The new Combined Colleges Boat House serving Selwyn College, Churchill College, King’s College and Leys School opened this summer. Designed and project managed by rh partnership of Cambridge the boat house over looking the river Cam was completed for a project value of £2.5 million and replaces the previous dilapidated boat house on the same site. Due to the high risk of flooding in the area all habitable rooms are located on the first floor, accommodation on the first floor comprises a combined rowing gym and individual clubrooms for the individual colleges.
You can read more about the project on the Cambridge News website.
After 200 years the refurbished Woodberry Wetlands near Finsbury Park has opened to the public. The centrepiece of the new nature reserve run by the London Wildlife Trust is the new café is based in the old Coal House. The refurbishment of the coal house and public access work to the reservoir was carried out Bolt & Heeks and official opened by Sir David Attenborough on the 30th April. The scheme was designed by kaner olette Architects and has been submitted by Allen Scott for a 2016 Landscape Institute Award.
Congratulations to kaner olette Architects for their recent win in the 2016 RIBA South East Regional Awards with the Gateway Café at Peacehaven.
Entries for the 2016 RIBA UK awards are now closed, my images have been used for 2 submissions this year, the Peacehaven Big Parks project and the new Crausaz Wordsworth seminar building at Robinson College, Cambridge. The awards will be announced in June 2016. From a photographers perspective the RIBA Awards should be commended as they are one of the few awards that require the photographers consent for the submission of their images.
Big Parks, Peacehaven, Kent
The Gate way Café in Peacehaven, Kent was designed by Kaner Olette architects of Tunbridge Wells and my original commission came from Crofton Design consulting M&E engineers on the project. This Café building has already won a Constructing Excellence Sustainability Award and a category winner in the AJ Retrofit Awards 2015. Big Parks is a visitor Café was forms a gateway to the new Big Parks community park a new recreational space in Peachaven, Kent.
The Crausaz Wordsworth Building, Robinson College, Cambridge
The new dedicated seminar building has been built in the grounds of Robinson College and opened in 2015. The building was designed and the photographs commissioned by rh Partnership of Cambridge and Brighton.
In addition to occasional lecturing on photographic techniques and presenting Architectural photography CPD sessions I will be running several one day courses on DSLR photography over the spring and summer of 2016. The courses will be produced and presented in partnership with Zoe Plummer a Commercial Photographer and Photography Lecturer.
These courses will be aimed at amateur photographers wanting to lean more about and improve there skills in relation to,
All of the subjects would be covered over a single day through the use of short lectures, practical sessions and group critiques.
Courses will be week days and located in the East Midlands Area.
Groups will around 10-12.
Exact dates, prices and locations to be confirmed.
Central London Architectural and Interior Photography courses are also planned for later in the year.
If you would like to know more or have any comments about possible course content, locations etc. we would love to hear from you.
It has been a while since I have been out to photograph things purely for the pleasure of just seeing and capturing something. When studying photography and working full time as a professional photographer the simple interest in aesthetic photography can be easily lost. Because of this I think it's important to put the work aside though and allow yourself to just be creative.
I particularly like woodland when it's clad in flat overcast light, compressing the dynamic range to something your camera can easily capture. This means the scene you can see will be very similar to the scene you can capture and the dull flat light allows to compose without having to consider blown out highlights and impenetrable shadows. When creating work for purely for aesthetic reasons I often compose and crop for a square format even when shooting digitally, I have always loved this format since I had to master it with my 500cm.
Here is a series of five monochrome images captured at the end of December 2015.
I was recently commissioned to photography a newly refurbished apartment by Interior Designer Sandra Boitel of didiE Art & Decoration, Zurich. The apartment was located in the heart of Mayfair London and unfortunately for me on the 4th Floor with no lift, as I was passing the 3rd floor for the second time loaded down with equipment I promised myself I would go through and rationalise all of my kit. One of the problems with being a professional photographer is that you need to take back up kit or have a work round for most failures. This means you end up taking almost twice as much stuff as you need and on most shoots it is never even unpacked.
Anyway back to the shoot, Sandra the designer wanted to show the affect of her lighting scheme on the interior. This meant using a high proportion of the ambient lighting. Unfortunately for me most of the lighting was provided by vintage Edison type bulbs which produce a very orange light at around 2400K as opposed to the normal 3200K for tungsten lighting, also this type of lighting has quiet a narrow colour spectrum and therefore gives quiet poor colour reproduction. To try and maintain the ambient look I applied local fill flash only and covered the flash heads with ¼ or ½ CTO Orange gels this allowed some of the true colour of the furniture to be brought out without destroying the natural ambient look. It would have been much easier to have added more flash but I think this would have destroyed the natural look Sandra was looking for.
