Finally, the last blog from my road trip through Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. If my vegetarian and vegan followers will forgive the metaphor, but this is blog is 100% red meat – nothing but architecture, baby – no filler. Actually, you’ll also need to forgive me for the literal interpretation because that’s exactly what I ate a TON of while in Texas. Did I eat unholy fried foods at the Texas State Fair before Big Texas burned down? YES I DID. Did I have Texas barbecue, Freebirds, and Whataburger? You bet. Did I chase that all down with Shiner? Seems only proper.
The speed limit in Texas ROCKS. I don’t even know why they bother posting numbers anymore, they just need to have road signs that claim “SPEED LIMIT: LOL“.
Texas will always have a fond place in my heart. For a place in which I lived only six years, the majority of my close, long friendships are with people who currently reside or used to live in the state. I got to see a slew of them in Dallas, whether they lived in town or happened to be visiting at the same time, some for business and others to witness Texas obliterated by Oklahoma. So I actually didn’t shoot very much, I mostly saw the wonderful people I’ve been blessed with in my life.
Before I get too much further – if you’re reading this right now, you’ve likely been following my two-week long road trip. What? NOOOOOO? Well, the below links will catch you right up!
At the earliest opportunity, I went downtown to the Dallas’ art and museum district – it’s the first time I’ve been there since many of those buildings were under construction. What was the first thing I decided to see?
The Museum Tower condos. Not because it was some cathedral of architecture but the hilariously tragic circumstances of its construction. Adjacent to this middle-finger that resides in the heart of the museum district is the Nasher Sculpture Museum designed by one of my favorites, Renzo Piano. The museum is built into the sloped city block, with a glass roof above illuminating the displays below. Thanks to the glass skin of the Museum Tower, not only is the artwork inside endangered but surrounding landscape and trees.
As the sun began to lower, I experienced firsthand the brightness and heat reflecting of this building. It’s a veritable furnace. If you’re in the Dallas area, there’s no need for a tanning booth – just spend an hour in front of those condos on a nice day.
After cackling in commiseration how commercial developers can pretty much ruin anything if they set their minds to it, I checked out buildings that didn’t exist the last time I came here.
First stop was the Wyly Theatre, designed by another one of my favorites, Rem Koolhaus.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go inside as there were no showings and closed to the public. It’s a shame because I wanted to see the building transform into a robot. Further, the exterior wasn’t lit so I didn’t get to see the architecture and urban landscape to its full impact. Thankfully, Mother Nature saved the day.
Another place I didn’t photograph was across the street at the Winspear opera house, as a matter of bad timing. There were outdoor events, but nothing going inside the theater, so the lights never turned on. The day hours were either too cloudy, or there was too much activity going outside to get relatively clean shots.
One of my very good friends, an architect in Dallas recommended checking out the new Calatrava bridge and Perot Museum of Nature & Science by Morphosis. She was right about the Calatrava Bridge – you kind of wondered if he did the design himself or if he just had an intern do it; it would feel more exciting if I hadn’t seen all of his other work which is much more stunning. I may bother attempting to photograph it when I have more spare time.
The Perot building, under construction, is the first Morphosis design I’ve ever seen closeup. Next trip to Dallas, I’ll be interested in scoping the outside a bit more along with the exterior.
I also returned to a design of another one of my favorite architects (yes, you’re noticing a trend here), Tadao Ando – the Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth. I first visited this building in 2006 in the early throes of pursuing photography as a hobby while still grappling with my Canon 10D, so wanted to see how I’d capture the building today.
Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth (2012)
While on this trip, I got to meet Jason Witherspoon, a Dallas fine-art and architectural photographer. We’re both self-taught, entered photography from different professions, and experienced early success in fine-art; he did it in less than a year and I’m interested in observing how he progresses and grows over the years. We talked shop – business, equipment, prints, digital processing, and of course – the capture. It’s a super-interesting and fun educational experience talking with someone who captures similar subject matter but with a drastically different style and approach to your own. It’s even more fun to shoot with ‘em. He told me about the Irving Convention center which I did not know about. HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BUILDING? It’s a photographer’s playground, so he took me out there.
