Photographing Architectural HDR With People

My client on this project, Gundpartnership in Cambridge Massachusetts, requested that we add lifestyle people to these architectural shots. These images were purely HDR, with no lighting added. Adding additional lighting for fill would offset the the ambience that the lighting design had.

Since shooting HDR is all about bracketing, the exposures could get to be very long. Adding people, not one but several, made this a challenge that I really love. Using wide angle lenses would help with the depth of field and give me more latitude for using faster shutter speeds.

As it turned out, there was no movement or ghosting from the people in the shot. This was accomplished by having every individual use different visual points to concentrate through the brackets.

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Capitol Theatre Architectural Shoot

When I’m shooting architectural photography, there is nothing better than being able to photograph the before and after of the project. My client, Marous Brothers Construction, with their Design/Build Division, and as one of its biggest supporters, did an outstanding job in bringing back this building which was built in 1921 and shuttered for decades since 1985. With Westlake Reed Leskosky of Cleveland and Bradford Watson as managing architect, the Theatre is a true asset to the Gordon Square arts district.

I found this project to be picture rich with plenty of opportunities in the 16,000 square feet to shoot . The lighting being as is, and not to be disturbing the ambiance, HDR with Photomatix software worked very well.

After reviewing my options, I thought this would be very appropriate to shoot a 360 Virtual Reality view of the main theatre. My pano head is dialed in perfectly for parallax, but due to the slope of the theatre and the seats, the pano head could not be off one centimeter. This made it a challenge to shoot in an aisle between seats. Most of the control points in the software had to be done manually. I debated with myself on whether to shoot the 360 in HDR. I decided to shoot the screen and ceiling in HDR and blend later in post. The software I use in these situations are PTgui, CubicConverter, Pano2VR, and, of course, Photoshop. You can view the main theatre 360 VR here.

I shot the front cover for Properties Magazine and the article images. I did this at twilight time encompassing two hours and at least 100 bracketed images. In this situation, the sky and interior lighting need to be in sync. Getting the correct sky exposure is the key. You can read the complete article in Properties Magazine.

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front cover

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Photographing Football Fields

As an architectural photographer photographing a football field means being really creative. We are not talking about a stadium with elevations we are talking about a field. The obvious way would be to add  height into the image as to shoot above, capturing the expansive flat plane of the perspective. When height is not an option, angles need to come into play. The rule of thirds takes on a whole new meaning. Here we are dealing with a flat area, 360 feet long and 120 feet wide, and shooting ground level for the most part. When the field is new, texture and lines help with the composition. Shooting on a day with clouds adds drama and helps with perspective.

I have photographed quite a few of these fields. The best way, when height is absolutely not an option, is to shoot in Virtual Reality 360 Panoramic. This gives the client the ability to zoom, view texture, and capture the essence of the flat plane perceptive.

To view this panoramic 360 VR

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Shooting HDR Photography

Quite a few photographers and clients ask me how I shoot in HDR or High Dynamic Range. I shot a little video in Sedona’s West Fork Oak Creek Trail which I found to be the perfect situation. The high canyon walls offer a striking contrast between the sky above and the canyon floor below. The software I use is Photomatix. I believe this to be the best software in producing HDR images. The video was shot with a Flip mino HD which I find to be very impressive for such a small camera.

New England Photo Shoot and Panoramic VR Photography

On a photo shoot in New England in between the quagmire and hustle of traffic and people, a few places worthy of Panoramic VR were found.  I used a modified 303plus Pano head which gave me the capability of using a fisheye lens and reduced the weight I needed to carry.  When clicking or selecting an image, use your mouse to navigate through the image for 360 degrees.

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Ogunquit Panoramic

One of the most popular places in Ogunquit Maine is the famous Marginal Way and Perkins Cove. This is scenic footpath, and the rocks jut out into the Atlantic Ocean for a breathtaking view.


Old Burial Ground, Marblehead MA

The Old Burial Hill at Marblehead, Massachusetts, is one of the oldest burying grounds in New England, having served the residents of that town since 1638.



