Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Grand Wailea

I was shocked to only just now discover that Tucker has a full-on monopoly on our Hawaii page. Had a monopoly.

I’ve worked up a bunch of images from my trip last May but I keep coming back to one from the hotel lobby. Ordinarily, that would be the lamest, most egregious thing to say about a trip to Hawaii, but when you see the lobby I think you’ll understand.

Most folks say Maui is the touristy island and I guess I’m inclined to agree. The southwest coast is awash with ludicrous resorts, to be sure, but I did get a chance to do some off-the-beaten-trail hiking later on that yielded other kinds of Hawaiian greatness. More to come on that front later I suppose.

Nuff said. This place was kind of crazy. One of the few pictures on this site to contain family members! Wailea, HI

Nuff said. This place was kind of crazy. One of the few pictures on this site to contain family members! Wailea, HI


More from the Forbidden City

Being busy is a good thing and the fact that we’re approaching 2 months without a post just means that the three of us have full, productive lives. So, instead of a paragraph full of “sorry,” here’s a statement full of “excessively busy lives leave less time for hobbies.” While summer should hopefully give Tucker and Giacomo a bit of a respite from classes, a huge project of mine will go into production and I’ll disappear for a while. But, before then, I’ve got a trip to Hawaii to look forward to and the annual Yosemite reunion has been (significantly) relocated to Maine in late May so there ought to be some fresh sights associated with those… somewhat beautiful travel destinations.

That being said, I’m checking in again with a straightforward image from the documentary shoot in China last summer — hard to believe it’s already been about 11 months since then! I couldn’t possibly describe where in the Forbidden City this was, but I think we were in the process of being shooed out the North entrance around closing time when I saw a handful of these ornate pavilions. This one had a cool tree next to it. And, as was the case with most of our stay in Beijing, it was “sunny” but the outrageous pollution tends to sap just about all the blue out of the sky.

This is about 5 minutes before we dropped about $0.15 worth of coinage for some seriously refreshing watermelon on a stick just outside the gates: Beijing, China

The Strip

Earlier this summer my family flew out for an impromptu rendezvous in Vegas. Shows were seen, pools were swum, and buffets were endured. I had always been partial to Bellagio’s trough but in another Vegas trip in late October the brand new “Bacchanal” at Caesar’s won me over. 500 dishes outputting an reported $100,000 worth of food every day. It’s so ludicrous they have a crêpe chef to help you build silly deserts on which to pile a limitless supply of gelato.

But over the summer the highlight of the trip was none other than Celine Dion’s outrageous production at Caesar’s Colosseum. With the repertoire split about half originals and half covers (including a spectacular rendition of “Goldfinger”) I really enjoyed getting to hear plenty of her early songs in French. We left with gift bags full of CD’s, playing cards, and throw blankets… but the real un-necessity was the atlas-sized coffee table book! It was an early show and, stopping by our room afterwards, I set up to nab the last fountains show before the sky went completely dark.

Probably not alone in this, but I can’t look at the fountains and not think of Ocean’s 11… Las Vegas, NV

Happy (slightly late) Independence Day: Welcome to China!

Happy 4th! We hope everyone enjoyed plenty of picnics and fireworks on Wednesday, odds are you had a lot more fun than the poor folks who turned out for San Diego’s famous fireworks spectacular. To anyone who’s ever wondered what it would look/sound

like if you accidentally set off an entire fireworks show in a matter of seconds, whip out the Googles and watch the video.

We are, unfortunately, fresh out of gaudy, dripping-with-America Independence Day imagery but I will blame that on Tucker since he was recently in Baltimore, placing him physically and chronologically closest to the nation’s capital for the holiday and therefore responsible for representing it. TAG has dropped the patriotic ball this year so I’ll just own it and talk about China.

