An aerial view highlights creative shapes and patterns in a way you just couldn’t achieve from the ground. Paine Park, Philadelphia, PA.
As a kid, if you asked me what kind of animal I wished I could be, I would’ve answered eagle in a heartbeat. I dreamt of soaring through the clouds, peering down at the earth far below. As an adult, I’ve come pretty close to this feeling when I’m up in a helicopter capturing aerial photographs of buildings, skylines and neighborhoods.
A wide view from above highlights suburban America’s highways, shopping malls, and office buildings.
Aerials capture an important viewpoint when documenting a site or structure. When a commercial realtor is marketing an office building or shopping center, showing the location from the air gives potential buyers a clear sense of scale and context.
Shot from high up, the Cira Center in Philadelphia reflects its surroundings.
A view from up high can be a powerful and dramatic way to show a project in a completely different way, like an architect’s scale model come to life. Sometimes when I’m hovering overhead in a helicopter, I feel like I’m looking down on my own personal model train set. What a feeling!
Aerial photography showcases the lush green campus of Glaxo Smith Kline in King of Prussia, PA.
Capturing excellent aerial photographs is not easy. It requires a great deal of planning, teamwork, communication — and strong nerves, as you’re hanging out of the open door of a small two-person helicopter trying to find the perfect angle.
An overhead view captures the precise geometry of the Quadrangle and student housing at University of Pennsylvania.
I’ve done many aerial shoots, so I’m able to accurately calculate time and cost. There’s nothing worse than underestimating the amount of time needed, or over-booking a pilot’s time. Experience matters.
Philadelphia turns into glowing pockets of light when photographed from above at night.
Before I climb aboard the helicopter, I like to have a clear vision of what I’ll see when I’m up there. I first look up the location on Google Maps and study the satellite view carefully. Once the client confirms that the building I’m seeing in the satellite view is in fact the one I’ve been hired to photograph (you’d be surprised how different something can look from hundreds of feet up in the air!) I mark down the GPS coordinates and print out the satellite view to help navigate the pilot.
Time to fly…
500 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware.
I’m in the business of helping other businesses look their best through visually commanding photography of commercial buildings.
One of my favorite clients is CBRE , the global full-service real estate company. We work together throughout the year on photography projects for their numerous sales efforts — from Class A office buildings to warehouses, to shopping centers, to apartment complexes.
For one of our recent projects together, the Wayne, Pennsylvania office of CBRE commissioned photographs to market 500 Delaware Avenue in Wilmington, Delaware. As with many of these commercial projects, time is short and the client needs strong images of an existing, older building as quickly as possible to close the deal.
A great place to wait before meeting your attorney.
Upper floor law firm conference room.
500 Delaware Avenue houses many corporate law firms — unsurprising considering that Wilmington is home to the majority of large U.S. corporations. It can be a challenge to document the most photogenic spaces in such a large office building, with minimal disruption to the building’s tenants. Frequently, I’m accompanied by a property manager who is familiar with the building and with the tenants, and who helps me locate the best spaces and views.
Not every part of a building is glamorous, but the US Post Office pays their rent every month.
My specialty is balancing beautiful photography with documentation. I must highlight the best spaces as well as capture the more typical spaces — visually describe the building while piquing the interest of potential investors.
The street address is hard to miss.
Exterior of Philadelphia’s Family Court with Love Park fountain in foreground.
There is never a perfect time to photograph a building. Go in too soon and the building isn’t finished; wait too long and access is difficult. This was certainly my challenge photographing Philadelphia’s new Family Court Building. Once the judges and court employees moved into their new home, tight security would have limited our access throughout the 14-story building. We managed to get in while the building was still partially unfinished and coordinate crews to clean the spaces we needed to photograph.
Corridor outside court rooms features terrazzo floors and wood trim.
I was hired to photograph the $200 million Family Court Building by Tutor Pernini Construction, who built this modern facility designed by Ewing Cole. I was thrilled to work with Tutor Pernini once again, after collaborating on a previous project, the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
One of numerous court rooms.
