[Editor's Note: We're taking a short break to do some system upgrades, site improvements and so on. While we're away, we thought you'd like this republished article that you might have missed, or perhaps you would like to read again. This article was originally published on January 18, 2010.]
This fine specimen is a photograph from Ken Cadel, titled Deep End. Ken practices some of my favorite kind of photography: The architectural photography of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. I’ll admit, I have been following Ken’s work for a while now, and I invited him to share this photograph with the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group. He was of course kind enough to share it with all of us.
What we have here is a dry indoor pool. The tiles are falling off the walls, the grout has long since turned grimy. And then there’s a desk in the bottom of the pool. I don’t know if Ken brought the seat into the pool, or if it was already there. However it ended up there, it’s a brilliant subject – for the deep end of a dry pool.
Compositionally, we have several great examples of the compositional building blocks: Line, pattern, texture. The rafters in the ceiling suggest a frame within the frame, and the vanishing point of the lines at the edge of the pool – which is more apparent since the edge is above the eye – the gray door at the back wall could almost be a viable subject. The desk provides a much more interesting subject, of course. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this shot is the political statement that Ken makes with this photo:
“Some might consider this the current state of the education system in Detroit Public Schools. Me; I have no idea really. I will say this, the amount of wasted equipment, supplies and resources encountered at this location was staggering.”
I am once again reminded at the power that we have as photographers.
I have only recently discovered that this shot is an HDR composition. I don’t claim to be an HDR expert, but one of the things I typically dislike about the style is that it can look so unnatural and cartoon-like. Ken’s stylings in HDR do not suffer that fate. The trick must be the same as any post-processing effect: Everything in moderation. It wasn’t until I saw this image that I understoodd the real purpose for HDR: Pulling detail out of high-contrast areas such as are likely the conditions of this room. I highly doubt there was much in the way of light in this room. Sure, there is a skylight, but the shadows would still be extremely dark. HDR seems to be the natural choice to make this room look like it’s well lit without losing detail in the brighter areas.
If you follow the link to view Deep End at Flickr, you will probably notice that the photo I have featured here is not the same as the one shown. The version I show at the top of the post is an alternate crop that Ken provided in response to his photo. The original crop is shown here at right. I will admit that I like the alternate version better. I think the tighter crop – which eliminates a lot of the dead space between the lens and the chair – loses impact. With a wide angle lens, it’s best if you have something in the foreground. Place them too far into the photo, and things tend to seem insignificant. Tightening the crop for this photo just makes the chair pop. Now, of course, everything has a purpose – and under a different context, the wider crop is appropriate. Considering the potential political comment that this photo makes, leaving some space at the bottom is a great place to add some commentary and turn the shot into a poster.
Ken has done a wonderful job with this photo. But please don’t stop at this one photo. I would highly recommend that if you’re a fan of urban decay photography, or if you’re a fan of HDR, you should make a point to check out Ken’s Photostream. You will not be disappointed.