After Saturday’s Out of Chicago Photography conference sessions wrapped up there was a little bit of light left so I decided to get those abstract shots of the Radisson Blu Aqua building I’ve been meaning to do for quite a long time. I rented the telephoto 70-200mm lens knowing my usual 24-70mm just isn’t long enough to get in close enough on the tall Aqua. After all, it is the world’s tallest building designed by a woman, Jeanne Gang and her team of architects at Studio Gang Architects.
There are a few things at play when shooting this building that I discussed at my sessions and workshop. One of the first is limiting your equipment, if not entirely, at least for the day. For me it was this telephoto lens, it’s all I shot the building with. Sure, I probably missed some other photographic opportunities but I can always come back. If you’re traveling and you can’t come back, pick a certain amount of time to shoot with one lens, swap it out and shoot with a different lens for a period of time. Just try to avoid the back and forth, it’s distracting and disrupts the creative flow. When I’m not messing around with equipment it’s far easier to see greater potential with those limited tools.
Second, by choosing this lens I pretty much set myself up for a couple automatic compositional elements: filling the frame and isolation. Both are favorite ways to shoot, regardless of lens. I love the more abstract shots of architecture. It keeps the viewer guessing as to what exactly they’re looking at, allows the details of the building to shine, gets at the essence of its design and maybe, hopefully, opens viewers eyes to seeing those buildings they pass by everyday in a new light. If you want to get all philosophical, for those who just love artist statements, maybe this is just one way to get us all to see things in a new light…architecture, people, everything we encounter. And while we’re at it, there’s this meditative quality in spending time shooting this way and viewing images in this way, you have to slow down to take in and make sense of what you’re looking at.
Also, because of the inherent design of the building you can focus in on a couple of things I’m always on the lookout for regarding subject matter: curves, lines and repetitive patterns. Not too difficult to do with a building like this.
One last element I covered, and if you follow my work you’re likely quite aware of this, is creating a series of the building I’m shooting. The reason I do this each time I photograph is because it just pushes me past those obvious shots, the easy ones. Of course I still make them, it’s almost unavoidable, but by getting those out of the way I’m forced to push past that and see, hopefully, a little bit more creatively.
There are many more takes on this from last weekend and previous shoots here, just in case you’re interested.