I have been spreading the word in the last couple of weeks, by running a full day Architectural Photography workshop at the University of Northampton, and 2 Architectural Photography CPD sessions at London architectural practices. The CPD session this week at GRID architects in SE1 was particularly well attended with 25 people ranging from enthusiastic DSLR users through to dedicated iPhone Photographers. The CPD session ran through the complete process of capturing an architectural style external and interior images from initial concept through to post production.
Although there was a lot to get through people at all levels took something away from it, here is some of the feedback from the staff at GRID.
"People don’t usually comment on the CPD’s unless they’re really bad which makes it even better that I’ve had positive feedback from a number of people who found it informative and well presented. It’s good to get someone coming in who teaches us something useful, understands our way of thinking, and isn’t trying to sell something to us." Stefan
"The composition part was particularly relevant as it applies to so much of the work we do, not just the photography. Also, our bid presentations always rely heavily on photography to describe both the existing context and proposals so I think the range of material you covered was really good." Andrew
I don't make anything from the CPD sessions, and so I am only able to offer a limited number, but get in touch if you would like the either the 1 hour CPD session on the Theory and Practice of Architectural Photography or the Advanced Architectural Photography talk.
The Rule of thirds and it's use in Architectural photography
Nikon Professional Services
People are quick to complain about poor service these days, but don’t often report good service when they get it, so I just thought I would mention my recent dealings with Nikon Professional Services (NPS).
On a recent shoot my old Nikkor 70-200mm VR1 fell out of my bag about 1 onto a concrete drive. Apart from a slight dink at the base all look good apart from but when I went to use the lens the VR system was a bit sick causing the image to randomly move around in the lens. I wasn’t too worried about this as I normally shoot from a tripod without the VR, but was worried about the focus alignment. It was time to send it back to Nikon for a bit of TLC. this lens has had a hard life having been repaired before when it and a camera body were dropped from a speeding motor bike, but that’s another story.
As I was off for a couple of weeks over Christmas it took the opportunity run my other AF lenses into Nikon London for a quick check and service, armed with my 14-24mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8, as well as the ailing 70-200mm I called in on the morning of 22nd Dec. To my surprise I received the service estimates on the afternoon of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd , after accepting these by email both of the shorter zooms were lubricated, had their focus alignments checked and were back with me on the 23rd and 24th of Dec.
The longer zoom required some parts from Japan which were going to take a while to arrive. I didn’t have a job that needed the longer zoom for a couple of weeks so that wasn’t a real problem, but I let NPS know when I would need it by. As that date drew near I contacted NPS for an update and as they were still awaiting parts they sent me a loan 70-200 at no cost to cover the intervening period. Unfortunately they were still struggling with parts supply so they have just replaced my 7 year old lens with a 70-200 VR2 lens for the cost the old lens repair.
Very pleased with service, sensible prices and the replacement lens. Thanks to Rob and the other staff at NPS.
This is a quick review of these 2 relatively new Yongnuo products from and interior photographers perspective. This is not meant to be a detailed review of the TX unit and flashes as there are already lots of good reviews about. It’s really to fill in a few gaps and answer some of the questions I had before buying the equipment.
When I started photographing interiors I used Nikon strobes but working in small spaces, shoots can be really hard on flashguns. The stands are constantly knocked over as they are placed behind doors or just as a consequence of having too much kit in a small space. Often flashes are placed on top of doors, inside light fittings, log burners, ovens etc and all these things can quickly lead to irreparable costly damage to your precious strobes. The need to replace a £350 flashgun can make quiet a dent in a day’s fee so these were quickly replaced by a set of Nissin Di622 MK1 flashes. These could be brought for about £100 new or £60 S/H and combined with a set of Yongnuo RF 602 TX RX units have worked well for the past few years. Nissin parts are readily available and broken feet or cases are quickly and cheaply replaced after a quick email to Kenro the importers.