Circle Museum Sculpture Park

The Circle Museum Route 22 Austerlitz, New York on the border of Massachusetts is a registered Columbia County Museum consisting of over 100 large-scale works of sculpture. In this location for 25 years, Bijan Mahmoodi is the owner of the museum and the artist. His art reflects his fascination with hard-to-find Industrial Era fabricated metals and bronze casting. Inside the artist’s studio, also on the property, is a collection of Bijan’s oil paintings that explore the circle motif you see in most of his sculptures.

Why is it called the Circle Museum? Bijan explains…. “Because our planet is based on the circle – the sun, the planets, the moon and life itself is cyclical.The circle is what inspires me.”

Lucille Ball GravesiteLucille Ball resting place Panoramic

The final resting place of the late, great comedienne, Lucille Ball. The cemetery is located in her birthplace Jamestown, New York.


Panoramic VR Photography-Bogan 303plus Head Modification

I have been shooting Panoramic VR Photography since Apple introduced it in 1997. The basic idea in QTVR was that you now could make 360 degree panoramas by stitching several images together using computer software instead of using special cameras.

I have gone through two 303plus Pano heads. I shot mostly 360 Projections. Due to my desire for Spherical VRs with a zenith and nadir and having the basic hardware, I decided to modify my latest 303plus Pano Head. I needed something smaller and more versatile in close confines due to my architectural background.

This is the 303plus Head minus the Bogan 338 leveling base which I found very difficult to use.

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The 303plus Head works very well with non fisheye lenses.

The length of the 303plus plates are too long and come into view using a Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens. Finding the nodal point is not possible due to the length of the precision 303plus plates.

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The first piece to be replaced was the 338 leveling base. It was replaced by the Bogan 438 level which is so easy to use and shown here.

modified 303plus Pano Head

Modified 303plus head

The complete modification is shown here.

Finding the nodal point in correcting parallax is not a factor.

The Photography and Graphic Design in Making a CD

The concept of the CD design began in Cleveland. The eyes were photographed in the studio with only north light coming in from the windows, and a macro lens was used. I wanted the lighting flat in order to add or subtract in Photoshop any possible venues for changes ahead.

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This is where the conceptual design ends, and I was given unlimited creative control over the project. Being the graphic designer and photographer gave me the opportunity to create at will.

Living in and working in Phoenix also helped in creating the images I needed with an abundance of possibilities like roads, blue skies, and mountains. The first thing was to find a car mirror capable of bringing all the attention to her eyes. I located a car show in Scottsdale that people were able to attend every week. Modern autos mostly have their mirrors attached close to the windshield. I needed a stem so the mirror did not look like it was floating. I found this in the older cars like a 57 Chevy convertible. Here I used a 16mm lens and focused on the mirror hand holding it through the driver’s side window. I shot for hours as many different cars, mirrors, and angles as possible. The time of day, that golden hour when the sun is low, was also a factor. This helped me set the tonality for the rest of the images.

The front of the CD incorporates six images I used. After exploring and hiking in Globe, Arizona, I shot the road, which was dirt with a 1000 foot cliff to the right. The road and the lines I needed to draw the viewer into the image was shot in Sedona. The sign was just off some other road. The rest were the car parts.

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The inner part of the CD was shot over the road near 4 Peaks in Arizona. The clouds were blurred to insinuate the motion of the car. The butterfly is actually a kite that hangs over a ceiling of a back patio. I used the butterfly kite to break up the image when the actual disc was removed.

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The CD itself was the cover transformed in Photoshop with the type curved to accent the roundness.

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I wanted the back of the CD to be as dramatic as possible. Color and saturation are the punch of any project I work on.  I used one of my stock shots of a sunset I shot while coming down from a mountain hike in the Superstitions. The sunset was the only image shot in HDR. The image of the road, again, was shot in Sedona.

Thanks to my wonderful clients, Debbie Gifford and John Trzcinski, for giving me the creative freedom on this project.

Please visit Debbie Gifford’s website and listen to great jazz!