Category Archives: Photographs: Architecture

Terraces, Stairways, Sky

Terraces, Stairways, Sky
People arrayed on terraces and stairways at the Whitney Museum

Terraces, Stairways, Sky. New York City. December 27, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

People arrayed on terraces and stairways at the Whitney Museum

This is another of my December 2015 photographs from the New York Whitney Museum, and perhaps yet one example of my idiosyncratic approach to visiting museums. I love visiting museums, especially art museums, and I can easily spend many hours or even a full day wandering around and slowly taking things in. It is enough to drive other people who go there with me crazy! (On this visit, the rest of our group finally gave up, left without me, headed to a nearby tavern, had lunch and drinks, and waited for me to finally show up hours later.)

I love to look at the art, the people, and quite often the architectural spaces as well. This was my first visit to the new Whitney Museum, so there was a lot to see. I started on the top level and explored galleries, but soon was distracted by the outdoor terraces, which extent from each of the floors in delightful and interesting ways. On the top floor narrow terraces project out into space above the Chelsea district. On lower levels the terrace areas become larger, and afford urban landscape views of the surrounding city and back upwards toward the exterior of the museum. When I looked up at this mass of windows, terraces, stairways and more I knew there was a photograph (or several) here, and I spent some time with the subject.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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Lower Manhattan, Bridge Cables

Lower Manhattan, Bridge Cables
Lower Manhattan as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge

Lower Manhattan, Bridge Cables. New York City. December 26, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Lower Manhattan as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge

In late December 2015 we spent a week in New York, staying in Brooklyn very close to the Bridge. For most of the week we mostly didn’t pay a lot of attention to this landmark, but near the end of our visit we had some time to kill one morning before meeting our sons in Manhattan, so we decided to take the famous walk out onto the bridge. It was a fairly cold morning, threatening rain, so the scene had a wintry appearance. That didn’t stop the crowds though, and we shared the bridge with lots of other walkers.

Photographing from the bridge I made a conscious decision to not make “that photograph” of the cables leading up to the towers. Instead I looked to subjects that included the cables and other elements of the bridge structure either as the primary subject or as part of the setting for other subjects. I decided to “play” a bit in post with this photograph. One way to stretch post-processing skills is to think about how to replicate effects that we see in the work of other photographers. This isn’t about imitating them — it is about trying to broaden one’s skills as a photographer. In this case, I went towards (but not all the way to) a kind of processing that I see in some currently popular urban and architectural photography… and I learned a few things by doing so.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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Fire Escape, Shadows

Fire Escape, Shadows
Shadows from a fire escape fall across the front of a San Francisco building

Fire Escape, Shadows. San Francisco, California. September 5, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Shadows from a fire escape fall across the front of a San Francisco building

I made this photograph late in the day back in early September, on a street photography shoot with a group of like-minded folks in San Francisco. We met in the late afternoon, wandered about for a while in the beautiful late-day light, then broke for dinner before going back out to photograph after dark.

One one hand, you could probably find a similar scene in many other cities. On the other hand, it also evokes the architecture of San Francisco, where buildings are packed tightly together, often with seemingly little regard for their aesthetic appearance when viewed from the street — with the result being very utilitarian facades, often featuring metal gates, fire escapes, and sometimes a worn and weathered appearance. This street runs almost directly east-west, so late in the day the sunlight was falling across the front of the building at a low angle and casting strong shadows.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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Exit, Yellow Doors, Blue Windows

Exit, Yellow Doors, Blue Windows
Exit sign above doors to outside area illuminated by dusk light

Exit, Yellow Doors, Blue Windows. Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, Vallejo, California. November 7, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Exit sign above doors to outside area illuminated by dusk light

After meeting up with my fellow night photographers (associated with The Nocturnes, the long-standing San Francisco night photography community) to share photographs and pizza, we all got ready to head out into the night as darkness came on. After the social time I began to get myself into the rather different frame of mind necessary to photographing this subject. Before I even left the building I began to look around inside, and I decided to walk slowly into some corners of this facility that I had not looked at before. As I did I found myself in a bit of a dead-end spot where this door, lit by indoor artificial lighting, let to the developing twilight on the other side.

