Twists and Turns

by on Feb.14, 2015, under Architecture, California, Travel

(Olympus OM-D E-M1, 12-40mm f/2.8 at 40mm (2x crop factor), Exposure 1/1250 seconds @ f/7.1, ISO 400)

On a recent trip to California I had the opportunity to spend a little time (too little) at the Disney Concert Hall located in downtown Los Angeles. The building was designed by Frank Gehry and completed in 2003. The exterior of the building is clad in metal panels, with no two panels being the same size or shape. The end result is a building which ‘flows’. It also provides a photographer with almost infinite ways to shoot the building and still come up with something unique and interesting. I was able to make at least one trip around the building, and the only place that gave me trouble was the side that was away from the sun and mostly in shade. Other than that I was able to get interesting images from almost all locations. Of course I do need to go back and shoot the building at different times of they day, but I was pleased with the shots I got, given the short period of time I was able to spend at the building.

One thing I did for this trip was to travel light. Instead of bringing my big and heavy Nikon (and assorted lenses) I just brought my Olympus OM-D E-M1, the 12-40mm f2.8, a rented Lumix 9-18mm and a fisheye. In the end, I used the 12-40mm almost exclusively. This was my first time really using this camera extensively. One of the features I really enjoyed using was the Electronic View Finder (EVF). Since I generally convert my architectural images to black and white I utilized the ability of the Olympus to show me the image in black and white as I was composing and shooting. I also wanted to try to shoot in square format, and once again I was able to set the camera up to show me the image in the square format.

To make things simple, I configured a ‘myset’ to switch the camera to a square aspect ratio and to use monochrome mode. I assigned a function button to let me toggle that mode on and off. I saved the files in both JPEG and RAW so I always had the option to use the full frame color version if I wanted, and to give me more control over the final black and white image instead of just using the JPEG produced by the camera. In general this worked out quite well. The only thing I didn’t like was that the ‘myset’ also kept the ISO setting that was in place when I saved the setting. Every time I turned on this mode, the camera would change to ISO 400. Sometimes that was fine, but in many cases ISO 400 was not needed and I would have had better picture quality had I shot at ISO 200. Sometimes I noticed this, but sometimes I didn’t.

The image above was created from the RAW file with some very minor modifications to the cropping of the full size image. The image below, shows the RAW image straight out of the camera.

All images available for sale or license. Please visit my Imagekind Galleries, Fine Art America Galleries or contact me for more information.

Copyright © 2015 James W. Howe – All rights reserved

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Lake & Wells – Chicago, Illinois

by on Mar.01, 2014, under Chicago

(Nikon D800, 28-300mm at 116mm, Exposure 1/125 seconds @ f/9.0, ISO 250)

One of the distinctive features of Chicago, Illinois is the elevated portion of its ‘L’ transportation system which includes a section of elevated tracks which encircle the area known as ‘The Loop’. This particular shot shows the junction at Lake and Wells streets. The photograph was taken from the rooftop deck of the Randolph Tower City Apartments. The building was open to the public during Open House Chicago 2013.

For processing, I wanted to bring out the lines and details of the old track. The raw camera shot just looked too smooth for my tastes. I used a bit of Lightroom to make some initial changes, but the majority of work on this image was done using Perfect Effects 8.1. I used a variety of filters to add some ‘grunge’ to the image, masking out/in areas of the image as needed.

All images available for sale or license. Please visit my Imagekind Galleries, Fine Art America Galleries or contact me for more information.

Copyright © 2014 James W. Howe – All rights reserved

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Stratosphere Lounge – Chicago, Illinois

by on Nov.14, 2013, under Architecture

The top floor of the Jeweler’s Building was, at one point, a location known as the ‘Stratosphere Lounge’. This location has a commanding view of the city of Chicago and during prohibition was rumored to be a speakeasy run by Al Capone. The shape of the building made it easy to station observers who could keep an eye out for cops. Turning to today, the top floor is used by the architecture firm JAHN for special events. One of the changes made to the space was to raise the floor. The ceiling is quite tall and with the original floor height, the windows were quite high and harder to look out of. With the new floor height, there is still plenty of headroom and it makes looking out the windows a much more enjoyable experience. This location was part of Open House Chicago 2013.

