Sometimes it’s the familiar things in life that would make such good photos, if only we weren’t so used to seeing them on a daily basis. Such is often the case with me as I walk around my home, my neighborhood, or even the OSU campus where I work and one thing I try to do to combat the overwhelming sense that there’s nothing interesting to photograph is to force myself to take a picture of something. That’s kind of what happened here because normally this building, part of the Noble Research Center, is something I would just pass by and about which I wouldn’t really give a second thought. I mean…it’s just a building. What would possibly make it an interesting photograph?

The answer to that depends on whether you even accept the premise of the question that it is an interesting photograph in the first place. It might be, or you might not like it at all. Either way I promise you I intentionally used several photographic techniques here to get this specific shot and I’d like to share them with you. So here we go :)

While it’s true that this is, on one hand, a rather unremarkable brick-and-mortar structure, it’s the four columns on top that make it stand out as something more. I don’t even know what they are, since this certainly is not a factory or coal-burning power plant. My guess is they help draw away fumes or gases from the labs housed in the NRC but whatever they are, they sure do look interesting. I knew I wanted them in the shot, but as longtime readers might know I also had to get some context in there too. I shot this with my D7100 so I was working with the limitations of a crop-sensor camera, and decided that I wanted to shoot the building from an angle because it was much more interesting to see it receding back into the bottom-right corner of the frame as opposed to a picture from the side or front. I think the angle helped add a bit of dimensionality to what might otherwise be a rather dull photo.

I also wanted the structure to feel somewhat imposing, so I retreated as far back as I could while still maintaining a sense of scale. If I moved back much father, other objects like trees and neighboring buildings started to creep into the sides of the image, which tended to draw the viewer’s focus away from the pillars. One of my ideas here was to make the building seem taller and larger than it actually is in real life, which was done (I hope, anyway) through the use of composition alone. By moving myself and positioning my camera to get this photo with its receding lines and vertical pillars I hope I have given you, the viewer, the idea that this might be something more than it actually is.

Spoiler alert: it’s the middle building in this Google Maps 3D view.

In the end I’m not sure if this is a picture I would necessarily call interesting, special, or noteworthy in any way but it was fun to experiment a little and, if nothing else, I got my camera out of my bag and in my hands which is always a good thing :)


  1. Narendra Bansal says

    Thank you Simon. It is not always a matter of an amazing or unusual building or object which you photograph and post. But the entire thought process to capture the image. That is what is important and a learning experience for the readers and amateur photographers. It is certainly applicable to me.

    • Thanks so much for your comment Narendra! It’s a good reminder for me too, that not every photo has to be some kind of award-winning masterpiece. Like you said, it’s about the thought process that goes into it, and the fact that we’re all just continuing to learn along the way, that really matters.

  2. Nice shot, man! Check out #newtopographics — your shot seems to fit nicely in that genre to me. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the tip Brandon! I just searched for #newtopographics on Instagram and I think I see what you mean. I just posted this Stacks photo to Instagram and used that hashtag too. I appreciate the suggestion!

  3. This is an interesting way to photograph this building. Many buildings on campuses, at least more modern campuses, seem to be more utilitarian than architecturally interesting. I think you have captured a good angle on the building and provided us a glimpse of it that we might not notice if we were just walking around the campus. Thanks for your explanation.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Dennis. Whenever I tour an older campus I’m often impressed at the level of design and attention to detail in the architecture, but you’re right about most modern campuses in that they seem to strive for function at the expense of form. Or at least interesting design. My wife went to school at Washington University in St. Louis and they seem to take great pains to make even newly-constructed buildings have a sense of style and architectural cohesiveness with the older buildings. I do kind of miss that on other campuses today.

  4. When I saw the title “Stacks”, with me being a librarian and knowing you were on a college campus, I was prepared for a picture of books. Architecture is good, too, so I am not disappointed.

    As to the actual stacks, possibly vents having to do with HVAC or restrooms? I thought the photo well composed. The row of windows is an interesting feature and might make for a compelling photographic subject by themselves. Enjoying your posts.


    • I was wondering if the title would throw off some people Joel. Oops! I remember spending may of my undergrad days lost in the library stacks doing research (or sometimes napping) years ago, and after reading your comment I think I’m going to take a detour through the Low Library here on the OSU campus while walking to a meeting today. There’s something special about walking through row after row of collected volumes of human knowledge that’s so…peaceful :)

  5. Enjoy reading your thought processes. Side note , while looking at the google maps reference you gave I found it very interesting that BP stadium is not referenced while GIA is. Is there bias against Boone? Keep the posts coming, as a former student (60-64) I enjoy the campus photographs.

    • Now that’s interesting, Joe! I just tried it and you’re right! I don’t know why the stadium isn’t specifically marked while GIA is, and a lot of other buildings around it too. Hmm. I wonder what’s going on there…

      Always nice to meet a fellow alumnus, by the way. I got my master’s here in 2013 and it’s a great place to be. Do you ever make it back for Homecoming or other events?

  6. Janet Richardson says

    Hi Simon,

    I enjoyed reading about your process here as well. And the stacks do make the photo interesting, but I find the color pallet most compelling in this photo. Once again an enlightening post. Thanks.

    • Thank you so much Janet! I’m glad you liked the photo and the color palette. I like finding ways of shooting subjects with a rich blue sky in the background, and when you can get two complementary colors together like blue and orange it’s always fun to do :)

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