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Library of Inspiration

Finding Art in Architecture

To most photographers, capturing the perfect shot is all about reacting – to people, emotions and events. Catalin Marin has always had a different view of things.  “I like the type of photography that allows me to plan things in advance and not just react to situations,” the award-winning commercial and corporate photographer confides.

Marin moved to the Middle East over 13 years ago, harboring an interest in photography but having no professional experience or plans of making it a career. “I started taking photographs only wanting to share my experiences with my family and friends,” he tells us, “This led me to starting a blog, which began to get quite a few visitors and soon after, people were asking me if I could do commercial shoots.”

Coming from a design background, photographing architecture and interior designs comes naturally to Marin. “Beautiful designs have always appealed to me,” he says, “Portrait photography, particularly corporate portraits, are just an extension of that. You usually tend to look for beautiful places to place these people in so architecture plays an important role.”

Beautiful though the designs may be, architecture and interior photography is hard work. A key component to excelling in this field is having the right equipment. “This kind of photography usually requires very particular gear like tilt-shift lenses that allow you to keep all the lines in your images straight,” Marin points out.

Another important ingredient to getting a great architecture photograph is patience. Marin doesn’t believe in rushing, and is happy to spend considerable time setting up each shot. He elaborates: “There are many elements to consider, starting with the composition and any lights you might be adding to the scene depending on the time of the day you are shooting at. For example, when I photograph an interior for a restaurant or a commercial space, it’s not uncommon to set up as many as 5-6 lights throughout the scene.”

Besides shooting buildings professionally, Marin reveals that he has recently started a personal project to show off some of the great architecture in the UAE. “I will be documenting some of the amazing architecture we have here, assigning myself buildings to photograph like I would be photographing them for a client,” he explains. It’s not just buildings that take his fancy, but landscapes as well. “One of my favorite all time places is the Burj Al Arab beach,” he tells us excitedly, “I’ve photographed the place many times and it can look so different from one day to the other, particularly in the winter when light tends to be more dramatic.”

When he is not shooting (for work or pleasure), Catalin Marin is an instructor at Nikon School, an initiative from Nikon to provide photography classes to amateurs and beginners.  “Teaching photography has been a really interesting experience and I really enjoy sharing my knowledge,” Marin says,  “I remember when I started in photography, it was not easy to find the kind of information we’re passing on at Nikon School. It’s also a great way to meet people with similar interests, share my passion for photography with them and hopefully inspire them to pursue it.”

Marin’s love for photography extends beyond architecture and interiors. An accomplished travel photographer whose work has been featured in National Geographic and BBC Travel, Marin is also involved in organizing and running travel photography workshops in the Middle East.  “I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the most amazing destinations. The least I can do is share my journey through some of these locations with other enthusiastic photographers,” he says happily. What countries are next on his itinerary this year? “Iceland is coming up in July and Ethiopia is coming soon as well.”

Marin’s gift for travel photography came to the fore through his blog, aptly titled Momentary Awe.  Featuring stunning photos from his various adventures, it was awarded Best Asian & Oceanic Photoblog at the 2011 Photoblog Awards. In addition to providing a platform to showcase his all-round skills, the blog has also helped Marin grow as a photographer.  “I started the blog almost 8 years ago,” says Marin, “As I started posting more images, I found that it pushed my photography into new places, making me improve and experiment more and more.”

Another aspect of the blog that helps Marin is the objective feedback from readers. “It’s always great when you’re making your work available to an audience as you feel more responsible about what you are producing,” he enthuses, while discussing his future plans for the blog. “There are many plans, but time is not always on my side. I’m trying to turn it into a learning resource, posting information about my process and the way I approach photography.”

He also has a secret up his sleeve: “I’m planning a photography book when the blog gets closer to the 10 year anniversary, but that’s still quite a while away.”

With the future seemingly in good hands, we ask him to turn the clock all the way back – to the beginning.  What would his advice be to budding photographers taking up the craft? Marin is candid in his response. “First, shoot for yourself rather than a client, and be honest with yourself. If the work you are producing satisfies you, most of the times it will also please potential clients.”

In order to take great photographs, people need great cameras. Marin does not believe this is an issue, as entry level cameras these days come fully packed with a multitude of features. “Cameras have been getting better and better,” he says approvingly, “I’ve been shooting with Nikon for more than 10 years now and I find that even an entry-level DSLR like the Nikon 3300 or Nikon 5300 will do a great job as long as you put the time in.” Marin is also a fan of higher-end models like the Df, adding, “The re-invention of the classic camera by including cutting-edge technology is a really interesting concept. For example, the Nikon Df has a world-class 16.2-megapixel full frame CMOS sensor, while also retaining a mechanical dial for an old-world feel. I had the pleasure of shooting with a Df recently and I really loved the quality of it.”

Above all, the one thing you need to excel in photography is commitment, and there is no better example than Marin himself. He adds, “Most of the work I had featured in outlets such as National Geographic and Lonely Planet Middle East were part of personal travel-related projects I undertook. If you’re passionate about your craft and are committed to it, I firmly believe the recognition will come eventually.”

Before he leaves to continue his photographic adventures, we can’t resist asking him for one sure-shot tip to photographers. The reply was instant: “Don’t chase the money, but chase great photographs and the money will come.”