Architecture has become an urban photographer’s art gallery. Different styles, with their lines, forms and colours, dominate the city landscape, and become muses for everyone’s representation.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 17mm | 6secs – 1.6secs | f/10 | ISO 100

The photo was combined from three exposures

Calvin Seah, who has been drawn to these buildings and treating them as sculptures and subjects, creates dramatic stories with his takes that go beyond simple beauty. We speak with him to find out his approach and what sort of styles he likes best.

Calvin stands at the lobby of Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel, drawn by the unobstructed view from the large windows.

Hello Calvin! You’ve been taking a lot of travel pictures recently, but we understand you began with product and event photography, then found your stride in architecture and interior photography. Even now, architecture seems to be a big subject in your travel shots. Tell us about how you began.

I’ve always had an interest in creating beautiful things as a child. Just like pen and paper, a camera became a tool to help me achieve that when I got my Canon film camera in 2000. I became professional when the chance arrived, with product and event photography. Then I started photographing landscapes and architecture when I began travelling more often, as they are easily identifiable subjects to locations I’ve visited.

Canon EOS M6 | Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM | 15mm | 1/100secs – 1/400secs | f/9 | ISO 100

The photo was combined from three exposures

What about architecture photography inspires you so much?

I see architecture as art. The people that conceptualised the look, the purpose, the designs, plus the ideas and work that went into it at such scale makes it truly a giant piece of artwork! And even though architecture is stationary, how it can be portrayed isn’t. It can be depicted very differently from person to person.

Canon EOS 6D | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 0.4secs – 1/6secs | f/5.6 | ISO 4000

The photo was combined from three exposures.

When it comes to taking buildings, what do you think is the best approach? Is it better to represent it accurately, to bring out its beauty, or give an interesting viewpoint?

My approach has always been to capture how the scene feels to me – how it’s ‘talking’ to me. You will find that not all of my photos are colourful or vibrant. Sometimes it can be moody or cold because that’s what the scene was telling me at that moment.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 1/15secs – 1/1600secs | f/10 | ISO 200

The photo was combined from three exposures

How much planning goes into your architecture and interior shots?

Plenty, most of the time. I will research its history sometimes, check out how other photographers approach them, and also the best time of the day with regards to the weather and position of the sun. It could take me many hours, and sometimes days, to prepare.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 1/4secs – 1/40secs | f/9 | ISO 800

The photo was combined from three exposures

Tell us a little about how you work with lighting when taking architecture photography.

Lighting is very important in architecture photography, so I take it quite seriously. I like to capture them during the golden hour and blue hour, as it’s where the sky is at its most interesting and beautiful. Sometimes, I also like how the lighting on the building gives it another layer of textures at night.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 380secs – 10secs | f/16 | ISO 100

The photo was combined from five exposures

What sort of camera do you prefer to use with this genre?

I used to pick my Canon 6D, but nowadays it’s my Canon 5DS as it gives me tons of details! Also, I don’t have to worry much about dust and water elements while I’m out shooting, thanks to its robust weather-sealing.

Canon EOS 40D | Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM | 28mm I 1/100secs | f/13 I ISO 100

Could you tell us a little about your gear must-haves when going out for an architectural shoot?

A wide-angle lens 99% of the time, while the other 1% can be a telephoto lens when I want to portray a scene differently, or due to limitations in vantage point. A sturdy tripod and tripod head is a must, especially when shooting in low-light conditions. It also helps when I need to do bracketing shots. A camera remote shutter release is also pretty important to prevent camera shake, although one can also utilise the timer function of the camera. Lastly, a polarising filter to take out the glare on glass or shiny surfaces, and bring out details and textures that could have otherwise been hidden.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 1/13secs – 1/100secs | f/6.3 I ISO 1000

The photo was combined from three exposures

What’s the biggest challenge in architecture photography?

It has to be environmental lights. It’s one of the most important elements but also can’t be controlled by the photographer.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 1/160secs – 1/1000secs | f/13 | ISO 200

The photo was combined from three exposures

What are some things that people may not know about architectural photography?

It seems static but is actually just as challenging and interesting as other genres.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 27mm | 13secs – 30secs | f/13 | ISO 100

The photo was combined from three exposures

Between old-world and new-millennia, what sort of architectural design do you prefer? And is there a particular style that draws you?

I have no preference at all. To me, the story behind each architecture and the story I feel when I photograph them is more important.

There’s never been a particular style I fancy, but recently during my trip to Poland, I started to appreciate gothic-style architecture – they look so amazing in person! I even made an effort to wake up at 4am at one point just to experience the medieval city of Kraków all to myself!

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 1secs – 1/20secs | f/13 | ISO 100

The photo was combined from five exposures

Is there an architect’s work, or a dream building you wish to capture that you haven’t?

It used to be the Tokyo Skytree until last year. My next target is now Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Its height makes it quite a challenge to photograph! The elegant Kintaikyo Bridge in Japan is also high on my list, although technically it is not considered an architecture.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 23mm | 1/80secs – 1/200secs | f/10 | ISO 640

The photo was combined from two exposures

What building have you captured during your travels are you most proud of?

It has to be the Tokyo Skytree that I managed to capture last year. I got a glimpse of the architecture back in 2012 during my trip to Japan in Odaiba. It was so far away, yet remained so impressive as it stands so tall against the Tokyo skyline. It wasn’t open to the public back then and it was another five years before I finally got to see it up close. It certainly didn’t disappoint me with its very impressive design.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF 16-35 f/4L USM I 16mm I 25secs – 10secs | f/16 I ISO 400

The photo was combined from three exposures

What is your favourite building in Singapore to shoot, and why?

Marina Bay Sands! I had to wake up so many times in the early morning just to arrive before sunrise to get that sunrise shot! I particularly like that architecture because I love how calm the Marina Bay area feels in the morning, and then have Marina Bay Sands standing out from that.

Canon EOS 6D | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 8secs – 2secs | f/11 | ISO 100

The photo was combined from three exposures

Do you think your background in graphic design helped you with having an eye for achieving your stunning shots?

It might have helped a little as that’s where I learned the psychological effects of colour, and that’s one of the elements that controls how a photo feels.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 35mm | 1/20secs – 1/125secs | f/11 | ISO 400

The photo was combined from three exposures

For newbies, what sort of advice do you have for them to kick-start a good collection of architecture photography?

For a start, look at good architecture photographs. Find out why they work and add that to what you have learned in your own photography. Keep shooting and don’t be afraid that you might create bad work; that’s where you learn how to create good ones. Lastly, inject your own taste and personality into your photo over time to create your own unique style.

Canon EOS 5DS | Canon EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM | 16mm | 1/160secs – 1/640secs | f/10 | ISO 200

The photo was combined from three exposures

Calvin continues to explore the dynamism of architecture through his photographs. You can see his works on his Instagram, but don’t forget to tag #canonsg during your own experimentation!

comments
(0)

or to post comments