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: