The Emotional Quality of Light

I often ask clients about the mood they think is most appropriate for a room. What I’m really asking about is the quality of light that I’d like to capture. In this project, The Park for Zephyr Partners, I planned on shooting more than one shot of the living room. I knew the light streaming in would be fleeting and that subsequent shots would have a different feel so I didn’t ask that question. When we did the second shot a few hours later my contact from the client’s office mentioned the different emotional quality of the light. It surprised her and she was absolutely right. The first two photos are of the living room. We shot each of the other rooms for a particular quality of light, several with sun streaming in but the study with a more subdued light appropriate to its mood.

Classical Inspiration in My Own Back Yard

I’d lived in San Diego for ten years before I heard that this plant is acanthus. It’s everywhere and it’s famous but I didn’t recognize it. Acanthus leaves show up in classical and classically-inspired architecture.  » More

Magazine covers

It’s nice walking into Barnes & Noble and seeing two of my photos on magazine covers. The Luxe issue has two houses that I shot and SDH/G has one project I shot not related to the cover. For layouts go visit the Published Work section of this site.

On A Hilltop With A View

Congratulations to my clients Mark A Silva, Architect and the interior designers of Dawson Design Group on completion of an impressive project and on it’s publication in Luxe magazine. From the large, stunning architectural elements to the light fixtures and tiles every inch of this house was carefully considered.

Click on the photo for a larger slide show. To see the Luxe layout go to the Published Work section of my website.

A Quick Trip to San Francisco

I made a quick trip to San Francisco with Todd Brown from Anne Sneed Architectural Interiors to photograph a bank they’d completed recently. The plan was to get what we could in five hours, turn around, and come home. » More

Getting the Most Out of Your Photo Shoot

Several months ago I shot the remodeled public spaces at the Omni San Diego Hotel. The shoot went really well. Much of that success can be attributed to planning and to the work the hotel did to be ready for the shoot. » More

Pointing Up

Most architectural and interiors photography is shot with parallel verticals (I have special lenses for just that) but from time to time a photographer just has to point up. I was doing just that recently but decided for safety’s sake to shoot a couple of variations. I’ve learned over the years that it’s tricky to make these shots feel just right. There are three pictures in the slideshow. See which you think works best. » More

SDHG Home of the Year 2017

Congratulations to Kathy Miller of Advantage Design Partners for her San Diego Home/ Garden Home of the Year 2017 award. Although this is a large house it is comfortable and relaxed. I wanted to capture both aspects in the photos. To show the scale and openness we did shots through series of spaces.  Then from the large context images we did shots that focused on single spaces or parts of rooms to give a more intimate feel.

 

Happy New Year!

For the full effect, click on the photo and, when you’re taken to the next page, click on it again.

Happy Halloween!

Unretouched photo from a recent shoot at The Sofia hotel downtown. Hint- the ghost was wearing black, the exposure was long, and I used a strobe.

New Hospitality Portfolio

I have recently completed photography of the remodeled function spaces at the Omni San Diego Hotel. This was just the project I needed to create a new hospitality portfolio on this website. I have been remarkably busy the last ten months and this is the first of many upcoming changes. Please be sure and look through the new gallery.

High Tech Elementary Point Loma

The newest of High Tech’s campuses in San Diego was designed by Studio E Architects in an existing building at Liberty Station. The building originally had gyms at either end with an indoor swimming pool in the middle. Classrooms and an atrium occupy the swimming pool space. A gym still occupies the space on the south end while a large presentation room and offices occupy the space on the north end.

SDH/G Bath of the Year

Congratulations to Laura DuCharme Conboy of DuCharme Architects, Robert Wright of McCormick & Wright, and Wardell Builders for receiving a San Diego Home/ Garden Bath of the Year award. This small bath is composed of beautiful materials with translucent glass providing privacy without darkening the space.

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Dawson/ Peeling SDH/G Home of the Year

Congratulations to Dawson Design Group and Bruce Peeling Architect on their SDH/G 2016 Home of the Year! The inside/ outside quality of the house presented a technical challenge but it was wonderful project to shoot.

Domus Studio Del Mar project

Congratulations to domusstudio architecture on having a project featured in June’s San Diego Home/ Garden. This dusk shot was featured on the cover.

