This months featured architectural assignment is the new Christ Hospital Joint and Spine Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Medical facilities across America have seen a growth spurt over the last several years. This is an area I have enjoyed working and had the good fortune to photograph several rather large hospital projects and many clinics over the last few years.
The new Joint and Spine Center includes 12 surgical suites, 87 private rooms, large public spaces, a beautiful courtyard and a very nice atrium surrounded with walls of glass providing beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. Medical facilities are one of the few places I get the opportunity to photograph before opening to the public. This makes life easier in some cases, but there are still obstacles to work around, construction and I.T personnel, technicians, cleaning crews, you name it, all finishing off the punch list. Nothing is ever perfect and Murphy's law will pop up somewhere on just about every project. This one was no different, I got the opportunity to work around the set-up of a dedication ceremony which I knew nothing about. Fortunately, the folks setting up were pretty cool and we managed to work around each other. The key is communication, work with others and most of the time everything works out.
Lots of Light
The trend in design today is the use of natural light, lots of it. This makes life on site pretty easy for a photographer, such as myself, who prefers to use little or no artificial light. I want my photos to appear as natural as possible. My goal is to put the viewer in that space and see it as if they were actually standing in the room. I’ll light areas when needed but when I can get away from using strobes I will. I want my photography to present the location as the eye might see it in its natural state. This style also allows me to work in a busy environment without the worries of having light stands, boxes and wires getting in the way of foot traffic. I have found both clients and the occupants of the property (business) like this as well.
Manual Processing Provides that Natural Look
When using ambient light, time on location moves quicker but processing time is often increased. When I photograph an interior using natural light I take a series of exposures and blend them as needed in the computer. Photographers call this HDR (high dynamic range) photography. I don't use the term, simply because most photographers using this term run those exposures through HDR software which none are producing the results I want to hand to a client. I find photos processed through HDR software are inconsistent, colors are off, contrast is lost and often some or all of the photo takes on an illustration look. I am not saying, photographers who use this method of processing is wrong, its simply not the look I want. I prefer to process each photo manually giving me total control and a natural look. I encourage people to look at my window views compared to a photo run through an HDR program. My processing techniques require a lot more expertise and knowledge working with Adobe Photoshop.
Behind the Camera
Lets take a walk through the photos from the Christ Hospital project. The first photo is a waiting area in the main lobby of the hospital with large windows providing an abundance of natural light. When I scouted the location I knew right away I needed one of two things to happen, an overcast day or shoot when there was no direct sunlight beaming through the windows. Direct sunlight would wash out the wood panels and the beautiful colors in the upholstery. I would also get harsh shadows from the window frames. I got a mixture of both on shooting day and as you can see with the subdued light my shadows were subtle.
The information desk in the second floor atrium was one of my favorites. I love big wide open spaces but they present their share of challenges. When you try to get the entire space in the photo you often get a lot of floor or in some cases a lot of ceiling. Unless you have some interesting patterns or shadows on the floor the photo isn't very interesting. It took some playing around with different angles before I settled on the view from behind the desk. As I stated earlier, I want my viewers to become part of that space and by placing the camera angle behind the desk, I place my viewer in the chair looking out into the atrium.
The entrance foyer with escalator shouts vertical. This space is truly large, high ceiling, large windows, and lots of vertical lines. There really wasn't any other angles I had to work without getting a lot of white wall. The client wanted to show the size of the space and this angle illustrated it best. To make this shot work, I had to position the camera about 7 feet off the floor. The same problem I spoke about in the atrium having to much floor, was also a problem in this location. Elevating the camera when possible in big spaces will help the overall composition. It was important for me not to position the camera to high simply to maintain my goal of allowing the viewer to see the space as naturally as they would see it if they were actually there.
The outside courtyard was designed for the patient to enjoy fresh air in a safe environment even when constrained by medical devices. When I photograph exteriors I don't worry about shadows the same as I do for interiors. I will let the shadows go dark if needed. The only way to avoid the deep shadows was to shoot this later in the day or in overcast conditions. I wanted a blue sky and having shadows cast onto the pavement provided an interesting pattern. The far building is in shadow and the shadow cast onto the pavement balances the over composition. I used luminosity masks to blend two exposures together.
I hope you enjoyed this months Architectural Assignment. I would love to hear your comments. Please feel free to share this blog post with your friends. Until next time, enjoy the beautiful spring weather that is upon us.