Posts Tagged ‘architecture’


December 9, 2011 25 comments

This post was written by my lovely wife who is my editor-in-chief. She felt that my version of this topic may just offend a few too many people. I have to admit…she was right. And to quote my editor, “I would not consider the home in this image to be either ugly or attractive…let’s just say, it has personality.”

My husband and I became aware of a reoccurring phenomenon a number of years ago when we were looking to purchase our first house. It became more apparent as we drove around the area we lived and where we wanted to live. We even noticed it when we were on vacation.

We kept seeing these houses that can only be politely described as “unique”. Houses with a multitude of exterior building materials, accent colors that could make your straight hair curl, and quirky additions protruding from front porches. We started identifying these oddities as “Ugly Houses”.

My husband does admit to having an aversion to one house that showcased stucco, stone, vinyl siding, cedar shakes and brick on its exterior…plus three other materials he could not identify. And I do admit to rolling my eyes at a house displaying a Barbie-on-Steroids-Pink front door with matching shutters.

Being obsessed with our discovery, we decided we needed to go Public. We would create a coffee table book with full page photographs and kitchy captions. We would call it “Ugly Houses of America”. We would select a house to receive the yearly “UHOA” award and feature it on the back cover.

Until we came to the conclusion that we would probably get sued. Or depending on what part of the country the house was located: get shot. Upon greater reflection, we realized our opinion was based on what we perceived to be beautiful. Or not.

And who are we to judge? We don’t live there. We just drive by it. Maybe a couple of times a day or maybe just once in a lifetime.

Curb appeal has its place if that is what is important to you. If your motivation is to make sure you please everyone, including yourself, then by all means…knock yourself out. Follow the current trends or maintain a classic style. It is your choice.

But if you want to step outside the norm…think outside the box…be the purple cow in a field of black and white cows…feel free to create your own vision.

And if we think it is ugly, who cares? You should not. And we should get over it.



INSPIRATION: Architectural Settings

December 2, 2011 32 comments

Architecture by itself can be inspirational to photograph. Yet when classic architecture is combined with a classic setting, the image can take on a different flavor.

This traditionally-styled farmhouse was built in the late 1700’s. It is nestled into the hillside, surrounded by fallow fields and a generations-old apple orchard. Believe it or not, this view is of the side of the house not the front, so you can get a sense of the size of the structure.

When I came across this location, I liked how the red springhouse on the left, the red doors of the barn in the background, and a glimpse of the red front porch roof added a touch of color to the scene. The old sycamore trees provide shade during the summer months and hint at the age of the property.

Overall, the view is one of a peaceful country setting. Which is exactly what I was hoping to capture.


INSPIRATION: Defining Architecture

November 30, 2011 44 comments

Our old friend Webster defines architecture as the art or science of building; specifically: the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones.

I like to keep this bit of information in the back of my mind as I am scouting for local buildings to shoot for my next project. But every now and again, I come across a structure that pushes the limits of this definition. Especially the “habitable” part.

This old railroad shack is a classic example. It captured my attention from the moment I saw it. The bright rusty hinges add a spark of color against the weathered wooden boards. I like the way the door was built with the boards assembled in a herringbone pattern, as if someone wanted to add a bit of style to a utilitarian shed. Even the iron bars propped against the sides appear to be positioned as if to help hold up the shed.

Architecture comes in many shapes, sizes and styles in my neck of the woods. And sometimes, coming across a structure that pushes the limit can turn out to be just the shot I was hoping to discover.

INSPIRATION: Architectural Vignettes

November 28, 2011 28 comments

Always on the lookout for vignettes and details within architecture, no matter what the style or age, I was pleased to come across the main entrance to this historic church. A number of things about this scene caught my eye.

I liked the color contrast of the stone around the entranceway against the walls surrounding it, and the patina of the flat red paint on the doors. The symmetry of the brownstone over the arch drew my eye to the center where an old lantern still hangs. The mossy green growth on the steps hints at the age of the building. And the stark blue of the wrought iron hand railing adds a surprisingly contemporary color choice to a more traditional stone facade.

I have to wonder what is on the other side of these doors? What visual treasures would I find there?

IN THE FIELD: Historical Venues

November 9, 2011 23 comments

Regional historical venues are often overlooked when they are in our own neighborhoods. Where I live, the working museums, restored mills and iron furnaces provide a wide range of photographic opportunities close to home.

