North Beach Residence by Muratore Corp

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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:

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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.

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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:

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8 responses to “North Beach Residence by Muratore Corp

  1. These shots are so much more illustrative and enjoyable when accompanied by your excellent editorial notes. Nice job.

  2. Would you mind sharing how long it took you to shoot that first kitchen image? It looks like you had to get creative to hide reflections.

    All I have to say about that bathroom plaster is WOWZA. My house probably costs less than that finish.

  3. thanks for the commentary – it really adds to the photos. Love that close-up of the incredible bathroom. The free-form tulips were the perfect addition to the shot.

  4. I think I prefer a more “button-down” staging for the kitchen, but maybe that’s just because I have seen the sausage get made – I’ve operated/owned a high-end professional cabinetry shop for 30 years in Los Angeles and vicinity.
    By the way, I really wanted to comment on the bath as well – it’s awesome, but that sink is fantastic, I remember when vessel sinks were first on the scene, now they are ubiquitous…I expect I’ll start seeing magazine clippings of this sink style brought to meetings in the future….
    That’s a beautiful composition, the added human element is brilliant. All ambient light?

  5. Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

    Jeff – I average between 1 and 2 hours per photo, and this one was definitely close to the latter.

    Dawn – I agree!

    William – Yep, most builders would agree with you. But my position is that they’re missing a crucial point: we don’t make these photos to appeal to other builders. We make them to appeal to their clients, who are more interested in lifestyle and the feeling of a space than they are in construction details. At least, that’s the theory!

  6. Love to see some pull back shots of strobe positions etc. Is it a case of picking a starting point for exposure and then see what needs adding / reducing? Your’e shooting tethered I guess?

  7. P.S. “Don’t just sit there…Say something” prompted me to say something. Neat idea.

  8. Beautiful shots Scott! I actually prefer the second kitchen shot as I really like the way you’ve aligned the lines of the kitchen. My only slightly negative comment would be on the detail bath shot. For some reason I wish that tulip that’s almost touching the lighting element would have been a bit further away from it as I think it’s a bit distracting to the eyes. Either way, really beautiful photographs!

Don't just sit there....say something!