Category Archives: In The Field

The Pacific

…by Handel Architects.

Builder: Plant Construction

Developer: Trumark Urban

San Francisco Contemporary, Remodeled


In October of last year, I spent a couple of days photographing a new project by my longtime client building Lab. Architect Stephen Shoup is a mid-century specialist and so this contemporary house in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood got a little injection of that aesthetic while being transformed in some fundamental ways.

The most impressive of the changes was Stephen’s complete “flip” of the staircase, which originally wound back and forth between the left and right sides of the structure. Stephen envisioned an elegant “hanging” staircase that runs in continuous line all the way down the right side, from the top floor to the ‘basement’ & patio, 4 stories below.

Take a close look at the photo below: the bottom tread doesn’t touch the floor. Everything hangs from the slender rod.



Stephen’s design aesthetic is un-touchable. I find it difficult to photograph his work because there are just too many beautiful compositions and settling on just one or two in a given area is painful. But of course that’s also what makes it rewarding: I can really make ART when I’m working on a building Lab project.

Here’s a sampling of what we shot over the course of 2 days:

Zen Kitchen by Hanomoco Design


Earlier this year I shot two projects with the newly-founded Hanomoco Design (a partnership between designers Dan Hano and Charlotte Moco) and my longtime client McCutcheon Construction. Dan and Charlotte have come out of the gate strong and this project in particular struck me as unique.


I tried to keep the photos clean and simple, following the aesthetic of the space, and with such great lines it was a real pleasure to compose photographs in there! There’s more from Hanomoco coming soon: meantime, here’s the rest of our set from this project.

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Mid-Century remodel by building Lab


A few weeks ago I met architect Stephen Shoup of building Lab in San Francisco to photograph a new residential project. Stephen’s work has a very strong character that makes it instantly recognizable, but it also evolves over time, which is absolutely fascinating, and challenging, from a photographic standpoint.

For example, check out this stairwell:


And then compare it to this one I shot for Stephen back in 2013:


Natural wood, check. The thin metal rods that serve as a partial wall have morphed into high-tension wire, but the motif remains the same. Both stairwells have very strong graphical lines and both “make a statement” rather than receding into the background.

And this stairwell came with a little something extra…a playspace for the resident kid!


I could’ve spent the rest of the day doing nothing but composing shots on this structure, but we did have a few other things to shoot:

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All in all, a fun day! More building Lab projects coming up, so don’t touch that dial!

Suburban Estate by Bayon Design Studio


Anytime I can work with Cindy Bayon and Heather Menegat from Bayon Design Studio it’s going to be a good day, and I know we’re going to make some great photos. Last summer we shot this (almost) new construction in Atherton, California, and the trend held — this is great design, and with Heather’s un-beatable touch for styling and creativity, we got some terrific photos (at least, I like ’em!).

My favorite part of the house was the chain-mail hall table. Weighing in at around 400lbs (about 180kg) that’s a lot of steel, and required more than just your average shelf support. This (along with much of the house) was Heather’s design, and we had a good time photographing it. Another of Heather’s design elements was the abstract wall graphic in the upstairs gym.

We’re just out of post-production on yet another Bayon Design project, and there are more lined up for the first half of 2016….so stay tuned!




Modern Luxury by Holly Bender Interiors


Back in February I shot this killer contemporary house (architect: Swatt Meiers) for my long-term client Holly Bender. I’ve never done a shoot with Holly that didn’t yield something I really, really liked, and over the course of 2 days we kept that streak going!

Holly worked with the homeowner, who is an art consultant, to combine a color palette and overall aesthetic that worked with the family’s extensive (and awesome) art collection. We worked hard to create a set of photos that really capture that, and also expressed the feeling of this place. We were pleased when featured the project in August, and it got pretty rave reviews!

Here are a few more from this shoot:

And a few Behind-The-Scenes (not many, we were pretty busy on this one!)


That’s Holly getting some twilight silhouettes of Ken Brown and I, perched on the edge of the pool.


Assistant (and car photographer) Ken Brown and I on a 10-inch wide edge of the pool (yep, the tripod is down to a 10″ footprint) shooting the landscaping (which was by L&L Landscaping).


In Front of the Scenes Episode 1

San Francisco HighRise meets Modern Italian Villa


Back in early May I shot this two-floor high-rise condominium in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. Designers Cindy Bayon and Heather Menegat created an Italian Villa in this 1980s building. With construction by Muratore Corp., this place had incredible craftsmanship and awesome lighting (Artistic Lighting Group). Muratore wanted to feature the custom millwork as much as possible, and Artistic Lighting was keen to show the backlit valances they did as part of the whole villa theme.

As usual, Heather Menegat killed it with the styling. Enjoy! Oh, and check the little BTS video below, too!

Behind the Scenes Video

A few weeks ago, my longtime Photo Assistant Alan Vance brought some video equipment along and filmed me during an interior design shoot with Bleu Leman Design (Diane Leifer). He cut together this video showing the messy, weird, painstaking path we tread on our way to a finished shot.

Enjoy! And thanks Diane Leifer for agreeing to appear in this — and to Alan Vance for shooting and editing!