A terrific building

I occasionally ran by this building while it was under construction and loved it. I kept meaning to go back to look at it and the whole project which runs along the Embarcadero in San Diego where the cruise ships dock. To remind myself I snapped this one Saturday morning with my phone as I ran by. The following Thursday I got a call from Joseph Wong Design Associates wanting to discuss my shooting this very project. How fun is that?!? Shooting is well under way and I expect to have some of the finished photos on this site in the near future. I can’t imagine all the work that went into the design and execution of this little building. The formwork must have been incredible.  Update:  Final photos of this project are now in the folder “N Embarcadero” in my commercial projects.

Congratulations!

Congratulations to my client Amy Meier on moving her design studio and shop to downtown Rancho Santa Fe!

Geometric flooring

Flooring with a strong geometric pattern needs special attention. It creates a very forceful sense of perspective but it can feel chaotic if not handled well. This first photo is the final shot of this room and I liked keeping the tiles parallel with the edge of the floor. The second shot is an earlier composition of the same room. I find I can’t look away from the floor in this shot the sense of perspective is so strong. In the fifth image the material makes the floor so subtle that it didn’t need to be a decisive factor in the composition.

Recent project

Here is a look at a project I shot recently. There are additional shots leading off my new residential section of my recent work gallery. #7 is another view of the same room I used as an example in last week’s post about perspective.

David Robinson Design

One- and two-point perspective in architectural photography

Discussing this type of perspective might seem dry and technical but working on the slides for this post helped me to understand it. Something related to perspective has always bothered me in pictures and now I have a clear understanding of what causes it. I try to avoid it but haven’t had the language to communicate it to my clients.  In the past I’ve always relied on pointing out strange angles that misrepresent the space that we’re trying to render. These photos weren’t taken for this post; they are test shots taken when figuring out how to show this room. » More

Geometry- perspective

Geometry is one of the most basic elements of architectural photography. When looking at a professional’s pictures you’ll notice that in almost all photos the vertical elements are parallel to one another and to the edge of the frame. Architectural photographers buy special lenses that shift up and down to accomplish this. In the days of film we had special cameras to do this with large format film. I had to search through scores of projects to find examples where this wasn’t the case. » More

Reconsidering preconceived notions

I was by the water tower at night recently and was attracted to the silhouette and rim light so a few days later I returned with my camera. In the meantime I’d begun to compose a photo in my head with the tower isolated and very graphic featuring just the shape and the light but when it was time to make a photo there were power lines and context so I had to put aside my preconceptions and deal with the reality of what was really there. It was still possible to capture that quality of light which had originally attracted me while expanding the photo to create a landscape of rooftops and power lines that would serve as a ground for the tower. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

When a local photographer has an edge

As much as I like traveling for work there are situations when a local photographer has an edge. Getting this shot is a perfect example. After finding the angle from ground level I realized that being on the roof just above the scouting point of view would be better. From street level there were stop lights cutting into the building and being up would allow a view into the entry plaza. The challenge was the roof I wanted on was on a court building. » More

Baking post #2- petit fours

For me there’s something so satisfying about making things. I know and know of architects who like to make furniture. For me it’s baking. » More

Sanctuary Architects Home of the Year

Congratulations to Mark Lee Christopher on his umpteenth SDH/G Home of the Year. My first magazine publication was a Home of the Year I shot for Mark over twenty years ago. This house was designed for one family and, after construction began, was restyled for a different family.

Dawson Design Group Home of the Year

Dawson Design Group was awarded a 2015 Home of the Year award by San Diego Home/ Garden. This house is home to an extended family. Design began with the clients’ families’ antiques and incorporated their love of modern design. Click on the photo to see more of the project.

Ongoing 25th year retrospective- the GIA

I shot photos for the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad for a brochure for their grand opening in 1997. The building was not photo-ready when I needed to shoot so some of the images took some work because this was the day of film and not of Photoshop. The majority of the shots were done large format- on 4×5 color transparency film- but these two were shot on 35mm slide film and, for different reasons, are probably my favorites.  » More

SDSU Calendar

I was contacted late last summer by 360 Magazine at SDSU regarding creating images for a 2015 calendar. Getting to create all the photos for a stand-alone piece is a dream job. They had already decided on a look processed in HDR to give the images a look that falls between a photo and a drawing. » More

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

No, I haven’t been traveling. Unfortunately. I was there a few years ago and recently ran across these photos. This terminal is beautiful and I took as many shots as I was able in the time I had. Here are my favorites.

