The October sunsets provide golden sidelight that brings Marywood’s glazed, modernist buildings to life. And, it brings life to the buildings as it projects astonishing and beautiful images of nature upon them. Let’s have a look, shall we?
The glazed exhedra at the northern end of the Shields Center for the Visual Arts is smaller than images make it look (figure 1). Eadweard Muybridge with his running horse has nothing on this diffracted, almost cubist reflection of the Insalaco Studio Arts building.
The Japanese maple in the light, the shrine in the shadows, the repeated but diminishing pattern of branches from the nearby oak, the geometrical abstraction of the steps and the imposed grid of the glazing all serve to make this one of the most beautiful corners (heh) of the campus.
So, this glass wall (figure 2) faces north, and therefore the reflected image, while well-lit, does not much efface what’s behind the glass. A certain amount of the guts of the building offers visual interest, like a double-exposed image. But the interior lights, and anything else within the building that was bright shone right through the glass like spotlights. Luckily, Affinity’s inpainting brush was made to tidy up that kind of mess, and an hour of work produced the image in figure 2.
This is the glass façade reflected in figure 1, but the reflection is not of the Shields Center, which is at the photographer’s back.
The sun in the image indicates that this face of the O’Neill Family Health Center is oriented to the north and east. The sharp starburst radiating from the sun with its paired rays is a testament to the quality of the Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
There’s a thing here: glass walls are meant to drop away as they reflect the surroundings. That’s true of the glazed faces of the buildings in figures 1 & 2, as well. That was important in the 1980s when the international style had decayed into blah parallelopipeds and not seeing them was a boon. This building, while doing that, also literally falls away where the transparent interior allows what’s behind it to come right through. In this case it’s predominantly a continuation of the bright (as opposed to reflected) sky.
Alumnae Hall does not fall away, not by a long shot (figure 4). The opaque green of the ivy and the traditional collegiate red brick very much anchor this building in place. The texture of the ivy and bricks also give the building an immediacy and presence.
Which makes it all the more interesting that a golden tree and, below, the nearby art quad reflect furtively (coyly?) through the half-obscured glazing. The deep blue sky, contrasting with the golden leaves, is just a bonus.
If you follow my web log you will know that I am fascinated by the possibilities of the little reflecting pool in Marywood’s Italianate Garden. Photographs taken from a shallow angle close to its surface, from any of the cardinal points (and between), reveal the scenery in ways that vary strongly with the light, season, and atmospherics. There are, however, a limited number of basic compositions available. Figure 5 is about the best of the latter.
Reflectorama is not a bad subtitle for this image. There is of course the (nearly) symmetrical reflection of the Commons in the (reasonably) still waters of the pool, a subject I return to frequently, here enlivened with the play of golden light and shadow on the building and the Wee Copse.
Where the Commons are in shadow the glazing reflects the surrounding landscaping, in keeping with the theme of this essay; and the shadow cast upon the Commons is a silhouette of Regina Hall, the sun setting behind it.
AND, of course, those secondary displays are also reflected at third hand in the pool. Reflectorama!
Here (figure 6) is the reflection of Regina Hall cast by the setting sun onto the Learning Commons, sharper here than in figure 5 because the glazing does not so much interrupt the shadow.
There’s a lot going on here. Nature, as opposed to the hand of humans, peeks in from the edges, around the last of the pilasters on the left and between them as reflected in the glazing on the right. A treelet peeps through the opening at the end of the portico. Nature is also present by implication in the shadows cast in the lower and right-hand portions of the image by nearby trees.
Otherwise this image is a fairly cold study in geometry, perspective, and abstraction. I am not Stanley Kubrick, and so stepped an inch or two to my left so as to avoid a rigorous one-point perspective. But the repeating geometries, even in subtleties like the articulation of the pilasters and the not so subtle reflections (GET IT) of the crosses in floor and ceiling are a pleasure to contemplate. Well, for me, anyway.
Figure 8 is not nearly as interesting as figure 7, but it does point up the difference between using a wide-angle lens close up (standing in front of the nearer railing, with the orange thing out of view) there and the collapsed depth in this view using a long lens.
The serried pilasters are winners in any event, but to articulate them I needed to stand fairly well over to my right, sacrificing the glazing and the symmetrical line of reflected pilasters in figure 7. This view also fails utterly to pick up on the reflected crosses. It does show that I used the magic of post to eliminate the far railing in figure 7. Yay that.
The second Wee Copse, a miniature birch forest mirroring the one I more normally capture to the north of the Learning Commons (see, e..g., figure 6), is a challenge to shoot because it is blah in color. Its greatest interest lies in the charcoal grey ceramic walls of the building and the near-black garden bed cover adjacent to it.
But the blahs go largely away when one abandons color and plays with textures and contrasts. I confess I blew out the highlights behind the leaves of the birch; but then this made a background for the abstract pattern of the leaves, suitably darkened, against it.
Here, as usual for this corner of the building what light makes it past the Rotunda’s shadow and the Wee Copse is provided by the light reflected from the glazing onto the ceramics. One sees this prominently on the long wall on the right.
Is this (figure 10) the best? Or is it just last? In any event, I saved it. This is a mindless obiter snaptum captured with my iPhone as I was waiting for my wife: we were off to Tonalteca Mexican Restaurant for dinner. The blue hour arrives when the sun has set and the gold is disappearing or gone, but it’s not yet completely dark.
Here we have mostly what the iPhone, with its HDR processing, gave me. I fiddled with the tones and color to maximize the contrast between the complementary colors gold and blue. One of the little lights in the ceiling of the Learning Commons portico is burned out and I got the tree to disguise that. Yay, me. The little trees (acacias?) in the Italianate Garden are lit up by night, but the one in question unaccountably not, or not very well. That was a boon so as not to throw the lit interior of the Learning Commons into shade, but I think might have worked if carefully composed.