Before and After Architectural Photography / Mellow Mushroom / Iowa City

Since adding construction photography services to my bag of tricks I have really enjoyed seeing projects from start to finish.  I have learned to appreciate all the hard work and planning that go into this these projects on a new level.  The transformation that takes place before my very eyes is simply astonishing.  I decided to include an early stage construction photo to this post so you can get a better idea of what I experience photographing these projects. 

During our first shoot the construction manager was explaining to me what this place was going to end up looking like.  Once again the picture in my minds eye was blown to pieces when I walked into the finished product last week.  He told me it was going to be a trippy space theme with a floating cow as the center piece.  I had now Idea what I was in for.  This new restaurant in the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, Iowa is a friendly visual assault on the eyes and they tell me the pizza is an assault on the taste buds as well.  

Once again the team at Knutson Construction blows my mind, kind of literally this time.  I've never seen anything quite like this.  It was a challenge and a blast to photograph!

Architectural Photography at the dump! Linn County Solid Waste Agency

I have said it before and I'll say it again, my job takes me to the most interesting places.  This fall I was asked to photograph the dump!  It turned out to be pretty fun and interesting.  I really will shoot anywhere my clients need!  I don't know what else to say. 

Here are a couple shots from my day with the trash. 

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.

Let your eyes do the leading.

I was recently looking through my many hard drives for images of nature that I had taken over the years and something funny happened.  I would open and dig through the folders named "Starved Rock State Park 2013" or "7 Falls Santa Barbara 2008" only to find that most of the subjects of the images were not nature!  Like this image below I found from last year when I visited Starved Rock State Park.  Starved Rock is a beautiful park in Illinois with natural occurring waterfalls, cliffs overlooking the Illinois River, and bald eagles everywhere you look.  But I found myself hanging around the visitor center all afternoon making pictures of the way the shadows were changing on the staircase going into the building.  

This image below was found in a folder called "tall wildflowers in Iowa" I was using my Mamiya RB67 film camera, with flowers and beautiful tall grass all around me I found myself looking up at this power line trying to capture the straightest leading lines possible.

Here I found myself walking along the Mississippi River only to stop and spend most of my time shooting the I74 bridge instead of one of the biggest and most beautiful rivers anyone in the United States will ever see.

The image below was an accident as well.  There was fresh a snow on the ground and I the bright idea to go out and shoot the geese and ducks along the rivers edge in the snow.  But of course that was destined to fail when this beautiful art museum is looming over the park taunting and laughing at me for wanting to photograph ducks.

I am always learning new things about myself through this medium.  I don't know what the point of all this is.  I guess that's the funny thing about photography.  Sometimes you can have a clear idea of what you want in your mind but in the end you have to let your eyes do the leading.

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 

Before / After Building Renovation / Iowa City / Architectural Photography

I had a somewhat unique experience the other day.  I was hired to shoot a project that is only half completed and was blown away by what I saw.  This is the MidWestOne Bank downtown Iowa City.  Knutson Construction is giving the building a major makeover.  Floors five and six are complete but floors two, three, and four have a long way to go.  Photographically this was a very diverse shoot, and it presented all sorts of unique challenges.  But what I really wanted to blog about is the amazing transformation that was taking place right before my eyes. 

This shot below is a capture of what the fourth floor currently looks like, and what the fifth and sixth looked like not long ago. 

Here are a couple images of the finished floors.  I couldn't believe the transformation so I thought it would be interesting to share. 

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Architectural Photography / HON Corporate Headquarters Muscatine, IA

   This is a Factory building at the HON Corporate Headquarters in Muscatine, Iowa.  For some reason this image right now is one of my favorite images I have ever made.  I know its not the most spectacular looking building, but what it is a highly functional and resourceful space with simple design made beautiful.  The reason I love this photo so much is because it seems like an efficient photograph.  Personally,  I really love and appreciate efficiency (sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes not ;).  This to me is a visual representation of efficiency.  I love the light, shadows, and contrast between the two.  I love the vertical and horizontal lines and the blurring of life as it passes by.

  It's my job to care about a photograph this much, but you…you don't need to worry about any of this.   Thanks for reading.


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.  

AJ Brown Imaging will now cool your cans

I am obviously excited about the new AJ Brown Imaging logo and branding so I am purchasing ridiculous things and smacking ABI all over them.  

Who ever said an architectural photographer can't keep your beverage cool?

Shoot me an e-mail if you want one gracing the cans in your office!

I have a decent camera, I'll just take the pictures myself.

I often hear comments like this:  
"Wow that's a nice camera, I bet it takes great pictures!" 
"How could you take a bad picture with a camera like that?"
How hard could it be?  You just push a button!"

I could go on and on but I'll stop there.  I had some rare extra time today so I decided to do a quick project in my kitchen.  I want to show you the value in hiring a well trained and experienced professional photographer, as opposed to shooting yourself or hiring the cheapest guy in town.  Now, my kitchen isn't the most spectacular place in the world, but even here you can see the difference when photographed correctly. 

Both of these images were shot on the same camera with the same lens.  
Camera - Canon 5D Mark II - 21.1 mega pixels - $1,500
Lens - Canon 24mm Tilt Shift $2,199

Below is the raw image straight out of the camera with no editing or correcting

Below is the professionally lit, corrected, and styled image

   So the final question is, what is your hard work and time worth to you?  I know you put your heart and soul into your projects, often working on them for the better part of a year or even more.  Don't you think they are worth spending a few extra bucks to make them look the best they possibly can in your proposals and marketing materials?  Stop selling your work short by shooting it yourself or hiring the cheapest guy in town with a nice camera.  Your project is worth much more than that and I want to team up with you so your potential clients can see how much you care and value your work.

Corporate Headshots / AJ Brown Imaging

Most people don't know that I often get hired to take corporate headshots in addition to my typical architectural photography work.  I don't spend much time seeking out this kind of work, in fact most if the corporate headshots that I do are for my existing clients in the design build industry.  Since the majority of my architectural work tends to be in the Midwest I end up shooting corporate headshots and interiors a lot through the winter months while my clients and I wait for the weather to shape up.  I have a portable studio that I set up in a conference room so my client doesn't have to bother with the hassle of scheduling their employees day around a long trip to an off site studio.  They love this because it only requires a few minutes of each individuals day.  I get all set up and ready to shoot before we start calling people in to be photographed.  They come in, I take their portrait, and they leave all in a few minutes so they can get back to working on their bigger more important jobs.     

My favorites are almost always the shots on a simple white background.  They look crisp and professional and there is nothing distracting the viewers eye away from the subject.   Above are a few that I made this winter for various clients. 

As I mentioned before, during the winter months I shoot a lot of interior only projects as well.  The image below was made a few months ago.  This is the new Chicago office of an international tech company located right on Michigan Ave. 

Please Welcome William to the ABI family!

Its been a crazy winter this year.  Usually things slow down a little bit in the winter as far as photographic architecture goes.  This winter was a unique one because my wife and I welcomed William Jeffrey Brown to the family.

Give him a few years and you never know, I might have a new assistant on my hands here!

I just wanted to say thank you to all my clients, and supporters.  I am truly fortunate to do what I love for a living.  My wife and I truly appreciate you and so does baby Willie!  Heres to an amazing 2014!

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.