This image shows the back side of the new wing of the Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The architecture of the new wing is quite stark, with lots of clean, flat surfaces. It's quite a contrast to the original museum (to which it is attached), since the original museum was done in the Beaux Arts style (see here). The clean lines of the new structure offer some interesting photographic opportunities.
I took this shot on a sunny day in late morning. The sun was to my left and created a very high contrast situation which was difficult to capture. I tried to expose the image so that the bright side of the building wouldn't lose detail, while at the same time keeping detail on the shadow side. I was surprised that I was able to capture the entire dynamic range without any clipping. I used my Zuiko 7-14mm lens at 7mm. I backed away from the building to a point where I could capture the entire side while at the same time keeping the camera as parallel to the face of the building as possible. This lens is reasonably distortion free, but as with any ultra-wide angle lens, if you tip the lens you will start to exaggerate the perspective. Keeping the sensor plane parallel with the building minimizes that distortion. My goal was to try to take a relatively distortion free image and then crop out parts of the image that I didn't want. This approach is similar to what would happen if I had a true tilt-shift lens, but I don't have one of those, unfortunately.
The image above shows the original, unprocessed image. When I took the shot, I wanted to make sure I had some blue sky. I was thinking that I would probably want to convert the image to black and white and having the blue sky meant that I could easily lighten or darken the sky by adjusting the blue slider in Photoshop's black & white conversion tool.
When I started working on the image, I initially planned on keeping most of the sidewalk at the bottom of the image. I liked how the concrete led up to the building. However, I didn't like the manhole cover and the vent. I briefly thought about cloning them out, but decided against it. Instead, I started playing with different crops. I initially went for more of a square crop to eliminate the two manhole covers (bottom and lower right), but I still had the vent. I then cropped a bit higher to eliminate the vent. I also brought the crop in from the side, trying to keep the big sculpture (upper right) in the frame. These two crops are shown below:
I kept playing with the crop as I continued to work on the image, finally arriving at the crop of the finished image. The remaining work on the final image involved converting to black & white and correcting for some of the remaining lens distortion. The series of images below show the steps I took in arriving at the final image. Some of the changes might be hard to see at this size.
The white balance adjustment was created by picking a black point and a white point using the curves eye dropper tools. When I was working with the color image, I thought it made the concrete too yellow, so I used a layer mask to limit the effect to the sky. Ultimately in the black & white conversion this layer probably didn't have much effect.
Since I decided to convert the image to black & white, I experimented with various photo filters. I finally settled on blue. The blue filter let me darken the sky more as well as some of the other shaded areas. It also darkened the bright side a bit, but that was fine.
For toning, I used the curves adjustments you see to the left. This curve adjusts the red and blue curves to give the tonality of the old platinum toning process. I didn't create this curve myself, but rather downloaded it from Paul Butzi's web site from an article discussing image toning. For this application, I applied the curves adjustment and then backed off on the opacity to about 58%.
At this point the image was mostly done. However I was not happy with the remaining distortion in the image. The left side was pretty good, but the right side wasn't straight. Since the building has nice vertical lines I wanted to get those lines to be as vertical as I could in the finished image. The first image shows the layer after I corrected for the distortion on the right side. Unfortunately this kicked the left side out a bit. I then applied a second correction to bring the left side back into vertical. I used Free Transformation with a combination of skew and warp tools to adjust the perspective.
I created a couple variations of this image, one being a lighter version of the finished image, but in the end I preferred the darker image.
All processing done with Adobe Photoshop CS4.
Comments and feedback welcome.
Image and text Copyright © 2009 James W. Howe - All rights reserved.