The above image was captured with my Canon 5D Mark II and 17mm tilt-shift lens. The below image was captured with Jason’s Nikon D800 and 24mm tilt-shift. Now – I do think Canon maintains an advantage over Nikon with their tilt-shifts, but they’re losing ground with their camera bodies. Right now, not only are Nikon’s latest bodies cheaper – they’re straight-up better. Hey, CANON – if you can make a $3200 camera that good, I will buy it, you’ve given me zero reason to upgrade to 5D Mark III, I’d rather just jump to one of your 1D series.
Inside the Frame (2012)
Okay, no more bitching at Canon – this piece of architecture was a great opportunity to do what I love most – manipulate the heck out of presenting a building with wide angles and tight crops.
Heaven’s Gate (2012)
Split Level (2012)
Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup, that was as much fun as it looked like. Maybe next time around I’ll spend more time in the area to some greater detailed exploration for these and other sites.
When I planned this latest trip, I knew I’d hit Memphis and Dallas, but noticed there was this state in-between: Arkansas. What in the world is in THAT state? So I asked my Facebook. After several people suggested driving through without stopping, many friends stepped in to make recommendations, which launched my planning for visiting the northwest part of the state.
After spending a combined 8 days in the region, I traveled enough of northwest Arkansas to fill two blogs worth. I highly recommend checking out this gorgeous state, excepting the town of Harrison and some other outliers – I’ll get to that in the second part. However, to everyone who suggested I simply skip the state, I present you with this very mature response:
Moving on – if you’re a die-hard American conservative or Republican, I realize you’re feeling a bit sensitive post-election, so you may want to skip the first few photographs.
To everyone else, man, the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas is pretty sweet. There’s simply no other presidential library like it, and sustainable at that. I can’t wait to see what the Obama one will eventually look like.
DISCLAIMER: I accept no responsibility if you have to go to the emergency room after reading that – it’s your own fault.
Okay, the rest of you can rejoin the blog narrative now. Usually I’m able to pick out something to document in any city, but Little Rock didn’t inspire me at all. In fact I didn’t take many pictures during the first five days of my trip, so I don’t know if I was just too exhausted, weary of taking photographs, or what; sometimes you just need a break. I also checked out Hot Springs, Arkansas, a city that is an ode to Art Deco. Again, didn’t really take any shots here except these apartments (below) that don’t even fit into the city. I mainly just wanted to see it as a tourist. There’s a nationally historic row of bath houses, most active, that shows how Hot Springs really lived up to its name. I’d love to see this area have some sort of economic revival it could use it.
Got to see the architectural wonder Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs and its metallic knockoff the Cooper Memorial Chapel in Bella Vista. Couldn’t really take pictures at Thorncrown since they have rules about where you can go – though that would’ve been awesome – but at least got to see it in person, which is the important part.
Wal-Mart is headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas and lemme tell you – there are Wal-Marts EVERYWHERE in Arkansas. Driving through Fayetteville, I easily drove past six different Wal-Marts in about 15 minutes; all different types too – it was the first time I had seen Wally World grocery stores. The Walton family fully funded the Crystal Bridges American Art Museum in Bentonville. Pretty neat structures. I’m on vacation, one of the few times I really shoot for leisure, so was a bit bummed out with the poor weather, overall dry conditions that affected the waterfalls, and not being able to capture Thorncrown, particularly at night. At least I had Crystal Bridges, right? During my first visit, security was cool and initially allowed me to take pictures of the outside of the building, but during my second visit security was not so cool (boo, hiss). However, it’s their house, their rules and you have to respect that even if it they seem to be making it up as they go along. So before getting too in the dumps about it, I called it a night – there was no need feeling further frustrated. These are the few captures I managed there though.
