Gear Used To Create Images
So time for the gear. A Canon 5D Mark III that is my go to camera. I get a lot of questions what are you shooting, is it medium format, is it some crazy tech camera? No it's a Canon 5D Mark III, and a Canon 6D as my backup. Excuse me. I think that camera is plenty, and the only comment I've ever gotten regarding file size is why are the pictures so freaking big? And I have you know two page spreads in Dwell, and This Old House shot from this camera, so I don't think it's a megapixel thing. I'm a big proponent of the gear doesn't matter, it's all the vision. We actually I did a DVD with Fstoppers, and we shot a whole part of it on a Rebel. Just to show that the gear is not important, it's all about the vision. So Canon 5D Mark III but I don't think it matters. What does matter is a tilt-shift lens. I think if you're gonna shoot architecture, and you're have to buy one thing, and you have a you know 40D or 60D or whatever, and you're thinking you know, do I need the full frame camera, do...
I need medium format? No you need a tilt-shift lens, go buy a tilt-shift lens. You know if you ask an architectural photographer what his favorite lens is it's gonna be a tilt-shift lens. There isn't I just it's just a must have, buy it don't think twice about it, it's a write off you need it, it's so helpful, you can squeak by without one, but as you shoot more and more, you'll kind of realize that it's very very necessary. To be able to move the composition around, shoot up at angles and keep the vertical lines straight, and keep the work looking true, so valuable don't think twice about it. Let's see the Lowel GL-1 Hotlight, that is the black or they call it the gun light, and it just looks like a drill, and it's an LED hotlight that holds, it's battery powered, hold in your hand, I do have some R E hotlights, and some Lowel Omni Hotlights but, as I get more and more involved, and I realize I have more and more injuries from snowboarding than I originally thought I don't like hearing things, I do a lot of light painting, so Lowel GL-1 Hotlight it is expensive, but it's very useful. I use a 500 watt monolight and sometimes a speedllight, I usually use the Profoto B1 for light painting, it's just a high intensity fast duration blast of light, and I will show you how I use that. And I lasso it in and add light together in all different places. You can use a speedlight, I used a speedlight for years, and got by I just you know, as I've taken on more, more difficult work it's nice to have the extra firepower. And then I'm a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod and geared head user. I think again if there's something you're gonna buy, that you need to spend the money on, it's the tilt-shift and my favorite quote is, your sharpest lens is your tripod. So every single thing that I shoot is on a tripod. No two ways about it. And that's one of those things that, you're gonna have to invest in, just but the bullet, sturdy tripod and a geared head. You can't really you can, I said you can't because I'm dramatic, but you can shoot architecture with a ball head, you're just gonna rip your hair out, because every time you tighten the ball head, you have the composition perfect, and it's right there you tighten the ball head, when you tighten the ball head you know, it always moves a little bit. And the geared head lets you dial it in to very exacting locations, and it will never move so you can get the composition set perfectly with a geared head, no problem again I use the Manfrotto, I know there's an Arca-Swiss one, but I think as long as you buy one, you'll be totally happy with it. And then I use the CamRanger and the iPad mini, I actually have like five iPads, people come to my house and they're like, why do you have so many iPads? Well CamRanger I used to shoot with a MacBook Pro, I always tried to shoot tethered, and twice I had clients trip over cables, and just brick my 17 inch MacBook Pros, as they fall off tables or chairs or whatever, so I moved over to the CamRanger system, and what that is it's a wireless, wireless tethering solution so that, you have a little dongle that hangs off your camera, and it beams out the photos wirelessly to an iPad, so you can see what you're doing, and you can walk around I can take the pictures from over here and see what the camera sees, and you know I can stage things, I can move things, it's just it's the greatest thing ever. So that was the third must have right there, is the CamRanger with an iPad mini. Okay so here is a ground level view, we're getting there almost to the Photoshop stuff, this is a ground level view of the concert hall, and what I would be shooting, and as you can see, I mean yeah it's cool but to me, my eye the things that immediately pop out that are ugly like I hate these exit signs, they're red they're awful, there are you know little fire fixtures everywhere, and little alarms and sprinklers, and all kinds of stuff in the way, and I think the light is pretty flat. So this is just to give you an idea of what we're dealing with, and you can see there's these bars up here, and usually when you shoot for architects, they don't want things in there that have to be put there. Sorry that don't that weren't in their drawings, or weren't in their plans, so things like fire alarms, sprinkler heads exit signs, these are actually clamp bars for the stage lights, so they when they have a production, they put lights up there, but they're not in the original drawings, so I had to zap 'em out. And so this is the composition, what I ended up doing was, I put the Cinefoil which is black foil, over all the exit signs, unfortunately we don't have a picture of that, but I think you get the idea, this is the composition, a picture using only ambient light, all the lights on, camera's on in the location I want it to be. And to me I see problems immediately, like all these lights are blown out, there's no detail in them, the seats down here are pretty flat, these bars are obviously in the way, I'm gonna have to retouch those out. This like million dollar medallion light here is blown out there's no detail in it whatsoever, so it's our job to kind of play with the light, get it lit looking the way you want it, and put it all together. So what I immediately start doing