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  Designers do not want to bring their potential clients into an out of date space and then pitch them new and interesting ideas that their office is unwilling to try.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.



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.  

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!

Architectural Photography for Augustana College



The new Center for Student Life at Augustana College is finally complete!  The grand open was held on September 14th.  This was a 21 million dollar project that took 18 months to complete.  I was contacted by the college to photograph the new building and library edition in order to help Augi promote this exciting time to new and incoming students.   


The Center for Student Life was designed to meet LEED Silver certification standards.  What exactly does that mean?  The design and construction teams have worked together to incorporate appropriate elements, including design elements, construction methods and materials - across a variety of categories.  Each initiative is given a point value, and the cumulative total of all points must be of a certain level to achieve certification.  For example there is a minimum of 20% recycled material, 20% of the building materials were obtained within a 500 mile radius of the project, the wood used was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, just to name a few. 


The students seemed to be as excited about the center as the staff.  All day long the building was buzzing with students eating, studying, working on group projects, and we even saw some classes being held in a few of the common areas.  One of the main goals while making these images was to make sure we include students in the images.  It is becoming extremely common in architectural photography to include people in the images because it ads life and scale to the buildings.  A collection of images would look dull, boring, and a bit odd if there were no students in a place called "Center for Student Life".   We had a great time shooting and I want to thank the Augustana staff for being so accommodating to us.

Linn-Mar High School Sports Complex Architectural Photography




The fans and players in Marion, Iowa have recently wrapped up their first season in their brand new baseball complex.  I got the impression that they do realize how lucky they are as the complex looks more like a college complex than a high school's.  Since the complex has completed its first year of use we decided to shoot it in a slightly lived in style while still keeping the images relatively clean and sleek.  The first image was made just after the softball girls finished their final game of the year.  I really love the effect this has on the field with the baselines worn and the obviously not freshly manicured infield.  The field almost appears to still be warm from the game just minutes ago. 

The shot of the locker room has much more obvious lived in effect.  We made this image just before the varsity team suited up for the game.   


Architectural Photography at the Cedar Rapids Convention Center / Volkan Alkanoglu


I was contacted last week by a brilliant architect/artist named Volkan Alkanoglu.  He was commissioned for an installation art piece that was to be placed in the main atrium of the brand new Cedar Rapids Convention Center that opened this week.  The artwork was designed as a contrast to the architecture of the building to introduce a visual focus point in the space.  I would have to say he succeeded in that vision as you can not help but crazy glue your eye to the piece as you spend time in the atrium.   There is some sort of magnetic field attracting your eye to the art Volkan named Distortion.    


The sculpture was constructed out of flat tessellated sheets of aluminum.  Distortion is a piece of endless variations as the day goes on from morning, afternoon and night.  As the sun scrapes across this art it becomes a living thing sending constantly changing colorful light refractions against the wall.  You really need to experience Distortion in person to fully understand its capabilities. 


Distortion was installed by a team of professional artwork installers called Demiurge.  Demiurge made a time-lapse of the installation process seen below. 


This type of project gets me super jazzed about what I do for a living!  

Interior Architectural Photography / Nichols Aluminum

Nichols Aluminum is an Iowa based company that produces high quality aluminum sheet from predominately recycled materials.  The majority of their products serve the building and construction, transportation, and machinery industries.  They recently hired one of my favorite commercial interior design companies, Paragon Commercial Interiors, to totally renew the interior of their office space.  


Nichols Aluminum actually collaborated with Paragon creating several of the features in the new space.  For example, they custom fabricated the legs of the long table in their new break room, seen in the image below on the left. 


One of the most interesting features of this office is the new conference room. It features a working garage door that splits the room into two smaller conference areas.


Commercial Photography at Refractory & Insulation Supply



Refractory & Insulation Supply is the Midwest's largest supplier of refractory service and supplies.  They supply the products that refineries use to produce their steel, iron and aluminum.  AJ Brown Imaging and TAG Communications collaborated on a project to create marketing materials for this Eldrige, Iowa based company. 

