February 2020 - everything was cool, except we were on the verge of shutting everything down for 2 weeks, 2 weeks that dragged into 2 years of on and off closures.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is often credited with the idiom “God is in the details” and it still holds today.
Each of these photographs was made at a specific time of day so that the lights of the building would be on but also so that the skies and buildings would be rich with colour and details.
But taking the pictures was only the beginning.
Each photograph started as a series of multiple exposures at different, yet precise, angles and points of view to capture what the human eye can and cannot see. The bright lights need to be exposed without blowing out the details, the sky needs to be exposed to give dimension and life, the building needs to be exposed to show the richness and details of the architect’s craft and the roads/sidewalks need to ground the building on a solid foundation with blurred signs of life moving through to add drama.
Each exposure was then blended into a composite of multiple images with layers of varying exposures and individual lines squared up and true to reality (camera lenses are curved and ground-level photographs create the illusion of keystoning and vanishing horizons).
Then the fun detail work begins.
1. removal, or keeping, power lines and poles - the building is the subject
2. removal, or obscuring, signs of construction (pylons are everywhere) and buildings not related to the project
3. removal of promotional, parking, and unimportant street signs and door stickers
4. removal, or adding, people, cars and light trails that accentuate the photographs
5. fixing pavement lines - it seems that most roads have tar lines that distract from the subject
6. enhancing or replacing skies so that they act as a rich enhancement to the building
7. fine-tooth editing of building lines, saturation, details, sky and light trails.
In order to make the buildings true and realistic, each of these photographs received a minimum of 10 hours of post-production editing.
Getting to the finished picture of the World Exchange Plaza in Ottawa.
The intersection of Queen and Metcalfe has a lot of backup room, by using a 20mm lens I was able to get the full view of the entire building from the opposite corner.
Note: When in tight areas I will take a series of pictures and stitch them together later in photoshop. The 20 mm lens can have a lot of distortion so, later in Lightroom and Photoshop, all of the vertical and horizontal lines were straightened for a well-defined drafting table effect.
It was an overcast, but bright morning, so the exposure was set for keeping the details of the building and especially the top edges of the building. This meant losing the details of the sky and shadows crossed along the lower 1/3 of the building in shadow. This was addressed in Photoshop by blending in a layer of sharp brightness to the lower third.
People and Powerlines
Streets are rarely empty in downtown Ottawa, and powerlines really mess up the view, so a series of pictures were made to minimize the number of people and cars. However, cars add life to the empty streets so I kept them in (obscuring their licence plates) and removing the people (but left the dog in). Powerlines were edited out one piece at a time and windows edited to look natural.
Note: Sometimes I will keep the people in and just blur them - this works best when there are a lot of people.
Lighting and White Balance
After the core edits were completed I tackled the lighting and white balance with a variety of layers of light and dark areas blended to make the shadows less extreme and then balance the colours for the final step.
Skies are important in the framing of architectural photographs - by adding a subtle darker sky we draw the viewers’ eyes to the subject building.
See below for the “pre-edit” World Exchange Plaza.
Though made with a very wide 20 mm lens each of these photographs is an amalgamation of several raw files that have been merged in Photoshop. After merging all lines are straightened, lighting is adjusted so that the whites and colours are separated from the background and saturation levels are made to separate the subject buildings from their surroundings.
The first time I met Johnny Vegas was when I was photographing a wedding at Cedarhill Golf & Country Club in Nepean/Ottawa. Johnny’s band was performing later and I had the good fortune to dine with him at the reception. In talking with him I was impressed by how outgoing and polite he was but what really stuck with me was that he paid attention to and was totally engaged by all of the speeches and was sincerely touched by them.
I had learned at that time that he had regular gigs at different local bars (including Maxwells on Elgin Street). This is how the Bride and Groom had discovered him. Being impressed by his enthusiastic professionalism I made sure that to become friends with him on Facebook and I kept track of his comings and goings.
While putting together the plan for this first personal branding session with Johnny it was important for him (and me) to visit places that meant more than “just having a pretty background”. The first stop was at the Manx on Elgin Street. This was where Johnny made his debut - he shared that he listened through the window (seen at the left) to the basement pub for his cue to make his entrance.
And, while Maxwells has become a different restaurant, he told me that he loaded (and unloaded) his equipment through the back doors over a thousand times for his performances.
I’m looking forward to opening up the Iconic Portrait Studio in Billings Bridge Shopping Centre (hopefully in July) where we will make new headshots and to a follow up on-location session to complete his package.
For more information on Personal Branding Headshot sessions visit: ICONICPORTRAIT.CA
Early May morning photowalk photographs of Perth Ontario