Lighting

Lighting is so interesting to me. It’s what adds atmosphere to a composition. These two bedrooms are in the same house but required extraordinarily different lighting. I thought the first image would have too much contrast and added light to it but, after each test, I toned my light down until I finally shot the image with only available light. Any added light ruined the quiet, tranquil feeling that the skylight provided and furnishings enhanced. The second image required a great deal of subtile lighting. I never like that flashed feel that says a photographer has been there. The bright outside needed a lot of light to bring out the details inside while holding the view. That’s surely what this room is all about.

Serendipity ll

Valle Crucis, N.C. Just back from a trip to the mountains of North Carolina. What are the chances that there would be red and orange trucks parked in front of that background?

Trusting client

In revisiting my work from the past 25 years and my recent work at SDSU I remembered this photo. It is the Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Laboratory at UCSD with Bruce Nauman’s Vices and Virtues, part of the Stuart Collection, around the top. The client originally wanted an interior view but I thought this view would be more interesting. She didn’t quite get my description but trusted me and this was the result. The yellow and orange inside are cranes used for moving structures and materials that will be shaken and tested for structural integrity.

New lens

I got a new lens recently. It would never have crossed my mind except an assistant suggested it one day. I’m not one of those photographers who’s into equipment but making life easier and having more options when it comes to creating images are things high on my list. » More

Baking post #1- sfogliatelle

Although this is a blog about architectural photography baking will occasionally come up. I’m a passionate baker. If I weren’t a photographer I’d be a baker. Sfogliatelle, also know as lobster tails, was my most recent project. » More

Fire Station #2, Cardiff-by-the-Sea

We’re expecting the first Santa Ana of the season this weekend which made me think of this fire station by Domus Studio and of the firemen who work there. I needed to go back for one last shot at dawn and when I arrived a couple of the guys were up to greet me with the lights on and everything ready to go. While we were talking I found out that they’d gotten a call late the night before and hadn’t gotten back until almost 3:00 a.m. but they didn’t seem bothered by that in the least and couldn’t have been more pleasant or helpful. It takes a special kind of person to be a fireman.

SDSU Love Library dome

SDSU recently contacted me for work on a project that will include a photo of the Love Library dome.  My first project for them was photographing the dome in 1996.  I still see the exterior image used in their graphic work.  I ran across the same image on the web in U.S. News’ college rankings.  The third image here is a scouting shot done last week from the same vantage point.  It’s interesting to see the changes in the campus over the eighteen years.

An appropriately charming kitchen

I recently shot a kitchen for Design Studio West by Karl Utzman. It is in an old craftsman house. The exterior door in the first shot gives a good feel for the rest of the house. As you can see the kitchen is cheerful and bright, fits the house in its details, and respects the spirit of the place. I loved being able to catch that splash of light in the last shot.

Time of day

This image is the original version of shot #9 in the Coronado section of my website. I timed this shot for when the light would be coming in the room and bouncing off the floor to help light up the space and for when the pool house would be backlighted. » More

LA condo

 

This is a project I shot for Robert Wright of McCormick & Wright. It recently won a first place award in the ASID SD Design Excellence Awards. The living area is a single large space. The first shot is what you see as you step through the front door and the second shot gives the relationship of the living room, dining room, and kitchen. After that we focus on single areas and details.

Learning my craft

Having recently completed my 25th year in business I am revisiting some images from my past. This image is not here because I think it is wonderful but because my dissatisfaction with it pushed me to develop my craft. » More

Confounding expectations

I’ve recently enjoyed trying my hand at the new US Courthouse by Richard Meier in downtown San Diego. If I’d been presented with a site plan I would have scheduled this first image in the morning which is, in fact, when it was taken.

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Indian stepwells

Despite its chronically precarious water situation San Diego doesn’t collect storm runoff. That crossed my mind today during a brief sprinkle. There wouldn’t have been runoff today but during our rainy season there definitely would be. That reminded me of an article I read a while back on Archdaily.com about India’s stepwells, buildings built into the ground and used to catch water. » More

Cover Story for SD Home / Garden

The August 2014 cover story for SD Home/ Garden is an ocean-front home I shot for Anne Sneed Architectural Interiors, Bokal & Sneed Architects, and Hanley Custom Homes. Naturally, there are terrific ocean views as that is part of what drives the design of the house but there is a great deal more to this project. The choice of materials and level of detail create a warmth that really make this house feel like a home.

