The subject of this image is a local landmark in the North Davidson historic district. NoDa Storage (for North Davidson) is one of a very few examples of Art Deco architecture in the greater Charlotte North Carolina area. It’s a cool piece of work though, very well maintained. The problem is that it’s a total bitch to photograph.
Every town has it’s own historical landmarks. The city where I live is not particularly old, nor is it a place where a lot of historically important moments have taken place. And so far as architecture is concerned, not exactly a hotbed of creative work in that field either. A lot of towns and small cities are in the same boat, but that fact doesn’t mean that there aren’t subjects to photograph which are important in terms of local history. Some of these bits of local history will be a dream to photograph. Some not so much.
The issues with NoDa Storage start with it’s being in a semi-urban / semi-industrial area. Zero attempt at beautification in this part of town. Some individual buildings are nicely finished, but the overall landscape is not new enough or old enough to be interesting in itself. The street runs northeast to southwest and is only moderately busy. Plenty of telephone and utility poles to make things a little more difficult. The bottom line is that there are limited choices to get a reasonable background and lighting.
I got over there at 5:30 on a weekday morning, hoping to get some color in the sky. The problem was that the morning sun was just at the edge of the frame. That means light diffusion from the back lighting which lowers the contrast. All that can be done is to find an angle where the internal lens reflections are minimized. There is also a huge exposure range to deal with. I have to admit that this one took quite of bit of post processing effort to get right. With only a single exposure to work with, it’s a matter of making adjustments in baby steps. Take a little luminosity out of the sky, pull the shadows up a bit. Make a duplicate layer in ‘Soft Light’ mode, which increases the contrast. That makes the sky overexposed again, so pull the luminosity back down a notch, increase the saturation a tiny bit, and fine tune the contrast curve. You can’t do everything in one step. For me the method is to have the final image in your mind, and take small steps to get there. Eventually I wound up with 3 separate 16-bit TIF files that looked pretty good. My process is to look at those as large thumbnails. It’s about the overall tone, color and contrast. I don’t want to get lost in the details. When I view the file at the typical desktop monitor display size, it’s harder to see the subtle differences between the various versions. I find that when I look at the big thumbnails side by side, there is always one with a bit to much saturation, or where the contrast is weak. Viewed together the overall tonal quality is much more obvious. Much easier to decide which one is the keeper.