is, you can see me down here, I'm in the booth where the breakers are, and I am playing with the light levels of all the lights in the theater, so I'll have a long exposure, and some lights are more intense than others, and I will flip the breaker, this was the only way to do it, and the house you can just use the light switch, but flip a breaker and during the four or five second exposure, if I turn the light off halfway through, the intensity of that light is minimized. So by playing with all different combinations of light levels I'm able to kind of better get an exposure that shows everything without things being blown out. So I just keep playing with that, and as you can like I turned the medallion off, and I see all this detail that's totally lost, if I back up in the finished work up there, so I'm just playing with the light levels, here I am again down in my little hideaway. And you can see how the look of the whole thing changes, it becomes more dramatic more interesting, as I mess with the light levels. So I keep doing that, and again because we don't have windows to contend with, we have to control the lights somehow, so what I'm doing is just like I said, I'm finding what's interesting what's dramatic, how I want it to look, and these are the pieces in which I will draw, to create the final picture. Again I turned this light off, the whole look of the place changes. And now this is my big handheld flash down here, what I'm doing is adding light, kind of like a directional light across the seats, to give them texture and depth. If I go back you know you can't really see down in here this is just flat and dark. I add some light I bump the shutter speed up a whole bit, so that I can get more power out of the light, dim the light in the theater, and you see how these seats kind of come to life. And I go all over the place, again you see it up here, you see it down in here. And here I am with this is my GL-1 Hotlight, when you're in a theater there's track lighting, you can see it going up and down the staircase here, and I wanted to kind of use the track lighting to add a cool element of depth and texture, so I took my hotlight and I'm painting light, I'm just walking I have a long exposure, and I'm just waving it back and forth, and pretending that I'm basically a very very powerful piece of track lighting, up and down the aisles, and what you can see is that this texture, in the carpet is coming out, and it also you know leads the eye around. The eye tends to go to bright places, bright places in the photo so as I add light, I add depth texture interest to all these places, that otherwise wouldn't be there. But at the same time I'm not just adding willy nilly, the light that I'm adding is motivated by the track lighting. Same goes for the light on the seats, there's lights under here, I'm trying to mimic that, and it just helps to it really cleans it up, it adds interest it looks a lot more interesting, I mean you have to play with it, I played with it there's probably 500 pictures I took for this to get it right, but it's just it's simple. And here you know I'm make believe track lights, that's all I'm doin' I went all up an down so that when we dim the lights to make the final picture, we can see the track lighting that we would see if we were on stage looking back. The camera would never pick it up, so we have to add it ourselves. And so here we go into photoshop, let's start putting this together shall we. Any questions while we flip over here?
We sure do let's take one first from Jennifer Cotes who says, any suggestions for capturing interiors and views from within when the light is too bright coming into the windows. She says I know you use a flash towards the windows in question, but are there other tricks that if that doesn't work. Mainly for large vaulted ceilings in large rooms.
Yeah there's many ways to do that. Again its how long is a piece of string? And the answer is it depends. You can aim a flash right at the window, and kind of make the frame easy to lasso out in Photoshop, you can use an ambient exposure and pen tool around the window. I mean it really depends on the situation, its different for every one. If let's see you can wait till a different time of day, you can use black cloth and black netting, outside the window to kind of knock it down a stop or two, I know when they film movies it's called butterfly net, and they have it in one stop, it's like a silk one stop and two stop, 12 by 12 diffusion panel, and they you know they put it up on some C-Stands, and it brings the whole light levels down, allowing you a longer shutter speed with less ambient coming in the windows. I personally use the pen tool in Photoshop, I like to get in there and get it precisely right. Pen tool if you're doing quick and dirty, I'd blast the flash at it, and then in a big feted rush in Photoshop mask it in, so a lot of different ways to do it, but it really is situationally independent.
Great and then actually you mentioned timing, Manuel Borda is wondering what's the best time to shoot exteriors.
(laughs) Again it depends. Whenever I look at a building I look at the lighting, and I look at how, you know I try to pretend what would this look like at twilight? Do they have like spectacular exterior lighting? Or is it kind of bland, and would it look better in sunlight? And where is it situated you know like, is it in this epic landscape? That's gonna look really really good in late afternoon light when there's a lot of texture and depth and the sun's low in the sky? That might be the best time. Is it gonna be early morning, when the sun just comes up and just starts to hit the front of the building, you know it's a judgment call, I mean I personally love doing twilights, my clients kind of come to me whenever they need that. But again it all depends on you know, so many factors its, do you and it's pretty difficult too I think, to shoot exteriors during the day, with such a large dynamic range, the sun really has to be in exactly the right spot. I don't wanna say twilights are easier, but I think when you're prepared for them, and they come together they're very easy you know. So if you're in the right spot, it's just being in the right spot at the right time, it's impossible to say without seeing the location in question.