I associate a number of things with photographing at night. Of course, subjects often take on a very different appearance at night, and rather prosaic subjects can acquire a feeling of mystery. In practical terms, I’m absolutely fascinated by this world that is illuminated by lighting that is far more varied than what we typically see in daylight. Rather that more or less one kind of lighting, there could be many — the blues of twilight, the daylight-like color balance of moonlight, the wild colors of artificial light from tungsten, sodium vapor, fluorescent and other kinds of light. But beyond all of that, I associate the sense of profound stillness and quite with this kind of photography, where I frequently stand alone in dark and quiet places for many minutes as I wait for exposures to complete.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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Reflections, Shadows, Bridge, and Sky

Reflections, Shadows, Bridge, and Sky
Industrial buildings covered with shadows and reflections, clouds moving across the night sky.

Reflections, Shadows, Bridge, and Sky. Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, Vallejo, California. November 7, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Industrial buildings covered with shadows and reflections, clouds moving across the night sky.

On my recent nighttime visit to the historic Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, where I again made night photographs with a group of like-minded photographers, I decided to forego some of the more familiar subjects and instead poke around in some dark corners of the place. I began by spending nearly an hour photograph an odd little area of concrete structures at the base of a long stairway, and once I finished there it only seemed right to walk up those stairs and find out where they led. This took me to what seemed like an old parking area behind some abandoned buildings — though it is sometimes hard to tell in the inky darkness. I could tell that there was a lot of debris in this lot, so I stepped around it carefully as I explored this blocky building that was painted by light and shadow from its surroundings in interesting ways.

Much of this light was virtually invisible to me, but it is a combination of light from close and far artificial light sources, the shadows of trees and other structures, and the well-defined shapes of windows through which more distant light shines. Overhead there is a covered walkway between larger buildings, and the darker form of one of them is visible at the lower left. Clouds were moving across the sky, and their shapes blurred during the long exposure.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Architectural Shapes

Architectural Shapes
Intersecting walls, San Francisco architecture

Architectural Shapes. San Francisco, California. August 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Intersecting walls, San Francisco architecture

I saw this little architectural vignette when I took an impromptu side trip up a set of stairs while walking around downtown San Francisco. I’ve been to and photographed the general location — near Moscone Center — in the past, but that wasn’t my plan this time. Near the top of the stairs I happened to notice a bit of wall with a combination of soft colors and hard angles. The colors were the first focus of my attention, but as I looked at the scene more closely I noticed that squares are everywhere, small and large and interlocking with one another.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Colin P. Kelley

Colin P. Kelley
Stark light on an old building on Colin P. Kelly Street, San Francisco

Colin P. Kelley. San Francisco, California. August 14, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Stark light on an old building on Colin P. Kelly Street, San Francisco

Most often when I go out to make photographs I do not have extremely specific ideas about my subject or even about how I will photograph the subjects I encounter. Usually, and especially with street photography, it is more a matter of tuning in to my surroundings and essentially hunting, conspiring to be in places where I think I might find interesting things, paying attention, and being ready to take advantage of whatever opportunities arise. On the other hand, I often do have some general ideas about the sorts of things that might interest me, and on my way to this morning on San Francisco streets I had specifically thought about a sort of image that might be black and white and which might use rather stark light a bit later in the morning — so when I saw this building on a corner near the train station I didn’t hesitate to photograph it.

What about the name of this photograph? It was simply a practical matter. I usually do not like to name photographs in ways that tell the viewer how to think of the photograph — most often I feel that if the photograph has anything to say to the viewer, the viewer should be allowed to figure that out from the visual content. (Yes, there are some exceptions.) So in this case the choice to use the words on the street sign near the right side of the frame was simply a practical decision… especially since I forgot to look for any other name on the building! However, I did wonder who Colin P. Kelley is/was. Most likely the street is named after a man known for being “one of the first American heroes of the war [who sacrificed] his own life to save his crew” in World War II. (There are lots of interesting little San Francisco streets with unusual and surprising naming histories like this.)


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.