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.



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.  

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.  




Architectural Photography at the Cedar Rapids Amphitheater

Let me just start off by saying, I absolutely love Cedar Rapids!  This city was hit with a devastating flood in 2008 which I have blogged about several times.  Since the flood 5 years ago, Cedar Rapids has been going through a major downtown renewal period.  They have renovated many buildings, built a new library, convention center, education center, and the list goes on and on and on.  This is the newest addition to this booming city, The McGrath Amphitheater.   It is located right on the banks of the Cedar River with plans to extend the river walk from the amphitheater down to the festival grounds in the near future.  


The theater has the capacity to host 4,600 visitors at any given point.  They plan on holding concerts of all kinds as well as many different city events and activities at the amphitheater.   The project also serves as a new form of flood protection for the west side of the city which previously had none.  It's a beautiful place and a great example of combining the needs of the project with a creative solution.


Since this is ultimately a photography blog, I often like to mention the problems that arise while shooting specific projects and the solutions/decisions I had to make.  I decided to minimally light the image above because the existing lighting is such a major part of the project.  We only needed to bring in a little supplemental lighting on grass and the side of the stage.  This was a balancing act because I didn't want it to look like we lit the scene at all.  We wanted to show off how nice the lighting setup was designed in the first place so we didn't want to take away from that at all. 

Honestly the biggest issue during this shoot was keeping people off the stage!  I think people are really excited about the project, so all day and night there were people aimlessly wondering around in my shots!   Hahaha, can't blame them though. 

Columbus High School's Architectural Photography shoot


Here is a small preview of a recent shoot I did at Columbus High School in Columbus Junction, Iowa.  The above image is the new administration building as well as an off site outreach center for Muscatine Community College.   The project was designed by Shive Hattery Architects and Engineers who were recently named one of the top firms in the US by Architectural Record. 


To go along with the new admin building the school also added a new sports facility that includes a gym, locker rooms, and wrestling facility.    


Short blog post this time as I have a lot of work to catch up on after returning from my fishing vacation to Minnesota.  Talk to you soon!

In Progress Architectural Photography / Cedar Rapids Public Library


 After the flood of 2008 Cedar Rapids downtown was devastated by water damage.  The old library was ruined and now, after lots of hard work, houses the corporate headquarters of the insurance company True North.  The library was scaled down and functioning with several satellite locations until now. The brand new Cedar Rapids Public Library is set to be completed within a few weeks!   The public grand opening will be on August 24th.  I had the pleasure to photograph the new building for Knutson Construction a few weeks ago to get some in progress images.  The building was designed by OPN Architects and had a total project cost of 48 million dollars.



This library is huge with 94,000 square feet of space!  The building is Leed certified and is expected to meet the platinum performance level.  It supports a beautiful rooftop garden with seating areas for readers to enjoy the libraries massive new book collection while taking in the sites from above downtown Cedar Rapids.  There is a local coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings that is set to operate the library coffee shop and service the drive though window for readers on the go.


   There is even a 200 person theater in the library where they will hold book readings, concerts, plays and many other local events!  The Cedar Rapids Public Library when completed is said to have the possibility to be one of the best libraries in the entire country.   After 5 years of waiting, the people of Cedar Rapids are celebrating the revival and restoration of downtown with the newest addition being their brand new library.

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.