There were a few problems with the Di622 /RF 602 set up though. The main one being that the power of each flash had to be adjusted separately so walking to 4 or 5 flashes dotted around the shoot to adjust the power of each one was a constant pain, particularly when taking bracketed shots. Also the focus of the flash cannot be adjusted when it’s not fitted to the hot shoe of a camera, placing a greater reliance on having the correct modifier, and finally the RF 602 TX unit the RX unit and the flash heads all took different batteries. Meaning 3 different sets of spares had to be taken to each shoot. Finally the Di622 would power down after about 10 mins of inactivity and would often have to be revisited to turn them back on. I was happy with the set up at the time as it offered the best compromise of cost, portability and reliability available at the time but technology continues to develop offering more features at lower cost.
I have now changed over to the Yongnuo YN560-TX Manual Flash Controller and Yongnuo YN560 III Speedlites the controller is about £30 and the flashes about £45 from Amazon.
The build quality of the new kit appears particularly good and big step up from the build quality of the old Yongnuo products and that offered by the Di622’s. The features and benefits of the new set up when compared to my old kit are fairly significant.
Each flash includes its own built in RX unit removing the need for separate RX units, reducing the amount of kit to carry.
The flash and TX controller use the same rechargeable AA batteries.
The controller can be used to remotely adjust the individual power and zoom of up to 6 groups of flashes, each group can contain any number of flashes. Zoom from 24mm – 105mm and power from 1/128 in 1/3rds or full stops. It is simple to set each flash to its individual group. It is not possible to test fire each group individually though so you need to lay out the flashes in a logical manner to make sure you don’t waste time remotely adjusting the wrong flash unit.
One of the most significant advantages of the new units is the adjustable flash frequency. With the old Nissin units you were limited to using a single light pop for each shutter operation. This limited the amount of light you could apply to the scene regardless of the exposure time. So for instance if you wanted an exposure time of say 8 seconds to capture the right level of ambient light and wanted to supplement this with some local fill flash your were limited to a single flash pop. Once the Di622 was up to full power the only option was to use multiple flash heads to increase the local light levels. With the YN 560 combo you can set the frequency and number of flash pops, and so with our 8 second exposure we could set the flash and controller to supply multiple pops in that 8 second exposure. Using the Number and Frequency options we can specify a number of pops or just keep firing at say 10 Hz or for the duration of the shutter opening. Total number is adjustable from 1-40 and the frequency is adjustable from 1-100 Hz. Obviously this flexibility is limited by the flashes recycle time to one flash every 3 seconds when using the internal battery pack, but still offers a vast improvement in the available power available.
The TX unit is also able to fire the Nikon camera via the TX units sync port and accept a signal from a Yongnuo RF 603 TX unit and so a single remote press from the RF 603 can operate the shutter and fire the flashes at the same time.
The standby time and power off time of the strobes are adjustable with a few options including On all of them time, which is a real bonus.
The TX unit and Flash/RX unit both have locking tripod feet where as the old RF 602 units I used did not lock.
I have used the new set up on a couple of shoots so far and it has all worked flawlessly. The TX range is good working though multiple stone walls. Breakages are likely to be more expensive than the Nissin units as I am guessing it is going to be difficult to get Yongnuo spare parts although at £40/unit this is not the end of the world.
A couple of other points that aren’t really relevant to interior photography but worth noting are the TX unit can also work as an IR focus assist light if needed and the Flash units can be run from an external battery pack to reduce the cycle times.
I will try and report back on long term reliability but the build quality of the units and the past reliability of my Yongnou RF 602 1nd 603 kit suggests there may not be much of a problem.
Night Photography - Part 2
I've had a couple of queries about the best time to photograph buildings at night. This is briefly discussed below in Night Photography but I will try and expand on it.
When photographing landscapes there is a fairly long period around sunset when the light is atmospheric and gives a load of different lighting effects that we can use as photographers. We can do this because we can constantly adjust the camera as its getting darker, to optimise the exposure for falling light levels, this period is often referred to as the Blue Hour.
When photographing buildings that are lit by artificial light we have very little flexibility in the timing of the shot, as the interior light levels are the building are fixed and don’t vary with the falling external light levels. What we need to do is pick an exposure value (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) that gives us the interior exposure we want. We can generally get the right level soon after sunset. At this point the sky will still be quiet bright and over exposed, but the building interior will be correctly exposed. All we need to do then is wait as the external light level falls to the point where it complements the interior light levels and provides the look that we want. This is exact point is sometimes difficult to judge because your eyes will be used to the dark by then. I normally continue shooting to the point when the roof line of the building loses its definition and merges with the dark sky beyond.