Revisiting some images- the South Chula Vista Library

After twenty-five years in business I’m revisiting some images that are important to me. In 1995, six years after I started my photo business, I got a really terrific project to shoot- the South Chula Vista library by Ricardo Legorreta, with LPA as the architect of record, construction by Douglas E. Barnhart. It was the first project like this that I’d been hired to shoot. It is a remarkable building in a marginal neighborhood, treasured as a community resource, and treated respectfully by those who use it. I was back there a number of years after shooting it and was amazed at how little wear and tear it showed. I think the people around it realized how fortunate they were to have such a resource.

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About the La Jolla Shores project

 

This project by Domus Studio Architects and Hill Construction Company won an AIA Merit Award for its “classic mild-climate approach that seamlessly meshes outdoor and indoor spaces.” In addition it received a LEED Platinum Certification for its energy efficiency and sustainability. To expand its relatively modest scale the living space has 26 feet of glass doors that fold back (just to the right of the grill in back) to connect the interior and exterior spaces. For additional images visit “La Jolla Shores” under my residential projects.

My first professional photo

I opened my photography business in June of 1989, 25 years ago last month. This photo is the first I ever sold professionally before I even set up my business. I took it as a portfolio shot but thought it was nice enough that maybe some of the people involved would be interested in buying use of it. The marketing director of the developer’s office called with that very thing in mind and, while we were talking, we set a date for me to come in and show my portfolio. I’d need to show my nonexistent portfolio and presumably wear nice clothes which I didn’t have any more. I went out immediately and bought a portfolio case, started taking photos as quickly as I could, and got my first nice clothes since I’d moved to San Diego. As they say, the rest is history. Over 25 years later and I’m still at it and still enjoying it. I consider myself to be very lucky.

The power of (architectural) photography

Most buildings are best known through photos rather than by experience. Two of the most powerful elements are the angle that the photographer shoots from and what’s included versus what is cropped out. Take a look at this first shot and try to imagine the rest of the room and speculate on the rest of the house.  Does the second image confirm your suspicion? The third image gives by far the most comprehensive view.  For more photos of this same project go to the Rancho Santa Fe project in my residential projects.

House of Devine Details

DuCharme Architecture, McCormick & Wright Interior Design, Wardell Construction. This is a house of truly beautiful details—most obviously the roughhewn, vintage timber along side fine-grained modern wood. The feeling that the dining room is a porch is heightened by the way in which the glass in the corner posts is set without molding (photos 3 and 4.) The glass banister sets the staircase off cleanly from the stone wall and heightens the feeling of construction and the detail and stacking of the steps. This stacking of elements and contrast between types of wood runs throughout the house, interior and exterior both.

Rant #1- bike racks

This is my first blog rant.  I’m surprised that none of my friends has ever asked about my not ranting here because I’m passionate and opinionated when it comes to things and I tend to rant. I could give Lewis Black a run for his money.  My clients may not realize this because I try not to rant on photo shoots. But here goes.

This is to all you out there who design, purchase, and install bike racks. Have you ever even seen a bike? » More

Casabrava

Architect Heather Johnston’s Casabrava has received some well-deserved attention including an AIA SD Citation Award as well as being named one of SD Home/Garden’s Homes of the Year. It is a light-filled home which balances the clean serenity of white with the warmth of wood expressed in flooring, ceilings, and exterior walls—all this belying the fact of its modular construction. » More

Evolution of an image

. . . or, where this picture came from. I’d been shooting the water tower on a regular basis for about a year and a half when I finally got something I’d been waiting for. I woke up Thanksgiving morning 2012, when I had a good bit of baking to do, and glanced out the window to see fog. The baking could wait but the fog wouldn’t. I didn’t have any images in mind but figured I’d get there and see what there was to see. I started looking and shooting and finally worked my way around to this first image when the fog began to lift.

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High Tech High Chula Vista

A few months ago I googled “architectural photography” and went to images. Imagine my surprise when one of my images came up on the first page of the search. It was this image of High Tech High Chula Vista as part of a featured project on ArchDaily.com from 2011. This is the first of four projects that I have shot for High Tech High which were designed by Studio E Architects. (One of the others, High Tech Middle/Elementary Chula Vista, is a featured project on this website.) One of the greatest changes in architectural photography in the 24 years that I’ve been shooting is the inclusion of more people particularly in commercial and institutional projects. For more photos of and info about this project visit the ArchDaily site.