For the first official China entry I thought it fitting to start with something traditional. Having just returned from shooting along the Wall with a couple days left in China, we opted to take advantage of Beijing’s unusually clear weather and paid a visit to one of the most recognizably Chinese locations in the world, the Temple of Heaven. From what I remember, the complex is located is southeast Beijing and is somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 years old, or, 2.5 USA lifetimes to put that in a timely context. Full disclosure, the iconic Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (below) is actually much younger since the original structure burned down and was rebuilt in the late 1800’s. The area’s ample park space is now a little bit of a tourist trap in places, but is without a doubt a beautifully serene place to just spend an afternoon soaking up the sun.

One of the more recognizable pieces of Taoist Chinese architecture, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven always attracts a mob of awestruck visitors: Beijing, China


NYC: Rockefeller Center

So this time it actually has been too long since a post. So much has happened in the past month it’s difficult to believe I’ve only been away from LA for 33 days.

We’ve just returned from shooting a promising documentary with material split across Pennsylvania and China. Not really planning on plugging it here, but if you’re at all curious, look up a man named William Geil from Doylestown, PA — if you aren’t just a little but impressed by what he accomplished 100 years ago, there may be something wrong with you. At any rate, yes, there’s a ton of awesome stuff to come soon from Beijing (with impossibly, miraculously clear weather!) and remote areas of the Great Wall but while I take some time to get back in the right time zone, I wanted to share a fuller version of something I shared a few weeks ago just as we closed out the PA leg of our trip. Our stay there granted us two weekends: the first was spent gearing up for and watching the Game of Thrones finale, and the second was spent goofing off in Manhattan after a $15 train from a nearby NJ station. (If that isn’t a travel deal, I don’t know what is…) Our time was spent following bubble blowers and rollerblade performers in Central Park, making the pilgrimage to the cubic Apple store, meeting a homesick USC friend for a spin through an authentic NYC comic store, Times Square, and an amazing dinner at Southern Hospitality, catching up with a NYU friend after photos in Grand Central Station and breakfast in Bryant Park, standing angrily outside the HBO retail store as we realized we didn’t have time to browse, and finally grabbing some last minute filters and gels at the foolishly massive B&H store.

And somewhere in there the following photo was taken.

Never know what you’ll see just walking around the sidewalk: New York City, NY

LA Architecture: Bonaventure Hotel / Bradbury Building

I went on a downtown field trip with my Art History class last semester. It’s a good thing we didn’t do anything that charged admission because 4-hour parking managed to rack up a healthy $20 charge… but I made the most of it and used the opportunity to scout locations for a 4×5 project in another class.

It's a maze in there. Later that week I took the 4x5 to shoot a similar angle. I got what I needed but got so lost in there the only exit I could find was on the opposite side of the building.

We met in the lobby of the Bradbury Building and it didn’t take long to realize why it was worth visiting! It’s been used in TONS of films over the years and, inspired by the recent scene in The Artist, I set to work on combining the set I’d taken.

The stacked stairs at the far end of the atrium should look familiar. You can't shoot something in this building and not include them: Los Angeles CA

Vegas Extravagance: The Venetian Lobby

Before Tucker and Giacomo came to visit LA a few weeks back, my family embarked on a classic road trip to get me and my car back across the country for the fall semester. As such, we saw it fit to stop by a few places “on the way” from Atlanta to LA: Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Las Vegas. Needless to say, Vegas was the only one of these stops that was even close to being “on the way.” I’d like to eventually make my way back up to Vegas when I get a chance, most of what I was shooting while we were there was a spur of the moment, “I wonder what this’ll look like” kind of deal. Now that I’ve got a better sense of the area, I feel like I would be able to get some better material with a more planned out return trip.

As it happens, there are some casinos in the town. And these casinos tend to go… overboard in the theming department. One of the most impressively themed properties I wandered around was The Venetian, complete with functional canals (outdoor and indoor), St. Marks-esque plazas and archways, and generally awesome Italian Renaissance imagery. A long time ago, I saw this image over at stuckincustoms and was stunned that a hotel lobby could ever be so ludicrous. Naturally I decided to take a crack at the same shot, albeit with a tighter framing to cut back on the Footceiling effect that wide angle images usually suffer from (in which the photographer’s feet and the room’s ceiling are able to simultaneously squeeze into frame). In all seriousness though, I am very pleased with how this turned out. The white balance certainly took some after-the-fact loving to coax it back into normalcy but hey, that’s why you shoot in RAW. In the spirit of Las Vegas showmanship and general extravagance, I let this one sit on the tone mapping burner a little longer than normal. It’s a jaw dropping room to experience firsthand and I’d prefer to remember it as the crazy, colorful, and extravagantly themed surprise that my mind first encountered.

