New York/h2hotel, Healdsburg, California

h2hotel, Healdsburg, California — © Brian Rose
(mouseover the image for evening view)

Photographs like the one above (day and night versions) are fairly straightforward to make, but there is nothing wrong with such simple compositions. Architectural photography is first and foremost about the buildings, not necessarily the photographer’s vision. I believe the latter comes through, but it is often only discernible by looking at the photographer’s overall body of work.

That said, a straightforward shot like the one above can get pretty complicated. The hotel I was shooting faced east, meaning the main facade was sunlit only in the morning. Locals in Healdsburg told me that the mornings had been foggy for days, the mist not lifting till noon, which would be too late. I needed some luck. Sure enough the next morning was pretty much socked in, but I set up my camera with my assistant, and we waited. As you can see, I got lucky. I even got a couple of bicyclists in front who were heading out for a ride.

The photograph has one car in it–a Mustang parked there since the day before–but during the couple of hours we were out in front of the hotel, numerous cars and trucks attempted to park or make deliveries. My assistant had to run across the street repeatedly to negotiate with the drivers. In small town California, dealing with people is pretty easy. In New York City, fuggedaboutit.

The evening shot was much more dynamic. The street was busy and the bar and restaurant were opened to the sidewalk and full of people. I set up my camera at least a half hour before “magic hour.” It’s considerably less than an hour. As the moment approached, a waiter from the restaurant came across and informed me that two of the patrons sitting at a table directly on the sidewalk did not want to be photographed. A potential deal breaker.

Fortunately, the architect and hotel owner were present and also sitting in the restaurant. I asked them to intercede and gave them a 4×5 instant print to show the diners how insignificant they were in the composition. Problem solved. Later, I spread the day’s prints out on the bar for the architect to look at and discuss, and take home. A lost practice when shooting digital.