Hillshire Brands Corporate Office / Chicago / AJ Brown Imaging



Fortunately, I have been really busy lately and haven't taken the time to post on the blog as much as I would like.  I did want to get on really quick and post about a shoot I did a few months ago at the Hillshire Brands Corporate Headquarters in Chicago, IL.  The Hillshire Brands umbrella is huge, Jimmy Dean, Ballpark, Tyson Foods, Sara Lee, to name a few.


This office is huge at 230,000 square feet, so choosing 3 images to show you on my blog was quite difficult.  The office won the award for best corporate office over 10,000 square feet in 2013 from the The American Society of Interior Designers.  It was a lithography and printing plant before Hillshrire Brands and Perkins + Will got their hands on it.  The project took 11 1/2 months to design and construct.


The busyness of a large corporate office always creates a very exciting shoot with unique problems to solve.  To add to the challenge I didn't have an assistant for this shoot because it was on the end of a trip with shoots several days in a row.  In the end I think the images turned out nice.


Sorry for the short post.  I have a lot of things in the air right now but I wanted to get something up because it has been well over a month since my last blog post.

Shive Hattery Iowa City Design Office / Architectural Photography / AJ Brown Imaging


I photograph Shive Hattery's projects all over the Midwest and beyond, but this opportunity was a rare one.  They recently asked me to shoot their own brand new office in Iowa City.  Of course, I am honored and consider myself lucky to continually work for such a great company.  Naturally, they designed it themselves and it is beautiful!


Over the years I have been able to visit countless architecture and design firms.  This time I was really thinking about how important it is for a design firm to have a great space to work from.  It really does shape who they are and it also impacts ideas they bring to their clients.  The spaces need to promote collaboration and inspire creative problem solving.  Designers do not want to bring their potential clients into an out of date space and then pitch them new and interesting ideas that their office is unwilling to try.


It was obvious to me that the employees in the Shive Hattery's Iowa City office are genuinely excited to be working in there new office.  I have to admit, I was excited too!  It almost makes me want to trade in my self employment status and go work for them in Iowa City just to be able to work from this space (and whoop them all at ping pong over lunch).


MindFire Communications / Architectural Photography / AJ Brown Imaging


I always say that photography is a problem solving profession.  The biggest problem I had last week while shooting at MindFire Communications' new office was deciding what not to shoot.  Every time I turned around I saw another angle that I would have loved to photograph but sadly I had a limited amount of time so I had to be very selective where I spend my energy.


Here are a couple of angles I did decide to shoot in the eye popping space designed by Conceptual Designs Inc.



Architectural Photography / University of Northern Iowa / Redeker Center Exteriors


After a few weeks delay I was able to go back to the University of Northern Iowa and shoot the exteriors of the Redeker Center by OPN Architects.  Here are a couple exteriors shots I promised I would post.

To see the interiors click here.




The top image is my favorite dusk shot of the Redeker Center.  I like the angle of the image below a little better but the way I was able to frame the building with the overhanging trees really make this image more dynamic.  When I was studying architectural photography at Brooks Institute of Photography my instructor drilled the idea of a foreground element into our minds.  It brings so much more depth to the image, and gives the viewers eyes a clear direction on where I want you to focus your attention.



Mossville School / Architectural Photography



   These last few months have been insanely busy.  I have been traveling all over the Midwest shooting all kinds of architecture from medical facilities, financial institutions, fire stations, to educational facilities like this one in Mossville, IL.  Mossville Elementary school is located just outside of Peoria.  This project was a 1 million dollar addition to the existing building designed by Dewberry.


   The image below shows the great work Dewberry did to incorporate the new addition by adding a facade to the existing structure that matches the new construction on the left held of the image.




Architectural Photography / University of Northern Iowa / Redeker Center



The University of Northern Iowa had a dream of transforming their dinning hall called The Redeker Center.  They decided to call upon the well respected Iowa based architecture firm OPN and it seems every one is extremely happy with the decision.  OPN, like always, brought their unique and distinctive style into the space.


Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us so we were only able to make the interior images.  I will be going back this week to shoot the exteriors and will post an update when completed.  


The Group Davenport, Iowa / Architectural Photography

Shooting local projects is always a treat for ABI for several reasons.  Of course one reason is I don't have to drive or fly for hours and hours, but the main reason is because I love documenting the renewal of the city I live in.  This building was designed by Marasco & Associates out of Denver, Co and it's the newest highlight on the ever expanding 53rd street in Davenport, Iowa.  


