Bahá'í Temple Column
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The Importance of Looking Up

Being a part of a local photowalk group, I often experiment with different techniques during our outings. One of our group leaders, Dianne Carroll Burdick, has long taught the importance of looking up and taking advantage of different perspectives. For me, looking up has turned into one of the most important aspects of photography I’ve learned over the past few years. Doing so has helped me create unique photographs that show new details and interesting viewpoints that looking straight ahead wouldn’t present.

On Saturday, I was once again able to put this into practice, as I met up with some Out of Chicago friends while I was in town for a client event.

We decided to photograph the Bahá’í House of Worship, a temple located just outside of Chicago, in Wilmette.

The architectural details on this are absolutely breathtaking. It’s the oldest surviving Bahá’í temple in the world, and it’s the only one in the United States. The dome has intricate lace detail, and the entire building has details that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

And the lighting right around sunset was near-perfect.

I decided to use my practice of looking up throughout my visit. But first, I wanted to start with a good overview shot.


You’ll see here I captured as much as possible here, showcasing the gardens in the foreground, the steps in the center and the temple taking up the rest of the frame. Photographing from afar gave me a good idea of what aspects of the temple draw my eye. For me, the columns, the doors and the roof were major aspects.

From there, I got closer, and started to look up at the building.


The roof was going to be difficult to capture in all its glory. And the doors — other than shooting wide — I wasn’t sure how to capture the intricate detail above them.

But the columns were something I could work with. They were so detailed, and the light and shadows were working together very well. Plus, they were easily accessible!


I snapped one photo from up the steps, cropping in to showcase the column alongside some of the rest of the building. But it was too busy for me — I wanted the column to be the star.

I moved in closer, and then I looked directly up, and saw the column.


And there it was — my favorite shot of the day. The negative space in the sky helped to frame the top of the column, while the leading lines to the top helped draw attention to the amazing detail.

From there, I spent the rest of my time going around the building, photographing the moon with the building in the foreground. I also did some long exposures of the sunset. But nothing grabbed my eye quite like the columns.

So the next time you’re looking for something different, and don’t want to photograph the same old thing…look up!

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