Strolling along sidewalks with my camera, in cities, large or small, is exhilarating. And whether the architecture is low and flat, or skyscraping, or old bricked, or shiny metal and glass, I always find something different to photograph. Usually, I approach urban areas with a plan and I don’t just wander about hoping to find something interesting. That’s not my way.
Sometimes I am after the cityscape and watch for shadows, highlights and interesting sky. On other occasions, my plan might be to select a particular area and visually capture the story of how structures and features interact. I might be more interested in the colours, and spend my time using the colour evidence to make a story.
In October 2012, I wrote about images I made while walking along the waterfront in Victoria, and, in February 2013, I showed photographs and discussed the small South Thompson River town of Chase, in the B.C. Interior.
In each instance I approached the municipalities with different photographic goals. Goals that were not so much defining visuals, as they were photographic thoughts about the architecture in each place.
Some years ago I spent three days wandering the side streets of Anacortes, a town along the coast of Washington. Although I enjoyed both the downtown and harbor districts of the small American town, what struck me most were those places where people lived.
The inhabitants appeared to go out of their way to differentiate each dwelling and my plan came about to document the entrances of the places where people lived.
In that instance, and whenever I decide to work my way through, or around, some city I always take some predetermined course of action. I remember a late afternoon in Port Townsend, WA., and on that trip I spent my time photographing the unique turn of the century buildings along the narrow, main street using an infrared modified camera. I wasn’t so much documenting the well-known seaport town, as was trying to create a distinct impression of the ornate Victorian architecture.
I once read a quote by an anonymous writer that said, “The difference between the recorder photographer… and the artist photographer… is that the artist will, by experience and learning… force the camera to paint the imagination…the emotion… the concept and the intent… rather than faithfully and truthfully reproduce an unattractive and unflattering record.”
I must admit that my intent isn’t usually to document the cities I visit, as much as it is to create a personal vision of the buildings I photograph. That vision, although uniquely mine, rarely strays much from reality other than when I use my infrared camera. I haven’t entered the artistic world of HDR (high dynamic range) image making yet.
HDR is the process of merging multiple exposures into one image. I expect that it is only laziness on my part, because I am intrigued by how well HDR post-processing with software like Photomatix, http://www.hdrsoft.com lends itself to the creative architectural work. I anticipate that I will tackle that process at some time in the future when I make plans to photograph my way along another city’s streets.
I will mention that I rarely use lenses that are wide enough to exaggerate the foreground or make those dramatic vistas. My camera isn’t a cropped sensor so an 18mm lens would be, effectively, only a 28mm. That allows me to include lots of visual details and limits the distortion between near and far objects.
Summertime is quickly approaching, and with that my wife and I expect to do some driving around British Columbia and possibly stray into Washington. Those trips will always include architectural photography opportunities in the towns and cities we pass through, or stop and visit.
These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at www.enmanscamera.com or email@example.com. Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops. And if you want an experienced photographer please call me at 250-371-3069. I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.