Each fall, the Central Valley Chapter of American Association of Architects (AIA) holds ‘Architectura Obscura,’ a photography competition. In 2016, three of my photos were in the show. During the reception I ate cheese and crackers, drank wine out of thin plastic cups, and chuckled when I noticed that one of my photos was hung sideways. How does one hang architecture sideways? Well, yes, it was obscure enough to hang sideways or right-side-up and still not know what you were looking at.

      I love the show because I love architecture and the people who design and photograph it. Straight lines, odd angles and lots of reflections are common place in photographing architecture for art sake. But it’s those few images that twist the reality which really brings life to an otherwise expected realm of niche imagery. To show people in the photo or not; motion or not; artificial or natural lighting… it’s all part of the photographers’ two-dimensional interpretation of three-dimensional art.

The topic at last night’s local AIA gathering was the photographer and the photo. A discussion of the words ‘viewpoint’ and ‘vantage point’ resulted in the naming of the theme for the 2018 competition, “Alternative Vantage Points.”

Here’s my take on ‘viewpoint’ vs ‘vantage point.’
• Viewpoint is recognizing and capturing a specific personal choice image seen through the
viewfinder of your eye, like a targeted, missile-driven vision.
• Vantage point is the broader position, or place, from which you view, it anchors the
space; the chosen location from which to focus on the object.

Maybe I’ve just seen too many Hollywood war movies, but going into battle (to take the best shot), I would assess the situation, select my weapon (probably a ‘lens envy’ lens), trudge to the vantage point with the best accessibility to capture the image I imagine, position the camera viewfinder to my eye, focus, and engage the trigger.

The one missing factor is the tripod, which I personally think hampers the spontaneity of the moment. It was pointed out during the discussion that a tripod doesn’t have to have three legs or even one leg – it can be as simple as bracing yourself against a tree or carrying a doorstop to stabilize your camera on a rock in a river.

So, armed with my oversized orange grade school doorstop, I’m ready to shoot some architectura obscura.

Learn more about the Architectura Obscura photo competition at
(image #2 – Bandaloop repelling off the library at California State University Sacramento 4/15/2015)