The beauty is in the detail
Bewitched by beautiful buildings, Allan Mena talks to AP about telling your own story through pictures
allan mena talks to aP about his architectural photography
What appeals to you the most about architecture?
All my family members are architects, so the passion for architecture is in my blood. I love to seek out patterns, lines, textures and minimal shapes. I feel a sense of satisfaction when I take a picture and people can’t quite tell what it’s of, but they love it anyway.
When did you first take up photography?
I bought my first camera (a Canon EOS 70D) in 2016, just before going on holiday to Asia. Since then I have been posting my pictures online and have received very positive feedback. This boost from friends and family has encouraged me to dig deeper and take my photography further.
What is your preferred method of learning?
I attended a two-day photography workshop at university, but I learn new techniques from magazines like and watching tutorials online. Amateur Photographer,
What should photographers consider when shooting architecture?
Find your perspective: Use the lines, shapes, patterns and designs of a building to tell your story. Where relevant, keep lines vertical and perpendicular to the horizon.
Do your research. Use Google, Flickr or Instagram to look at how a building or piece of architecture has been photographed before. I look at about 100 different pictures before visiting a location, so I know what to expect. Some buildings are closed to the public, so I sometimes contact photographers to seek their advice about access. Once I am on site, I try to take a picture that I haven’t seen before.
If you want your work to stand out from the crowd you need to invest in decent equipment. The best lenses for architecture are tilt-shift or wideangle lenses, which can be expensive, but there are some wideangle lenses on the market that will do the job for less of an outlay. If money is no object I would also recommend adding a drone to your kit bag.
Take your time. With architecture there are many surfaces and materials that react differently to light and climate. You don’t always need
a clear sunny day to get a striking shot – stormy and cloudy days can help create drama. Once on site, take your time and explore the area around the building as well as the building itself. Observe how the light and shadows affect the composition.
Look for the beauty in the details – when it comes to architecture everything is there for a reason. Search out small details. Look at the ceiling, windows, staircases, shadows, lights, and so on.
How do you seek permission to shoot individual buildings?
It varies, but once I’ve found a building I’m interested in I tend to make myself known once I am there. I explain to everyone that I am taking photographs for my personal use, and most of the time people will say ‘go for it, but be quick.’ To photograph a private building, I will send an email or telephone the appropriate person for permission.
What are the obstacles in architectural photography?
Obtaining permission; the best perspectives are found sometimes on, or inside, private property, which would require special permission.
Also buying gear. Equipment for shooting architecture can be expensive. Ideally you need a DSLR, tilt-shift, wideangle, and fisheye lens; a tripod and some lighting equipment.
Be aware of forbidden gear. Generally, when you’re shooting inside a museum or public building you won’t be allowed to use a tripod, Speedlite or drone.
What has been your most memorable shoot so far?
I love the architecture of Zaha Hadid and Santiago Calatrava Valls. When I see work by these architects I am always amazed by the level of perfection.
What equipment are you currently using?
I use a Canon EOS 70D; Canon 10-18mm, 16-35mm and 18-135mm lenses; and Opteka 6.5mm f/3.5 HD Aspherical Fisheye lens. I also have a GoPro and a DJI Mavic Air drone. If I could, I’d buy an EOS 5D Mark IV and TS-E 17mm and 11-24mm lenses.
What would be your dream assignment?
I would love to travel with my wife, discovering new places and helping others in some way.
Allan spotted this skyscraper as he came out of a Metro Station in Hong Kong
Looking up at the Axel Towers in Copenhagen, Denmark
This staircase is located on the upper part of CaixaForum in Madrid. It’s covered in a steel shell decorated with panels of different shapes
A unique perspective of Hong Kong’s Innovation Tower by Zaha Hadid
Allan looked at many pictures of Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris, before composing his own unique image