It was an interesting shoot to say the least.  They were looking for shots of their products and shots of the manufacturing process.  I photographed the products on the warehouse floor.  Then TAG Communications took the images, dropped out the backgrounds and placed them on the promotional pieces you can see below.   Most of the images of the warehouse and manufacturing process will be used for their website and other marketing materials. 


Real Estate Photography


We spent a few days last month shooting this gorgeous home.  A great deal of planning goes into shoots like these because of the amount of rooms that need to be photographed all at very specific times throughout the day.  Weeks before the shoot we spent a day scouting the location, paying close attention to the timing of when the position of the sun is perfect in order to get the desired effect in each room of the house. 


After we decide exactly when the perfect time is to shoot a space in the home we develop supplemental lighting diagrams to bring artificial light into specific portions of the space.  There is a very fine balance between natural light and artificial light.  It is easy and often common to over light a space making it look extremely fake and unnatural.  The challenging goal for an architectural photographer in these situations is to light a room so well that to the untrained eye it looks entirely natural while in all actuality it looks much better than it can if left unlit by artificial light.  


A big thanks to my fantastic assistant Kurt!  He did an amazing job. His presence and hard work was my most valuable asset.  I mean look at this guy!  managing lights, picking up unwanted objects from the scene, and holding my coffee all at the same time!  Bravo Kurt, Bravo!



Interior Architectural Photography at the new Girl Scouts of America offices

I had the recent pleasure of shooting the newly remodeled Girl Scouts office in Bettendorf, Iowa.  As you can see this is a very vibrant space with an open floor plan.  Even on a dark and gloomy day this office is bright and cheerful.  


The designers at Paragon Commercial Interiors hit this one out of the park!  I had the pleasure of listening to the client praise the designer about the space.  Not only the colors and feel of the open office, but even the minor details that she wouldn't have ever thought of.  The employees were head over heals about the small lounge type meeting rooms, the large amounts of storage, even the little seating/waiting area which is perfect for making their guests feel welcome.  She went on and on about how happy they are.  This was a true testament to how a great design will boost moral, productivity, and the overall mood of a workplace and it's workers.  






Side note: I was given a box of Thin Mints, SCORE! 


Architectural Photography / AJ Brown Goes to Jail

   When I tell people I am an architectural photographer usually they conjure up images of me at exotic locations photographing outstandingly beautiful buildings and interiors.  Sure, sometimes that is true but what they don't realize is that a huge part of what I do is not that glamourous.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, and it is ALWAYS interesting!


   I would have to say the most interesting assignment of 2012 was what I referred to as "The Jail Tour".   AJ Brown Imaging traveled to three different county jails in the state of Illinois to photograph the exteriors and interiors.  I had a police escort with me the entire time while they moved inmates around to clear out the space for me to photograph.  The above image is cell block C at the Muscatine County Jail.   

 
   This image is the holding cells at the Mercer county Jail.  This is where people are taken when they first arrive at the station.   After they process your paperwork and find space for you they move you to an actual cell (seen below).

   Often, if I am able to, I like to go back and visit projects that I have shot and check in with the people I have met.  This project was a little different.  Although I did meet some great people, I was very clear with them that I hoped to never come back to see them!




   One thing I pride myself in is always meeting my clients needs.  A lot of photographers will only shoot the best looking or most prominent parts of a building or space.  Because of my unique style of shooting I am able to shoot a project much faster and less disruptive than many photographers in my field.  This gives me plenty of time to shoot the less desirable but still very useful parts of a space.  For example, in 2012 alone I photographed several power plants, utility closets, server rooms, empty garages, bus stops, bus washing buildings, sidewalks, interstates, and even an underground retaining wall!  But the Jail Tour was by far the most interesting.  

Here's to a fun and interesting 2013!