Photoessay: Slices of architecture, San Francisco

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Today’s photoessay is about the details: those little interactions of texture, light and form that suggest identity. I find myself inexplicably drawn to these things when I’m in a city; perhaps because in some way they contain they are the observable and comprehendible essence of a place. An entire city is too much to process and consciously describe at once; but the details are how our brains subconsciously look for visual cues to our physical locations. San Francisco is full of these – from the fire escapes, to the reflected landmarks (of which there are many to begin with) and the colours and quality of light.

This series was shot almost entirely with a Pentax 645Z.

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  1. Just read your D810 long term review and it is obvious the the look of your images have more to do with your pp than with the question which camera you shoot. I am looking for a nice camera for architecture and landscape work and wonder what the Pentax gives to you what the Nikon does not. Thanks.

    • You can’t PP what isn’t there to begin with.

      Pentax will give you cleaner high ISO and more resolution.

      • Of course not. But in this case it seems that both cameras give almost identical raw material and a difference in pp would make a much greater difference in the final output. at least when checking the images on my 27″ iMac 😉
        Higher resolution does not mean much because both cameras have plenty. That might be different when you want to print but it does not show on screen. Cleaner high ISO might be a good reason but not enough reason for what i shoot. I am more interested in base ISO image quality and would have expected medium format would give cleaner results at base compared to ff cameras. Resolution aside color and dymamic range are important for me . I think you wrote that there is not much of a difference in DR between the two cameras. Is the Pentax visible cleaner at base Iso or would you say color is better ? It seems i could as well go with the Nikon and would get same results. But i only see jpegs on my monitor and the difference of the raw file when worked with in LR or PS might be much greater than it appears. The Pentax body is double the price.

        • You did say previously you want to print large, so I’m assuming extra resolution would be useful.

          Base ISO image quality is pretty much identical. The 645Z has more recoverable DR in the shadows, the 810 in the highlights – personal preference.

          • Thanks Ming. It seems except for the useful extra pixels for printing big there is not much reason to go with a pentax.

  2. I envy your compositional eye! Lovely set. The 3rd from the bottom with the expansive sky, brilliant.

  3. Lucy march says:

    Along the lines of your now several homages to painters in your images, I’d vote for the first image being a Mondrian.

  4. Wonderfully composed shots. The one with the clockbuilding reminds me of the sets from old Murnau silent movies. The graphic clarity is fascinating.

  5. Gary Morris says:

    Great shots! Wonderful detail… crisp and clear. I especially like the shot of the deYoung with some fog around the building. Thanks!

  6. Reminds me of when I used to live there.

  7. Lucy March says:

    The one that stands out for me is of the building that looks like giant ship, plowing through the fog and trees.

  8. Ming..I’ve silently read your blogs and admired your work for almost 18months…these pics are awesome…as a pure amateur my absolute favorite is the space-like scenery of the building and trees in the mist…thanks!! Where is that?

  9. I second Ian .. that image is one of a million to see. Love the tonality. The textures and the clean composition. It’s one of *those* images I will remember for years to come 🙂

  10. Love the tonality, lines, and extreme compression of the first clock tower# shot….has a very art deco print feel to it

  11. Really nice images. A good reminder of the lessons from Sunday 🙂

  12. My votes are for the fantastic clock tower (3rd pic 64Z3605) and the “840 awning” details and mood in that one. I am onboard with your comments about a city’s details. I love LA but SFO’s hills & proximity to the sea make it a bit more special from the view finder.

  13. Very nice lines and shadows in the stair images.

  14. These are incredibly beautiful photographs! You make the buildings as beautiful as your finely woven trees.

  15. Wonderful images Ming! I like the detail shots and of course San Francisco. The shadows are very strong.

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