We battled the weather and cancelled the first shoot we had scheduled.  The weather was great most of the rescheduled day until it was time for the dusk shots.  A thunderstorm was in the forecast and we almost called it quits again but we decided to stick it out.  As you can see it really paid off.  The clouds really accent the building shape and added a dramatic effect that is rarely achieved.  


When shooting dusk shots there is a very small window when the interior lighting has the same values (brightness) as the sky and exterior lighting.  During an overcast dusk shoot the window of opportunity is dramatically shorter.  I made these two images seven minutes apart, after I shot the image above I moved too try to capture one more but the moment was over.    


The beautiful interiors were designed by Paragon Commercial Interiors and the project was built by Russell Construction 

Von Maur Rochester New York / Architectural Photography


I recently traveled to the Rochester area to photograph the first Von Maur store to open in the state of New York.  Von Maur is a upscale department store that has around 30 stores located mostly in the Midwest but has recently opened stores in Tulsa, Atlanta and this one in Rochester.   


I spent 3 days studying and photographing this extremely large store.  Most of my time was spend shooting the interiors.  Not only did my clients want traditional exterior and interior photographs, they also were interested in images that captured Von Maurs specific display design style, color pallets, and unique features of this particular store.  This store specifically was interesting to me because photography was the theme.  Rochester was the corporate home of the Eastman Kodak Company.  Von Maur put a lot of thought into the interior decorating of this store to incorporate the photographic history of this region.  I was drooling over some of the old cameras displayed all over the store.  This one below was my favorite.



It was a unique photographic experience and I am looking forward to making images of their up and coming stores throughout the country.


Convention Center Parking Garage / Cedar Rapids / Architectural Photography


Lately I have been experimenting with different styles of the architectural photography dusk images.   Over the last few years I would typically only shoot in specific weather conditions at a specific time during the magic hour.  I had normally been waiting until well after the sun goes down and then waiting some more before I start shooting.  This would yield me a very rich dark blue sky, the buildings would really pop out at you.  The colors would shine without bumping the saturation much. You can see an example of this type of dusk shot here.   I really love the look this technique gives me and I don't plan to leave it behind.  I plan to putting it in the metaphorical photography tool belt if you will.  As a photographer, or any type of creative individual for that matter, experimentation is an essential element.  It keeps the art fresh, puts me on my toes, and exercises the mind.  I love this quote from the Hungarian painter/photographer Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, "The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of 'how to do.' The salvation of photography comes from the experiment." 


The day these images were made was completely overcast and raining off and on.  The shoot was only a few hours from my office so I decided to go for it with hopes of a perfectly timed cloud break so I could make the images I saw in my mind.  Well that didn't happen.  What did happen as I was walking around studying the structure was I began to see a mood.  A mood that I would have normally written off.  I remembered the quote I shared with you about photographic experimentation and decided to go for it.  I had been in the experimentation mode lately anyway, and nature was providing me another opportunity for it.  I made these images well before the sun went down.  The overcast sky created a heavy handed soft-box over the whole city.  I always say photography is a problem solving profession.  This shoot is an example of that fact.  My client Knutson Construction was on a tight deadline needing these images right away for an award submission and there was no other opportunities for us to shoot a different day.  Overall I love these images and now the AJ Brown Imaging architectural photography tool belt is a little heavier.  




Western Illinois University / Architectural Photography

The funny thing about architectural photography is sometimes you can end up shooting a project multiple times.  This exterior dusk shoot was my second at the new Western Illinois River Front Campus.  I shot some interior images at this location late last year for the interior design firm Paragon Commercial Interiors, and I will be going back again this week to shoot a few more for Dewberry, the architecture firm.   


Dusk shots are not as easy to pull of as they look.  There is a very small window of opportunity when the ambient light balances perfectly with the artificial lighting.  If your lucky this window will last about 30 minutes.  In some cases if you time it out just right and there is enough existing lighting on the building, you don't have to bring in your own supplemental lighting.  That was the case here at WIU.  With the help of some of the security staff who were running around inside the building making sure none of the timed interior lights were turning off on us, we were able to maximize on this small window of optimal light.  


In this bottom image you can see we are starting to push that window of optimal natural light.  If it were to get much later than this we would need to use some of our own lighting to bring out detail in specific areas.  With detailed and precise planning we were able to get 6 dusk shots at WIU in one night!  This makes architectural photographers and architecture firms very happy!

AIA's Iowa Architect Magazine


AIA Iowa's magazine IA Architect has selected to feature a project that I had the honor to photograph in Iowa City for their Green Issue.  I just wanted to share with you a quick post of the images that were selected for publication.  To order a copy of the magazine go to the AIA Iowa chapters website.  A big thank you to AIA Iowa and Shive Hattery Architects and Engineers!