Ouvertures

by Stefan Fletcher April. 20, 2009 6913 views

Architecture is all about exits and entrances, when you think about it. Never mind the soaring planes, the subtle interplay of volume and materials… getting in and out again is what we want. I imagine the first Neanderthal interior decorator started it off by thinking how good that mammoth skin would like with another opening to the cave. Sorry for the truism, but it helps explain my fascination with doors and windows. Hence this post.

Athens doesn’t have the brickwork so beautifully portrayed by Dreadwear [photoblog.com] and others. Earthquakes here make concrete and ugly-but-safe architecture the norm. Athens does, however, have a lot of cars and few car parks, which tends to make architecture photography difficult. This being the Orthodox Easter Monday, the streets were reasonably empty.

In 1922, Athens was a little more than a village, but with some rococo buildings designed by architects trained in France and Germany. The forced “repatriation” of over a million Greek speakers from what is now Turkey the following year placed a nearly intolerable strain on Athens’ infrastructure. The city’s subsequent population boom led to its current, rather tawdry look. A lot of people hate it (including the inhabitants). I love it.

It’s worth noting that apart from the famous Greek and Roman ruins, Athens is a very modern city thanks to the earthquakes. The oldest extant lay building dates from the late 18th century. Much of the 19th century’s architecture (what is called here “Neo-classical”), is a sop to the antique orders of architecture and is either over-restored or abandoned.

My friend Brian [photoblog.com] made his good lady wife’s head spin (lucky man) with a particular camera effect. I fear I may do the same, if only because of the severe (read: “unoriginal”) verticals in these captures. I’m waiting for reference books on architectural photography and thought I’d have a go first and then compare.

This may be my last post for a while. My sick Canons go in for service tomorrow (a sort of Arsenal-Hospital – ha, ha) and I don’t have the patience to peer at the LCD on my compact.

Apart from the first, all these captures were taken using a manual focus tilt-shift lens, which is ideal to prevent the ‘falling away’ effect inherent in shooting tall subjects from ground height. Any other manky lines are due to the universe, not me. I was using a level on my flash hot-shoe and an architectural focusing screen in-camera.

The light was rather dull and overcast this morning. Architecture, so I’m told, unlike people and flowers, benefits from strong midday light. So I mucked about with overlay blend modes in Photoshop and strong sharpening to achieve a rather apocalyptic effect that appealed to me at the time.

In looking at this post, I realise I've focused on crumbling ruins, broken windows, graffiti and the like. Athens isn't like that so much. The textures and colours got me.

The tree in the foreground really is black - it was burnt during the December riots. The building has been like this for several years. Slightly better if viewed enlarged.

I'm afraid I'm in this one, if only in reflection. I couldn't be bothered to clone myself out - which is a philosophical impossibility if you think about it.

This is, of course, a bar

The same as No. 2, but - obviously - in mono. And I'm still there.

A bookstore - and the canopy is a stone sculpture of an open book.

Can;t remember what this one is or why it's here.

Best viewed enlarged. It looks slightly OOF otherwise.

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There are 19 comments , add yours!
Andrea Kennard 10 years, 6 months ago

#2, #7, #8 and #9. Wonderful! Beautiful. Lovely.

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Jacki 10 years, 6 months ago

I like #8 a LOT!

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Lucia 10 years, 6 months ago

I've been in Athens several times and i don't think the architecture is tawdry...it's rather different from other countries but not in a bad way ...
Great set love you pictures

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Crisu 10 years, 6 months ago

nice set. i like #8 nice composition

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Abe Jackson 10 years, 6 months ago

...very good shots...bravo

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Laura 10 years, 6 months ago

Fabulous set! I absolutely love #7. I'm sorry this may be your last post for a while. I love your photos!

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Lynda 10 years, 6 months ago

I really like these Stefan- the tone, colour shapes and angles. All your techie knowledge and expertise is exemplified here. And I like the disembodied you reflected in the glass. Why does your profile pic look nothing like you?

