Incorporating Contrasts Into Your Architectural Images by Combining Natural & Manmade Elements

One of my favorite aspects to focus on with my architectural images is contrasts. Today I’ll specifically cover the contrasts between natural elements and the built environment.

There are a number of natural elements to look for when you’re out shooting architecture. One of my favorites is clouds. Of course, the glassy skyscrapers in our cities make for a great reflective surface to create layers of interest within your frame.

You can choose to show both the architecture and the actual clouds it’s reflecting…

…or you can show only the architecture and the reflection of the clouds.

Sometimes the structures or buildings you’re shooting aren’t reflective but the clouds play a key role in making the image compelling. You not only get the contrast between something in nature but the contrast in the harshness of the buildings with the softness of the clouds.

Trees are another great natural element to combine with architecture. Going back to those reflective surfaces, incorporating the tree’s reflection creates layers within your image and can often feel like a multiple exposure.

It works well with both trees in full bloom or the bareness of winter.

Using the tree’s shadow is another way to create layers within the frame + add interest to a very minimalistic frame.

Sometimes you can find ways the architecture and the trees seem to mimic each other. Like you see here with the curve of the branches mirroring the curve at the top of Lake Point Tower.

Or the fins of the Maimi Beach Convention Center drawing inspiration from the nearby palm trees.

Speaking of a mimicking of nature in the manmade, you can find this with sunbursts too. At the Calatrava-designed Lyon Train Station, I shot this both without and with the sunburst. Both have their merits, but the sunburst adds another element of interest and links to the sharpness of the design.

Rain is another way to incorporate nature into you architectural images. It can be puddles or rain on the surface of an architectural element. Here a marble bench and a glass railing of a staircase.

Fog is also great, though harder to do in an abstract or detailed way. In the first shot below, the fog is swirling around Chicago’s John Hancock Building for a bit of a detailed cityscape. In the second shot, the thick fog + the sun are creating this intense effect behind the Sears (Willis) Tower.

There’s also a bird in the shot with Hancock Building, yet another natural element within the frame.

These are just a few examples, let me know if you have more in the comments or post to the FB group or tag on Instagram with #contrastnm_ampw.



One Response

  1. No wonder that you are my photography hero!
    I’ve been including trees, clouds, flora and fauna since you commended my takes!

    Just dawned on me that I’ve not allowed whisps of vegetation to “intrude” on architectural pics!

    You persist in being my teach!!!


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