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“Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place … I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” - Elliott Erwitt


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Welcome to the iPhotographMagic Melbourne Architectural Workshop with
Robert Dettman B Arch AFIAP AAPS CABSb SAPS

I’m looking forward to a fun photography weekend in what is perhaps Australia’s premier city for innovative, progressive contemporary architecture. The workshop will only be a start. I hope it will inspire you to grow a deeper interest in architectural photography and develop your own style of “seeing” and post processing.

I dare say that in addition to the program outlined here there will be opportunities for good food, good wine, good cheer and good conversation. ;-)


May 18 Saturday Morning

Getting to know you. I would like to understand where each participant is in their photography journey. I will then talk about some theory and suggestions for working in the field where, in this first day’s location, we will meet the challenge of looking for compositions where densely packed, tall buildings are crowded into the street scape. We will be practicing Elliott Erwitt’s observation, “it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them”.

Saturday Afternoon

We will move to another location where there is more space around the buildings and the opportunity for another approach to photographing architecture. An assignment will be set with a follow up discussion and feedback. Then, in preparation for the evening shoot there will be an introduction to the specialised but rewarding subject of architectural photography at night.

Saturday Evening

We will start about sun set at a selected building and prepare for photographing in the blue hour. The group will practice the craft under Robert’s guidance. After that we can move onto other buildings either as a group or individually. For this exercise a tripod is essential.

May 19 Sunday Morning

This is a time to practice what we have done to date and expand our “seeing” skills to include all categories including building portraits, architectural street, patterns, details and whatever creative interpretations fertile minds can come up with. Specifically we will learn how to take a wide angle shot without a wide angle lens and, for those with a neutral density filter, experiment with long exposures to understand the effects they can produce.

Sunday Afternoon

I take inspiration from New Zealand photographer, Tony Bridge, who says:

… what do you do, when making an accurate likeness of what is before you is simply … not enough? When your equipment makes it so infernally easy? When you begin to realise that you are saying the same thing as everybody else? When you finally come to trust your own voice and heart and journey and, well, nothing else really matters?  You really don’t give a shit, because you are deep into a conversation that only you seem to be aware of. You realise there isn’t a room in the mansion for you, that there is no one to talk to. As a result, you will have to talk to yourself. Or build your own mansion.

So, you set sail and eventually end up walking the gangplank you were always seeking.

Then it dawns on you, some way out, that in fact, the gangplank has no end, and that although you can’t see the end, it doesn’t really matter.

Over a period of years I realised that my goal should be to develop a personal style, voice or expression. Exploring that path means that many of the conventional ideas and rules of “good” photography are only limitations that lead to the realisation that all the “good” photos look the same.

Look the same? How can that be? Clearly they are all different!

OK, so you have made a technically perfect photo of a mountain in great light with a wonderful foreground, fantastic composition, and you’re so happy about it, but really, I’m telling you, it’s just another beautiful picture of a mountain, not fundamentally different to the thousands of other beautiful mountain pictures to be seen on the internet. The fact is, most of the work was done by natural processes and a hi-tech camera. Sure, you turned up at the right time and composed the shot but there is nothing original about that. Every day more than 100 million people do a similar thing and post the result to instagram, so the competition is fierce. Once one’s ego lets one accept that reality, a troubling malaise set in, the only escape from which is to venture out alone, down Tony’s scary gangplank leading to … who knows where?

How to do that? Everyone will have a different answer, but for me, the way I see the subject matter and how I post process the image is fundamental to the answer.

Tony Bridge has updated a famous Ansel Adams quote for the digital era. He says, “The capture is the score and the post-production the performance.” So, in a tutorial format I will demonstrate some of the techniques I use in post processing to create images, some will be like millions of others, but some will be my own interpretation of reality as applied to architectural subjects.

If you would like to read the full article by Tony, it’s here.