Abandoned School – Part 2

I’ve just uploaded another batch of photos from my recent trip to an abandoned school in Atlanta, and I’m really thrilled with how they’re turning out!  Below are my two favorites from this batch, and some of my favorites so far from this trip.

The photo below was the result of three exposures — 1/160, 1/40, and 1/10 sec at f/5.6 — all shot at ISO 400, 35mm focal length, then processed using Nik HDR Efex Pro and a custom preset.  I was also using a feature of my tripod (Manfrotto 190CX3) that I hadn’t used before where the center column can be turned horizontal for shooting from straight above the subject.  I guess it worked!

I just love the tones in this picture!

For the second photo, I took nine exposures, but I only used four — 1/125, 1/30, 1/8, and 0.5 sec at f/16 — shot at ISO 400, 17mm focal length, again processed using Nik HDR Efex Pro.  This image just popped so much by default that I did very little to it after creating the HDR image.

Again, I love the tones, as well as the reflection of the windows in the glass and the way the white graffiti pops off the wood panel.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these as well as the other photos from the set on Flickr.  Thanks!


Abandoned School – Part 1

Yesterday, I had a photography first — my first urban exploring experience!  A friend who does this on regular occasion was gracious enough to invite me along, and I couldn’t be more happy that he did.

The plan was to shoot at an old paint factory that was known for having some fantastic graffiti, but a few minutes away from my destination, my friend calls to tell me that the factory we were going to shoot was being demolished as he spoke.  As I pulled up, I saw him speaking with someone from the demolition company who said that they’ve been working on demolition for about a month.  Thankfully, my friend had a Plan B, which was an abandoned elementary school not too far from our original location.

It was cold and incredibly windy, but from the moment we climbed through a broken window into one of the classrooms, I knew it was going to be a great shoot!  The graffiti in the photo above was on the wall of the room we climbed into.  I couldn’t help but just grin from ear to ear at how excited I was and how much I was looking forward to checking out the rest of the building if it was anything like this room.

Given all the texture and color, shooting HDR (high dynamic range) was a given for me.  I have a Nikon D300, so I was bracketing anywhere from 3-9 shots with 1 stop between each shot.  For the most part, like the shot above, I was taking three shots and using all three for the HDR shot.  For shots like the one below where there was very strong backlighting, I shot 9 exposures and used every other one.

Just to give you an idea of how much of a difference it makes, I’ve also included the original middle shot (5th of 9) of the set.

When the day was done, we’d been there about 3-1/2 hours, and I’d taken over 700 shots!  Needless to say, it’s going to take me at least a couple days to go through them, and there will probably be “Part 2” and “Part 3” posts for this location.

In the meantime, please check out the 33 photos I’ve posted so far to my Atlanta > Abandoned School set on Flickr.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre – Part 2

It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had much time to continue working on my photos from the Fox Theatre.  On top of that, I went on a fantastic shoot today in an abandoned elementary school, and now I’m totally into working on those photos, so it’ll be a little while before I get back to the Fox photos.  In the meantime, though, I thought I’d share a couple of the less serious photos — at least from a subject-matter perspective — from the Fox Theatre.

One of the many things the Fox is known for is it’s interesting restroom architecture, which is why I was shooting in the restroom.  (Just felt I needed to explain that.  :-))  These photos were taken in the women’s restroom.  There’s a very elaborate lounge attached to the women’s bathroom but, clearly, these are not from there.  (I believe I do have some of the lounge, though they’re still in the unprocessed pile.)

Lastly, when you think of the Fox Theatre, you think two things:  architecture and color.  Just to be a little contrary I suppose, I went with two photos that pretty much don’t fall into either of those categories, though you certainly might be able to argue that the shot of the sinks is an architecture photo.  Yes, but not “architecture” in the same sense as the rest of the Fox Theatre.

Let me know what you think!  And if you’d like to check out what I’ve posted so far, please check out my Fox Theatre set on Flickr.  Thanks!

The Fabulous Fox Theatre – Part 1

On Sunday, I was fortunate enough to be part of a photography group that was allowed to photograph the interior of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.  If you’ve been to the Fox, you know what a great photographic opportunity this is.  If you haven’t, “Grandeur” (with a capital “G”) is the word that most comes to mind.

The Fox Theatre started it’s life in the 1920s as a Shriner’s temple.  It was designed to look like a mosque, with an indoor Arabian courtyard, a sky of flickering starts, drifting clouds, and canopies overhanging the balcony.

A shot of the second floor lobby of the Fox Theatre.

