A blog that focuses on the photography of Dean J. Birinyi, an interior and architectural photographer based in San Francisco, CA.

Shooting into the Sunset at Dusk in Architectural Photography

Environmental Horticultural Center
Cabrillo College
Watsonville, CA
Kitchell CEM

Today’s architectural photograph is a sunset shot of the Environmental Horticultural Center at Cabrillo College in Watsonville, CA shot for Kitchell CEM.

I shot this image just past sunset because we needed to show the shadow side of the structure and capture the ambient interior illumination. It was a technical challenge because I shot this in the chemical era with my 4x5 camera and film, I didn’t have the advantage of digital compositing or HDR to use to create the image. I had to do it the old fashioned way where we would set up the shot and wait until the exterior was dark enough to capture the interior in the manner I wanted but not too dark to get a good exposure. The fact that I was shooting the eastern elevation of the building with the sun setting in the west complicated matters even more, but the exposure was actually quite long so I could use “in camera dodging” to darken the sky. I used traditional post production techniques as well this was such a challenging shot that no single technique could achieve the goal; I had to use every trick in the book on this one.

To do this I blocked the sky through part of the exposure by moving a dark card across the upper portion of the lens thereby lessening the amount of light that was transmitted to the film. This and the use of a graduated neutral density filter as well as patience waiting for the light levels to meet my vision allowed me to create this wonderful and dramatic image for my client. This waiting is the hardest part because it takes discipline, patience and experience to know when to shoot and when the time is finally arrives you only have about two minutes where everything is just right to create your photograph, this is why these dusk or dawn shots are so challenging you only have one opportunity to get it right and messing up on any single aspect will ruin the photograph.