Sarah Caldwell has photographed a remarkable number of incredible buildings around the world. This has been possible as a result of her job as a Boeing 777 captain for Air New Zealand, which sees her traversing the world at any given date or time. Over the past few years Sarah has built an exceptional portfolio of architectural imagery, and recently her photographic skill in this sphere was recognised at the 2019 NZIPP Iris Awards when she won the Commercial category.
Sarah has always had an interest in architecture, and having an uncle who was an architect helped foster her awareness of well designed buildings and structures. But it was a creative workshop Sarah attended in the United States that really got her into architectural photography. “I went on holiday in the United States — Los Angeles and New York — and then on to a creative workshop in Maine. We had to share a portfolio and I showed both landscape work and some architecture from Los Angeles and New York. I was encouraged to explore architecture,” she explains.
Since then, Sarah has almost exclusively shot architecture — except for a couple of road trips around New Zealand where she’s captured landscapes. When she switched from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera the lighter weight of the gear enabled Sarah to take her photography equipment on work trips to major cities. Her current camera of choice is the Sony α7R III, as its 42 MP back-illuminated full-frame sensor has a 15 stop dynamic range, making it ideal for architecture and landscape photography. Sarah also finds the five axis in-body stabilisation is fantastic for the low light handheld situations that she often finds herself in.
One of her favourite architects is Dame Zaha Hadid — an Israeli-British architect known as the “Queen of Curves” having designed beautiful buildings like London’s Olympics Aquatics Centre and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Bridge. Sarah is also drawn to Frank Gehry’s designs. “I find myself addicted to the Frank Gehry building in Los Angeles and I keep gravitating there every time I go to downtown LA. I can’t wait to travel and see more of his work.”
As travelling is part of her job, and not just for holidays, she fits in a walk with her camera during her recovery time after a long haul flight. In saying that, Sarah says she also plans her holidays around photography. “I have managed to find things to photograph in every city I go to, but of course the larger the city the greater the choice. London, Tokyo and Hong Kong are great. There is some amazing modern architecture in the Middle East and in Asia on my bucket list. Europe is also on that list, as work doesn’t take me there, and there are stunning modern and old buildings to explore,” she explains.
Sarah says she is lucky in the fact that compositions tend to just come to her, and she believes her artistic abilities have been passed down to her from her mother. “If the composition isn’t so obvious, or I can’t get what I want, I still capture the image and then see what comes in post-processing. I get really excited when I see that something has wonderful lines and shapes and I instinctively know it will make a good shot.”