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Hanna Westesson 10 years, 6 months ago

I like the first picture, it has the mood and light of a painting!

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Jarvo J 10 years, 6 months ago

Great set. #7 went straight into my favourites. Love the idea of the book above the bookstore. Cloning out - love it ;-)

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Sandra Vermeulen 10 years, 6 months ago

1 : Too bad that such a beautiful building into a slum dwelling.
2 : Your reflection is a cute extra... :o)
5 : Nice detail, that book-canopy.
7 : Brilliant topic for a picture, but not so pleasant to live next...I think..

Nice set. :o)

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Stefan Fletcher 10 years, 6 months ago

In response to the queries above, here’s a techie note about tilt-shift lenses:

When you shoot tallish buildings from ground height, parallax makes the parallel vertical lines converge, creating a ‘falling away’ effect. An extreme can be seen in the top picture, taken with a wide-angle. Your brain automatically compensates, so you don’t think the building’s falling away. Your camera needs specific PP software such as DxO optics and others, or the Distort > Lens correction filter in Photoshop, to correct a still, but at the cost of cropping pixels you might not want to sacrifice.

A tilt-shift lens tilts or shifts the focal plane relative to the sensor. Most lenses are basically straight tubes with bits of glass parallel to the body. Tilt-shifts angle the glass and thus the image to compensate for converging parallels. Another neat trick if you’ve got nothing better to do is take a photograph of a mirror, but with you shifted out of the image. What fun!

Unlike a lens baby, which is a toy providing dreamy, very soft images with strong halation, a tilt-shift is a precision tool and can be very, very sharp. The image quality is simply stunning (no chromatic aberration [purple fringing] and very little flare).

[b]Good news[/b]: there are lots of twiddly buttons and you have to focus and expose manually. It’s the ultimate toy for boys. They also look really professional and cool, sure to impress anyone, especially the girls.

[b]Bad news[/b]: they’re manual focus and you have to expose by trial and error. Best not considered if you use a small sensor body with a small viewfinder. You need a lot of practice, three hands and/or a tripod. Plus, they cost an arm and a leg, which you’re going to need in addition anyway.

[b]Terrible news[/b]: at the PMA in Feb., Canon announced a new ultra-wide tilt-shift 17 mm going for the bargain basement price of around €2,500 here, one of the cheaper countries for lenses. I’ve been slavering over the specs ever since and working out how many times I’m going to have to sell my body to afford it. Judging by its current condition, I’ll be whoring myself for the next century.
Follow this [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilt-shift_photography]link[/url] for a wiki on t-s lenses. You can also see pictures of mine if you search in Amazon reviews for the Canon TS-E 45 mm f/2.8.

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Mehdi Saharkhiz 10 years, 6 months ago

amazing set

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Boszorka65 10 years, 6 months ago

Lovely and informative post.Very good work.

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Rob Tulk 10 years, 6 months ago

That tilt-shift lens is really cool. The verticals in all these shots are spot on - is it difficult to use? Number seven is great all those different sized windows !

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Pegah & Gelareh 10 years, 6 months ago

This set is so interesting for me!!!my favorite is the first one!!

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Soulcurry 10 years, 6 months ago

#8 leaves me speechless. Feel like stepping into the photo and touching each texture with my fingertips.
Brilliant! (You must be tired of hearing that phrase!)

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Marsha 10 years, 6 months ago

Interesting and diverse collection of window shots. My favorite is #7 for the color and interest - I'm glad you included the whole wall along with the street art.

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Michael Sakowicz 10 years, 6 months ago

Shots one and eight are great captures; and personally, I like the artists' reflection, like in shot two.

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
Brian 10 years, 6 months ago

#7 is fantastic. The colors and textures are great and is overall visually stimulating. I love the spiral staircase that can be seen in the top right doorway. Adding to my favorites.
I'd also like to visit the bookstore although I probably wouldn't be able to read anything within it:)

10 years, 6 months ago Edited
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