Exploring Architectural Photography: Dated Doors and Their Hardware

From Architectural Photography: Composition, Capture, and Digital Image Processing by Adrian Schulz:

“Just like the field of architecture itself, there are various approaches available to shoot architectural photographs, ranging from purely functional to complete artistic abstraction….

“Even the most perfect, realistic architectural photo has a certain degree of intrinsic abstraction, if only due to the artificial scale of the reproduction or the lack of a third dimension…. [A] photo can only reproduce the emotions felt by the viewer in a given situation. In other words, the way a building is perceived where it stands is often completely different from the way it is perceived in a photograph….

“At what point does architectural photography become art, and how can we differentiate between artistic architectural photography and its documentary sibling? The transition between the two is difficult to pinpoint, but it is safe to say that art begins where the intervention of the photographer begins to influence the purely documentary nature of a photo. This is where the choice of subject is no longer intrinsically connected with the impression made by the building….

“Artistic architectural photographs can often be found in galleries and exhibitions, usually in the context of a particular theme or artist. Here, architecture serves only as a means to an end, with no particular connection between the message of the image and the message conveyed by the architecture itself. In this case, it is the photographer and not the architect who is the focus of the activity.”

Now for something completely different: Let’s spend a little time on architectural photography!

Historical places like Oakland Cemetery and its gardens present opportunities for a visitor to examine a site from different perspectives, embedded as it is with blended natural, historical, socio-cultural, and architectural characteristics. Between trips to the property to explore its natural elements for my winter photo series, I went back on other days to focus on the architecture. On these trips — I’m still sorting out and processing the photos — I aimed the camera at structures like mausoleums, their doors and decorative elements, stained glass windows, and the symbols and iconography abundantly present there. It was fun, and an interesting change, to take photographs of subjects that didn’t shift and wiggle in every tiny breeze; and to examine, instead, the colors and textures present in stable and long-lasting materials like stone, granite, brick, wood, glass, bronze, and steel.

As I was reviewing the photos from these architectural trips, I often wondered if they’d interest anyone but me, and even if they only interested me because I took them. The more I worked on them, though, the more I noticed tiny details similar to those in my nature photographs, especially details around texture, color, balance, and symmetry that a photograph captures in a way our eyes don’t notice or at least discount as insignificant. Since many of the structures I photographed for this new series are more than a century old, time has worn them down. The wear is obvious in their pitted and discolored surfaces — which we probably do notice in real life — but less obvious in terms of perspective, or the trueness of parallel or perpendicular lines. Our eyes compensate for these “defects” and also for vertical correction: we look up at something, for example, and don’t really notice the triangular convergence of lines when we do that, or at least we don’t pay much attention to it. But a photograph — which shifts what we see from three-dimensional to flat and two-dimensional — makes a crooked door or a skewed horizontal or vertical line very apparent. Perspective correction tools in Lightroom — which I used more on these photos than I’ve ever used it before — helps quite a bit, and seemed necessary since we tend to regard asymmetry in images, unless it’s obviously intentional, as jarring and disconcerting.

For the most part, these photos are without context: by isolating part of a mausoleum or other architectural object on the property, I’ve dropped the associated stories around the person or family or organization that had the structure built, as well as its social or historical background. That’s another layer in the kaleidoscope of options presented by a historical site, and possibly a project for another day (or week or month).

Here’s the first gallery, some typical bronze doors and stone structures with embedded dates, probably construction or erection dates.

This second gallery starts and ends with closeup shots of door hardware, with wider shots of door detail in the middle. The tenth and eleventh images are my favorites: the tenth because of the way morning sun produced a soft glow on the door handle; and the eleventh because the vertical lines and their colors created a nice contrast with the silver hardware.

And, just for fun, here are before-and-after post-processing versions of those two images.

These are examples, I think, of applying closeup and macro photography experiences to architectural details, both in terms of choosing subjects and post-processing. Post-processing adjustments followed a similar approach to the one I use for nature photography: figuring out how to emphasize certain elements of the scene over others, then making basic exposure and color saturation or luminance adjustments to serve that end. And as I’ve written about before (see Before and After: Bernadine Clematis, An Illusion), I did use Lightroom’s spot removal tools to blend colors and eliminate evidence of wear-and-tear on some surfaces for a more consistent look across the subject. Select the first image below to view these before-and-after variations in a slideshow for comparison.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

4 Comments

Winter White and Red (2 of 2)

Hello! Here is the second of two sets of galleries, continuing the white and red theme from Winter White and Red (1 of 2).

The first four images in this gallery are likely a variety of shadbush or serviceberry, and those are followed by white flowering quince shrubs.

The first two images in this gallery show closeups of an over-wintering rosebush, busting out some tiny red and orange leaves. The remaining images are red flowering quince shrubs.

This final gallery shows some miniature (about the size of a large marble) white daffodils that I found yesterday popping up from their bed of pine bark. They seemed pretty happy with the warm temperatures (in the 60s) and some nice filtered sunlight.