Crystal Bridges (2012)
I did much exploring the natural Arkansas landscape and hiking while I was there. While driving between two locations, I stumbled across a sight I’d never seen before at an industrial plant in Russellville. At first glance, I thought it was a slew of palettes, but instead it was an immense field of stacked railroad ties. I was so enthralled with it, I attained permission from the company to shoot photographs there and had conversations with a couple of the men who worked this particular area. At first I thought they’d treat me kinda weird, but I think they could clearly tell I was interested in what they were saying and was more than happy to talk about their jobs. Lemme tell you something, the workers I talked to at this plant LOVE their jobs, LOVE who they worked for, and took obvious immense pride in their work. It turns out this plant is the largest railroad tie manufacturer in the nation. They explained to me how they cut, stacked, and allow the wood to cure before shipping these ties throughout North America. As a railroad fanatic, the kid in me found it to be fascinating.
These are a few more scenes I stumbled across on the many long drives through the Ozarks. There’ll be a few more like this in Part 2!
Arkansas was pretty cool. Most folks very warm, friendly, and accommodating towards me. Had a few quizzical looks at the Yankee hat and camera gear, but whatever. I met a bunch of people, some through Couchsurfing, others while hiking, and had a good conversation with a fellow photog while at Haw Falls. One of those I met tagged along during a morning drive checking out some waterfalls which I’ll get to in the next blog. I ate a ton of great food, but probably not a single vegetable the entire time I was in state.
Of course, there are some cultural oddities that this Jersey boy will never get used to. This safely qualifies as one of them.
The above billboard may not seem weird to anyone in rural areas, but I guarantee you a bunch of people RIGHT NOW are thinking, “REALLLLLLLLLLLLY?” See you in Part 2!
So I recently took a two-week road trip that I will completely present out of order. The first stop is Memphis, TN in which I stopped briefly on the way in and stayed for a weekend on the way back to Carolina. My friend, Jerry Coleman graciously hosted me and it was great to catch up with him and meet his family. Jerry was my TA during my first design studio in architecture school and though we’ve kept in touch, I hadn’t seen him in at least 15 years. He’s been making it with his design firm for the past several years and might I add, doing quite well!
This is Memphis. There’s much about the city I still have to explore, areas I’d like to revisit and some sites I didn’t get to photograph that I hope to in the future when I visit there again. The night life alone Beale street is a little touristy, I’d eventually like to catch it on an “off” night.
Of course, I shot some of the local landmarks such as the Peabody Hotel and Orpheum Theatre. Though photographing the Orpheum wasn’t quite catching lighting-in-a-bottle such as when I took the Chicago Theater, I was geeked with the final result.
The Orpheum (2012)
The industrial vernacular permeates both traditional manufacturing and shipping structures as well as contemporary office buildings. You can see some of that in the alphabet-block design of MIFA and the Bridges Center near downtown (gee, I wonder what the inspiration for BRIDGES was?)
United Equipment (2012)
One of the places I absolutely had to see was the National Civil Rights Museum, in which I had mixed feelings. Having been so directly impacted by the movement to revisit the circumstances in which Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and what it means, to see exactly where it happened, how it’s been preserved/reconstructed, was an emotional experience. On the other hand, I’m going to have to say – it’s a little touristy and the interior of the main museum could use an upgrade. It’s just weird seeing people take family pictures in front of the wreathe, you know? Anyways, this was one shot I took with my cell phone as I was leaving.
The introductory movie in the theater is well worth seeing all 32:44 – it’s interesting how many things have changed, and how much hasn’t. Incredible how many buzzwords and concepts linger strongly in the majority American mindset to this very day.
That’s about it. Just like most of the road trip, I saw more than I actually photographed, which I think is the point of having a real break! It’s just great getting out to see new places, people, and things. Of course, it’s also nice to revisit old favorites, like White Castle.
The architectural centerpiece of Milwaukee is the Milwaukee Art Museum designed by Santiago Calatrava. Calatrava is one of my favorite architects and I wasn’t leaving this part of the country without taking the photos I came for. What kind of sick, twisted mind goes on vacation to shoot architectural photos if he does that for a living?
That’s right baby.
I’m not personally huge on iconic architecture, but I really love this building. The first day was very windy, so I didn’t get to see the museum in its full glory. Still a pretty cool building to look at and it was a nice day, so I captured a few shots that afternoon…
…and at night.
I called it a night, hoping I’d be lucky to see the transformed museum the next day.
The next day was Monday and the museum was closed.