Located in the city center and across the street from the famous LOVE Park, the Family Court Building is a huge upgrade from their previous facilities, which were located within an historic 1920s neo-classical stone building. The court had simply outgrown the old building, and the need for more courtrooms and more office space led to the construction of this new facility.
While photographing the interiors required precise timing to avoid disturbing the soon-to-be tenants, I had the freedom to explore the best angles for the exteriors. The fountain at nearby LOVE Park provides the perfect context for the site, showing the beauty of the park and the amazing location of the new building.
1st floor lobby.
Because of the large scale of this project, I had two assistants helping move equipment and styling the spaces so we could complete our extensive shot list. My goal was to capture the clean and bright interiors while showcasing their warmth and thoughtful details.
View from balcony of Lea Library, rare book room at Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania.
It’s not everyday that I get the opportunity to photograph such a unique space as a perfectly-preserved Victorian Gothic reading room embedded in the top floor of a modern library.
I was delighted to be commissioned by Cathy Gontarek, art director the Pennsylvania Gazette, to illustrate an article on the gorgeous Henry Charles Lea Library at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Link to PDF of Gazette article on Henry Charles Lea.
Here is another article that features my photos about renovation of Van Pelt Library, in which Lea Library is housed.
Portrait of Lea that hangs in the rare book room.
In 1925 Henry Charles Lea’s family donated his extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts to the University of Pennsylvania — along with the room in which they’d been housed since 1881.
The recently-completed Lea Library is now home to the Special Collections Center and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, and includes conference rooms, a digital media lab, seminar rooms and exhibition space for rare manuscripts, in addition to the refurbished reading room.
The double-height reading room is an impressive example of Victorian architecture and interior design — truly a treasure worth preserving for future generations of students and scholars.
Victorian bust from original Lea Library.
The shelves are filled with rare volumes.
Page from a book about witchcraft from the 1400s.
Exterior of the newly opened IPEX building, University of the Sciences, Philadelphia.
Seminar auditorium with state of the art AV equipment.
I had the pleasure of photographing this unique educational project for architect Bob Little of L2Partridge, along with Turner Construction. The building boasts cutting-edge learning spaces amid green design elements such as a green roof and interiors full of natural light.
In today’s booming healthcare industry, it’s not enough for doctors and other providers to simply be trained in the science of their practice — they must also master the art of person-to-person interactions and they must be familiar with the responsibilities of the other healthcare professionals with whom they will work in the real world.
Collaboration is key. In an educational environment, bringing together multiple disciplines strengthens students’ understanding of their own professions as they learn from each other.
Main entrance to the IPEX building.
Clean, modern, bright and airy, the newly-completed IPEX (Integrated Professional Education Complex) building at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia is dedicated to training students with a comprehensive, interprofessional approach to healthcare.
The inspiring and energizing spaces are the ideal home for this new approach to teaching our future generations of doctors and healthcare professionals.
Main stairwell and common space with circular skylights above.
Detail of skylights in the ceiling.
November 11th, 2014
Posted in portraits by Greg Benson
Kurt Vonnegut at 1980 Cornell Daily Sun dinner, 5/15/1980.
Today, November 11, is the birth date of Kurt Vonnegut. Born in 1922, he died in 2007.
Like Vonnegut, I attended Cornell University and was a member of the Cornell Daily Sun newspaper staff. I have fond memories of photographing for the Sun. One day per week I would be on assignment – shooting during the day, developing film and making prints in the darkroom at night, usually until midnight. The next morning I would wake up and see my photographs in the newspaper that was delivered to my doorstep.
Vonnegut attended Cornell in the 1940s, and he served as managing editor of the newspaper. The year I graduated from Cornell, Vonnegut spoke to the newspaper staff at our annual end-of-year banquet. I had the opportunity to photograph him during the banquet and I took this candid black-and-white close-up of him.