Cow Hollow White House by Cindy Bayon


Back in March I spent two day with Cindy Bayon, Heather Menegat, and Muratore Corp. shooting this beautifully minimalist single family residence in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood.

Cindy, who is now under her own nameplate, Bayon Design Studio, went with white-on-white and tons of diffused natural light. Working closely with Heather Menegat, who also styled the photoshoot, this home is nothing short of startling. One of the challenges with a space like this is creating depth and controlling color casts; we worked quite hard on some of these shots to keep things true to the actual feel of being in the space itself. In the case of the staircase shot above, we actually made this photo twice — the first attempt was close, but lacked that special “thing” I wanted. On the second day, things came together beautifully. Many thanks go to the talented Molly Mahar, who helped style as well as modeling in the photos!


We worked our butts off on this one – but had a good time, too. Here’s a few BTS shots — everyone wanted to take a turn on the rope swing in the home office, myself included!


Heather styled this closet from top to bottom — that’s a lot of shoes, folks! The entire thing took her nearly two hours, start to finish.


Tight quarters in the dressing room meant no room for fancy tripods….so I improvised with a bean bag, some kleenex, and stabilized everything with 5lbs of sand.

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Nob Hill Traditional with Muratore Corp


It’s hard to complain when your view of the Transamerica Pyramid is so close you can’t fit the entire tower in the window.  We photographed this traditional high rise condo atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill a few weeks ago, and the images are already up on Muratore’s shiny new website. I love the way Heather prefaces each project with a black-and-white image; I often find myself converting images to B&W while shooting as it helps me focus on the composition and lines, rather than getting distracted by details.

I’m also proud that Muratore’s website is essentially a portfolio of my work; 14 of the 15 projects listed were shot by me!

Here’s a few more from this shoot — enjoy!

Silicon Valley Residential with Brownhouse Design


Last month, I spend 2 and a half days with the team at Brownhouse Design, documenting three recently completed projects in and around “Silicon Valley” – a loose geographic term that encompasses the area around Mountain View California. Lots of household names within a few miles of these places — Google, Apple, & Facebook to name the obvious ones.

Here are a few of the best shots we made — thanks to Kathy, Rachel, Alan and everyone else who contributed to this project!

Q & A


I got an email recently from a photography student who had a short list of questions about architectural photography. I sent back some answers, which led to a follow-up, which led to another question, and in the end I realized this was probably good stuff for general consumption. So: Thanks, Meagan, for getting me back into writing mode!

Click here for the full Q & A!

SF Arch Porn

While scouting shoots in San Francisco…came upon this little vignette.


Bath & Bed by Custom Kitchens


My client Custom Kitchens doesn’t just do kitchens…their full name is “Custom Kitchens & Baths by John Wilkins”, after all!

Last week we spent a day shooting a guest suite and a master bath – here’s the results! Custom Kitchens just won 2 Gold Awards at the Remmies (with my photos…ahem) and these will be surely be contenders next year.


Home Away From Home

“Most East Bay thing, EVER.” That’s how my friend Mike Kelley reacted when I sent him a photo of this replica East African Hut in a park near my house. Yeah, my neighborhood rocks.

A few weeks ago, I was strolling along the shore of the urban lake I live next to, on my way to a glass of wine at a nearby cafe, when something caught my eye. There, in the middle of a large open park, often used for soccer football games and picnicking, was a structure clearly based on an East African hut! It was a WTF moment, for sure. I immediately delayed my glass of wine to investigate. Architecture always gets my attention, and this was, to say the least, unusual.


Turns out, this was part of The Home Away From Home, a week-long celebration of East African culture, timed to coincide with the Eritrean and Ethiopian New Year. The hut housed a small gallery of art, and there was a nearby information booth staffed by volunteers.


Thus did I meet Ellias Fullmore, who designed and built the hut. Soon, Ellias and I were engaged in a conversation about architecture, design, and engineering, with Ellias whipping out his cell phone to show me examples of Fractal design in Ethiopian textiles and me asking him about support columns and scroll-cutting technology. The rest of this post is in Ellias’ words; with additional input from Sephora Woldu. Thanks to both for giving us all such a great lesson in East African art, design, and culture! With that, take it away Ellias…..


“[We] decided to build a temporary art gallery and festival inspired by East African architecture to showcase Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora artists based in the Bay Area . The event’s name and theme  ”Home [away from] Home“ was designed to explore the concepts of “home” when away from one’s place of origin. We thought that building a modern interpretation of a traditional structure would be a great way to bring that point “home”. The structure was influenced greatly by the traditional gojo/ adgo or “hut” but also derived a great deal of influence from the stone masonry of ancient East African civilizations like Axum and Lalibela.

Ethiopian/ Eritrean Architecture

“The structure we built was influenced significantly by the common East African housing structure called a Gojo (In Amharic) and Adgo (in Tigrinia). This would be referred to as a “hut” in western vernacular . Typically circular or octagonal with a coned roof supported by single central load barring column (referred to as Messosso –typically symbolic of the head of the house hold ..i.e pillar of strength etc..)  In our version we used a custom built central bracket to support the roof panels instead of the traditional support column ..we did this to allow for more space in the structure.