Throughout the years, it was an active movie house, in addition to hosting concerts and operas.  In the 1970s, however, the industry had declined and the Theatre was slated to be torn down to make way for the local telephone company’s headquarters.  Since the ornate theater had been such a part of people’s lives in Atlanta, a “Save the Fox” campaign was started, and they were successful in raising the funds to keep the Theatre alive.  In 1976, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and today it’s viewed as one of the premier venues in the country.  (If you’d like to read more about its history, please visit the Theatre’s website.)

Back in 2008, I’d had an opportunity to photograph the Fox as part of a photo outing hosted by Showcase School of Photography.  I learned at that time that it’s very, VERY difficult to get into the Fox to photograph it.  Showcase had been trying for years to get in.  The trip this past Sunday was the first one I’d heard of since the 2008 trip.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure to make the most of the opportunity.  It’s not always easy to find inspiration when the pressure is on, and the interior is very dark and difficult to photograph, so I was a bit disheartened by this shoot.  I left not feeling very confident that I’d taken many good shots, and that I’d done myself a disservice by not utilizing the four years of photography experience that I’ve gained since the last time I was there.  There were some obvious shots that I didn’t get, and some places that I simply missed checking out.

Tonight I started working on the photos, however, and I’m pleased to say I’m getting more out of the photos than I thought I would.  I’m about half way through, and while I’m still not sure they’re going to turn out as well as my photos from 2008, I’m pretty happy overall.

The Egyptian Ballroom in the Fox Theatre.

Want to know what two things made an absolute difference in being able to get decent shots?  A tripod, and shooting RAW.  Some of my exposures were well over 30 seconds, and even 1/30 of a second is risky without a tripod.  And even with such long exposures, without RAW files, I could never have gotten the details in the shadows without blowing out the highlights.

Anyway, I’m hoping to finish post processing this week and will probably post some more images.  In the meantime, you can check out what I have finished on my Flickr site.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I may have a chance to go back again this year.  If I do, I’m going to focus on those areas that I missed this time, and hopefully remember the lessons I learned from this experience.

The Goat Farm – Part 2, The Coffee Shop

The grounds of the Goat Farm in Atlanta were wonderful to photograph last weekend, especially for a photographer like me who loves to produce HDR images with rusty, textured materials. However, I keep finding myself returning to the shots I took in the little coffee shop within the complex. To me, this coffee shot exemplifies, more than anything, the bohemian nature of the complex.

the coffee shop

When you first walk in, it feels more like the well-worn living room of an old, eccentric friend rather than a coffee shop. The room is dotted with vintage cameras, typewriters, and other accessories that were considered “modern” in some former life. There’s an eclectic mix of furnishings from a variety of periods, with large, worn tables and chairs inviting you to sit and contemplate the state of things. Drinks are available on a “donation” basis, which is probably a good thing because the coffee is probably the least rewarding thing in the room (and almost certainly not worth officially paying for).

The most rewarding thing in the room, by far, is the library on the far wall. It’s a community collection of all things literary and political. It doesn’t look forced, but rather an organic collection that’s matured over time. I’m not sure a well-seasoned interior designer could create this authentic of a look on command.

The Library

The funny thing is that I’m not a reader, yet I was immediately drawn to this feature in the room. When I say I’m not a reader, I mean that while I love books, and the thought of books, I rarely read them. I like to be surrounded by them, but more because I like how they look. I guess that would be the photographer in me coming out. As a photographer, I’m definitely drawn to structure, and there are few things more structured and colorful than a library full of books.

I’m supposed to go back to the Goat Farm next weekend for another shoot, and I’m still contemplating whether or not I’m going to do it. I’m sure there are more exterior shots that I can take, and maybe it would be a good challenge for me to try to capture the exterior with a fixed focal length lens or without doing HDR, but if I do go, I suspect I’ll spend most of the time in the coffee shop really trying to find the essence of what I love about that space.

For more of my photos of the Goat Farm, check out the set on my Flickr site.

Piazza d’Italia #2

Piazza d'Italia #2 by gail des jardin

I’m very excited that my photo of the Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans is going to be used in an exhibition at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (German Architecture Museum) in Frankfurt, Germany. The exhibition is on architectural models, and this image will be used in their catalogue, as well as blown up for display next to the model. If I could only convince them to fly me out to see it, I’d be all set.

The Goat Farm – Part 1

The Goat Farm by gail des jardin

Two in a series of doors I shot recently at The Goat Farm, an artists’ community located in an old industrial neighborhood in Atlanta.

I used to live just down the street from this place, yet I never knew it existed.  It’s really an interesting complex, with some of the buildings having collapsed and others well on their way.  There’s a really low-key coffee shop on site, though I’m not sure if it’s open to the public since the complex itself is considered private property.  I’ll be going back in a couple weeks for an evening shoot, which will definitely be a challenge, but hopefully a rewarding one.