There are a few places around Houston and adjacent cities that I love to go to at times... places like the Menil, The Chapel of St. Basil, St. John Vianney and Katy Heritage Park. The commonality that draws me to these places are the quietness, calmness, and peacefulness! There's nothing like spending your personal time at a quiet place to relax and get away from the busy schedule of work and life. It's places like these where I can wind down and appreciate this moment of creation that we often times forget ever existed...the moment when time stands still.
My experience at Armand Bayou Nature Center did exactly that. It was a beautiful place where you can really appreciate nature even though there were many industrial sites surrounding the 2,500 acre property. The concept, from my understanding after speaking to the designers at Randall-Porterfield Architects, was that they wanted to create a building that had very limited impact on the environment and, in a way, be hidden within its surrounding. So I took this concept and I knew there would be one shot I absolutely wanted to give them- a shot with the building under the stars. The site was a pretty good distance from the city lights so it was definitely possible to do. What would be greater than to show the building connection to the natural landscape and also the cosmos?
The shoot was divided into two days and so my first visit was during the night to capture the building under the stars (it was cloudy that night though...I had to take stars from a previous shoot and did some Photoshop magic!) The director was kind enough to stay back after hours to allow me to be there. (He was amazingly kind and knew a lot of information about the wildlife that was on the land!) While exploring the site I had the chance to see fireflies for the first time in my life!...Definitely a cool experience for this suburban boy. What wasn't cool were these misquotes that seemed to love the flavor of my blood. Good thing I was well prepared with bug spray or else I would've been eaten alive! What I enjoyed the most was the stillness I experience there. You weren’t able to hear the sounds of cars or any machines from the factories nearby. Your ears could only hear the rustling of leave and the chirping crickets. I’m always stressed out and under so much pressure during all my shoots, but that night I felt so much at peace.
The total amount of time spent that night was about 2 hours to capture 4 images...it was a lot of work shooting in the dark, but it was lots of fun to see the outcome of the photos. The second visit during the day was where I could see the building in the eyes of the designer and their intention. The building did look as though it was hidden from sight. As you walk around the porch, large woolens columns would direct your view towards three different areas, an open grass area in the south, the gardens in the east and the entry towards the north. Each view would somehow capture and express something different and distinct about the center.
If you are ever near Pasadena, definitely stop by and visit the trails at the Armand Bayou Nature Center!