It rained. It snowed. It sleeted. I drove to Madison. I thought Wisconsin drivers knew how to drive in sleet, but I counted at least 9 vehicles stuck in the center ditch on the interstate between Madison and Milwaukee.
Hung out in Madison. There were people protesting something going on out there.
I drove out to Milwaukee again on the way to Chicago. The museum was open BUT IT WAS TOO WINDY AGAIN! Argghh! If I had to stay in the midwest an extra week, that’s what I was going to do.
Stopped by Racine to check out the Johnson Wax building by Wright. Hightailed it to Chicago for a brilliant sunset.
Toured a bit of Chicago in the morning. During lunch, I called the museum and asked if the wings were open. The respondent affirmed that it was.
Heeeeck ya. So I took the 1 3/4 hour trip back to Milwaukee. Why, oh WHY, Sterling would you take THREE separate trips to Milwaukee just to see one piece of architecture?
I went for the wings.
I know, I know – that’s a little obsessive, but if I’m determined to get a certain photograph, I will stay as long and/or keep returning until I exactly what I want. This was my first extended trip through the Midwest and I didn’t know when I was going to return. Architecture and photography are my life. Calatrava is up there on my list of architects and this is one of my favorite buildings in North America. As both a designer and photographer I was not going to miss checking out this museum.
When it comes to vacation, some prefer lying on the beach. This is how I roll.
Take Flight (2011)
Fortunately the partially cloudy afternoon sky worked splendidly. It was fun and and totally worth it.
For a city relatively close in proximity, I certainly don’t spend enough time in Charlotte! In March, I visited a few friends, had a commercial shoot, and during my spare time got off some snapshots downtown. I roamed around the city scoping future skyline shots for future visits and walked downtown a bit, focusing on the museum district, especially the Mint and Bechtler Museums.
This is looking up at the wall of the Mint.
I’ve attempted the shot below three times and am still trying to perfect. I really need to be there at the right time of day and year…whenever that is. I bet it’s during the dead of winter.
I’m unsure who the architect for the Mint was, but the Bechtler is by Mario Botta, who apparently never met a piece of terra cotta he didn’t like. I admit, it’s a really fun area to shoot, particularly at night. You can see the Bank of America building tucked away in the background.
A Charlotte Welcome (2011)
The firebird sculpture in front of the Bechtler makes a nice transition/juxtaposition between the two museums. Behind the Mint and Bechtler is Charlotte’s new skyscraper, the Duke Energy Building (I love that one) and the Knight Theater.
And this is the Duke Energy Building versus the Mint at daytime. I’d eventually like to properly shoot the skyscraper and the Harvey B. Gantt African-American Museum across the street. The architects and urban planners did a masterful job with this area – even the NASCAR Hall of Fame is pretty swoopy. If you’re ever in Charlotte, you can’t afford to miss it!
Got to scoop out the new addition to the North Carolina Museum of Art for the first time this weekend. I skipped the opening last weekend in order to avoid the crowds. Pretty neat addition, I’ll be checking it out more in the near future.
Yes. That is a ginormous metal tree in front of the addition.
Photos from one of the zen gardens with many official Rodin sculpture replicas.
Re-visited Gyre for the first time in a long time – broke out the tilt-shift lens. I love my 17mm TS-E, it provides some fantastic super-sharp images.
I did attempt a “miniature” with the tilted focal-plane, which I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked – I figured out what I was doing wrong which I’ll address at the end of this thing.
Upon leaving the NCMOA I went downtown to catch sunset and early evening. These are cranes where the new Lightner Public Safety Center is being built.
I then went to Fayetteville Street to do some evening shots by the BB&T building.
Again, I attempted some tilt photography. Upon review, I know what I was doing in all of these pictures – in all of these photos, I tilted the photos horizontally, which caused the sharp part of the picture to be vertical. In order to do this properly, at least in these photos, I needed to rotate the lens so that I tilted vertically (which can be easily done with Canon tilt-shifts, not Nikon. ) and the sharp portion of the image was horizontal. Now that I figured what I was doing wrong, I’m looking forward to getting back at it. By the way, did I mention how much I’m madly in love with this lens?