For example, we live near a Historic National Park. When folks from out of town come for a visit, they often want to go to the park. We tend to forget what the area has to offer because it is so much a part of our daily lives. We used to travel past or through it on a regular basis. I remember it as a place I used to ride my bike when I was a kid. My wife used to eat her lunch there when she worked in the area.

There is a wealth of material right at your doorstep. Find those hidden treasures where you live. You don’t have to wait until a relative comes for a visit.

IN THE FIELD: Regional Structures

November 7, 2011 16 comments

Every region’s structures have their own sense of style based upon the available building materials specific to that area. Where I live there are a lot of colonial-aged structures. Some of the materials used in building were field stone, brick and tile made from local clay, and timbers from the forests. Many of these places are historical living, working museums where volunteers carry on the traditional crafts and lifestyles of the period.

There are a variety of shapes, textures and patterns creating visuals just waiting to be discovered. And learning and watching how things were done in the past can not only be interesting, but can lead to other photographic opportunities.

I enjoy exploring the hidden treasures in my local area. Often when I think I have exhausted all the possibilities, magically another one appears on my radar.

INSPIRATION: Mission Architecture

October 3, 2011 6 comments

I always have a long-term personal commission running while working on my regular photographic assignments. My current mission is to photograph the architecture and old structures in the area where I live. This region is heavily wooded with rolling hills creating valleys rich for farming. The older buildings and farmhouses built of fieldstone and wood appear to merge seamlessly into the landscape.

Photographing older structures is a special interest of mine. They document how things were done long ago and provide all of us with the opportunity to learn about the time when they were built. Along with various historic properties in the area, many of the old buildings have been restored and are now used as a place of business or a private residence, preserving them for future generations. And the textures of stone and wood yield many possibilities for interesting subjects and compositions.

I like to shoot at various times of the day, since the direction of the light and the color temperature changes, giving a different look throughout the day. Using a wide angle lens can alter the way the building appears and offer a surreal look, or can encompass the building and its surroundings. Using a zoom lens may help eliminate distracting elements in a composition or isolate a particular aspect of the architecture. I look for leading or intersecting lines along with colors or patterns to add interest.

Photographing architecture at night can produce stunning photos. You tend to see more dramatic shadows and highlights cast across the face of the building from spot lights or streetlights.

As an alternative to my current quest, you may be interested in photographing modern buildings. I have found that subject to be just as fascinating. By getting up close to exaggerate perspective or changing your position from the typical viewpoint can add drama. Or even the sensation that the building is imposing itself on its surroundings. The glass and various metals used in contemporary structures can offer interesting reflections and patterns, sourced from streetlights or the sun.

So, find your personal quest and make it a long-term project. Explore those subjects that have a special interest to you. Whether they are man-made or built in nature, as long as they speak to you, the images you create will reflect your mission.

BACK TO BASICS: Composition

September 21, 2011 14 comments

Composition and Trusting Your Instincts

The windows are centered horizontally and the grasses in the lower left add interest.

Good photos have good composition. There are several guidelines for achieving a good composition, but these are not hard and fast rules. Oftentimes what looks right to you is the best composition. In other words, trust your instincts too.

Try keeping it simple. Reduce the scene to only what is needed to tell your story. This eliminates visual confusion and draws attention to your subject. Your eye won’t have to wander around the entire image trying to find what to focus on.

There is a basic formula for composition called the Rule of Thirds. Divide your frame into three equal sections, either vertically or horizontally. Place objects of interest off center, either closer to the top third or to the bottom third of the frame. Or on the left or right side. Using this rule can make for a more interesting composition, rather than placing your horizon line smack dab in the middle.

Changing the orientation of the camera from horizontal to vertical can completely change the look of an image. Trees and tall buildings can often look better in a vertical format.

Lines that lead your eye into the scene such as a winding road fading off into the horizon, or the ripples made by swimming ducks in a pond, add interest to your image. Looking up at tall buildings could lead your eyes to dramatic skies. Change your position if you need to, and find that leading line for your scene.

You can also use foreground objects such as doorways, buildings or trees to frame your subject, so it becomes the center of interest.

The combination of a few simple rules and trusting your instincts are solid guidelines to follow. Basically, it looks good to you and feels right…take the shot.