I was experimenting with a new lens — actually a used lens, a Minolta 70-210mm “beercan” — that I bought just last week for $55. I remembered owning this same lens decades ago, having used it with a Minolta film camera; and recalled that it produced colorful soft backgrounds while effectively capturing close-up detail. This was my first outing with the lens: I took these photos from about twenty feet away, with the lens extended to 180-200 millimeters as a “closeup zoom” test, and really got a kick out of the “retro” feel of its steel body and very smooth operation. Buying a used lens can sometimes be an “iffy” proposition, but I think I scored a victory with this one! 🙂

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

My previous winter 2019-2020 posts are here:

Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Winter Gold (1 of 2)

Winter Gold (2 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (1 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (2 of 2)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (1 of 3)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (2 of 3)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (3 of 3)

Winter White and Red (1 of 2)

3 Comments

Winter White and Red (1 of 2)

From Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age by Robert Hirsch:

“We all know what time is until someone asks us to explain it; then, even physicists find the nature of time to be inexplicable. Time is more baffling than space. It seems to flow past us or we appear to move through it, making its passage seem subjective and incomprehensible. Yet a camera can purposely stop time and spatially add the aspect of physical dimension within a framed area of visual space, giving photographs exceptional properties that other visual media do not possess….”

“When it comes to photographic imagemaking, people have plenty of questions about cameras but don’t often ask about how best to accomplish their visual goals. What determines the success of an image is not the camera, but the knowledge of the person operating the camera. The principal job of a photographer is looking, which defines all photographic processes. Good photographs are made by learning to see. Good photographers become skilled at following their eyes and seeing things others overlook…. A good photograph creates a memory in a viewer by communicating an experience to another….”


The visual energy of a color depends greatly on its relationship to other colors and its placement within a scene rather than on the size of the area it occupies. Imagine a white, in-ground swimming pool on a calm and clear afternoon reflecting harmonious blue-sky colors that are even, smooth, and unified. Now throw in a red beach ball. Pow! It generates a visual explosion that surprises the eye and instantly becomes the point of emphasis. Its solitariness stands out as a point of visual magnetism. Its atypical individuality within the unified space introduces needed variety into the composition….”

Is it spring yet? No, ‘fraid not, but I’ve decided to wrap up my winter photo series with two last posts featuring some hints of the season not too far away — a bit of spring preminiscence, shall we say. In another month or so — unless we have some freezing weather or a freak two-inch snowstorm — we’ll be all set to once again pretend it’s spring and there will be very little to differentiate wintery photos from springy ones. Meanwhile, I’m working on a series of architectural detail photos — something I hardly ever do but wanted to try — which prompted me to learn more about symmetry and balance in photographic composition, and I’ll start unrolling those in a few days.

The first gallery shows some paperwhite lilies from Oakland Cemetery gardens, growing in a shady spot near the cemetery’s entrance. Despite their small size and the fragile, translucent white of their blooms, they seem perfectly happy to flower all winter long — in smaller quantities, perhaps, but still producing some nice floral clumps.

There are several varieties of the plant in the following gallery growing on the property, both white versions like these and some red/pink variations that I’ll upload for the next post.

After scouring a few of my plant and southern gardening books, I just couldn’t identify this one, so I used the web site Plantnet to see if the internet would help. This was the first time I’d used Plantnet — where you can upload multiple photos of flowers or other plants, and get a response with probable identities. The site suggested that these were flowering quince shrubs, which I confirmed by searching for flowering quince images and comparing them to my photos.

This gallery features camellia blossoms; camellia is a hardy winter-blooming shrub or small tree that apparently produces a large volume of blooms all year round, shrugging off cooler winter temperatures. The blooms are a richly saturated red, and the petal that had fallen from another branch — in the first two photos — seemed to add a nice, elegant touch to the unopened flower.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

My previous winter 2019-2020 posts are here:

Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Winter Gold (1 of 2)

Winter Gold (2 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (1 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (2 of 2)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (1 of 3)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (2 of 3)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (3 of 3)

Leave a comment

Winter Gray and Winter Green (3 of 3)

Here’s the last of three galleries featuring photos in a gray and green theme that I previously posted in Winter Gray and Winter Green (1 of 3), and also in Winter Gray and Winter Green (2 of 3).

Thanks for taking a look!

My previous winter 2019-2020 posts are here:

Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Winter Gold (1 of 2)

Winter Gold (2 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (1 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (2 of 2)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (1 of 3)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (2 of 3)

4 Comments

Winter Gray and Winter Green (2 of 3)

Here’s the second of three galleries featuring photos in a gray and green theme that I first posted (and described how they came about) in Winter Gray and Winter Green (1 of 3).

Thanks for taking a look!

My previous winter 2019-2020 posts are here:

Work, Walk, Discover: Hydrangeas in Winter

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (1 of 2)

Southeastern Winter Abstracts (2 of 2)

Winter Gold (1 of 2)

Winter Gold (2 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (1 of 2)

Winter Seeds and Berries (2 of 2)

Winter Gray and Winter Green (1 of 3)

10 Comments