Old, Before New

In February I was called by McGrath Properties to shoot the historic PG&E Building in downtown Oakland. Built in 1927, it’s being re-vitalized as commercial condos. Whoever gets the 8th floor mezzanine will have, in my opinion, the coolest workspace in Oakland.

I worked with longtime associate Patti Chandler for one long day, and then returned the next evening to capture twilights.

The inside of this place was awesome — brick walls, ironwork, antique glass in the windows….very cool stuff! We had done a pretty thorough walk-through with McGrath the week before, so I had a solid schedule for the shoot, although inevitably we discovered additional shots no one had thought of originally, and made time for them as well.

That’s me trying to find an angle, with Perry looking on. We used an 800-watt pack and a couple of heads to light things as necessary. With three people I was able to really move efficiently, and Patti’s eye for composition meant we found great angles to shoot.

Around mid-day, we headed outside to shoot daylight exteriors. Best vantage point that we had access to was the roof of the flatiron across the street, so I climbed the vertical shaft out of the attic….

Me, getting a shift-stitch of the front facade of the building. Photo by Patti Chandler.

Patti, shooting me, shooting her.

Late in the day, we moved down to the lobby, which has a central structure of metal encased in the original soaring space surrounded by deco columns….

That wrapped day one…


The next night found us on the roof of the Piano Showroom, diagonally across the intersection, for some twilight exteriors.

Waiting for the light to drop.....

...Still waiting for the light to drop...

I loved the contextual nature of this comp — the very old Victorian flatiron, the historic brick building I’m featuring, with the modern glass Harris State Office building (by Keating Khang) looming behind. Old, and new. The photo at the top of this post is the “real” winner, but I also love this one.

While we were doing this, I also had a camera in the 5th-floor window of our building, shooting time-lapse of the city (unbeknownst to the client, who loved the result):

It was a great project, and good to see historic buildings being retrofitted and brought back to life!

4 responses to “Old, Before New

  1. Hi Scott.

    The exposed steel frame and the bricks are really something. Is it only a condo building or it also has some commercial spaces?

    ps – great work as usual. My favorite has to be the first one in the post.



  2. Hi Scott,

    Did you use just 2 heads and the 800 watt pack for all of the shots or did some require more than 2? Heads with umbrellas, soft boxes? Love to read your blog. Thanks.


    • Joanne,
      I don’t think we ever needed more than 2 heads — but can’t remember for sure. There might have been a speedlight or two floating around too.
      Always bounced; no softboxes/brollys. Some of the shots are blends of 2 or more exposures, as well.