Exploring Architectural Photography: Steel and Stained Glass (3 of 3)

Here is the third of three posts featuring photos of bronze, steel, and stained glass, part of my Exploring Architectural Photography series from Oakland Cemetery.

These first three images are the last ones (for now, anyway) that I took from outside mausoleums:

On many of the older mausoleums, the stained glass windows are covered on their exteriors with sheets of plexiglass … a good thing for protecting the glass, of course, but not so good for the photographer since plexiglass fades and discolors over time, captures a lot of dust and dirt, and blurs the window colors. I had to find different strategies for the images in this gallery, so either used the doors as foreground frames for the stained glass windows (the first six photos), or stuck my lens through openings in the doors and captured only part of the window (the last two photos). Typically the lens wouldn’t fit through the door elements, though, or was impossible to turn right or left if I got it through — which is why there are six photos using the first approach and only two using the second one. With some bright mid-morning sunlight, however, the windows glowed nicely from the outside-looking-in and highlighted a lot of their color and detail.

I haven’t done a Before-and-After article in a while, so I’ve picked some of the images from this post to write about how they were taken, and mostly, how I processed them in Lightroom. Here’s a hint: the before versions of four of the images above, that I transformed substantially to create something I was satisfied with. I’m working on that post now and will likely publish it by the end of the week.

Thanks for taking a look!

The previous posts in this series are:

Exploring Architectural Photography: Dated Doors and Their Hardware

Exploring Architectural Photography: Steel and Stained Glass (1 of 3)

Exploring Architectural Photography: Steel and Stained Glass (2 of 3)

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Exploring Architectural Photography: Steel and Stained Glass (2 of 3)

Hello again! Here is the second of three posts featuring photos of bronze, steel, and stained glass, part of my Exploring Architectural Photography series from Oakland Cemetery.

The first photo in this gallery probably seems like an odd one…

… but you know sometimes you see a small, rectangular, bronze-blueish-greenish thing out in the wild and you can’t resist taking its picture.

I puzzled for a while about what this really was — it’s embedded at the bottom of the stone wall of a mausoleum — thinking it might be some sort of vent, or perhaps a Victorian stereo speaker. Then I realized what it was really for: it’s how the ghosts get out!

Thanks for taking a look!

The previous posts in this series are:

Exploring Architectural Photography: Dated Doors and Their Hardware

Exploring Architectural Photography: Steel and Stained Glass (1 of 3)

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Exploring Architectural Photography: Steel and Stained Glass (1 of 3)

Hello! I’m continuing my architecture photography posts with a small gallery below, one of three — I’ll post the other two over the weekend — containing mashups of stained-glass windows and steel or bronze architectural elements that I discovered while exploring Oakland Cemetery for this series. The series doesn’t have a planned end at this point; while I’ve processed most of the photos I’ve taken so far, every time I look at them I think of other approaches I might want to try … and probably will!

The variety of colors and materials for a photographer to study on the property seems nearly endless. In the gallery below, you’ll see, first, a pair of stained glass windows adorned with a sculpted bronze wreath. Bronze, steel, or concrete wreaths — representing eternity, or eternal life or love — are common on the property, but this pair of photos shows one of the most intricate wreaths I found. These are followed by windows more austere in design and color, from the top of a large mausoleum patterned after a church.

The window in the third pair photographed perfectly on the day I took these; taking pictures of stained-glass windows can present challenges (with harsh shadows or glare), but these worked out well because it was a cloudy, bright day — allowing for minimal shadowing yet still preserving the bright colors. The last three images in the gallery are photos of the same door at different zoom levels, showing an elaborate urn pattern created out of bronze and steel, framed by wood and stone.

The previous post in this series is: Exploring Architectural Photography: Dated Doors and Their Hardware.

Thanks for taking a look!

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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!

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Gothic Revival Architecture: Church and Two Steeples

St. John’s Catholic Church, in Keeseville, New York, was erected in 1903 on the site of a relocated 1850s Baptist church. The Catholic church is an example of early twentieth century gothic revival architecture, emulating in its steeple design in particular “reach to the sky” elements that are typical of gothic churches, but also incorporating arches, stained glass, and stonework found in gothic and gothic revival styles.

The two steeples are 125 feet high, making the church an impressive building for such a small town and reflecting the growing wealth of French-Canadian residents who settled in the area during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Situated as it is on a large, open plot of land, the variable colors in the churches stonework, stained glass, and copper roof look especially rich and inviting on a bright sunny day. You may notice in the photos that louvers are missing from the left steeple, but those are planned for reconstruction as the church undergoes restoration.

The last image in the gallery was previously feature here: Wordless Wednesday: Line, Circle, Arch.

Select the first photo below to view larger images in a slideshow; thanks for looking!

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