This entrance atrium is circular and (as evidenced by the stuckincustoms image) is therefore very susceptible to glaring lens distortion that can make some of the room’s upper arches look twice as big as others despite their being the same size. Actually, it’s probably better that I don’t shoot on a full frame body right now because my 16-35mm is never truly any wider than 26mm, lessening that disconcerting distortion while making me put a little more consideration into composition. Super wide angle (true 14mm or thereabouts) naturally draws an initial “wow” reaction because it’s so shockingly wide… but if you’re not careful it can turn into a shallow “wow” crutch for an otherwise unremarkable shot, giving you an freshly distorted but still unremarkable shot. Just my two cents.

At any rate, there’s PLENTY more to come from the Yellowstone/Tetons/Vegas/Disneyland cornucopia — And that’s just me! I left 90% of the Yosemite stuff to Tucker and Giacomo so there’s lots more goodies around the corner…

Great hotel, great lobby. Unfortunately, the canals were drained and the gondolas were being serviced while we were there... an excuse to go back some other time: Las Vegas, NV

Maine Update

I recently got back from two weeks in Maine, but it was not nearly as fruitful photography-wise as my previous trips have been. This is mostly because I’ve all but exhausted the nearby locations, and we live very much in the middle of nowhere up there, so to get anywhere else you need a car, and I’d have to be 25 to drive the rental car…. so I end up kayaking, reading, and generally enjoying getting away from the city. That’s not to say that I didn’t shoot at all, however. A few years ago we built a little website for the house so we could advertise it in various places for people to rent during the summer. It’s been successful, but the images were outdated and featured furniture (or the lack thereof) that has since been changed or added. Because of this, my mom asked if I’d be willing to reshoot the house but in HDR and I was of course more than happy to oblige. Making ANYTHING look accurate with the 16-35, especially architecture, is an exercise in patience and compromise, but the final shots were pretty fun. Here’s just a few of my favorites. I have one or two other unrelated HDRs from Maine that I’ll post soon, but I don’t want to overload one post with pictures so I’ll save them for after the other two post (because I KNOW they each have things to get up here…!)

The second of the two upstairs bedrooms.

The dining room table, which up until recently was literally a picnic table that the builders made for us after construction finished.

A view down the house longways. It is honestly my favorite place on earth.

Tribute to A-Town

Well I’m almost set to head down to New Zealand for a semester abroad! Amidst the packing and preparations I’ve realized that between school in California and only a handful of brief visits home, I haven’t really done much in terms of shooting in Atlanta. So, this week I went out and did my best to put together some material that would stand as THE Atlanta shot or shots when I think of work from home. The result is a 2-for-1 post!

The first image is a bit cliche with the long-exposure highway blur but the more I thought about it the more I realized “I’ve never actually done one of those before…” This image is also available in the Desktops section of our site if you feel so inclined.

The fast moving red blurs on the right side of the southbound lanes quickly becoming individually discernible cars tell a pretty truthful story about Atlanta traffic on the Downtown Connector: Atlanta, GA

And the second is from about 50 stories up in an office building at sunrise. I’m looking North here, so the light from the East was just beginning to hit the right sides of these buildings. Eventually I think I want to try this building again, there may be a better place on the floor to try this from. Actually, by the time I get a chance to try this again, the sun will be rising in a slightly different place — which might turn out to be better anyways!

