Amarillo is known for many things, but unique architecture is not one of them. I am not an architectural photographer but my main interest in photography right now is fine art black and white, and as I am learning fine art techniques from the Dutch photographer Joel Tjintjelaar who is acclaimed for his architectural photographs, I could not help but want to attempt to create one of these images. I think possibly the most unique building in town is the Globe-News Center so that is my subject for this first attempt.
The Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Amarillo Opera, the Amarillo Symphony, and the Lone Star Ballet. The architectural design was by New York City firm Holzman Moss Architecture LLP. The main theater portion of the building is wrapped in red sandstone depicting the walls of nearby Palo Duro Canyon. The glass curtain wall on the east side of the building represents a sunrise over Palo Duro Canyon. Obviously neither of these features will have the same impact in a black and white photo.
Joel uses tilt-shift lenses and long exposure techniques to capture his architectural images. I was working with a 12mm wide-angle lens on on a crop-sensor camera (Sony a6000). On this morning, there were absolutely no clouds in the sky and, unlike many of Joel’s images, there is no river in front of my subject; hence, I had no need for a long exposure. I did however need to capture multiple frames for a panoramic stitch, in part because of the distortion of the building caused by not having the aforementioned tilt-shift lens, and because of all the crap, i.e., traffic lights, pedestrian signals, and street lights, in front of the building that ruin any shot not taken from the driveway directly next to the building. For this shot I had my shoulder again a traffic signal so I could not take another step further back. Even with the 12mm lens, I was too close to frame the entire building, plus the distortion from being that close to the building was severe.
This image is a composite of four frames; I made sure to capture plenty of extra space on either side of the building to provide additional pixels for correcting distortion and cropping. After merging the panorama and cropping to a 4×5 aspect ratio, the final image is only about 21 megapixels.
This photo was taken at about 10 am in early December from the south side of the building. I like the shadows cast by the building itself, but I really do not like the large shadow on the left side from the hotel next door. Being there earlier in the day probably would have given me a better image to start with, but in the end, I don’t think the shadow is too distracting and the white trees and bushes help to break it up.
The other thing I did differently than Joel was to use an infrared camera for this photo. I’m not entirely sure of the benefits of shooting infrared for architecture but I wanted to give it a try. It was almost a total fail because my raw images showed some fairly bad hot spot flare; fortunately, it was mostly removed by the stitching process. The unprocessed file still showed visible variations in the sky areas but these were easy to cover up in the processed image. I completely forgot about hot spots when I was capturing the images and setting the aperture to f/8 just made the problem worse. I also think that the reflections from the very bright side of the building made the problem much worse.
The original frames were stitched in Lightroom. I used the Guided Upright tool to correct distortion so that the vertical lines of the building are vertical. Joel strongly recommends converting the color image to a neutral black and white, but since this infrared image had very little color to begin with, I converted it in Lightroom. Other Lightroom processing was minimal except for a string Highlights adjustment and some Dehaze, Clarity, and Texture so that the image didn’t start out too flat. I also added standard sharpening and some noise reduction because the IR photos can be noisy. I think the pre-processing for this image was just right because I did not run into any issues in Photoshop caused by any of these adjustments.
Processing in Photoshop was all done using the B&W Artisan Pro X 2023 panel from Joel Tjintjelaar. Most of the time was spent creating a mask of the building using the sectional masking technique. Once I had this mask created, I worked on the building in sections starting with the large wall on the left side. I created a mask for each section using the pen tool and already-existing masks, so those section masks did not take much time to create. For each section, I removed contrast and darkened the section, then added light with the Creating Depth and restore features of the panel, and finished with adding contrast using the Pro Tools and luminosity masks.
I really enjoyed working on this image. I don’t intend to start focusing on fine art architecture, but this was an excellent learning opportunity for all aspects of modern digital photography. Starting on the street, I was able to go out and take some photos in December, and capturing the building was a real challenge. At the computer, I was able to practice some new techniques and by working with a new type of subject I was forced to try new methods that I might not think of using for a landscape image. After working on this image, I’m much more proficient at using the Artisan Pro panel and much better at masking although I’ve definitely got a lot to learn still.