An Urban Landscape

General Thoughts
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium - Raleigh, NC- Green

Raleigh Memorial Auditorium © jj raia

If anyone has looked through most any part of these blog posts, they would come to the realization that my photography centers around the landscape, in particular, places that have eluded the influences of human existence. But the other morning, I tried to take the same approach I utilize when photographing the natural scene into downtown Raleigh. As usual, I got up and out very early, but not nearly as early as usual because there seemed to be no clouds that might light up before the sun rose which was slated for 614am. I utilized the same method of deciding on a location which was dependent on it’s directional view in relation to the location of the sunrise. Since it was basically mid-July, knowing the sun was pretty far north of east when it rose, I wanted a building that would receive the early morning rays of sunshine across it’s facade which meant it had to face north and I would be shooting looking south with the sunrise to my left. It seemed that the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, with it’s tall fluted columns and a large open space which include a reflecting pool on it’s north side, just might fit the bill. When I arrived it was not dark, but early enough that the building was illuminated by special lighting, and it’s reflection was perfect in the still, mirror-like water of the pool. It was stunning! Lucky enough to get a parking spot a few steps away, I began to get my gear out and set up when the lights went off!! It was 6am, and I imagine they were timed to go off just then. But now the building became a dull version of it’s previous self and disappointment set in. But a little patience may provide a second opportunity, the original pre-visualized scene. As the sun rose above the horizon, it first touched the highest peak and worked its way down a bit until I thought it was at just the right spot, and with the addition of the trusty 2-stop split neutral density filter, I balanced out the light values of the building and its reflection in the pool.

Sculpture Detail Downtown - Raleigh, NC

Sculpture Detail — Raleigh, NC  © jj raia

As is usually the case after the larger scene has lost the “good light”, I started narrowing my view to areas with strong directional light or smaller details completely in shade. I came across several very tall columns in shade with an intricate array  of brushed aluminum oak leaves that reflected the sky and sunlit buildings behind me. It was best to have the western sky behind me which was much more blue being unaffected by the bright sun in the east. It was then just a matter of searching for a pleasing arrangement of leaves where the building was reflected in the middle of the frame and the sky on either side to provide the warm/cool contrast I was looking for.

Windows Downtown — Raleigh, NC

Window Reflections – Downtown Raleigh, NC © jj raia

Then, after some more wandering, it was a set of windows above a sandwich shop reflecting the building and skyscrapers on the opposite side of the street. The reflections reminded me of cartoon characters laughing at all of us down in the street. As is usually the case, when it just seems like it’s time to pack up and head home, I notice something else that I want to explore (always, just one more). This time it was an interesting graphic architectural arrangement along an alleyway between blocks. But when I looked through the viewfinder, it seemed to lack something that would attract the eye first. The placement of a someone “resting” after a long night seemed to be fitting so I coaxed someone to sit in. B+W eliminated any color distractions from the main character illuminated by a shaft of light streaking through the alley.

Alone in Downtown — Raleigh, NC

Alone Downtown — Raleigh, NC © jj raia

I suppose utilizing the same approach used when photographing a natural landscape can carry over when attempting an urban environment, but I wonder whether the method employed by someone who generally only photographs cityscapes and urban scenes, would be transferrable in the opposite direction as well.



5 thoughts on “An Urban Landscape

    1. You’re the only one who noticed, so you are the grand prize winner!! You and the photographer of your choice have won an all expense paid trip to the park bench on the corner of Fayetteville and Davie in beautiful downtown Raleigh!! Congratulation!!


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