About this Blog

Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Making the Most of Warehouses

For anyone who follows this blog it’s probably more than apparent that I consider myself something of a landscape and nature photographer...or would like to any rate. Of course as with just about every other photographer out there, there’s often a lot more that we’ll point our lenses at. So it was last week when I found myself shooting a commission in Johannesburg...surrounded by industrial warehouses. 

Warehouses aren’t exactly the subject matter that immediately grabs the attention of amateur photographers. But in reality they can be a treasure trove of angles and interesting patterns of light. The job in question is a for a large South African Bank that commissioned me to put together a coffee table book on an old industrial site that they are wanting to redevelop into a commercial and business district. Because of the age of the site South African law necessitates that the old buildings have to be commemorated in some way. Enter the photographer – or at least in this situation the photographer as it is sometimes in other ways that the buildings are commemorated.

60 odd warehouses can start to get monotonous, but the trick is to look for the details and, very importantly, the light. Large glass windows have a habit of throwing wonderful slanted streaks of light onto the dusty concrete floors. Old timber beams create a patchwork of lines in the deeper shadows. So all in all photographing warehouses can actually be quite rewarding. 

Welcome to the wonderful world of HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery. Without it my week of warehouse wonderings would have been very difficult. I’m not a huge fan of automated programs like Photomatix, but, to give it its due, when you are putting together extended tonal range images of complex subjects like the trusses of a roof, the programme comes into its own. What would take literally hours of painstaking layering, selecting and masking in Photoshop, takes a couple of minutes in Photomatix. Ok, I admit it, I’m a convert (to be fair to my initial feelings toward the program I tried it on some landscapes that I created the weekend after and they did not work! My usual layering and masking approaches with a range of selections from luminosity through to broad sweeps were far more effective).  

Getting the right light is imperative to making good images of any kind of subject. This means getting up before dawn to be in place for the rising sun as well as the twilight just prior. Staying out late is also a good idea. Oddly enough, photographing the interiors of these warehouses was actually easier during the times of day when most photographers call it quits and head for their 'base camps', i.e. mid day. 

The project is still in it's early stages as I have a roughly 4000 RAW files (admittedly a lot of them are HDRs) to wade through to create the final book. At the end of this I'll be posting a web-page of 'current projects' that will have some of the better images. Phew, but it's good to be back in Durbs after the traffic of Joburg!


  1. Wow stunning photos Emil! Absolutely brilliant. Good examples of taking dull subjects and turning them into something exciting. The book will turn out great at this rate. Favourite is the second shot with the red door, incredible light/angles/colours!

  2. Thanks Sean. I'm actually wondering whether that image would work for the cover, or else have a landscape as a wrap around. Incidentally, excellent work on the AI Photog of the year. I'm already getting messages from the vols.