Not photographing people

We’ve had fabulous weather in Brussels this week, frosty and clear with low winter sun creating one long ‘golden hour’ from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon. I’ve used it to do something I haven’t done in ages — take pictures of buildings. I’ve criss-crossed the city by bus and tram and on foot, and have really enjoyed myself. It’s amazing how exhilarating it is to look at fresh subject matter, entirely different from what you usually shoot.

A couple of weeks ago I received a commission for four large mounted and framed prints of buildings in Brussels as decoration for a client’s office. I asked my client for feedback on about 20 images from my catalogue in order to get a sense of what she was after. This turned out to be architectural studies without any dominant human presence. Apart from that she was very open — whole buildings or details, art nouveau, art deco, modern, post-modern…

I don’t like using a tripod — it makes the tiny last-minute changes in position that determine the angle and framing of each shot almost impossible. So I was shooting hand-held, mostly with a 135mm f/2.0 Nikkor, which is a lovely lens but lacks image stabilisation (or ‘vibration reduction’ in Nikonese). And since I knew that some of the photos would be printed at 90 x 60cm I used my Nikon D810’s base ISO of 64, which always produces a startling leap in resolution and dynamic range by comparison even with ISO 100. Happily, the day was bright enough that I could shoot almost everything at 1/250 sec or above.

Of course, I couldn’t resist the temptation to include people in a few of the photographs I took. How many can you spot?