Tag Archives: abstraction

Looking from a different angle

 This was a simple exercise with my iPhone in seeing. I photographed the same things at two different times of day, from different points of view.   
  In many ways they are extremely similar: they’re both studies in form and abstraction, with the shadows of the things as the main subject rather than the things themselves (more so of the lamp post than the bike rack, but you get the idea).  
Can you guess which ones were taken in the morning and which in the evening? 

Notice the color, texture and angle of light in each shot. See how the changing light transforms the shapes and makes them look different. 

This was just a quick and dirty exercise, but something I recommend for anyone interested in improving their vision and technique.  

Architectural Abstracts – Color

If you recall my earlier posts of the World Health Organization/Pan-American Health Organization headquarters building, I like architectural abstracts. These are some color abstracts I shot on two different excursions – one down to the National Mall at sunset, and the other on my routine walk home from work.

The African-American History museum is still a work in progress – I think it is slated to open in 2016, but it could be 2017 or even 2018 before it is ready for visitors, even if the structure is finished (which it appears will be true sometime this year, from the look of it). The building design is made to look like a traditional African crown with three tiers of bronze-colored mesh. The repeating pattern of the mesh screening lends itself extremely well to abstraction, and the missing panels (from the architectural renderings on the signs outside the museum, they are in fact missing/uninstalled, and not intentionally empty) add a geometric counterpoint.

African-American History Museum, Lamp
African-American History Museum, Lamp

It’s nice to see that DC is finally getting some real architectural gems, and is not just filled with Classical-revival, Victorian, and Modern Industrial glass boxes. On a certain level it’s too bad the Corcoran was not able to get their financial act together several years ago and build the Frank Gehry addition to the school they wanted, as that would have been quite a striking change to the streetscape.

African-American Museum, Sky
African-American Museum, Sky

Although not strictly architectural, I thought the geometric forms of the crane against the solid blue sky made for a nice abstract and fit well with the overall theme; after all, it is a construction crane.

Miller-Long DC crane
Miller-Long DC crane

Far be it for me to accuse George Washington University of being architecturally avant-garde; most of their buildings blend in to the DC streetscape with an ennui-inducing banality. But their 1970s and 1980s brown-brick boxes do have some worthwhile details that break the monotony and catch the eye. Take this stairwell, for instance – the walls are blue, which pops out against the brown brick facade and dark bronze-color window trimming. And easily overlooked, the blue stairwell provides some continuity by breaking the space between the facades, each of which has a different styling for their windows. Without the stairwell, the contrast would be in high relief, and we’d think something went wrong during construction and/or they ran out of money and had to switch styles when they turned the corner.

Glass Stairwell, GW
Glass Stairwell, GW

This glass tower thrusts into the sky like the prow of an ocean liner, cleaving the plane of the facade like an Arctic icebreaker clearing the channel into Archangelsk through a wall of sea ice (ok, I’m being a tad dramatic but I wanted SOMETHING to say about it).

Tower, GW
Tower, GW

Watergate Complex

Given the looming Watergate break-in anniversary in June, I thought it apropos to post some images of the historic complex to let folks get an idea of what the place looks like. The name itself is so iconic, so much larger-than-life, I think it tends to overwhelm all thoughts of what the place actually is. This was not some garden-variety office tower. Even back-in-the-day, this was a very high-end residential, hotel and office complex, with views of the Potomac River, Georgetown and the Kennedy Center. It is across the street from the Saudi Embassy and a scant several blocks to the State Department headquarters. The place positively reeks of old money – it’s quiet as a tomb at all hours of the day and night.

Watergate Terrace
Watergate Terrace

There are people around, as you can see in the image above, but they never seem to be coming or going in groups, or with any volume. Spaces where you’d expect to see lots of people, like around the fountain, or in the courtyard, are usually very quiet.

I’m particularly pleased at how well the first fountain shot turned out because of the white-on-white challenge. I was able to photograph it so that the white stayed bright but retained detail. It’s kind of like the egg challenge often assigned in studio photography classes – put an egg on a white backdrop and photograph the egg so the shell texture retains detail but is still white.

Watergate Fountain
Watergate Fountain

A very different mood for the same subject, just by changing the camera position and therefore the lighting on the subject.

Watergate Fountain
Watergate Fountain

I love the balconies on the Watergate complex – they wrap around it in undulating curves and add texture to what would otherwise be an extremely plain building. Seen from a distance, as a colleague of mine put it, the Watergate does look a bit like a cruise ship the 1960s forgot.

Watergate Balconies
Watergate Balconies
Watergate Balconies
Watergate Balconies

Another view of the courtyard. Again, just one person sitting alone at a table. There’s a restaurant down there, believe it or not.

Watergate Courtyard
Watergate Courtyard

The Watergate is a great place to practice architectural abstraction because of its size, shape and textures. This view feels like a whole bunch of zippers fanning out in a display.

Watergate Balconies
Watergate Balconies