 

Lighting- almost night for day

Toward the end of a recent shoot, 6:20 on an early October evening, there was a last shot to get and the daylight was failing. I set up camera to get a quick look at the ambient light. It was so dim that I couldn’t make out the details in the room but a thirty second exposure gave me hope that, if I worked quickly, I’d be able to pull this off. » More

Serendipity

There’s always an element of luck involved in architectural photography as there certainly is in any location photography. You can try to plan things down to the tiniest detail but that’s ultimately a fool’s errand.  The stars simply have to line up. I go by this first building often enough but one day, riding my bike home from an appointment, I noticed the perfect shadow in the white square on the left. At first I didn’t stop but finally turned around and snapped this with my iPhone to remind me to come back. I returned the next day at about the same time with a better camera wondering if I’d get lucky. But no, the window had been closed and reopened to a different angle. The shadow didn’t fit so perfectly. The day before it was a combination of time of day, time of year, and degree to which the window was open. Even if I’d been hired to shoot that building I wouldn’t be able to recreate that shadow without cooperation of the occupants of that space. » More

To hold the view or not

I recently shot houses in Coronado and La Jolla, beach towns near San Diego. The house in Coronado was a house from the end of the nineteenth century a couple blocks back from the beach. The town had certainly grown up around the house and it had neighbors close on either side. The La Jolla house is right on the water. Their locations and views called for a very different approach. » More

Lighting- night for day

These two photos were shot under radically different lighting circumstances, one in late afternoon and the other after sunset. (Double click to see them larger.) Lighting is one of the main components of architectural photography and it’s one that clients have the least understanding of. Working with clients on composition and styling are completely natural—everyone is so used to looking at photos that when a client looks at a image on my laptop screen they can immediately have an opinion. They may not always know how to get where they want to go; that’s my job, turing a vision of reality into an image but it’s something we can see and talk about. Lighting is less concrete. The photographer has to have a vision for the quality of light.   » More

Steps

A lover of architecture, I always wondered what the house up these steps was like. They are down a block and across the street from where my grandmother’s house was. Now they lead to the back of a convenience store and serve as a stopping place for the homeless. There are a lot those steps in my hometown in piedmont North Carolina. Fortunately, most still lead to houses that have stood for decades. » More

Building relationships

There is a trend toward very simple graphic images in architectural photography that I’ve run across in articles about the best Instagram feeds. Simple graphic images can be very effective but building relationships between contrasting shapes can create a rich image in which the sum is greater than the parts. I spotted this while walking in Madrid. They are part of a complex of government buildings. The variety of geometries first caught my eye. It only helps that the surface treatment of each building is so different.

 

 

Born a photographer

I’d always wanted to be an architect and was half way through design school before I realized that wasn’t how my brain worked. What I always was was a photographer without a camera but with a love for architecture and the built environment. This photo of Les Invalides should have been the clue. It was taken my senior year in high school and I’d never used a camera before in my life. I still remember taking it— I looked at the building from one side of the street and didn’t like the view; I went to the other side of the street and didn’t like the view; finally, I went into the middle of that street in Paris and stood with cars rushing past in both directions to get what seemed like the best view. That’s always what it was for me— turning a three-dimensional space into an image with or without a camera.

Seeing

Sometimes when I need to really concentrate on what I’m listening to I have to close my eyes. Sight always takes precedence, building relationships and organizing the world, even in the middle of something important. I caught sight of this over my shoulder crossing a street in Barcelona.

Water Tower declared historic!

I’ve lived in San Diego for almost 26 years always in neighborhoods around the North Park water tower.  It and the Georgia Street bridge are what made North Park possible.  I’ve always been concerned that it would be torn down for some practical reason.  That, along with its wonderful physical presence, is why I’ve spent so much time photographing it over the last few years.  I was so happy to read today that the California State Historic Resources Commission has selected it as a historical landmark.  It has also been recommended by the Commission to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Great news for San Diego!  UPDATE— on June 25, 2013 the water tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  For more info go the the North Park Historical Society website.

Transience in the built environment

I was by this location a few days ago and it looks nothing like it did when I shot this photo late last summer. The weeds have been cleared and the spider webs are all gone. The light is different. The wall faces north and I shot this in early September so the sunlight at the end of the day barely brushed it. Now, six weeks after the vernal equinox, the sun swings farther to the north at the end of the day so the wall would be in full sun. There’s nothing there to catch my eye right now. For more photos of the water tower check out that section of this website.