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Architectural Photography with Andreas Bildgestalter

Andreas Bildgestalter is one of those amateur photographers whose talent is outstanding and should be showcased widely in the photography world. iLHP is constantly on the lookout to find new talents and showcase professionals as well as amateurs who produce constantly breathtaking pictures. Andreas is one of them in his field: Architecture. His world is made of straight lines, tight curves and with a lot of purity. Let’s discover together his philosophy. Don’t miss out the link below to the “making of” of his most rewarded photograph!

iLHP: First of all, thank you very much Andreas for taking the time to answer to our questions. How long have you been into photography?

Andreas: I’m into photography since the beginning of 2011. I’ve been interested in photography before but never really jumped in it until then. I did shoot with a small digital camera during vacations though, and I bought my first digital reflex camera, which was a NIKON D90.

Meet

iLHP: How old are you if I may ask and where do you live?

Andreas: I’m 50 years old and I live in Gelsenkirchen which is a town in the Ruhrarea in West-Germany. It’s quite a good and central location to reach a lot of places around which are interesting for me.

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iLHP: Did you learn by yourself or through photography schools?

Andreas: I’ve never visited a photography school so far. Everything I learnt is based on self-studying with books, online and offline tutorials and a lot of practice and work. Study and practice in small units is, in my opinion, the most effective way to learn and to get better step by step. A lot of people try to learn too much things in parallel which wastes power scattered into too much topics at the same time.

Cope Study I

iLHP: I agree with you. And what’s your equipment? Do you use any particular accessory? Which one would you keep if you could only keep one of them?

Andreas: I’m currently using a Canon 5D Mark III for my shots. Most of my architecture pictures are taken with a 17-40mm wide-angle lens from Canon as well. I’m using Camera Lantern as a firmware replacement for my HDR or longtime exposure shots.

Two other important accessories are a polarizer filter to avoid reflections and to steer the light of the sun and a ND pro filter set from Formatt Hitech with 3,6 and 10 stops.

I would keep the Formatt Hitech set to being able to shot long time exposures. A piece of hardware I would really miss if I couldn’t have it any longer.

Cope Study II

iLHP: Have you been published? Any exhibitions? Awards?

Andreas: A lot of my pictures where published on 1x.com and some on pentaprism.com as well. One of my pictures, called Dark #03# ( here you’ll find this famous picture and the making of!), was selected by 500px as one of the best B/W pictures of 2014. Two of my pictures where finalists at HIPA competition 2014.  So, I did it somehow without being very focused on that. However, one of my objectives for this year is to participate to some more competitions which are prestigious like IPA and PX3 for example.

Cut

iLHP: Very impressive and Congratulations! Are you still amateur or have you jumped into the professional world?

Andreas: Thank you. Photographing is still a hobby and I do not have any plan to jump into professional world currently. It’s more or less an area to do things that are not related to my job which is IT project management. That allows me to relax and to be creative in another area somehow.

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iLHP: What made you come to photography? What does photography mean to you?

Andreas: I have a colleague who’s specialized in the area of taking photos during the blue (Don’t miss any more the blue hour by following this link)  hour and that was the first situation where I got much more curious in photography during 2010. That was the milestone when I decided to buy a better digital camera which I did by the end of 2010 with the Nikon D90, that’s when the journey had started. The first step was to get into the details how to master the camera and not to be in the situation in which the camera guides you 😉 . That was the first goal. Afterward I started to take my first HDR pictures, to focus on blue hour pictures and to develop them afterwards in Lightroom and Photoshop. This was a difficult process not to get lost into all of these different stages, hardware and software issues and so on but it went somehow good from my perspective.

But it did not take so much time where my interest into architecture inflamed by visiting the interesting places here in Ruhr Area. Therefore I focused more or less into this by taking architecture shots and to develop my skills in that area not only by taking the shots itself and to develop an eye on shooting interesting RAW pictures but also into doing the post processing process in Lightroom and Photoshop. That led to the decision to upgrade to a full format camera which is a Canon 5D Mark III which I’m still using until now and from the beginning in 2012.

On the first-hand, photography, especially in the area of Architecture, is the possibility to give buildings, cityscapes, etc. a soul somehow by developing them in the direction which is in your mind during shooting them. It’s a long process which a photograph has to develop by itself to find its own style in a way but not only this but also to focus on things like composition, line direction, picture language and so on. On the second-hand it leads you to visit a lot of places you might have never been to if you wouldn’t have this passion. It’s the possibility to discover your area, where you live in and to engage in. Not only close but also to a wider extent.

Finally, it’s a good way to meet a lot of interesting people in real life and also virtual (referring to our Paradox Architecture project on Facebook).

And at the end it’s also sometimes a good idea to improve your health because you have to walk a lot to reach all this amazing places and buildings. :-)

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Dark #3#, Andreas’ most rewarded picture. Here’s the “making of”.

 iLHP: I see, but what does interest/inspire you the most? Which photography field? And do you have any favorite subject(s)?

