this vertical image was turning out and it was the added reach of the converter that made it possible. It had that right balance and the intimate feel. It also had just enough of the sky to add a sense of scale and place. I learned that trick with some other geometrical images that I had shot over the previous Summer. Without the sky, the images start to look odd. Even if there is just a little sliver of sky present with these shots it really seems to bring out the details much better. I found that to be the case with this whole series of images after shooting them both ways. By far, my favorite images on the computer were the ones that had that breathing room at the top of the building. Looking at the camera though, the ones without the sky were better. You just never know what you are going to like best when you see an image in a much larger size.
As the evening wore on, I was starting to see the warm light from the sun dropping down on the horizon. The reflections were starting to come to life here and the blue sky above the building was providing the best color balance to the image. I again started to compose to take full advantage of the colors as this was going to be my color image. I knew that I would be working the colors in post so I just needed a hint of color on the building which I was getting. To take full advantage of the colors, I went back to a horizontal approach and looked for diagonals and contrasts within the building windows. I was still in that same section of the building, but I was moving around from side to side in order to really get the right relationship.
I did find that right spot and the composition came together. With the sky included, you can tell that this is a building, but you really can’t resolve the depth of it. There are a lot of little tricks for your eyes in this one which I was wanting. My goal with this and the other compositions was to make you really look into the composition to try and figure out what section is what, and what angles you are actually looking at. The story with these is not clear, but I’m hoping that some time is spent trying to figure it out. That is the part I love with abstract photography and I would consider these in that genre for sure.
When I got this last image home and started to process it, I found that the colors were very flat as I had figured they would be. I went straight for one of the artistic color profiles which added punch to the warm tones and brought in a bit more contrast. I then went in and really adjusted the local contrasts and curves to bring out all of the elements in this image that I was hoping for. There was a lot done here, but it didn’t take long at all to polish the image. I think that it was about a 30 minute long processing job which is about average for me these days. To compare, the opening image took about an hour and a half to sort out. This type of photography is very dependent on post processing and I embrace the opportunity to do it here. I am less concerned with reality and faithful reproduction with this type of image. I am more interested in the visual impact and how it all comes together.
It was a quick outing that only lasted about an hour in the parking lot. During that time, I shot 38 frames with very subtle changes in the composition and exposures. I honestly wanted to get just a single image out of that round of exposures, but as I was looking through them all, I really liked these three images. Even though they are of the same basic part of the building, they are all very unique in their presentations which has secured them all in my keepers. This is a fun subject to do from time to time and I really appreciated the suggestion for this building that I really doubt I would have ever considered. I hope you enjoyed the images from this very different kind of trek for me. Any guesses as to what will be next?
Until that next time…