Monthly Archives: May 2014

North Beach Residence by Muratore Corp


It took quite a bit of effort to get this shot lit. Balancing the exposure for the dazzling light high above San Francisco looking out towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, while still showcasing the dark wood cabinetry, was a challenge. We kept the illusion that everything is motivated by the windows that wrap around the living room in the background; there are multiple strobes and hotlights placed for this photo.

I’m always grateful to work with someone who is willing to be adventurous in the styling, and when it works, it works well. In this shoot of a San Francisco highrise condo (in North Beach), we purposely added some “sloppy” notes — the carelessly draped dishcloth, the slightly disheveled napkins — and implied an eat-in kitchen with the discordant radishes-and-tomato bowls. It’s a way of adding interest and meaning to a photo, without triggering the wrong response; if those had been bowls of steaming hot beef stew, you might get stuck in your reaction to beef stew (whatever that is) and never get the real point of photo, which is the design and cabinetry. But who has a pre-programmed reaction to raw radishes and tomatoes? You might well have a WTF moment, but that’s cool with me; I’ve kept your attention for an extra few seconds and hopefully made you notice a few other things along the way.

The casual elements also lend a bit of life to an interiors photo, which can all too easily be sterile. Adding a live human to the mix is even more tricky — we’re hard-wired to look at each other, so that figure is sure to be a focal point, even if it’s blurry and in the background.

We also made a more “traditional” kitchen shot, below:


With almost all the “natural” light sources controlled, we were left with the VERY bright (and un-dimmable) under-cabinets fluorescents to contend with. We effectively dimmed them using a technique Alan calls “Dummy-Dimming” in which he flips the lights on (or off) at a precise moment during a long exposure.

The second element of this project was this stunning bath, located just off of the large entry foyer.


This shot presented several challenges. The backlit mirror, strong downlighting on the vanity top (from the ceiling spots) and the delicate sconces all had to be controlled and brought into a balance the camera could handle. I also wanted to clarify the shapes and geometry of the space, since they’re so integral to the design. Nearly every surface visible in this shot has its own light, each tuned to create the 3-dimensionality we wanted to emphasize. The blurred figure in the mirror is actually out in the foyer; his posture echoes the the shape of the sconce, his shirt works with the color scheme, his motion brings your eye back into the center of the image. I allowed the distant foyer to go slightly bluer to create a pleasing effect that emphasizes the separateness of that space.

In this unbelievable bath, we wanted to do two things; make sure that the viewer understood what was happening in the mirror, and give the eye a focal point that kept the eye in the middle of the photo. The walls of this room are venetian plaster; but in this case it’s been hand-tooled by an artist to mimic alligator skin. I’ve never seen anything like it. The designer had two words for this: “It’s expensive.”

And worth it — this bath was really amazing. The cube & slab design elements (check out the sconce lights) go together with mathematical precision, which I tried to bring out with my composition, and the wall treatment echoes the texture of the stone. Beautiful.

The detail shot below shows the plaster even more clearly, as well as the angular sink:




SF Infinity Condo, by Muratore Corp.


Carefully hidden lighting brings this interior up to match the exterior brightness, while maintaining the illusion that all of the light pours in through the wrap-around windows.

Several weeks ago I shot my first project in San Francisco’s Infinity Towers, a minimalist condo with killer views of the Bay Bridge, One Rincon, and (eventually) the Transbay Tower and complex.


A mirrored cabinet hints at the scene outside, while the clean minimal aesthetic of the interior is summed up perfectly with this vignette.

With it’s subdued color palette and comfortable but not excessive furnishings, this space was an interesting challenge, photographically. I emphasized the geometry and clean, crisp feeling of the place, while showing off the view and staying (mostly) true to the owner’s aesthetic.


An over-dyed and mottled round rug emphasizes the curved outer wall, and helps partition the living room in this open floor plan.


Muratore will custom design and fabricate pretty much anything, including this counterweight for an armchair head pillow.

The Murphy bed in the spare bedroom was a Muratore custom build, and I loved the way it, and the sconce lamps above the built-in, mirrored the dense urban construction scene outside.



These wall-mounted storage shelves/cabinets deserved special attention, and we spent the better part of an hour getting the light perfect to show off the shapes and tones properly.



House of Cards…

On location in San Francisco with Muratore!


Pre-shoot scouting above Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco’s Nob Hilll neighborhood!

Piedmont Residence by Custom Kitchens


A large window behind the camera had to be blacked out to preserve the left-to-right flow of light; this allows the shape of the oven doors to really “pop” (it’s also augmented a bit with added lighting). Under-cabinet lights are gelled to color-correct them from fluorescent to daylight; and fill light is added to the distant room.

Just a couple of weeks ago I photographed this killer project with Custom Kitchens, based right here in Oakland California. Joy Wilkins and her team designed this space around the homeowner’s Aga range; this is the second Aga I’ve photographed and they’re pretty cool!

Actually, the more accurate description would be “pretty hot”, because a cast-iron Aga range pours out heat 24 hours a day. It’s a bit like a brick oven: once it’s up to temperature, it stays there with minimal input.


Again, window light behind the camera is blacked out, and a combination of strobe and continuous light is added from camera right to bring out the texture of the backsplash and the shape of the oven doors.

The thing about an Aga is its robust shape; unlike most modern cooktops, which are sleek and almost aerodynamic, the Aga retains its industrial-era look and is almost voluptuous in its curves and protrusions. Joy recognized this as well and designed a gorgeous scalloped tile backsplash (reminds me of ripples in beach sand!) that showcases the range perfectly.

I worked hard to retain that textural quality by staying conscious of where the light was coming in; and that meant imposing an iron control over the (abundant) ambient light in this kitchen, and augmenting it with strobe and continuous lighting.


Joy and Natalie did a killer job of styling this room as a baker’s paradise, and we couldn’t resist getting a little action in the shot:


Our last shot of the day featured the “eat-in” part of the kitchen, as well as the practical aspects of the layout (note the good-looking laundry station).

Strobe lighting is brought in (via a large V-flat) through the window to simulate diffuse daylight on this tabletop.

Thanks to the team at Custom Kitchens for another great project!



Post production….I made it until almost 6:00pm before succumbing to the Call of the Vine…



Well…technically this was yesterday. Jonah stretches a window scrim as Siraj watches for wrinkles. On location with Brownhouse Design in Los Altos!

San Francisco Loft by Muratore Corp


Muratore Corp. is best known for its work in San Francisco highrises, especially the Millenium, but also in the Infinity Towers and many more scattered across Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and other neighborhoods.

So this project was different: a ground-floor loft in a brick-and-timber structure in the South of Market, just a few blocks away from the rarified air of the SF Millenium Tower.

I photographed this loft in April, and knew that the images had to convey the real feeling of this place, which is at once industrial and yet also beautiful. The dark ironwork (and “built” pieces that match that patina) are offset by the amber glow of the timber and brick, and the huge windows on two sides let light pour in from the street.

Too much light, actually, and we had to get creative to control it. We used many yards of black cloth in this loft! Many more photos, write-up, and some behind-the-scenes pics, click here!



Eureka Dunes, from the mouth of Dedekerer Canyon, Death Valley National Park. From a recent backpacking trip – this area of the park is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime bloom of the endangered Eureka Dunes Evening Primrose (along with unbelievable quantities of Globemallow and Desert Dandelion).


On location in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood with Muratore! Friday is “casual shoot” day…got the Springsteen playing and the corkscrew handy….