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Next Workshop Set for October 22, 2016

Mountain Destination One-Day Workshop in Idyllwild, October 22, 2016

Participants will experience exclusive access to an utterly unique house during a fun and intense day of photography and architectural appreciation. Watch demonstrations of camera and lighting techniques presented by experienced professional architectural photographers, then photograph the building’s interiors and exteriors with your own cameras under the instructors’ supervision.


High-Castle, Idyllwild – photo © Douglas Hill, 2016

Perched on a massive rock, High-Castle was built in the 1920s and was at one time Clark Gable’s hunting lodge. It has recently been extensively remodeled by acclaimed Los Angeles interior designer Cheryl Brantner to suit 21st century needs, while completely retaining its original rustic feel. Next door, a just completed guest house continues the theme of the lodge, without disrupting its commanding view of the San Jacinto Mountains.

For this workshop we’ll be changing our approach to include some lifestyle photography. We will be setting up vignettes to show how they can be used to expand an architectural presentation by providing more intimate views in addition to wider interiors and exteriors.


High-Castle, Idyllwild – photo © Douglas Hill, 2016

Through October 2nd, 2016 the price is $225.  Thereafter the price will go up to $250.  Enrollment will be limited to only 12 participants.  Make safe and secure payment through PayPal using whatever credit card you prefer or your PayPal account.

Idyllwild is at 5,500 feet elevation and is roughly 2 1/2 hours from downtown Los Angeles.  If you’d like to make a weekend of it, there are many lodging and dining options in the area, lists of which are readily available online.  A meal is NOT included in the price of the workshop, but there will be time off for all of us to have lunch in nearby Idyllwild Village.

The Bonaventure Hotel has been Confirmed for January 31st Workshop


Shooting Architecture is pleased to announce that the remarkable Westin Bonaventure Hotel has been added to the list of locations for our upcoming Workshop on January 31st and February 1st.  Designed by John Portman & Associates and constructed in 1976, the Bonaventure was at the crest of a new wave that presented urban hotels as self-contained entertainment destinations.  It contains such features as a futuristic cast concrete multi-level lobby, glass elevators that begin their ascent from the interior and shoot out onto the exterior of the building’s four cylindrical towers, and a rotating restaurant at the top which overlooks downtown Los Angeles.  The hotel features a wide range of unique interior and exterior views that will be accessible to the workshop’s participants.


Schedule Change for our Next Architectural Photography Weekend Workshop

January 31st & February 1st, 2015

Southern California Gas Company Headquarters

Shooting Architecture is excited to announce its next event: a workshop with Douglas Hill and Martin Cox to be held at architecturally significant Downtown Los Angeles buildings during the weekend of January 31st & February 1st, 2015. Participants will experience exclusive access to four exceptional Los Angeles buildings during an intense weekend of photography and architectural appreciation.

Watch demonstrations of camera and lighting techniques presented by experienced professional architectural photographers, then photograph the buildings’ interiors and exteriors with your own cameras under the instructors’ supervision, followed by a constructive critique of the results. We’ll be announcing the locations for this upcoming workshop soon.

Cost of the workshop through January 4th, 2015 is $395 per applicant. From February 5th on the price will increase to $445. Enrollment will be limited to 15 participants. Lunch will be provided on both days. Make safe and secure payment through PayPal using whatever credit card you prefer or your PayPal account.

Los Angeles Public Library




Find out firsthand what has attracted photographers and filmmakers to these architectural gems for decades and discover your own vision in the process.


Sign up for the Weekend Workshop!

Annie Chu – MOMA Linked Hybrid, Beijing

Annie Chu’s image taken in the middle of the MOMA Linked Hybrid in Beijing, designed by Steven Holl Architects, may not be among the most technically accomplished of architectural photographs, but it does reflect a highly refined sensitivity to the urban landscape and great enthusiasm for the architecture. It’s difficult to tell whether it had been taken with a sophisticated DSLR or a smartphone, and frankly it doesn’t matter. While there’s an orderliness to the image’s elements, no attempt has been made to correct perspective or line up the edges of the buildings with the edges of the frame.

