Phoneography Challenge: Architecture (Glass and Reflections)

27 January 2014


1. Reflections Through the Greenhouse, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

1. Reflections Through the Greenhouse, UD Campus, iPhone 4s, December 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

2. Reflections Through the Door, iPhone 4s, October 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

2. Reflections Through the Door, Gore Hall, UD Campus, iPhone 4s, October 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2014

Let me know which you prefer and why.


Glass is an apt design element for twenty-first century architects. With many buildings going green, the use of more and more glass is and always has been an intriguing signature to photograph.

Every minute of every day high, low or medium light alters views of buildings. Light struts itself inward through windowed spaces devoted, for example, to foster reflective qualities, luring onlookers. As important these features also serve inner spaces; inhabitants of the interior realize the presence or lack thereof of the sun’s rays. Light and shadows, therefore, are subliminal and overt participants in our daily wonderings.

Of course, buildings have reflections that come from artificial light that pushes itself through doors, hallways and stairwells. Indoor mirroring can be eye-catching, especially with today’s LED.

Fluorescent is my least favorite lighting. In the last few years LED (light emitting diode) has been my savior. Traditional tungsten lights, which I once used for indoor photo shoots are now stored somewhere in my home. Certainly, I was surprised to learn that the magic of the LED was invented by General Electric scientists over fifty years old.

I applause its place in our everyday life (cellphones, tablets…), and mostly its ability to be mercury-free and best choice for the environment as well as our finances. Now they are persuasive–inside and out. Architects fondly use them as floodlighting and attention-getting architectural spotlighting.

Outdoor Spotlighting, Google Images

Outdoor Spotlighting, Google Images

They seem more readily apparent in their bright-white glow, but they come in a range of colors. The image below reminds me of the beauty that must be reflected by the rows of lighting. I can imagine the sun setting, and affecting the hues as they cast themselves here and there. I also can see shadows walking across the pathway on a foggy evening, creating a mobile refraction of images.

Technicoloured-Outdoor Lights, Sheffield’s Victoria Quays, Google Images

Technicoloured-Outdoor Lights, Sheffield’s Victoria Quays, Google Images

Glass and light are the most welcome of companions. They nurture each other’s optimum performance. A famous and pristine example, which marries these two with an architect’s vision, is Phillip Johnson’s home built on 47-acres in New Canaan, Connecticut: The Glass House (architect Phillip Johnson, 1906-2005).

The charm and long-standing reputation of the residence is made clear by its bare simplicity. It stuns and seduces one’s notion of what a home should be and should not be. In its genius it causes banter and dialogue. It is modernism, like it or not.

To be sure it’s the use of glass that gives people a jolt. There is little else to see. A home starkly decorated on the inside, and bathed everywhere in light and reflections.

Philip Johnson's The Glass House, Google Images

Phillip Johnson’s The Glass House, Google Images

Philip Johnson's Glass House, View from Inside

Phillip Johnson’s Glass House, View from Inside

In the Lens section are two images that couple glass and light with the ramifications of this partnership. The first image was taken of a greenhouse at the UD Botanical Gardens. It was a day of cloudscapes and blue-grey skies. Still, the reflections swept through the glass windows as though on a race to reach me.

The second image was shot inside Gore Hall on UD main campus, where I was departing from a lecture. I was struck by the angles, contrasts, and shapes that formed as I approached the door to leave the lecture hall. To see one man at the end of the hallway made it a must to still: the white of his notebook staring at me.

My fascination with reflections and light forces me to take road trips at the end of the day. Or walk to the nearest place to view the sunset: a magician at cloak and dagger with its unfolding surprises.

Tip of the Week: It’s never an easy task to photograph glass objects. I’ve spent hours trying to capture paperweights and other glass-made items. Mostly, photographers spend time trying to light a subject, but reflective surfaces require a different approach. So I’d like to pass on a video that has some good points about shooting objects that reflect light. Click here to view the short film. My advice: Experiment. Experiment. Experiment.  

View other entries for this week’s challenge:

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog.

If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. If you have any questions about the Phoneography Challenge, please contact me.

Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Phoneography Challenges:

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black and White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Design, Human Nature, Mobile Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Phoneography Challenge: Architecture (Glass and Reflections)

  1. Caryl Anne says:

    It’s amazing how architecture glass and lighting can transform a building or location into something beautiful and unique. Thanks for sharing your information and photos!

  2. Nic says:

    Glass is definitely the building material of tomorrow. There are countless options for anyone in the architectural field who wants to use glass as their medium. Glass also makes a challenging focal point for photographers that can result in beautiful and interesting photos, similar to those included in the article.

  3. Virginia Duran says:

    Liked this “weekly challenge” that you’re doing. By the way I’d never thought of an iPhone as a very reliable camera but seeing your pictures I think I may give it a try. Loved the second photograph!

    • Virginia, since your passionate about architecture, you should consider the challenge, especially on the fourth Monday, which has architecture as a Challenger’s Choice. Architecture is one of my favorite subjects, and I often post photographs of its features. Would be pleased to have you join the fun. Thanks.

  4. Suzanne says:

    The first shot is stunning. I thought you had Photoshopped it. It would look brilliant printed out quite large and hung on the wall of any of the modernist buildings you write about later in your post.