Kara Tribe huts (101 of 1)

[Editor’s note:] Here’s the real thing, photographed in Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley by my friend Bobbi Lane.

“These structures can be made of wood or made out of stone, and typically have an  intricately thatched roof. In our version we used burlap to allow for light to penetrate the canopy and allow for greater visibility of the artwork housed in side. Modern interpretations of this design are used frequently in east Africa for Hotels and conference centers fully equipped with every modern amenity.”

“Much more elaborate renditions of these structures are used traditionally in Orthodox Christian Churches in Ethiopia and Eritrea but the use of these rounded structures predates Christianity in this part of Africa.  (Ethiopia became Christian in 333AD- One of the first in the world).



“The archway and panels of  our gojo/adgo  was influenced by the ancient civilizations of  Lalibella (12 century AD) and Axum  that date back to before the 1 century BC, characterized by the use of fractal geometry common in all parts of Africa and unique windows and archways carved out of a single piece of stone. (We used Plywood and a CNC router). Lastly, the design was significantly influenced by a fractal design  pattern called a tilit that is used in East African embroidery and clothing.



“It was important to me that the design reflected the traditional but also was future facing in its aesthetic. Most Africa themed structures built in modern times  tend to trap African aesthetic and design principles in a mythical past. It was important that we looked at the design as a reinterpretation of tradition suitable for Oakland California in 2014.”

Sephora added, “Understanding the technicalities of how Home [away from] Home was accomplished is rooted in the acknowledgement of the variety of people who supported our project. We had the backing of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts–a major arts institution worldwide–alongside our grassroots team of people from the various Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in the Bay Area. Scholars, artists, students, volunteers and advisers who came out of the woodwork (pun intended) to support this project. Cheesy, but true.  Meklit, Ellias and I built this idea, but it took a village to construct it into reality.”

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Photo courtesy Sephora Woldu


Sephora Woldu handled the permitting process. She writes:

“Currently there is no permit application with the City of Oakland to build a temporary East African pop- up art gallery/home in a public park. So, we improvised.

“Because our project was a temporary space and technically an art piece in and of it self , it fell in into murky territory when it came to building code. So, to be on the safe side we made the structure completely compliant  with California building codes exceptions regarding structures less than 12x feet high and total area less then 500 feet. The code also specified that exempt buildings should be modular and only assembled on site not constructed on site . The fact that our buildings wall’s only went half way to a roof constructed of a burlap tarp draped across support beams and not solid roof also contributed to falling under the less stringent building codes of tents, awnings , sheds and gazebos.”

Got questions? Leave ’em in a comment and I’ll get answers.




Camera too close to the wall to see through the viewfinder? Pro tip: carry a magnifying makeup mirror ($1.39 at Walgreens) and focus via the LCD!

Bay Area Traditional by Douglah Designs


Our first shoot with Douglah Designs of Lafayette California, and we came away with a nice set of photos! With props/styling by Jessi Gilbert, we were able to make some fun pictures, and dressed these spaces up nicely!

(More) Highrise Happiness from Muratore


We wanted to relate the gorgeous art-deco grill covers to the (gorgeous) art-deco Golden Gate Bridge….but the fog did not cooperate! We watched all day and shot this when things were best, but still no bridge… Still: how do you not plant a human being in that chair?! Had to do it! The biggest lighting challenge with this shot was making sure the chrome features of the grill “popped” appropriately, which meant giving them something bright to reflect.

We’ve shot several projects with Muratore this summer, so here’s another; this art-deco inspired condo atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill.


I loved the way the aggressively patterned floor carried through to the grid of the San Francisco streets far below.



Maple burlwood veneer coupled with black granite countertops (and black acrylic cabinets) make for a dramatic yet inviting kitchen.




We couldn’t resist this hallway shot, featuring the astonishing Egyptian-motif doors! The “Indiana Jones” fedora was a last-minute addition…


Client: Muratore Corp.
Interior Design: Tammi Bates
Styling: Heather Menegat
Photo Assist: Alan Vance

Behind The Scenes


A few weeks ago, I posted the photo above with the caption “We’re going to move some furniture on this one…”

A lot of people wanted to see what we ended up with , so I’m posting it below. The great Arnold Newman said, “Photography is 1% talent, and 99% moving furniture,” and when it comes to architectural work, truer words have never been spoken! We move furniture on every shot we make. Sometimes it’s extreme, like above, sometimes it’s minor, but I’d be hard pressed to remember a shot where something didn’t get moved. Furniture arrangements that are symmetrical and common-sense in “real life” often look really weird from the camera’s two-dimensional perspective, so we move things into positions that make no sense at all to those of us with bifocal vision, but which make perfect sense to the camera. Often, we’re scouring the surroundings for props to fill in a room that’s not really looking quite right. Other times, it’s a matter of removing the majority of the crap that’s filtering out our beautiful photo

So, click the link to see the room as I arranged it. Which reminds me, I still have an outstanding $50 bet as to whether the management ultimately adopted my floor plan! Click for lots of photos…