Fil's interview with Voyage Houston

I had the opportunity to describe my work to Voyage Houston, and the article was published today.

I used it as an excuse to show off some of my vintage camera collection, get the story out that I take epic city-scapes as well as portraits, and self-indulgently feed my own ego. It has not been fed in a while.

Voyage seem to be exhaustively cataloging all of Houston’s artists and entrepreneurs. Even though their almost un-edited style can make for a difficult read sometimes, it is nice to have a site full of local creatives sharing their stories.

Thanks for reading!

The decisive month

What is the length of a decisive moment?

Henry Cartier-Bresson's images imply the composition changes in fractions of a second. Ansel Adams waited for the movement of clouds and sand dunes over the course of minutes and hours. The temporal decision on when to release the shutter adds a third dimension to the 2D composition in-front of the lens.

Missing the decisive moment

I recently realized I missed a decisive moment, probably by weeks. I took a low quality picture of a Houston downtown abandoned building with a Pen FT. The picture is grainy, but more importantly, it was in black and white. The graffiti on the windows of the building was very large and interesting, but colourful - and it disappeared when viewed in black and white. I told myself I would return later to get a colour photo on a digital camera. 

Weeks passed - and when I returned I found a building with all the windows removed. I guess the building is now being repaired and put back to use. It is still an interesting scene in its own right, but not the image I had visualized.

Waiting, in this case, was a mistake. You have to grab your moments, because you don't know when the moment will end.

Photographers capturing Houston

There is an element of research when it comes to planning a photography project. Looking at the work of others helps gather elements of ideas, avoid cliches and attempt to build on what has come before. Some comparison to the scientific method can be made here. The work of others can also be appreciated in its own right, of course, aside from as a source of learning or inspiration. I'm looking to take images of Houston that uncover its many hidden corners, and there are others doing the same.

USPS building, downtown Houston. Rollei 35s, Ilford HP5.

USPS building, downtown Houston. Rollei 35s, Ilford HP5.

I'm sure there are many local commercial and wedding/portrait photographers who produce exceptional work, but I wanted to make note of some photographers who are specifically making the scapes of Houston part of their stories. I've selected a few photographers to make a of note here for my own reference - these are the photographers I'd most like to talk shop with.

  • Mabry Campbell - Mabry's portfolio is full of technically well-executed architectural photography with moody black and whites that capture subtle tones and textures. 
  • Katya Horner - Landscape and fine art photos with a processed and colour saturated style. 
  • Michael Joseph - Interesting black and white architectural photographs of downtown Houston with a theme of internal framing.
  • Aisha Khan - A portfolio full of portraits and wedding images that hold a sense of place. She makes Houston look good. These images that make me want to include people in my city shots. 
  • Khanh Nguyen. Great use of Houston's backstreets and portraits with a lot of movement.
  • Matt Nielson - This is a one page photo essay about Houston with some brilliant pictures to illustrate. Matt nailed an image of the Gus Wortham fountain - an interesting art-piece I've been working on for a while, but can't seem to get a satisfactory interpretation of it. 
  • Jim Olive - Oil and gas are Houston's meat and potatoes  (medical is probably the veg). Jim is a commercial photographer who covers, among many other things, Houston's industrial side. He has also published a photography book on Houston covering a range of his work over his career.
  • Joseph West - Joseph knows how to work shadow and light against each other, adding both atmosphere and subject emphasis within an image.  His blog is mainly engagements and weddings, but he is one of those photographers that incorporates urban landscapes with his portraits where either alone would stand well as a photograph. 


The Astrodome from above

I've written before on how using Google Earth is a great way to explore a city, and can even be used to create compositions directly (find that post here). 

One of Houston's most interesting buildings as observed from the sky must be the Astrodome. It has a circular shape with lots of rectangular windows in a triangular pattern on the roof. Here's how I took Google's image of the Astrodome, and processed it to create an almost abstract image to emphasise the shapes and geometries of the architecture.

  1. Overlapping screenshots of the structure were taken and then stitched together in software to create a high-res image. 
  2. Distortions are present because the satellites are not exactly over the building when the images were taken. This was easily corrected in Lightroom or Photoshop. 
  3. To get the super-contrast effect, the image was converted to black and white by reducing the saturation. The levels were then narrowed so that the black and white points are very close together.
  4. The image was cropped to square so that the Astrodome appears very dominant in the center.
  5. Lastly, spot healing was used to remove distracting elements from the image.
Astrodome from above in pure black and white.

Astrodome from above in pure black and white.