November/December '17 Blog (part 2)

Hi there,

As I mentioned in my last blog post and promised to reveal more about the major project that I have been working on over the last couple of months, I decided to write up a new post about it for you.

The project was at the new Marischal Square development in Aberdeen city centre. This major new building project by Muse Developments Ltd and Aberdeen City Council (incl. others) has changed the area around Broad Street in Aberdeen in a big way.

The development is located on the site of St. Nicholas House, Aberdeen City Council's former 14-storey headquarters building, which was expected to be demolished around Spring 2014, once staff had been relocated to the redeveloped Marischal College on the opposite side of Broad Street in 2011.

After I had been in touch with the relevant persons at Muse Developments Ltd, and we had met on-site to discuss their image requirements for the project, I made a plan of action for the project. First up was a (relatively) short visit to photograph the site progress and on-going works in October '17. Once I arrived at the main site office, and got my PPE gear on, I was able to access most of the areas around the site, with relative ease. I was to photograph certain areas and angles for the clients and also to use my imagination on other views. While there was still considerable work underway not all the backgrounds and views were clear of equipment/personnel etc, but this was understood and agreed upon, and I did my best to minimise distractions in the foregrounds & backgrounds of my images, both onsite and also later in post-production. The images supplied to the client from this visit were to be used to replace some of the CGI renderings that had been made previously for the development with actual views of the project, and since some of the renderings were no longer accurate in terms of finish etc.

Here are a few of those images:

These are just a small part of the images provided to the client, but they give a flavour of the development, and also were very useful in determining the progress being made.

Soon after completing this visits photography, I was organising my return visit to the site. This time it would be a much more comprehensive shoot and would involve a few different approaches. The development was scheduled for 'practical completion' later in November '17, and so it was requested that I shoot the images requested by my clients ahead of this date, to allow the images to be utilised for marketing purposes etc. As such I had a time-limit to organise things by, and also to try and get the weather that I wanted for the views. In November in Aberdeen, the weather is by no means guaranteed, and can change very rapidly from lovely & sunny to dull, wind & rain in a matter of minutes. Fortunately I was lucky to initially select a few days to carry out the shoot where the forecast was favourable throughout.

The images requested this time from my clients, 'Muse Developments Ltd', and also the architects on the project 'Halliday Fraser Munro', included; exteriors, interiors, twilight/evening & personnel images on the site. The large part of the works were completed by this stage, however there were still a lot of personnel working in and around the site, with equipment and supplies around too - thus I would still require to be shooting on an active work site, and would need to consider the backgrounds of my shots carefully.

One issue was the work being undertaken on the street out in front of the development, on Broad St.. This was/is being carried out totally separately to the Marischal Square development, by the city council and a different contractor, to resurface the roadway and prepare it for the plan of partial pedestrianisation. This work is not due to be fully complete until some time in early 2018, and as such there was nothing that could be done about the works being carried out there.

On my return to the site, I began by photographing the interior areas that were completed, like the reception areas in the two main buildings, the floor plates, toilets, shower rooms and locker rooms. Then moving onto the terraces and roof spaces, before moving outside to shoot exterior images as the light/weather allowed. At this time of year, the light is beginning to fade by mid-afternoon, and the low sun means that you need to plan very carefully for certain shots so that the light is not too harsh or in the wrong place, giving you very dark shadow areas. Using the Photographers Ephemeris, was a big help in understanding where the sun would be to help with planning some shots.

Following this visit, the forecast was good for the next few days, so I was back the following day, again to shoot exteriors, and follow-up some interior shots that were unavailable the day before. I also stayed into the evening to photograph the buildings with the sunset and evening light. This is particularly tricky if you have more than 1 or 2 views that you hope to get, as the light is changing so quickly (again at this time of year) that setting up for a twilight image, composing the shot, taking the photograph(s), and then moving to another location to set-up, frame and shoot the image can feel pretty rushed... and rushing a job is never good! Hence the evening and twilight shots, were done over a few days to allow for this.


On a further visit, I had been able to arrange through some contacts to gain access to the roof spaces at some nearby buildings, so as to be able to photograph the development from a slightly different perspective: Gaining access to the roof of the Town House building, and also to the roof of Marischal College was really great and not something that generally occurs, so I was very lucky! The view over the development and city from the top of Marischal College was amazing, but unfortunately not quite as helpful as I'd hoped, due to the very high finials around the rooftop, and the restricted standing points available, but it was still great to be up there!

Here are a few 'bts' shots from the rooftops:


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A further group of images that had been added to the shot-list were to feature people in and around the new Marischal Square buildings. Specifically to show the reception areas, and floor plates and courtyard areas, with some people in-shot to give scale and depth to the images. This involved changing tack slightly and setting up the shots for the locations slightly differently to take into account the persons that would be present, changing lenses and adding a touch of flash here and there for the images, using the tripod and also hand-holding the camera. I was expecting around 5-6 people for these shots (who had been asked to come along and lend themselves for a little while), but in the end around 10-11 people turned up, so there was almost a surplus! I tried to make the images interesting for the people involved and the future viewers, by making them look as natural as possible.


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At the development as some of you may know, there is also a very special piece of artwork, commissioned by the developers from artist Andy Scott. Mr Scott is famous for 'The Kelpies' which are 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures, standing next to a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal, and near the River Carron in Falkirk, amongst other artworks.

The artwork in the atrium area at Marischal Square is a steel sculpture in the form of a Leopard. Why a Leopard ?... because two Leopards appear on the Aberdeen city coat of arms! Measuring around 5m in height, and weighing in at 2 tons, it is very impressive, and especially so when illuminated at night. Consequently, I was also asked to photograph the sculpture once it had been unveiled in place, which you can see here as well:


Coming away from the site after some days shooting in and around it, I had to sit down and start the processing and editing of all the image files I had amassed. This begins with a pass through all of the files, ranking them initially into 'keep' and 'reject'; then another pass through the remaining files and rating them from 1 to 4 stars, and seeing where that leaves things. Then a preliminary pass through and a quick edit of all the 3 & 4 star images, before determining which ones I will edit further in more detail. This is a time-consuming process, and the final editing of images, depending on the work required, can easily stretch to an hour plus per image. The editing alone on this project certainly kept me busy for at least 4 - 5 days. Breaks are essential as it's amazing how you can edit something and love it, and then see it the following day and decide that it's all wrong and "what was I thinking with that !?!?" - so multiple passes over the images is essential.. as is a calibrated monitor(s) to work from and soft-proofing, to ensure as much as you can that you're seeing the image files as they will appear for the client.

I am glad to say that the client was very pleased with the images, and I'm very happy and grateful that I was able to carry out this project for Muse, and be chosen to photograph what is one of the biggest developments in Aberdeen city for some time.

Hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading!

N.