Photographer’s Spotlight : David A Naughton
Why did you become an architectural photographer?
I was a terrible academic student, and my father, who tried to help me, was extremely intelligent. One day my father suggested that school wasn’t my thing and we needed to find something so I could make a living. I’d always been fascinated with buildings growing up through the years; shooting architecture allows me to express what I’m thinking about in my head when I see a building I want to shoot.
Can you give us a sample of how you prepare?
Preplanning is the key to success when shooting from the street. I jump on Wikipedia and search by buildings of interest in that city. From there I find out the height of the building, which will help me determine the lens I’ll use, then launch Google Maps Pro and start looking around the building. I basically go out anywhere from 175-300 yards from the building and get on the Street View and see if any buildings and trees will be blocking my potential shot.
Next tool is the iOS program Shadowmap which is a program that allows me to see where the sun will hit the building. While the program is $100/year subscription it is well worth it. This way I don’t have to guess what time of the day the sun hits the building for each shot. Then I go to Notes on my iPhone and create detailed info for every building, such as the architects name, height of the building, street address. This way I’ve always got the relevant information with me at all times during the shoot.
Back to Street View to refine which shots I want to attempt and then take screen shots of those locations so I can better know what to expect when I’m approaching on foot. Another application, Photo Transit is another tool that allows me to get a general idea of the scene and the optics I’ll need to employ.
The ALPA eFinder ll is a great app when I get to the location because it confirms when I’m there, exactly what lens I will be mounting up. Especially useful when construction, parades or riots get in the way of using the exact shot location I had already pre-planned from home.
The Weather Channel Pro app is handy for its accurate and granular updates for the adverse weather event that could be just around the corner.
What gear do I use and why?
I have 2 ALPA camera bodies, the ALPA 12 XY and the ALPA 12 Pano. There’s no finer body to use when shooting architecture than ALPA bodies. They are so precise that I can quickly shift in all directions, with controls down to fractions of a millimeter that help me to set up the exacting compositions. All ALPA camera bodies are designed to shift either by precision gearing or quickly by disengaging the gearing which allow the ability to quickly capture shots at different camera shifts. The PANO takes this philosophy a step further and allows very quick, precision movements across its 70mm of shifting range which is fantastic for quick stitching during magic hour light.
I use Rodenstock HR lenses with Phase One X Shutter (23mm, 32mm, 40mm, 90mm): Rodenstock lenses, in my mind, are the sharpest in the photography world, combined with Phase One’s X-Shutter that automates exposures modernly.
My Digital Back:
I use a Phase One IQ4 150-megapixel digital back that captures in 16-bit and beyond, providing me with the largest total file with the greatest tonal depth of any capture device in the industry… literally the world’s best. The Frame Averaging feature allows for completely noise-free captures and the ability to extend exposure time longer than strictly necessary without the need for Neutral Density Filters, providing perfectly subtle gradients where shadows interact within the images and deep information in the shadows if any shadow recovery becomes necessary.
I use an Arca-Swiss Cube with a Gitzo GT5563GS. The Gitzo creates a solid foundation to work from with the ability to extend up 9′ through its five carbon fiber sections, and the Cube allows me to plane out my camera in degrees of refinement into the decimal points so that there is never angular correction necessary in post.
I use both a MacBookPro M1 and an iPad Pro. The mobile computer workstation is always necessary for this sort of work; when the scale of the images is so large, it’s difficult to take it all in just from the small touchscreen of the IQ4. When the scene is a bit to frenetic to deal with camera, grip, and computer in my one-man show, tethering into the iPad Pro instead is a great way of using a larger screen for composition and post-capture review without the weight and size of the 16″ MBP.
Why did I select Capture Integration as my camera partner?
The knowledge that they have on every piece of equipment is far beyond anyone in the competition, and they took the time to listen to me and what my needs were to help me evolve my process to how I shoot today. The support is fantastic, and they always check up on me and make sure I have everything that I need in regards to equipment, updated firmware, software, and occasionally the new workflow opportunities offered by each.
The entire team cares about me and is willing to do whatever it takes to see that my shoots are successful.
Describe a photographically challenging situation you were confronted with & able to resolve on the fly.
I had driven from Atlanta to Kansas City, which is a decent day trip at 801 miles. I got up and went to the location early the next morning, and everything was going perfect until I realized that on the prior night shoot, I forgot to take the shutter sync cable off my IQ4-150 back before stashing it in the backpack.
My setup allows me to put the whole camera with lens and digital back still attached into my backpack, which is very helpful for shoot readiness on location, but the cable had bent in the wrong direction, and its connector broke, leaving me without communication to actuate the leaf shutter lens.
Thankfully, the IQ4-150 has a 2nd shooting mode that makes use of a completely non-mechanical electronic shutter, so while I did not have aperture control (it was still set to where I normally shoot), I was still able to shoot the entire project without further issue. (I make sure to carry at least one of my redundant backup cables now.. lesson learned)
What countries or locations are in your future plans?
London, Vancouver, BC, Mississauga and Toronto, Ontario, China, Dubai, Azerbaijan, Qatar
When choosing buildings to shoot, what do you look for?
I always look for buildings with sharp lines that really stand out from the surrounding buildings. Along with unusual designs or skins on the outer part of the building. Also, I love buildings where I’m able to pull detailed shots for the client and for my fine art needs.
Who are some of your favorite architects?
1- Zaha Hadid
2- Norman Foster
3- Santiago Calatrava
4- Studio Gang
5- Frank Gerry
6- Renzo Piano
7- Richard Rodgers & partners
8- SHoP Architects
9- Herzog & de Meuron, Goldstein, Hill & West Architects
10- Moshe Safdie
David A Naughton
I was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1965 but lived there for only three months and then moved to Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I grew up in Fort Walton Beach, Florida from the age of four months until 22 years old. From there, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to go to the art institute of Atlanta.
After graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles and lived there for four years shooting for various print publications, and then moved back to Atlanta where I worked in retail camera for a bit, then I started working for Michael Portman, and that transitioned into working for John Portman for 20+ years. I’ve continued to live in downtown Atlanta for the last 35 years.
Just launched my new website with all new architectural photography shots in the last four years.