The only thing you're in complete control of, as an ambient light photographer, is the moment you choose to press the shutter button. "But what about composition?", I hear you say. Well, even the relative position and size of the different elements in the shot will depend heavily on the quality of light, and the way it hits your subject(s): think about how the presence of heavy shadows, for example, can - and do - shift the balance of the elements in the frame ...
Although I've know this truth for quite some time now, it seems to have taken me a while to fully internalise. Now that I think about it, a couple of events may have been crucial to that understanding.
A number of times, while shooting, I had the conscious realisation that I was witnessing light I hadn't seen before. I wrote about a couple of those instances here and here. Afterwards, during processing, those files would only take so much manipulation, before loosing their identity and realism (realism in the sense of a scene that is believable, not necessarily as I saw it).
Secondly, if realism is what you're after, you can't turn a scene into something it was not, or into something for which the basic building blocks weren't there at the time of capture (yes, B&W is an exception to that, but only to an extent). Imagine a building under direct sunlight - good luck trying to make it look like it was shot on a cloudy day, even without the sky in the frame to give the ambient light away. Sure, you can lift the shadows, but they're still be there: hard, but unnaturally light. This is exactly where this and the other Jonkershove series come in: the shots I showed last week were all taken in the sun, while this series was shot at times when the sun hid behind the clouds. No matter how the files of the shoot as a whole are processed, it's impossible to mold them into a single consistent series, at least inot when aiming for a measure of realism. Same idea with the Bulskampveld shots (here): while I always start my processing with a flattened file set for the highlights, followed by a curve to adjust for the blacks, midtones, and contrast, almost all files resisted my habit to apply the curve they all seem to need to look natural (and in this case, true to what I saw) and appealing (i.e., sufficiently contrasty).
Obviously this workflow, which presupposes exposing to the right, is a matter of taste and style, which is part of my point: a faithful reproduction may not always what you may want, (high contast) B&W being a prime example here. And yet, the second (B&W) Bulskampveld series didn't agree well with my usual curve either, so some shots seem to have build in limitations, while others a lot less so.
When I finished working on the Jonkhove shots, I dropped by the architects' website to gather a bit more information about the building, and came upon commissioned shots of the building. These displayed the airy, almost ephemeral feel of a soft rendering or a sketch, yet all details were there despite the lack of shadow-induced texture. While that particular style was probably not something I would use myself, I did like the images, because they suited the building. If they are representative of the style of the photographer in question, the weather must have been chosen with the utmost care: a slightly veiled sun, casting very soft shadows that were made to look ethereal by diligent tone-mapping.
Lastly, and I guess this ties it all together, besides a good working knowledge of how the camera will respond (as far as tonality, dynamic range, and clipping are concerned) in a given ambient light situation, and how the lens is able (or not) to translate the crispness and clarity of the 3D world to a 2D picture, knowing what actions are necessary in post, and how the file will react to those actions (i.e., what you can/must and cannot do) is imperative.
All before taking the shot.
Applied to architectural photography, I believe it comes to this: in case of a strict brief, either set out by the client, or self-imposed (so, nothing like anything I've been doing so far as far as architecture is concerned), the quality of light needed to produce the shot must be determined first, based on how that light interacts with the (i) building, (ii) the sensor in your camera and with the lens in front of it, and (III) your darkroom tools. Obviously, framing and choice of perspective (i.e. composition) are imperative too, but only after weighing in all these factors, can the shutter button be pressed; only at the exact moment the needed (i.e., 'good') light is there.
It's rather funny how it occurs to me, after writing all of this down and rereading that last sentence, that I realise you could argue, with equal right, we actually don't choose the moment we're taking the shot at all, as that moment is nothing but an inevitable consequence of previous determinations on how the end result should look like. Morpheus may have stated that everything begins with choice, but as the Merovingian would say, "Choice is an illusion [...] we are all victims of causality". He went on with "I drank too much wine, I must take a piss. Cause and effect.", but I guess you got the point.
To wrap things up, and actually say something about the building too, I added a picture that clearly breaks consistency with the others. It shows the decaying wall surrounding the cemetary and separating the latter from our subject, Dorpshuis Jonkershove. The contrast between the new(ish) building and the pre-existing wall couldn't be more apparent, and for some reason I felt the same about the relationship of the building with the (few) surrounding (pre-existing and newly planted) trees and bushes, except for the hedge that seems to be intended as a continuation of the wall above. To me, but only from certain viewing angles, the building seemed a bit shoehorned in between the surrounding elements.