What does matter, however, is what the photograph is about and the way in which that’s conveyed. By including only a portion of the foreground structure, an observation deck, it becomes a giant, orange-lined P dissecting the frame in an interesting, dynamic way. The two people traversing a walkway between bodies, one in a wheelchair, give us a sense of scale, while informing us that the project is accessible. Behind the observation deck is one of the project’s towers, flanked by two thematically united buildings of a neighboring project. Most important, for me, is the sense of the photographer’s joy at having come across such a view, while maintaining the presence of mind required to capture it on camera.

Annie Chu is an accomplished avant garde architect and a principal with the Los Angeles firm, Chu+Gooding Architects

The Human Presence in Architectural Photographs

Pyramids of El-Geezeh, 1858 by Francis Frith

Long before the advent of photography artists included human figures in architectural renderings to give the viewer, in part, a sense of their subject’s scale.  When Roger Fenton, Francis Frith and other early photographers began traveling the world beyond western Europe in search of exotic imagery, they would often include people.  How else could Frith have conveyed the size of the Pyramids without including recognizable figures in the frame with them.  Remove the people and those ancient structures could just as easily be perceived to be a few inches tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza’s actual 455 feet in height.  On the hill in the foreground, the two reclining figures, closest to the camera, are already some distance away, with the seated man by his horse a considerable distance further and none of them anywhere near the pyramids.  In the vast space between these figures and the structures is a fourth figure leading a camel, still nowhere near them.  The result of this contextualization is no mistaking the magnitude of these buildings.

Pierre Koenig's Case Study House Number 22, 1960 by Julius Shulman


A century later Julius Shulman would employ models to create a much different result in his Case Study House No. 22 by architect Pierre Koenig.  Not content to accentuate the illusion that the house was cantilevered out over the city of Los Angeles by shooting it at night, he perched a pair of young women at the far edge of the living room, their dresses spread out like parachutes around them.  It would have been impressive to show the building without inhabitants, which Shulman dutifully did as well, even in color, but the presence of the women allows the viewer to experience the sensation of floating in the night sky vicariously.  And isn’t this the essence of architectural photography: to convey a sense of what it’s like to experience a building firsthand.

Both these photographers understood that there were advantages to placing people in their images, while maintaining the viewer’s attention where they wanted it, on the architecture.  It’s a balancing act, though.  Bring a person too much to the fore and the architecture becomes just so much background.





Wall Street, 1915 by Paul Strand


Another case to consider is that of Paul Strand’s image of Wall Street made in 1915.  In this instance Strand had no interest in documenting architecture per se, but rather was concerned purely with the creative possibilities the scene presented.  Shadows supplied by the low winter sun not only produce long, dramatic shadows from the pedestrians walking by, but also obliterate any details in the building’s setbacks, making it impossible to determine whether they house windows and if so, are they one, two, or three stories tall.  The end result is one of confusion: are these people tiny or are the unseen windows gargantuan?  Looking at the Morgan Guaranty Company Building in other photographs it’s clear that the black rectangles contain the windows of two stories, but this knowledge somehow doesn’t eliminate the illusion created by the Strand image.


Disassembling the Architectural Photograph

Hazelwood School, Glasgow - Alan Dunlop Architect Limited

When I was a kid I became interested in architecture primarily by looking at books and magazines, and when I contemplated specializing in architectural photographer poring over shelter publications became part of my educational routine.  Part of every day would be devoted to studying photographs of buildings, sometimes for hours at a time.  This was no onerous chore for me, I loved looking at the buildings inside and out, however, I also made a point of examining how the photographs were made.  What time of day had an image been taken?  How much of the extraneous landscape had been included as either foreground or background?  How did the light hit the building’s façade and from what angle?  How much foreground was included, how much sky?  Were there people or cars included in the frame, and what impact did they have on one’s perception of the structure?  Does it make sense to cut off part of a building with the picture frame, and if so, where?  The list continues.  Without realizing it at first I was learning from the best how to do it, while also figuring out what worked for me and what didn’t.  It was of course more difficult to implement what I was learning, but the more I looked at great work the better my own became.

Looking at printed images and online is still part of my regimen.  I pull pictures apart like the contents of a watch to see how they work.  I’m often struck by how one of my colleagues has chosen to present a building and see opportunities to alter my own way of capturing structures.  One of the sources of architectural imagery that I subscribe to is Architizer, an online presentation of new and innovative architecture from around the world.  Poring over new images each week or so is as exciting to me now as it was when I was twelve.  And my photography continues to improve.

Unfortunately, I don’t know who the photographer of the image above was and I was unaware of the architect until today.

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