Assignment: Make a black and white catalog of interesting photographs of an unusual building. Eschew the traditional approaches.


The Southern Exposure.

Over the last couple of years you've seen my images of this building time and time again. I started my documentation when the whole project was just a gigantic hole in the ground, across a little stream from the public library. I've tried to show why this building is so peculiar/addictive by investigating all the different angles. One edge of the building is actually curved and this is shown, faithfully, in my photographs. But since there is an expectation that buildings will be rectilinear and squared up many have asked if I'm using a fisheye lens or if the lens I am using is compromised and unable to render straight lines. Nope. That's the way the building was designed. 

The construction company, DPR, is nearing the last lap on the project. Work is underway to complete the "skirt" of ground level spaces that will almost certainly house upscale restaurants, reservation only coffee shops and other services. The bulk of the building will be filled with Google employees and their contractors. The executives will, no doubt, claim the offices on the South side of the building since the structure is across the street from Lady Bird Lake and faces the unspoiled shores thereof. 

I have photographed the building in both black and white and color but I love the drama of the contrasty monochrome images. I've used all kinds of cameras and lenses in my "architectural" work but today's images (the ones  shown here) were all done with a battered, but stalwart, Leica SL and the Panasonic 20-60mm zoom lens. 

I've wanted more images of the building with the exterior completed and when I saw the weather report this morning indicating good, clean sunshine for most of the midday and early afternoon I waved goodbye to the home team and headed out to see what I could get. 

The camera and lens combination that inspired me to start photographing more in black and white here was the Leica CL camera and the 17mm f1.4 TTArtisan lens. There is something I really like about the HC Monochrome profile in that camera (and by extension in the TL2 and the SL2 since they use much the same parameters in a profile of the same name). The 17mm is just a great lens for most wide angle use.

I think that no matter what kind of brief you start out with it's incumbent on a good photographer to spend time really getting the feel of a huge structure like this one. That means you might want to come back and visit it at sunrise, sunset, midday, late morning, early afternoon and even at twilight. Going down once and finding one good angle with some pleasant sunlight on it just isn't enough. 

For example, the image just below was done just before lunch and is an Eastern facing part of the building. That shot was gone by 12:30 as the sun moved low and West. But after lunch the sun did a reverse "sunrise" on the opposite side of the building as the sun crested over the top and spread out from the top of the to the bottom of the exterior, over time. That top down spread moved down the building relentlessly but I was able to capture the transitions from a perch six stories up, across the stream, on the rooftop of the public library. The light doesn't wait for the photographer and if you miss the perfect angle of light it's often no easy matter to go back at a later date to try and duplicate the look and feel. Everything changes with the passing of time. 

I took a break for a lovely sandwich at the CookBook CafĂ©, adjacent to the library. 
It was a turkey and provolone but nicely enhanced with pickled radishes
 and an spirited aioli.

I can hardly wait for the project to be fully realized. I want to photograph the shop windows and the grand entryway on the south side of the structure. I hope more projects built in downtown embrace the whimsical spirit this building brings with it.

And just like that....Monday is gone. 

A totally different look from an earlier visit
(above and below)