To address the large building dominating the left side of the frame, I actually wanted this to come off as being taken from a building, not as some helicopter aerial view. Besides, the large interesting buildings only really extend to the North from here so there isn't much to see on the other side of the foreground building anyways: Atlanta, GA

Composing a Winter Sunset in Maine

This shot was really tough. I still have many problems with it, but the main reason I am posting it is so I can discuss them here, as many photographers run into these problems a lot (especially those trying to shoot architecture accurately, or really anything with an ultra-wide angle lens). Many things were going through my head as I stared at the LCD screen on the back of my camera. Ever since I was exposed to the work of architecture photographer Julius Schulman (some would argue that he is THE expert in this area) I find it nearly impossible to compose a shot in which all parallel lines are not, well, parallel. This was the first and foremost thought in my head as I was trying to get this shot just right. I knew I needed the side of the building on the left, for example, to be completely parallel with the side of the frame, which limited the amount of the sailboats that could be included and I was forced to cut off the tops of the masts. Already making some sacrifices, but honestly it would have looked worse to have a distorted building popping out of the corner rather than something that is at least somewhat perspectivally accurate. Since the masts were parallel with the side of the building, I knew that the verticals in the image would all line up nicely with the sides of the frame. By doing this however, I created another problem for myself: My image was not anywhere close to the traditional “rule of thirds,” which states that a good composition, landscapes in particular, will have some combination of 1/3 sky and 2/3 foreground, or vice versa. Putting the horizon smack in the middle of the frame is usually regarded as a visual no-no, but here I can almost get away with it because of the amount that is going on in the foreground, and the fact that the foreground objects, the boats, interact with the sky because of the tall masts. I still think there’s a bit too much foreground, but if I’d tilted the camera up a bit to capture more sky, I would have immediately turned all of my nice verticals into distorted diagonals. It would have been nice to get more of the building on the left (which is in fact a cool old abandoned boathouse that partially burned down) but if I’d moved the frame a bit that way, I would have lost the back of the rightmost boat that reads “Boothbay, Maine” which I love because it is an identifier, and it would have cut into the sunset reflecting off the puddle. All in all, I had to continuously adjust the frame both in camera and in Photoshop to get it the best I could, but there’s a lot to be wanted.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean by “distorted verticals” or lines that should be parallel but are not due to the use of a wide-angle lens and the framing chosen by the photographer. Don’t get me wrong, I love Trey Ratcliff and the work he does, but pictures like this make me wonder if all that distortion could have been avoided. Looking back on my work from even 6 months ago there are definite instances where I chose to do similar things, and I still sometimes have to, but these days I really try my best to avoid it. I also don’t like it when verticals, especially walls and doors, are cut off, as he does in the corners of this shot… Again, love the guy and he’s an inspiration to the three of us and tons of other HDR photographers, it’s just interesting to compare my way of looking at things to his, and realize that there’s more to work on in both cases. Maybe if he would just switch to Canon… 😀

This is another one of those "well, it's 4:00pm, better get shooting before the sun sets... in 15 minutes..."

Hogwarts Exterior

As I investigate the issue I’m currently having with Photomatix 4 I am left with little option but to whip out the old 3.1 in order to continue processing. The New Years trip to Orlando brought with it a TON of fun stuff to shoot and manipulate and

it’s going to be showing up gradually on the site. Naturally, DisneyWorld was a must but the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure was also on our to-do list. It is an incredible recreation of exactly what it claims: it’s a veritable WORLD of wizard- and magic-related items from the books and has such attention to detail that you’d swear you were actually inside the book. The area comprises about a dozen shops named after their literary counterparts including Ollivander’s Wands and the Three Broomsticks, but the real piece of art is the castle. The ride it houses is a nausea-inducing motion simulator that takes you through most of the Harry Potter canon as you ride aboard an enchanted piece of levitating furniture. Amazing accomplishment, a requirement if you call yourself a true Harry Potter aficionado.

