Photographer Sam Hartnett Brings Mood And Drama To A Project In Waiheke Island

Photographer Sam Hartnett Brings Mood And Drama To A Project In Waiheke Island

Project of the Week

This week’s featured project is a beauty out of New Zealand by photographer Sam Hartnett. Sam specializes in architecture photography and art documentation, and you’ll notice quickly that he crafts gorgeously composed images that have dramatic and directional light. He is a master of portraying the mood of the homes he photographs, and this project — Cowes Bay House — by Cheshire Architects’ on Waiheke Island is no exception.

Sam kicks things off by explaining a bit about Cowes Bay House. “The house faces out over the East coast of Waiheke, and really came to life during sunrise, like it was designed as a place to view them from. A good sunrise doesn’t last too long so you have to get up early and work quite quickly, but if you have already prepared all of your compositions you can systematically work through them. The house is full of texture and surfaces of rough stone and timbers, and as soon as we had the almost horizontal beams of light filling the space all of these textures just turned into something else, making my job pretty easy.”

Sam gives us a good look at the rectilinear shape of the Cowes Bay house, and how that same shapeliness echoes through out the various parts of the architecture and the furniture present. There is a nice repetition created by the lines of the articulating doors and their frames. The directional lighting gives a sense of depth and dynamism to the room.

I am a big fan of the simple and geometric nature of this next shot. The varying lines and negative space create an abstract feeling while showing us the form of the Cowes Bay House in a bite sized chunk of visual information.

Here, Sam gives us a delicate feeling vignette that reads a bit like a still life painting. It showcases the textures and warm streaming light that is abundant in this project.

This tidy one point perspective allows us to note the functionality of this room, like the articulating glass doors that turn this living area into an open air space. They create a perfect and symmetrical set of lines that frame up the foliage and pool outside. From a styling perspective, I love how Sam included the smoke wafting out of the fireplace, which adds a bit of interest and whimsy.

One thing I especially admire about Sam’s work is how he adds in elements of humanity and life, making it look as if the scene was just occupied, or as if you are there experiencing the architecture yourself. With the shower on and the sun tube glowing, I feel as if I’m actually there.

Buckle up, because this next photograph is so wildly good! I love the way Sam lets this scene trend a bit dark on the ceiling and sides of the frames. Despite it being a wider establishing shoot, there is an intimate and special air about it. The perfect light streaming in over the bay creates lovely golden highlights and long shadows in the space, creating a ton of visual interest and gorgeous shapes.

Sam breaks down the scene into a tighter image. Not only does drawing the sheers partially closed create a delicate and soft light, but it creates a striped pattern that echoes the slatted wood wall on the right. It also drives our eyes right through the kitchen and out to the incredible view beyond.

Sam gives us some sage advice on keeping things simple. He explains, “I spend the most part of a shoot just looking at compositions and watching the light move, waiting for it to hit the right walls and bring things to life, I walk around finding different compositions and shooting them, then returning to shoot them again, and again as the light changes. When the light is right you don’t need to do anything else to the image, the processing is minimal, and I like to keep it that way.”

I am a sucker for a good backlit photo, and wow, this one is great. The lighting pattern here creates such gorgeous and dynamic contrast which elevates this photograph of a hallway into a work of art. Sam’s perspective and exposure here help place us in the scene, making it feel as if we just turned the corner and are walking down this stretch of the house.

This is actually the first of Sam’s images I had come across, and it’s easy to see why I fell in love with his photographs and this project in particular. He does a phenomenal job of translating Cowes Bay House’s serene disposition. His photographs have a stillness about them without being…well…boring.

Sam crafts a few vignettes throughout this series to help us understand the gorgeous light and textures found throughout Cowes Bay House. This simple yet abstract image adds to the story of this home, while keeping on line with the quiet and intimate feel that Sam has portrayed throughout the rest of the series.

Besides the obvious beauty spurred on by the purple and pink light from the sunset washing over the scene, the linear aspects of this photograph are beautiful as well. The roofline jutting into the frame creates a lovely shape this is mirrored by the steps leading down to the pool. The geometric and tidy lines on the right of the frame are a nice juxtaposition to the organic free form lines created by the trees and hills on the left.

Sam brings great mood and a sense of coziness by showing the house “after hours” if you will. With the bed lit only by the lamp in the room, he gives us a fresh and now rarely seen ambiance in architecture photography. I love it, and think it fits in perfectly with the rest of this project.

Sam notes “The light changes so much during the course of 24 hours that it’s really beneficial to be able to experience how the architecture comes to life in different lights. If you have the luxury of time, and are able to spend the night on site, then you are going to be able to capture so much more.”

As we wrap up this week’s featured project, Sam circles back to a familiar view in the kitchen and dining area, but this time in the evening. The color palette here is gorgeous, with the purples and blues outside contrasting nicely against the golden warm tones in the wood and faucet. It makes for a serene and inviting photograph, and the perfect send off for this Project of the Week.

Many warm thank you’s to Sam Hartnett for sharing this project and his experience with us. You can pop on over to Sam’s website samhartnett.com or follow along on Instagram @samuel_hartnett.

If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.

About Lexi Taciak
Howdy! I'm Lexi, a photographer, graphic designer, and writer.
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