You could be stood there for half an hour to get the right exposure so replace your lens cap between shots and keep a check on lens condensation especially if you are near water.
I recently had a day out to visit a few exhibitions around London including,
Designing the 20th Century: Life and Work of Abram Games
The Jewish Museum 8th September 2014 - 4th January 2015,
129 – 131 Albert Street, London, NW1 7NB
Nearest Tube: Camden, Northern Line
|See Britain by Train, Abram Games||Grow Your Own Food, Abram Games|
The exhibition was created to celebrate the centenary of Abram Games birth and features work from his time as a student, through his military career right through to his death in 1996. Initially you may think you’re not familiar with the work of Games, but it soon becomes clear that you will have already been exposed to much of his iconic work and many of his works are already lodged in your mind at subconscious level. Once exposed to the exhibition you can see the influences of his work in many of the advertising images that surround us today. Well worth a visit.
I can also recommend the Cafe, good Latte for £2.40 and the Israeli Special (stuffed vine leaves, houmous, pitta bread and olives) at £5.80 was very good.
After Abram Games we moved on to the RIBA to see an exhibition on the work of Edwin Smith
Ordinary Beauty – The Photography of EDWIN SMITH
10th September 2014 – 6th December 2014
RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD
Nearest Tube, Great Portland Street, Circle, Hamersmith & City and Metropolitan lines
|Winter Smoking Room, Cardiff Castle, Edwin Smith||Scala Regia, Royal Palace, Caserta, Edwin Smith|
The exhibition comprises over 100 of Edwin Smiths black and white prints from the RIBA’s collection of over 60,000 of his negatives. The purpose of Architectural Photography is generally the documentation of a structure and to show how it interacts with its users and surroundings. Good photographers can add narrative to convey extra detail about the design, use, construction etc. Smith takes this to another level with the creation of work that is engaging in its own right, the subject matter is almost secondary to the framing, composition use of light, shade and dynamic range. The range of shades produced in the finished prints shows not only a mastery of photography but also of the development process. As with the work of Ansel Adams it’s clear that the finished print was clearly visualised by Smith at the time of capture. Anyone with an interest in photography can learn much from the study of Smiths’ work.
I have reproduced a couple of Smiths images here but even my high dynamic range monitor does’nt do these justice.
As an added bonus you can see some of my own work displayed in the top floor exhibition on the Sterling Prize.
The coffee and cake on offer in the ground floor cafe is fairly unremarkable.
Following the visit to the RIBA we move on to the barbican centre,
Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age
25th September 2014 – 11th January 2015
Art Gallery, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS
Nearest Tube, Barbican, Circle, Hamersmith & City and Metropolitan lines
This is large collection of work from
Bernd and Hilla Becher
Unfortunately for me the exhibition was focused on the documentation of vernacular architecture or the use of architecture within a socio economic context. I was soon approaching the images with the eyes of a tourist making mental note to remove destinations from my bucket list rather than studying technique, composition, use of scale etc.
The Constructing Worlds exhibition while very thought provoking uses photography as a vehicle rather than an art form in its own right the work of Edwin Smith conveying the work of the Architectural photographer in a much purer form. That said it is still well worth the visit to see such a large body or work exploring Architectural Photography from the 1930's to the present day.
As we get in to autumn, the clocks go back and the weather is generally worse, night photography can be a more effective option than daylight when photographing architecture. Even during winter daylight periods the sun is so low down that you often find large parts of the building shaded by adjacent buildings, again making night photography the better option.
While night photography is basically the same as day photography in that it’s about composition and lighting there are quite a few subtleties that can make the difference between a good shoot and bad shoot.
In addition to your normal architectural photography kit you will need a few extra bits.
Tripod – If you don’t use a tripod all the time you will really need a tripod for night photography, yes you can balance you camera on handrails and lean it against sign post etc. but if you want flexibility in composition and framing a tripod is essential.
Remote Shutter Release – Again it’s a good idea to use a release during the day but really important when using longer shutter speeds at night as any camera movement will affect image quality.
Lens Hood – A lens hood helps reduce glare from adjacent street lights etc. and also reduced the risk of lens misting.
Torch – Always useful at night but take one with a low power setting as you can upset you night vision by shining a bright light onto your camera close to your face.
Plastic Bag – A plastic bag is really handy for covering your camera and lens while it’s on the tripod to keep the damp of it and prevent misting of the lens and eye piece. I tend to use supermarket carrier bags because the handles hook onto the tripod easily. They can act as a bit of a sail in the wind though so weight your tripod or don’t use them if it’s windy.
