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.

Moody Bible Institute / Chicago, IL / AJ Brown Imaging

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to photograph at the Moody Bible Institute downtown Chicago.  They had just completed a remodel of their Culbertson Hall.   It is a beautiful space and we had a blast shooting it.


In todays architectural photography world if you are shooting a space with no people in it then you are doing it wrong.  It has been a trend in the industry for years and for good reason.  These spaces were designed specifically for people.  Showing off projects with no people make them seem a little bare and lifeless.  Adding people to the photographs also helps the viewer understand the scale of the space and imagine themselves in it.


Adding people to architectural photographs is a completely different animal.  Not only do you have to light the space well, you have to light the people in the space in a complementary way too!  This raises many challenges in the positioning and power of the lighting.

We were scheduled to shoot the week before students got there so finding people to include in the shots was rare.  We ended up using a couple students we bumped into,  a few young looking staffers, and my assistant Payton (who still looks 19.... his words not mine) in several of the shots.




Desperate times called for desperate measures, in the image above you will find the extremely rare appearance of yours truly!!!


Brookstone / Chicago O'hare / AJ Brown Imaging




Earlier this summer I was contacted to photograph 3 Brookstone stores in the Chicago O'hare airport. I have photographed my share of retail spaces over the years but this was a whole different animal being in the busiest airport in the world!  I have to admit it was a little intimidating at first.  Will the TSA think all my gear is fishy, will all the people walking by just stare into the camera ruining my shot, will they trip over my lighting equipment?


I am happy to report my equipment passed through TSA with flying colors and the people were too busy trying to connect than to worry about some random photographer taking pictures.  I after about 15 minutes I was at ease and actually enjoyed the amount of people I had to choose from to include in the shots. 

These 3 images are of the Brookstone popup store in terminal 1.  

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).


How to take better cell phone pictures - Tip #2

Extreme Composition / Negative Space


First, I want to say thank you to all the people who sent me their photos using leading lines from tip#1!  I saw a lot of really interesting shots!  Keep them coming.


Staying with the compositional theme of the first post I wanted to challenge you to use a technique I call Extreme Composition.  It is actually really easy to do. Unfortunately though I have found that people either love it or they hate it.  That being said, it is one of my favorite things to do in the right situation. 

The idea behind using negative space is that often we focus our attention on the subject too much.  By doing that we often neglect the negative space.  Ultimately you are trying to tell a story in every photograph.  The negative space can often help you tell or leave out specific parts of that story.  




I would say these example photographs are using extreme composition to exaggerate the negative space.  This draws the eye to the subject even more.  An interesting effect is you can at times confuse the viewer of size, scale, and even location of the subject.  It's a fun little tool to have in your bag, I find myself doing it all the time.  
  



Go out and try some extreme compositions yourself and make sure to share them with me on instagram with the hashtag #abiphotochallenge


I would love to see some of your images using this technique.  You can e-mail them to me at aj@ajbrownimaging, use #abiphotochallenge on instagram, or just leave a comment with them in the comment section.  

I'll share my favorite image on this blog and the AJ Brown Imaging Facebook page.  

How to take better cell phone pictures - Tip #1


Let's be honest, photography is extremely popular these days.  With virtually everyone carrying their phone/camera in their pocket everywhere they go much more images are being made on a daily basis.

I am starting a little blog series to give out simple cell phone photography tips that are extremely easy to implement.

Our cell phone cameras do limit creativity compared to DSLRs because they do not allow for us to make decisions about depth of field and have very limited exposure options.  Because of that, we are forced to be more creative in our composition to make our cellphone images better.  Most of these tips are based on composition, but I will get into other subjects further down the road.  This is exciting to me because composing the photo is my favorite part of the entire process.  Creative challenges will only make us better, so bring it on aperatureless cellphone!!!



Use Leading Lines
#abiphotochallenge if your on instagram 



One thing that can make an image great is the depth that can be created.  Like I mentioned before, depth of field is not something we can control at this point with our cellphones.  So how can we create a 3D feel in a 2D medium without an aperture to assist us?  One of the easiest ways to do this is to utilize natural leading lines in a scene.


I start with leading lines because, well honestly, it is my favorite technique.  Shapes and lines in pictures are what inspired me to pursue photography as a career.  Leading lines are everywhere, we just have to learn to see them.  The image above has great depth for several reasons.  The first of course is the road has a grass line right down the middle leading us deep into the woods. The second is the simple fact that it is a road.  Naturally our subconscious will take our eyes down that road because we spend so much time in cars doing that exact thing.  That in reality is a totally flat picture on a flat computer screen, but it looks really deep because of the lines.