For processing I wanted to keep things simple. The space is quite monochrome by itself so converting to black & white seemed like a natural thing to do. I wanted to emphasize the space and the patterns and getting rid of color helps to get rid of distractions. I did keep color in one place, however, and that was on the JAHN name itself. I thought the bit of red added a nice touch contrast to the black and white space. Other changes were done basically to improve the brightness and contrast of the image.

All images available for sale or license. Please visit my Imagekind Galleries, Fine Art America Galleries or contact me for more information.

Copyright © 2013 James W. Howe – All rights reserved

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Jeweler’s Building – Chicago, Illinois

by on Nov.10, 2013, under Architecture

(Nikon D800, 28-300mm at 250mm, Exposure 1/320 seconds @ f/9.0, ISO 200)

Chicago has more than its fair share of interesting architecture. This particular building, currently known as 35 Wacker, was originally built as the “Jeweler’s Building”, since it was home to many businesses in the jewelry trade. In fact, for the first 14 years of the building’s existence, there was a car elevator in the center of the building which would allow deliveries of precious cargo to be driven into the building and taken directly to one of the first 23 floors to ensure security. The top of the building has an interesting history as well. At one time this portion of the building contained the ‘Stratosphere Lounge’ and during prohibition was rumored to have been a speakeasy run by Al Capone. This space is now owned by the architectural firm JAHN who have their offices on a lower floor. This firm’s lineage dates back to the original architecture firm of D.H Burnham & Co., which has had offices in this building since it’s construction in 1926.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below.

The picture itself was taken during the recent Open House Chicago event sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The shot was taken from the roof of the MDA City Apartments building, which has wonderful views of the city. When I was working on this image I was disappointed that I zoomed in just a bit too much on the building and didn’t leave any space along the left edge of the photograph. I really felt that there needed to be some breathing room along that side. I created an initial version in black and white that I really liked, but I didn’t like the way the building touched the edge of the frame. Fortunately I had taken a couple other shots from the same location at the same focal length. Even though they were shot with a different twist of the camera, I was hopeful that I could align the two images and extract just a bit of information from one to create my finished image. The images you see below are the ‘as shot’ images used to create the finished photograph. I used photoshop to auto-align the images and then I masked out all but the left edge.

One of the things I like best about this image is the clarity of the terra-cotta details. If you look closely, you can see the initials of one of the designers, Frederick Dinkelberg inscribed in some of the terra-cotta ornamentation. Another interesting bit of detail is the view into the Stratosphere Lounge. The lounge was open during the Open House Chicago event and if you look in the window you can see some people taking pictures out of the window.

All images available for sale or license. Please visit my Imagekind Galleries, Fine Art America Galleries or contact me for more information.

Copyright © 2013 James W. Howe – All rights reserved

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CBOT Vault Door

by on Oct.25, 2013, under Mechanical

CBOT Vault Door

(Nikon D800, 28-300mm at 35mm, Exposure 1/10 seconds @ f/5.6, ISO 2500)

This past weekend the Chicago Board of Trade opened it’s bank vault to the public. The bank vault was one of many places in Chicago that were open to view as part of the 2013 Open House Chicago event, sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Not surprisingly, the vault was a popular destination for photographers and non-photographers alike. What attracted my eye the most was the enormous vault door with its intricate locking mechanism. I also found the use of the contrasting metals to be quite attractive. I don’t know if there is an engineering reason for the selection of metals, or whether it was just an example of great combination of functional and aesthetic design, but the end result was wonderful.

When processing the image I first used Lightroom to make some visual adjustments. The most visible change was probably the heavy use of clarity. I wanted to have an ‘enhanced’ look to the shot, something that brought out all the details that I could muster. I then used Perfect Effects to do some more work with the contrast. I also decided to try a conversion to black and white using Silver Efex Pro 2. Since my focus in this image was on the intricate design, I thought that black and white might work. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep the nice contrast between the brass parts and the steel parts of the door, everything sort of muddled together. Besides, the color elements were as much a feature of the design as the gears themselves so doing this shot in black and white just wasn’t going to work. In the end I created a black and white conversion and the reduced the opacity to let much of the color come through. I think this creates an interesting look.

CBOT Vault Door - As shot

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below.

All images available for sale or license. Please visit my Imagekind Galleries, Fine Art America Galleries or contact me for more information.

Copyright © 2013 James W. Howe – All rights reserved

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