I often hear people talking about the Golden Hour or Blue Hour which is the period around sunset when you get that nice orange light, sunsets and long shadows. This only really applies to landscape photography though as you can use longer and longer exposures as the ambient light levels drop to record the landscape detail. Unfortunately when we’re photographing architecture it’s filled with and surrounded by artificial light and we have a much smaller window of opportunity. Ideally we want to see some light in the sky as this will provide edge definition to our building, we don’t normally want the building to merge into a black sky. Photographically the best time is when the ambient light in the sky is bit lower than the artificial light coming from the building by say 1 – 2 ev, but light enough to give you edge definition.
I normally find that the best light available is about 45 – 60mins after sunset, depending on the amount of overcast or the direction you are looking, if you are looking towards the setting sun the sky will be lighter than looking away from the setting sun. The period of ideal light is really short at about 10 – 15 mins.
If you are in a heavily built up area and the weather is overcast it often doesn’t get that dark because the street lighting is reflected from the cloud base, giving enough light to provide edge definition. You are restricted to a yellow sodium colour backdrop though and an earlier shot would possibly have allowed you to retain a bit of blue in the sky, even if overcast.
It’s generally best to check out the area in daylight and get a good idea of the shots you want as you will often only have about 10 minutes to get that perfect sky you don’t want to be composing your shots out then. Think about the fact you are using long exposures and the way the location will have an impact on those. If you are working on bridges or near tram lines then vibration of the ground can be a real issue.
Shutter – Even with the best tripod you will probably get some camera vibration as you will be using shutter speeds of many seconds. Use your remote shutter release and the mirror up setting (MuP) if you have one and try and use your body to shield the camera from the wind if there is any.
Aperture - Use a depth of field calculator to pick an aperture setting that gets you the depth of field you want but no more. People often use much smaller apertures than they need resulting in much longer shutter speeds, causing more camera shake and spiky stars from streetlights etc, the smaller the aperture the more harsh and spiky these stars will be. Generally longer shutter speeds also result in more image noise. If you have a long exposure NR setting make sure it’s turned on.
Metering - Getting the exposure right is normally a bit of trial and error but I normally spot meter on some of the brighter parts of the image to get a starting point, if you use an auto exposure setting you will often find that your camera over expose to try and capture more of the dark sky detail.
White Balance – I normally set mine to daylight and tweek in post production if you leave it set to auto you will get all sorts of weird results.
Misting – Keep your lens cap on and your camera covered when possible particularly if you are working near water and regularly check the front of the lens for condensation. Your lens can get misted enough to spoil a good image before you notice it looking though the camera.
The public – you may have been outside for quite a while and you night vision will be working well. Members of the public though may have just left brightly lit offices and shops and they may not notice your black tripod and camera bag, try and keep out of busy traffic routes and use street furniture to create natural barriers.
Personal safety – consider the risks of working at night, try and take someone with you if you think you may be at risk.
I was recently commissioned to photograph the new Bella Freud point of sale perfume display on the ground floor of Harvey Nicholas, London. It is a great display designed and installed by Arken of Newmarket, unfortunately its made of black and highly reflective Perspex surfaces. These kind of surfaces are particularly difficult to light and composition is made more complicated by the need to manage unwanted refection. Jobs like this need very detailed inspection of the image previews to minimise unwanted reflections of clients, staff and kit. Just what you need on an early morning shoot starting at 8.00 and finishing before the store opens to the public at 10.00. The use of a remote camera release is always a real help in these situations allow photographer reflections to be minimised. Minor tidying up was required in Photoshop CC to remove a couple of light stand feet but everyone was pleased with the finished result.
Last week I was working at 24 Monument Street, London documenting the work of Eltherington a specialist architectural metal worker, they had recently refurbished the link bridge and all the buildings metal work with new stainless steel panels, soffits, handrails and trims. The problem with metal work is that brightness, and colour is a product of what’s reflected in the metal work rather than the metal work it’s self. So on this shoot the compositions were largely dictated by picking locations where the metal work reflected light surroundings. Shooting towards Lower Thames Street as white vans went past proved the most effective way of getting the reflection needed in the first picture. The shoot finished off with a trip to the top of the Fire of London Monument to shoot down on the building. A note when planning this type of job don’t leave the 311 step Monument climb carrying a load of gear until the end of the day.