Johnson College Preps entryway

Johnson College Prep | OKW Architects

My friends at OKW Architects commissioned me to photograph the recently renovated Johnson College Prep in Englewood – part of the Noble Charter Schools network. Designed by OKW and built by UJAMAA Construction, the updates to the school include a new plaza, modern signage, a relocated ADA-compliant ramp, and a dramatic 3-story glass entryway that glows at night. A new slatted canopy tops off this design – literally and figuratively – to give the school an impactful presence.

Speaking of glowing, here’s Johnson College Prep during blue hour:

Johnson College Prep lit up in the evening


Our photoshoot took place on the schools’ last in-class day so we only had one chance to get this right. The team from OKW and I started off the day working a couple exterior angles. We patiently waited for students and faculty to stroll through the frame to create naturally activated scenes. Ultimately, we were rewarded with a great mix of people activating the public plaza in our two daytime exterior images.

Johnson College Prep's plaza


Once Johnson College Prep was (mostly) emptied, we ventured up to the 3rd floor lounge for an interior shot. We set our angle during a previous scout, so the challenge with this shot was getting the students in the right positions. We didn’t have long with them – they wanted to enjoy the start of their summer. I worked quickly to capture the necessary frames of the students interacting to composite together later. After that shot wrapped, we took a break until sunset, which, on our shoot day, was 8:24pm. This is only 6 minutes shy of the latest sunset of the year! Obviously we had some time to burn, so we all headed home for a few hours.


The 3rd floor lounge of Johnson College Prep


Later that evening we were back at the school on a gorgeous night. By the time the sun had set and blue hour kicked in, it was well past 8:30pm — so it goes with blue hour shoots near astronomical summer.  For comparison’s sake, the earliest sunset in December is around 4:19pm. We had a limited working window and once the sun went down blue hour evolved quickly.

We moved around trying different angles. And since we wanted a wider, more distant image, I shot many of the frames in the middle of the street. I wore a hi-vis vest for safety, but had to move often due to approaching cars. This meant I couldn’t set-up in the ideal position for the duration of blue hour to later create an image layered with ideally lit elements. So Instead of attempting to shoot from the exact same spot, I bounced around, working different compositions. In the end this ‘freelancing’ approach worked. The final angles weren’t the ones originally planned; a happy accident induced by the constraints of the location.

Here’s the other evening image I delivered to OKW, UJAMAA, and Johnson College Prep:

Johnson College Prep lit up in the evening


For reference, here’s a before and after of the plaza and entry way. Quite a difference. Don’t you think?

Johnson College Prep entryway before and after