The Beauty of Design and Street Art in Downtown Christchurch


During our most recent trip to New Zealand my wife and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours strolling through downtown Christchurch. We were struck by the beauty of the architectural design, sculptures, and the street art that we found during our visit. This article shares some images as well as discussing some composition considerations.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 48mm, ISO 160, 1/250, f/8.0

I’m often drawn to the details in what I find like these leaf designs located at the bottom of the Chalice Sculpture. Due to the angle of the strong afternoon sun and the number of people around the sculpture I had little choice but to capture this image at a difficult angle. Given the shooting conditions I did my best to capture the gentle sweeping motion of the leaf designs. I needed to adjust the perspectives in post and rotate the image 90-degrees.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 27.2mm, ISO 160, 1/250, f/8.0

The sun highlighting the top of that same sculpture also caught my eye. I used equidistant composition to create some balance in the photograph.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 30.3mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/8.0
Aliexpress INT

Sometimes overhead wires, trees and other visual distractions can be a challenge when composing images in urban areas. I shot this photograph from close to ground level, looking up towards the sculpture to create drama and also eliminate the visual distractions. Using a camera with a flip screen is ideal of this type of composition, as was the use of a zoom lens.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 160, 1/100, f/8.0

Getting in close to the base of a building and shooting skyward can help to accentuate the elegant lines found in architecture. Composing images with the use of corner exits can help to increase the eye flow in a photograph.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 76.4mm, ISO 160, 1/500, f/8.0

To get intricate shapes and angles to align in a pleasing manner often involves walking around a subject in order to discover the best shooting angle. My objective was to find some parallel shapes and intersecting lines that had good flow.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 81.8mm, ISO 160, 1/400, f/8.0

The sides and back of this sculpture were as creative as the front view. It was the intensity and angle of the sun that led to me deciding on this perspective, which helped avoid shooting directly into strong sunlight.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 22.9mm, ISO 160, 1/40, f/5.6

I composed this image using a partial subject bleed to add a bit of drama to the above composition. I also wanted to contrast the modern, angular lines of the sculpture with the rounded carvings and classic stonework found on the building.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 18.1mm, ISO 160, 1/25, f/5.6

As regular readers will know, I love to find strong geometric patterns to photograph. I composed this image with my camera held out at waist level pointing down with the rear screen flipped out at 90-degrees. I adjusted the focal length of my zoom lens to ensure that my feet would not appear in the image. I used some perspective control adjustments in post.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 22.9mm, ISO 160, 1/500, f/8.0

Street art found on urban buildings can be wonderfully vibrant and colourful. Sometimes we can walk by such pieces of urban art without giving them much thought. I enjoy studying these artistic expressions and often photograph specific portions that catch my eye.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 27.2mm, ISO 160, 1/100, f/8.0

I loved the colours and the futuristic nature of this dragon character. I used a tight crop to add some drama.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 19.2mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/8.0

The colours in this abstract drew me to the illustration. Framing the composition with the pink elements around the outside gave it some colour balance to my eye.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 67.6mm, ISO 160, 1/50, f/8.0

Who wouldn’t love an owl with spectacles! The strong, simple colours screamed out to be photographed.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 72.2mm, ISO 160, 1/80, f/8.0

I appreciated the facial details and tones that the artist achieved with their creation. I included the small bushes growing up against the wall as they added to the 3-D nature of the painting.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 67.6mm, ISO 160, 1/400, f/8.0

I found a couple of extremely detailed murals that had been painted on the sides of buildings. Rather than photograph them in their entirety, I was much more intrigued with some of the interactions of individual characters and the attention to detail paid by the artist.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 18.1mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/8.0

I angled my camera to create a strong visual flow with the image above. This also allowed a more pleasing colour separation in the photograph.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 31.9mm, ISO 160, 1/100, f/8.0

This is a very small section from the same mural. I had to shoot upwards at the mural to capture these specific elements which distorted the characters. As I composed this photograph I realized that I would need to adjust the image with perspective control software. I purposely included some mural elements in the photograph that didn’t want in the final composition. I knew that these elements would end up being cropped out once I adjusted the perspective.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 72.2mm, ISO 160, 1/1000, f/8.0

This mural covered one entire side of a 5 story building. In order to eliminate some chain link fencing and other visual distractions I zoomed in tighter on the mural, cropping off about 25% of its left-hand side and shooting just above the fencing.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 100mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/8.0

This was another beautiful mural that covered the side of a long building. There were various posts, wires and a host of other visual distractions causing some challenges. By changing my physical position I was able to find a specific shooting angle that allowed for an unobstructed view of a portion of the mural.

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NIKON 1 J5 + 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 60.4mm, ISO 160, 1/80, f/8.0

This mural was one of the most incredible pieces of building artwork that I have ever seen. The details and emotion in it stopped me in my tracks. It took a bit of time to finalize the composition, shooting just over some parked cars and vans, and cropping off a window on the left-hand side.

While my wife and I spent almost all of our time in the rural areas of the South Island of New Zealand photographing landscapes and nature for an upcoming eBook project, we certainly enjoyed our brief visit to Christchurch, appreciating the beauty of the building designs, sculptures and street art we found during our walk.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured handheld with Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. Images were created from RAW files using my standard process of PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

Article and all images Copyright 2018 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, adaptation or reproduction of any kind is allowed without written permission. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see this article or any of the images contained in it reproduced anywhere else, it is an unauthorized and illegal use.

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