The Denver Skyline, A Study in Contrasts

June 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The Denver Skylinep1259670070-5

A Spring Evening in Downtown Denver

I’m not really known as an architectural photographer. In fact, I spend a lot of time trying to find scenes without any buildings in them at all. It’s not just buildings I try to avoid. “Things of Man” in general are enough to make me search for other subjects. Although the natural landscape is my usual subject, I will attempt to create images when provided interesting views of almost any subject.

A couple of years ago I spent a few days in downtown Denver, Colorado attending a conference for planning officials. I ended up staying at a hotel a couple of blocks from the Colorado Municipal League offices called The Burnsley. When I checked in I was asked if I wanted a “mountain view” or a “city view”. When I replied that I wanted the city view the clerk seemed shocked. I have a mountain view every day. I thought something a little different would be good for me. It was!

My room was on the third or fourth floor of the nine floor hotel. Each room had a large balcony overlooking whatever “view” you chose. The first evening I spent the sunset and twilight time on my deck photographing the downtown scene in both traditional and panorama formats. What attracted me to the scene was the office lights illuminating the buildings, the slight remaining light in the sky and the dome of the State Capitol Building. If any of these elements had been missing I don’t think the photo would have been very successful.

After making photos the first night and performing a quick edit I realized that the view would be better a little higher. There were quite a few trees, utility poles, and power lines in the photos from the first night which were pretty annoying. Figuring I had nothing to lose I approached the front desk staff to see if I could use a top floor balcony for an hour or so the next night. They were pretty reluctant but finally agreed when I told them that I would pay for the room if anything was disturbed. The view from the ninth floor was really dynamic. All of the bothersome trees and power lines were now out of the scene. The sky was a little more interesting the second night as well. I think the high contrast between light and dark elements that dominate the view provide a lot of visual excitement, especially the bright Capitol dome. A more subtle contrast in shapes is key though. The curved shape of the dome seems to yell “look at me” against the strong vertical lines of the surrounding buildings. In fact, the Capitol dome offers the only curved lines in the entire scene. It’s this contrast of form coupled with the luminance levels of the dome that force your eye to that part of the photograph. This arrangement was done on purpose to provide a more interesting scene and to keep your attention in the photograph just a little longer.

So, what do you think? Should I take up architectural photography or stick to the natural landscape? I would probably have to move to a city or at least visit them more than once a year to do the architectural thing. Either way, it’s fun and challenging to step out of my personal box and try something new.

Along those lines, I stumbled on a website you should check out. It’s called Craft and Vision and offers E-Books on photography and the creative process at prices you just can’t pass up. I purchased four of them and will include my thoughts on later posts.

Have a great week!

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