The sign advertises a 10-minute wait, made possible by the lack of crowds on New Year's Day thanks to the three bowl games being played in the neighboring areas of Florida: Orlando, FL

Clear Sunset on Downtown

I feel like there has been a severe lack of posts recently. The problem is that this is busy season for schoolwork and outside projects and as everyone winds their way towards a well deserved Thanksgiving break, any extra chunk of spare time you find often ends up turning into a nap. Nothing wrong with that of course, unless you’re supposed to be contributing to a photo blog on a regular basis. Regardless, on an afternoon not too long ago I decided that in my two hours before my last class before break I would steal up onto the roof of a building and see what I could see from there. It rained just a few days ago so I knew the sky would be uncharacteristically clear-ish… fortunately, the stars aligned and there were also some interesting clouds hanging in the background. This never happens. I was more than happy to record a copy for myself. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Downtown from the direction of campus, about 150 feet up: Los Angeles CA

Hampton Court Palace

I know, I know, I haven’t posted in forever… a confluence of having nothing new and no time has led to this… but I once again went back in time, to an age when RAW was a little-understood setting in the camera and chose another shot from London to post. The Hampton Court Palace and surrounding gardens was home to many figures of British royalty, most notably King Henry VIII. He expanded the palace and added some ridiculously awesome gardens including mazes, fountains, lakes, you name it… I wish I could go back there, with the 5D Mark II, a tripod, and those same clouds and shoot this again! The image quality out of the 300D is laughably poor but the single-shot HDR capability of Photomatix 4 is (and I’ll say it again) just out of this world and makes this a picture worth posting. Unlike Trey Ratcliff’s most recent completely out of focus portrait. Um anyway. Trey’s work is usually great; no idea what he thought he was doing with that one.

I have a few more shots will post, one or two from Maine, one of the stormy cloudy Atlanta skyline, and some macro stuff. The bulk of my new material will start flooding in during and after my trip to Hawaii in late December. I am heading off to Ohio soon for my grandmothers funeral, so while the circumstances are not pleasant, I will definitely bring my camera and see what happens, see if I can’t make something good out of a sad situation. I’ll be in Maine for Thanksgiving, but I don’t have high hopes for that either because snow turns really nastily grey in most shots unless you get the light just right… but who knows. It’s always better to have the camera with you than to have that feeling of “oh, man, this is totally awesome… why is my camera at home??”

All of that awesome noise, chromatic aberration, and un-sharpness makes me appreciate technological advancement and love my 5D even more. Still, great clouds are great clouds!

I thought I’d straightened this in Photoshop, but it appears tilted here. Oh well. I don’t really have the desire to fix it…. even though it is distracting…. ugh

Urban Lights/LACMA

True to my word, here is a shot from earlier in the day before anyone else had arrived. A bizarre but strangely amazing exhibit,”Urban Lights” is the iconic arrangement of restored antique street lamps that serves as the main entrance into LACMA. It’s fairly surreal to stand in the middle of them and look up, especially once they are all lit at nighttime…

LACMA is on Wilshire a couple miles NW of the La Brea exit off the 10. Check it out sometime: Los Angeles CA


A whirlwind weekend for sure with two back to back days of hectic, last minute night shoots. Sony officially announced their new F3 camera on Monday morning and had tasked a small group at school with putting together a test/promo piece over the wee

kend to show it off. It’s really an amazing piece of work, opting to do 1080p very well instead of trying to play the resolution game and reach 2k or 4k levels. The sensor size is almost the size of a physical frame of 35mm film and the body is intended to be used with legitimate PL mount cinema lenses, essentially Sony’s attempt at making an affordable offering for indie productions looking for 35mm caliber images who don’t actually want to shoot on film. Very pretty picture for sure. Regardless, our story for the promo involved two young people frolicking amongst the Urban Lights exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art. In between setups, our two actors were kind enough to return to their spots so I could try and come away with my own bit of imagery for the evening. I have said on previous occasion that I love getting to take HDRs when the subject matter has been intentionally lit… it’s not often but the results are amazingly satisfying. More images from LACMA to come later in the week but I couldn’t wait to start working on this one as soon as I got back home earlier tonight…

All those in favor, say aye... Los Angeles CA