The same goes for the image below.

One of the challenges of seeing leading lines is the fact that they aren't always there.  When composing the image below I had to wait all day for those lines to show up.  Our first morning on vacation a couple years ago I woke up and had coffee on the porch, looking at the line of trees close to the water I new there would be some amazing shadows and lines if I came back and made a picture just before sunset.  I was right and created this image which is one of my favorite cell phone shots I have ever taken.  These leading lines once again create depth, and in this case also mood because of the time of day. 


 Leading lines also give you control over the viewer eyes.  This sounds crazy but it's true.  When looking at the image below I would put money on the fact the your eye started at the bottom right of the frame, moved up and then back down ending at the bottom left.  I made your eyes do that with the very specific composition that I chose.  This image is the most obvious example I could find to illustrate this control but this fact is very true of many great images.


So no more boring flat photos!  Go out there and use the leading lines to create interest and depth. 
I would love to see some of your images using this tecnique!  You can e-mail them to me at aj@ajbrownimaging or just leave a comment with them in the comment section.  

I'll share my favorite image on this blog and the AJ Brown Imaging Facebook page.  

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.



Retail Architectural Photography / Von Maur Oklahoma City


Von Maur has officially opened it's 27th location! The newest is in the Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City and I was honored to be asked to photograph it a couple days before the grand opening this fall.  In typical Von Maur fashion this store is huge at 150,000 square feet and is now the anchor store in the Quail Springs Mall.  I absolutely love shooting these stores!  They pay so much attention to details in the lighting, I only have to do minimal supplemental lighting during the shoots which works out great because it affords me time to make more photographs than I typically would if I had to do extensive lighting for each shot.


I spent a lot of time studying the entry to the store from inside the mall.  It has so many features it was hard to decide what to focus on.  I settled on this angle above because it highlights the storefront as well as the escalator which tells the story of the busyness of the mall.  The escalator ads motion and life to the photograph which is always an appealing thing to incorporate if you are able to.


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.



Dry Goods / Rochester Minnesota / Architectural Photography

   Dry Goods is a relatively new store that has been popping up all over the malls in the Midwest.  It was created by the well known Midwest based department store called Von Maur.  You may remember reading about the (at the time) newest Von Maur store in Rochester, NY on my blog late last year. I was asked to photograph their 13th and newest Dry Goods location in Rochester, MN a couple months ago.  


We had a very limited time to shoot this project as it was opening at noon the day of the shoot.  Luckily I had my trusty assistant Joel to help me out moving lights and do some staging.  That's actually the striking handsome/blurry Joel walking by the storefront in the image above.  I really owe a lot of the success of this shoot to him.  I probably could't have got it done in time without his hard work.  So here is a post dedicated to great assistants, something every photographer should have and never take for granted.  Cheers Joel!  Thanks a ton buddy. 




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 

University of Iowa Children's Hospital / Construction Photography

   I have been documenting the progress of the University of Iowa Children's Hospital expansion this year and wanted to share some of the progress.  It is really interesting to me to see the projects as they go up.  We get views of the building that will only last a few months and will never be seen again.  Construction photography is the exhilarating process of capturing these moments that are quickly fleeting.


  This Knutson Construction crew worked through one of the hardest winters Iowa has seen in over 75 years!  They are an extremely hard working bunch of guys who are constantly recognized for their craftsmanship and safety in such a dangerous job.


   Below is a rendering of what it will look like when it is completed.  

Senior Transitions / Commercial Photography

   About a month ago I was asked to make some marketing images for a local business start up called Senior Transitions.   They wanted to create a combination of images that portrayed what it is like working with them and the services they offer.  


This is Lola.  She was a great model, always smiling and joking around.  Lola is quite the firecracker.  This image originally was planned to be shot in a living room setting with Lola on a recliner.  Unfortunately the recliner dwarfed Lola so we were rushed to find a new shot.  To our pleasant surprise, the sun was setting when we decided on a location and we were able to create this nice shot of her in front of these windows.

Here are a couple more samples of the final images.



If you know anyone that could benefit from marketing photos let us know.  We work with businesses of all sizes and kinds.
aj@ajbrownimaging.com




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.