Architectural photographers for decades have lugged heavy bags and cases full of equipment all over the world. One case held the camera rig, bellow, stands, film holders, a loop, dark cloth and an assortment of lens boards. Inside duffel bags a large tripod, light stands, gobos, gaffer tape, gels, flares and reflector cards. This was a rare breed of photographer. They spent countless hours adjusting minute increments. Correcting vertical lines. And adjusting perspectives beneath a dark-cloth as they painstakingly checked the images sharpness. Their eyes bulged out, as their brains calculated the upside down, rotated image before them. They were forever meticulous down to the millisecond of natural light needed for the correct exposure.
Eventually, a film holder would be placed in the shoot as they lifted the A-slide revealing the film to the inner belly of the 4x5 camera. A press of the plunger cord opened the aperture to its precise coordinates letting light gradually fall across the film before closing it off. moving architectureNext the A-slide was pushed down you flipped the film holder, opened the B-slide and exposed the second sheet of film. Repeating as necessary until you felt you had the shot. Before moving your camera gear to the next location to set it all up again and fire off a few sheets of film.
Fast-forward 200 years into the digital era of photography and you will find a new breed of architectural photographer. No longer strapped to a film case and two sheets. No longer strapped down to an eye-loop beneath a dark cloth, architectural photographers are beginning to devise new strategies using software interfaces. They are no longer without a darkroom as your digital darkroom in the form of a laptop computer can be by your side during every shoot.
Today's architectural photographer is still carrying even more loads of gear to their shoots but it is much easier when all your equipment is neatly packed inside your cargo van. Inside an architectural photographer's van you will find a computer, extension cords, halogen lights, gobos, gaffer tape, light stands, halogen bulbs and a digital camera. The exception here is whether you choose to shoot a high-end Digital SLR, a medium format camera with digital back or a converted 4x5 field camera with digital back. You now have the power of a digital environment.
Amazing results are at your fingertips thanks to this digital environment. You are no longer subjected to weather because you can shoot using halogen lights at anytime during the day, evening or night. Your image capture holds everything on a high-resolution digital file. Which you now drop onto your desktop computer, adjusting files and parameters composing a single image out of fifty or a hundred layers to create a magnificent composite image your client will marvel over. And rehire you, again and again.
One thing every architectural photographer always says is prepare for the unexpected. On a clear Arizonian evening we set up fifteen halogen lights, a Hasselblad camera with digital back and our computer. We had extension cords coming out of every light socket possible. Just before sunset a bit of a breeze kicked up. Adding sandbags we quickly secured taller lights. Ten minutes later just as we were getting ready to shoot, it began to rain. As it started, we ran around unplugging all the cords then grabbing light stands, dropping the halogens and moving them into the garage. By the time we had moved them all we were soaked and half the light bulbs had popped. Unfortunately for us this shoot had to be canceled. But as Ann Landers once wrote, "Nobody says you must laugh, but a sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the day."