Andreas: The most inspiring thing which drives me is to discover things that are not visible in real or which are not quit possible in reality by looking at them at the moment. What does this mean with respect to architecture for example?

Digital photographing and post processing open up such new and amazing possibilities to develop your own ideas which was not possible in the past in area of analog time frame or only with a lot of effort. Here are some examples

  • Long time exposure
  • Paint with shadows and light
  • Use of luminosity masks
  • Combine different images to create one in the end

My interests are more or less focused on architecture, landscape and lost places at the moment which does not mean that I will not do other things in the future. Portrait photography, especially the ones taken by Alexia Sinclair really inspires me. The second thing which I would like to deal with is astronomy photography and time lapses. So stay tuned, may be more will come.

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iLHP: Can’t wait to see what you’ll be able to achieve! So how do you prepare a shooting session?

Andreas: This is based on my principle, where the first P’s, Plan is relevant.

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The first P, “Plan”:

  • Find a location by checking the picture search of Google or WAM (World architecture map) if you have a special target city in mind
    It is also possible to search on favorite picture sides, like 1x.com in the needed sub folder like architecture
  • Check weather and light situation as well, with The Photographer’s Emphemeris
  • Check the location by using Google Earth
  • Check if a permission is needed to shoot, especially if you have to travel far
  • Check if you’re all set, like loaded batteries, a clean sensor, enough SD cards, clean lenses and filters and so on.
  • Make sure you have a lamp (with full batteries) if you would like to shoot during night.
  • Is the mobile charged and does someone know where you are?
  • Proper clothes prepared?

Check if you have it all with you before you start (lenses, SD cards IN your camera, something to drink and eat, etc.()

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iLHP: You have a very unique style, mostly minimalist. It’s soft but very contrasted at the same time. Your photographs are obviously most of the time very long exposures but what do you usually do in post-processing? We would like to understand how you get so minimalist and neat pictures?

Andreas: When I started to work with Lightroom and Photoshop I was quit unorganized like many other beginners I assume. What could I do next, before and after the process that led to somehow unexpected results and that annoyed me a lot? Therefore I decided, I think back in 2014, to divide my workflow into different steps which could sometimes be used individually or as a step by step approach. Here is one example:

  1. Perspective and clean
  2. Color
  3. Contrast
  4. Creative (Filter)
  5. Final

But the process to get minimalist and neat pictures begins while you shoot. I’m focusing into getting the correct frame when I shoot. This saves a lot of work regarding transforming the picture afterwards. One other element in my workflow, which I was already using very often in the beginning of 2014, are luminosity masks which is a very great technique to influence the picture style.

Into-Light

iLHP: Have you been influenced by some photographers, either around you or famous ones?

Andreas: There are a lot of photographers but also some architects which have/do influence me. I want to mention some of them:

Colored-#01#

iLHP: You said you prepare your photo shoot and travel but do you actually travel a lot? How do you choose your locations? Where are they, usually?

Andreas: Yes I do! I try to combine private traveling with visiting interesting places where I can shoot something. If you make holidays in Austria for example you can make a stop in between in Munich to shoot some underground stations. Another source is the other pictures on the internet. Then I search where the location is if it is interesting and it goes to my wish list.
On the other hand there are so much objects around where I live that this is not difficult to find targets to visit. The Ruhr area or the Netherland are full of great architecture buildings.
Due to the fact that I visit my parents in law very often, Frankfurt with its fantastic skyline is also only a small step away.

Prinz Claus Brug Study I

iLHP: What is your next project? And do you have techniques you still want to explore?

Andreas: I started a project last week which is the Paradox Architecture page on Facebook where a team of 5 curators including me, try to find the best architecture shots there.

Two other things which are in my mind and where I would like to start a project on are first of all time-lapses and secondly to do video shots with a drone.

A technique which I would like to start on to be more flexible regarding bracketing shots is the manual dynamic exposure blending method.

Through

iLHP: Do you have any tips for beginners or amateurs who want to start architectural photography, besides practicing a lot? 😉

Andreas: There is a lot and this is an excerpt out of them:

  • Start small, think big, which means try to improve your skills in small steps but try also to reach your bigger objective (which should be defined)
  • Learn from other photographs but try to find your own style
  • Learn to handle your camera somehow “blinded” which gives you more potential to concentrate more on the picture you take
  • Explore a building before you start to shot to get a feeling what it is and what possibilities it gives you for different shots
  • Light and shadows are your friend in area of architecture photographing which means if it is very cloudy or it rains it does not make sense to shoot (Excepted you need these conditions for a special shot you’ve planned). Stay at home and try to improve your techniques otherwise.
  • Don’t give up getting better, everyone has started with first tries.

iLHP: So much to start with! Thank you so much Andreas for this detailed interview! I think you should give lessons in the Ruhr area! :-)

Andreas: Thank you Chris for inviting me and showcasing me pictures and experience here on iLHP!

Don’t forget to follow Andreas on his several galleries: Website1x.com, 500px, Facebook or even Instagram

Chris