Architectural Photography: The Up Shot

In a previous post titled: “Architectural Photography: Tilt-Shift” - http://peterjsieger.svbtle.com/architectural-photography-tiltshift - I outlined my thoughts on the critical importance of perspective control in architectural photography, either by use of the view camera - the architectural photographer’s tool of choice for decades - or by use of tilt-shift lenses on a DSLR.

It is critically important - whether shooting with a view camera, or a DSLR with tilt-shift lenses - to precisely level the camera when shooting architectural subject matter. Given the optics of lenses, particularly wide-angle lenses, a failure to do so results in the convergence (or divergence ) of verticals in an image, which in my opinion is the hallmark of poor technique, unless done so deliberately for the right reasons.

Having studied the architectural magazines for years, it became clear to me as I nurtured my own interest in architectural photography, that it was consistently accurate and precise rendering of perspective that distinguished the professional architectural photographers - Balthazar Korab, Ezra Stoller, Julius Shulman, Norman McGrath, and others - from the amateurs. Even so, I observed, there were times when the masters departed from the orthodox and intentionally pointed their cameras up (or down), resulting in the convergence (or divergence) of verticals in an image, when necessary for interpretive purposes.

Following are examples from my own work, which illustrate both the orthodox - well captured and precisely rendered perspective - and the departure from the orthodox - pointing the camera intentionally up (or down) - to capture a unique aspect of form or space.

Mpls_Skyways_20110216_Blog-04.jpg

Above, The Orthodox - what I’ll call “conventional perspective”, accurately captured (in camera) and rendered: A view of the atrium at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. This image was shot with a 17mm tilt-shift lens with a shift upwards to capture the “lift” in the atrium without compromising the verticals in the image. The camera was precisely leveled to render the verticals truly vertical.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/5543803581/in/set-72157626309932830

Mpls_Skyway_20110124_Blog-25.jpg

Above, The Unorthodox - unconventional perspective with sharply converging verticals: An “upshot” in the atrium at the Hennepin County Government Center. This image was also shot with a 17mm lens, and although the verticals are compromised (deliberately so), the image captures the soaring quality of the atrium space in a way that could not be achieved with conventional perspective.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/5544380160/in/set-72157626309932830

Palau_Güell_20130403_Blog-04.jpg

Above, The Orthodox - conventional perspective, accurately rendered: A view of the light well in Antoni Gaudi’s Palau Güell, in Barcelona, Spain. This image was shot with a 17mm tilt-shift lens with a slight shift upwards. The camera in this case was hand-held and leveled to the extent possible, with slight corrections to verticals made later in Photoshop to preserve the integrity of intention.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/11329986686/in/set-72157638589319795

Palau_Güell_20130403_Blog-05.jpg

Above, The Unorthodox - unconventional perspective with sharply converging verticals: An “upshot” in the light well at Palau Güell. This image was also shot with a 17mm tilt-shift lens, and although the verticals are compromised (deliberately so), the image captures a much more expansive view of the light well in a way that could not be achieved with conventional perspective.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/11330013584/in/set-72157638589319795

Olson_20120425_Blog-247.jpg

Above, The Orthodox - conventional perspective, accurately captured and rendered: A view of the stair at the Olson headquarters in Minneapolis. This image was shot with a 24mm tilt-shift lens with a shift upwards to generate a feeling of “lift” in the space. The camera was precisely leveled to render the verticals truly vertical.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/7474117476/in/set-72157630359220208

Olson_20120425_Blog-248.jpg

Above, The Unorthodox - unconventional perspective with sharply diverging verticals: A “downshot” in the stair at Olson headquarters. This image was also shot with a 24mm lens, and although the verticals are compromised (deliberately so), the image represents another way of seeing the space.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/7474110542/in/set-72157630359220208

Olson_20120425_Blog-264.jpg

Above, The Orthodox - conventional perspective, accurately captured and rendered: A view of the building exterior at the Olson headquarters in Minneapolis. This image was shot with a 17mm tilt-shift lens with a shift upwards to cover the top of the building without compromising the verticals. The camera was precisely leveled to render the verticals truly vertical.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/7474089276/in/set-72157630359220208

Olson_20120425_Blog-262.jpg

Above, The Unorthodox - unconventional perspective with sharply converging verticals: An “upshot” of the building exterior at Olson headquarters. This image was shot with a 24-120mm zoom lens at 57mm, and although the verticals are compromised (deliberately so), the image represents a more detailed view of the graphics on the ceilings of the elevator lobbies. This shot was very capably done for me by Pete VonDeLinde, my assistant on the shoot. Pete and I scrambled to shoot this pair of images simultaneously as the daylight was rapidly waning.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/7474093978/in/set-72157630359220208

Target_Headquarters_Blog-1.jpg

Above, The Orthodox - conventional perspective, accurately captured and rendered: A view of the building exterior at the Target headquarters in Minneapolis. This image was shot with a 24mm tilt-shift lens with a shift upwards to cover the top of the building without compromising the verticals. The camera was precisely leveled to render the verticals truly vertical.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/3665128905/in/set-72157620499662423

Target_Headquarters_Blog-3.jpg

Above, The Unorthodox - unconventional perspective with sharply converging verticals: An “upshot” of the building exterior at Target headquarters. This image was shot with a 24mm lens, and although the verticals are compromised (deliberately so), the image represents a more detailed view of the exterior architecture.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/337709307/in/photolist-87fSAw-87fSDU-vQRdg

P_Sieger_Residence_Blog-1.jpg

Above, The Unorthodox - unconventional perspective with sharply diverging verticals: A “downshot” in my living room. I don’t have a more conventional counterpart to this image. It was shot with a 24mm lens, and although the verticals are compromised (again, deliberately so), the image represents a more intimate view of the seating arrangement than might otherwise be obtained with more conventional perspective.

View this image larger here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peterjsieger/1752114707/in/set-72157602706060002

The moral of this story is that for every rule, there is an exception. In my view accurately rendered perspective - uncompromised verticals in the image capture and/or rendering - is the rule in architectural photography. However, departure from the rule - seeing form and space in unconventional ways - is completely valid, particularly when it produces exceptional results, and is done deliberately, in no uncertain terms.

Visit my Website here: http://siegerarchphoto.com

My Behance Portfolio can be seen here: https://www.behance.net/peterjsieger

 
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