  5. I like the naturalism and ghostliness of number two.

  6. Madhu says:

    They are both lovely, but here is one more vote for the drama and mystery of the second 🙂

  7. Wow! The sky seemed to be suspended and frozen in the first picture . Impressive my friend. You always bring the most amazing of visual inspiration. Thanks.

  8. Tina Schell says:

    Interesting post Sally – I like the way you brought in the appropriate google photos to explain some of the points. I haven’t really tried much with glass other than capturing my own photo in glass windows or doors. The angles and reflections add a great deal to the shots but I think I would try slightly less exposure or highlight reduction in post-processing to cut down the glare which detracts a bit from the overall image. If I were using a camera rather than an iphone I’d try using some ND filters to allow the bottom of the first shot to show while shading the top. Really tricky shots here, can’t believe you captured them with an iphone!

  9. Amy says:

    I also love the glass architecture, but I find it’s challenging to get a good photo due to the bright-white glow and over-exposure…. but I will begin to practice. I like both images. Thank you so much for explaining it, Sally!

  10. Su Leslie says:

    Great shots Sally. They are both wonderfully surreal – although I slightly prefer the second. It has a lovely cinematic, mysterious quality. Here’s my contribution; definitely more “pens” than “lens” this week.

  11. It’s a coincidence that you refer to Philip Johnson, as I just finished writing an article about one of his creations in Texas, the Fort Worth Water Gardens. That reminds me that a form of water, ice, is like glass, and that observation in turn makes me think of the admonition that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Given the increasing use of glass that you point out in modern architecture, the amount of stone-throwing must be on the decline. At least let’s hope it is.

  12. Pingback: In an Instagram! | Greg Urbano

  13. Trifocal says:

    I like both of these. The first is the more dramatic but I chose the second because it seems like the sort of photograph a Cubist painter might have taken, had they been a photographer. If you see what I mean. It had never occurred to me that multiple glass and polished surfaces could create that effect until you demonstrated it; thank you 🙂

  14. Playing with reflections is really fun – and you have done really well here. It’s all about different levels of elements, playing reflections up against whatever is behind the glass. My choice is the first one. It makes my mind play more in all directions.

  15. I like the one with the figure in as he appears to be within several dimensions but not lost somehow. Clever shot.

  16. Gallivanta says:

    I really like the second photo with all its angles and reflections.

  17. It’s interesting to see the glass ceiling sandwiched between layers of sky. Love the interplay in texture and reflections and silhouettes. 🙂

  18. Amar Naik says:

    Love the reflection clicks. They look amazing. any reason for choosing B & W for the first pic?

  19. I like them both. They are very well made and carefully done. And these are not easy to take because you have to watch for what’s reflecting and for what is not. Is there any way the authors that joined the Phoneography challenge could also post their results here too?

  20. Marianne Green says:

    Both pictures offer a new and startling look at structures I see every day but don’t really see!

  21. vera ersilia says:

    The Johnson house of glass has always been a dream vision for me. Thank you.

  22. Dawn says:

    Both terrific reflection images – but I am drawn to the graphic elements of the second image. Strong shapes.

  23. Gracie says:

    Very nice shots, Sally. If you didn’t mention that these were reflections, I would have thought they were double exposures.

  24. Great photos Sally! I think the second is my favorite today, the patterns on the floor and the architectural details are so interesting and I like the man walking with his papers toward the door. It really draws me into the image thinking about what’s next.

  25. The first one looks like the greenhouse has it’s own clouds inside it. Very interesting effect!
    And I’m with janet… I don’t know how people live with that many windows!!!!
    I went with architecture this week too, but not the dramatic reflections your incredible photos display.

  26. M. R. says:

    Oh, number 1. It has sky.

  27. I do love photographing through windows and glass, you can get an Alice In Wonderland feeling. Your comment about not editing these pictures gives me courage to let my photos stand on there own. I added a fun window photo today after I saw your post.

  28. says:

    Love this one Sally! I just got back from Vegas and reflection abound! I will compose and contribute soon!

  29. Beautiful haunting images. 😀

  30. Angeline M says:

    I love the second shot for its drama of lines and angles, the hint of reflection is perfect!
    I’ve gone for a night shot this week, happy Phoneography Monday.

  31. Both are great shots, Sally, for different reasons. I like the ethereal feel of the first!

  32. Sally, this looks like a Photoshop composite…great great job with the first photo…wowser☺

    • Laurie, I bought Photoshop years ago and have never used it. I’m a minimalist photo editor. The iPhone does give amazing apps for those who dive into it. I did a bit on my last post. On this post these images are exactly what I saw. Thanks so much.

  33. elisaruland says:

    Your “reflections” on glass and architecture are really very interesting, Sally. I like the first shot for its drama, and the second for the surreal quality you captured. Both very nice!

  34. I love reflections, Sally. I like the drama of your first shot and the geometrics of the second. The B&W really focuses the viewers eye on those things rather than on any color. As for the glass house, throwing stones aside, I don’t like the everyone-can-see-in aspect of it, although I adore lots of light. I sometimes see photos in magazines of bathrooms that have huge windows and no window covering and know that I would be creeping around on the floor to avoid walking naked or partially dressed in front of them, even if I were out in the middle of the woods. 🙂

    Blessings on your Phoneography Monday and the rest of your chilly week!


  35. Lignum Draco says:

    Interesting – thanks. I prefer #1.

  36. KOH  says:

    Wonderful~ great like this.

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