I have always liked Vonnegut ‘s fiction. He’s a great storyteller and his books make me laugh out loud and cry at the failings of his all too human characters. Many of his stories, though simple on the surface, actually deal with life’s biggest questions. That wisdom was on display the night I photographed him at the banquet, May 3, 1980. His speech that night ended with the following words, a reflection of his time at the Sun:
I was happiest when I was all alone — and it was very late at night, and I was walking up the hill after having helped to put The Sun to bed.
All the other university people, teachers and students alike, were asleep. They had been playing games all day long with what was known about real life. They had been repeating famous arguments and experiments, and asking one another the sorts of hard questions real life would be asking by and by.
We on The Sun were already in the midst of real life. By God, if we weren’t! We had just designed and written and caused to be manufactured yet another morning newspaper for a highly intelligent American community of respectable size — yes, and not during the Harding administration, either, but during 1940, ’41 and ’42, with the Great Depression ending, and with World War Two well begun.
I am an atheist, as some of you have gleaned from my writings. But I have to tell you that, as I trudged up the hill so late at night and all alone, I knew that God Almighty approved of me.
— Kurt Vonnegut ’44
This town house’s façade uses striking geometric shapes.
The geometric modern façade of this new town house by Daryl Rothmund stands in contrast to its traditional red brick Philadelphia row house neighbors. Working with Daryl is always a pleasure. His projects are a breath of fresh air in the world of residential development, and a delight to photograph.
Imagined by Atrium Designs as an oasis in the vibrant Northern Liberties neighborhood of Philadelphia, this large row house features a modern open floor plan, large windows and private outdoor living spaces rarely seen in this dense urban environment.
The dramatic geometries of the home’s facade are continued inside, with a spacious and airy modern design.
This town house features an open space plan.
Steps away from the bustling energy of Philadelphia, this home’s private outdoor space is nothing short of a sanctuary. The home’s large windows and glass doorways fuse the luxurious modern interior with its lush outdoor living spaces in a seamless transition perfect for entertaining.
Who wouldn’t love a secluded oasis like this to enjoy on a hot summer night in the city?
Windward Harbour is located at the northern tip of Avalon, New Jersey.
July and August are the hottest months in Philadelphia, and escaping the heat of the city — with all its concrete and glass — is on everyone’s mind. A favorite getaway is the New Jersey shore, where you can just leave it all behind.
Courtyard at Windward Harbour.
A few years ago, I visited the Shore (twist my arm!) to photograph the charming Windward Harbour Condominiums in Avalon, NJ.
E. Allen Reeves, Inc. was commissioned to rebuild Windward Harbor after it was lost to a fire. The Zacker Group Architects designed the 45 unit community which overlooks Cedar Island and the Atlantic Ocean.
Docks are located right outside your door.
Windward Harbour is truly a piece of paradise on the Jersey Shore. If you ever get tired of laying out at the beach, you can enjoy the community pool or go boating.
If you’re not in the mood for the beach, the pool or boating, you can relax on your shaded balcony. These views will never get old.
June 20th, 2014
Posted in weather by Greg Benson
At midnight view of Stockholm from the south.
On my visit to Stockholm we climbed a high hill to see the horizon at midnight on one of the shortest night of the year. It’s amazing how bright it is in the middle of the night. Midsommer is a big holiday in Sweden.
Center City Philadelphia from the east.
It’s a cold, dark night on the biggest shopping day of the year, and I’m hovering hundreds of feet above the city of Philadelphia. The world beneath my feet is glowing, the darkness pierced by pockets of light.
What am I doing here?
Deptford, New Jersey, Walmart from 1000 feet.
For three hours that night, we flew loops around Philadelphia in a small helicopter, capturing aerial photographs of cars at five different Walmarts to discover how large a parking lot should be.
Walmart had commissioned an engineering firm to study the capacity of their parking lots on their busiest sales day. My aerial photos would help them answer the classic Goldilocks dilemma — are existing parking lots too big, too small, or just right?
The answer is important: too large of a parking lot and money is being wasted, too small a parking lot and potential sales are lost due to customers not being able to park.
Cockpit of Schweizer 300 helicopter as we approached our final landing.
The next time you’re out shopping, remember that we’re out there too, working to make your life just a little easier through the magic of aerial photography.