LEMAG: Oscar, thank you very much for finding time to speak to us. I would like to start by asking you about the way you have divided the images on your page into two groups: architectural (which in effect is cityscape) and landscape. Do you really separate those two environments so distinctively? Do you find them so different to photograph?
Oscar Lopez: First of all thank you for your interest in my work and for the opportunity you give me to talk about it. It is a very interesting question to begin with. I guess I decided to do the separation in the easiest way I found at the time, although as you say, a cityscape is actuality a landscape photograph too. I didn’t think about it at the time.
As a matter of fact I approach the kind of landscapes that I like to photograph (those that are man-made or have a mark of human civilisation like the ones found in Tuscany) in a similar way as I do in architectural photography. I try to find the things of that landscape that interest me whether it is an element or a detail, or the interconnection between the different elements in the scene and if there are any other supporting elements compositionally speaking. Then I try to find the composition that I find most appealing to me and set up my equipment.
LEMAG: I am positive we will feature some of your landscape images in the future but for this issue we have specifically chosen your architecture images. As you live in Hamburg, you do of course shoot the city. You have also done some work on London and other locations. Which city is your favourite one?
Oscar Lopez: I can only say, my favourite location is my hometown, Hamburg. That has been confirmed to me as some of my best awarded images have been shot in Hamburg. But I loved London too. There are lots of opportunities to do modern architectural photography, even more than here in Hamburg.
LEMAG: Given a chance, which city you would like to be able to shoot?
Oscar Lopez: I currently don´t travel as much as I did before starting with photography but I´d like to travel more often in a near future and the cities that are on the top of my list are New York, Chicago and maybe before these two, Berlin and Copenhagen.
LEMAG: You do not have any images from your native Mexico. I have visited Mexico City a few times and can easily imagine you can find very interesting subjects there as well, especially along Paseo de la Reforma where many modern buildings were have been erected. Equally so, old architecture of Mexico is very captivating, from ancient pyramids to XVIII-century churches. Do you think you will ever be inclined to visit the country and set your lens on that course?
Oscar Lopez: Yes, of course!. When I think about my country, modern architecture is not the first thing that comes to my mind, but as you say, there are for sure some interesting modern buildings that I would like to photograph around the areas of Santa Fe and Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. Also I´d like to visit and photograph the new International Barroque Museum designed by Toyoo Itō located near Puebla, my old home town. And I have in mind a project around the Mayan Pyramids. I imagine they would be great subjects for LE photography.
LEMAG: You work is very modern and it is clear that you set your eye on detail, especially on patterns, mirroring and repetitions in architecture. How important is for you getting the composition set-up right?
Oscar Lopez: I think that if you want an image to have impact, you need most of the time to have an interesting subject but you always need a compelling composition. An interesting subject alone won´t do an image with impact if the composition is flawed. But in the other way, you can have a great composition of a subject that is, let´s say not that interesting to the naked eye but it is the composition alone what can make an image very attractive. And then we have the post processing phase which lets us enhance the composition by concealing distracting elements and revealing more those that are important.
LEMAG: With some of the objects you photographed your approach is very different to what some photographers – including myself– would do: you present a number of different images of the same subject, as opposed to selecting just one as an artistic statement, sort of saying ‘this is my take of it and it is my final word’. You seem to be offering your viewer options to choose from and in doing so, you hide yourself as a photographer even more behind your camera. It is as if you did not want to present yourself in your photography but the object. Your photography becomes almost a reportage.
Oscar Lopez: I don´t really have a rule for this. I guess that if an object presents itself as interesting to me that I need to show it from different angles and it is also fulfilling my vision of it, then I would do as many images as necessary and possible. Then it becomes a series of images where every image is consistent with the other ones and at the end it is the most fulfilling result I can get for me rather than constraining myself into doing only one image. I would go back over and over again to photograph the same subject until I can say, this is my last word.
LEMAG: It was not exactly easy for me to choose my favourites from your images as in every one there is something I enjoy looking at but after some time I filtered my selection down and opted in favour of Contrarian and Spoorweghaven. Can you tell us how they were taken, what made you decide on the locations and how you post-processed them ?
Oscar Lopez: I did these two images during my last family trip to France as we stopped in Rotterdam for a day on the way back home.
“The Contrarian” shows a very-well known building in Rotterdam which holds the Maritime School of the STC group. In fact inspired by an image of Joel Tjintjelaar I decided to do my look up version of it. It is a long exposure of about 5 minutes.
For the post processing phase I used several hard selections. One for the sky and then y cut the building into different elements of it to process them separately. Then I used luminosity masks to separate the lighter tones from the darker ones and process them also separately but in a more subtle way. Then by using the method of Photography Drawing by Julia Anna Gospodarou I painted with light to enhance the sense of volume. For the black and white conversions I use Topaz Labs B&W Effects.
For my version of “Spoorweghaven” an also very popular spot in Rotterdam I was drown by the repetitions seen on the row of houses at the waterfront that are framed by the taller buildings in the second row and the gap between the two sets of buildings. The reflection on the channel provided a chance to enhance these patterns a little more which I used but in a subtle way.
Since I love how cityscapes at water look like when captured with long exposures I decided to do a LE and as the wind was very still and so was the water in the channel I did a LE of 30 seconds only. For this I used a 16-35 mm Lens and put on a 10 stops filter. There was a lot of contrast on the scene as the sun was rising up on the horizon so my subject was backlit. Fortunately there were some clouds filtering a little bit the sunlight. The raw image didn’t show any detail on the sky and I was surprised to see while processing it how much detail indeed was hidden there.
In this case I tried a different way of post processing but using the same principles. I used the Artisan B&W Panel of Joel Tijntjelaar to control the light and dark tones. It is a very powerful tool if you don’t want to spent time creating hard selections where it is not absolutely necessary.
LEMAG: There are not too many images on your page. Does it mean that you have only recently took up photography or that you decided to get rid of your old work?
Oscar Lopez: In fact the images you see on my page are almost all the images I have to show right now. I have been practicing photography for almost 5 years now and and what you see there is the result of my journey so far and are the most representative for me.
LEMAG: What aspects of photography you find most challenging?
Oscar Lopez: Actually the lack of time to do photography. I am father of two little girls and most of my free time goes to them. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot continue reading and learning. It´s just the act of doing photography I get little time for, but it occupies all the empty spaces left in my mind.
LEMAG: And my final question – which image of yours you like best and why?
Oscar Lopez: I love all of my images as each one represent a part of me, but if I had to choose one it is “Emphasized”. I didn’t envisioned the final result from the beginning but the vision developed through the complete process and I learned a lot during the processing of the image namely how I can use dedicated control of light and contrast to enhance a composition and concentrate on the details and subjects of interest. It’s an image I am very satisfied with.
LEMAG: Thank you for your time and all the best with your future projects.