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Conflicting priorities - resolving,acquiesing, and accepting

Discussion in 'Landscapes, Architecture, and Cityscapes' started by PJohnP, Mar 11, 2005.

  1. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    As we call this a forum for learning, here's a process I went through yesterday with some success and some failure. Comments are welcome about my decisions for the shooting. Perhaps a little background on the shoot first, however...

    I've been doing some architectural photography, more specifically indoor work recently for a colleague in my office building. I have a fair eye for external building photography - an even better one for chemical plant equipment, perhaps - but I'm only a middling composition person for indoor work.

    And the real challenge for me in indoor photography is getting the lighting and exposure correct. Unlike the authors of the books of tips on the subject, I don't have a small pick-up of lights to draw upon, I can't rearrange the buildings for the shoots, and I'm typically having to shoot in the daytime.

    Daytime photography is a real chore at 7,000 feet of altitude and stark sunlight. The travel pundits claim that Santa Fe gets 325 days a year with sunshine. All I know is that I seem to have beautiful sunny days every time I shoot indoors.

    And the buildings all have limited, sometime non-existent shades or drapes, with skylights littered through the "Santa Fe" style structures. Bright licks of light gush in from all angles, blowing exposures wherever they strike.

    Santa Fe style buildings are typically finished with dark wood vigas, something like rafters, but usually the size of small tree trunks. The spaces above or between the vigas are often filled with dark tongue-and-groove planks. More upscale buildings will develop patterned areas, sometimes with cylindrical vigas, sometimes with rectangular cross section vigas. I shot a building a bit back with these things. See : https://www.nikoncafe.com//forums/viewtopic.php?t=380

    Architects and builders want the vigas to be visible in photographs, as they are a signature of the area, the architect, and the builder. Unless the vigas are bleached or light wood, these will usually register in the 30 - 90 range of luminosity (all discussions after this on luminosity relate to getting a reasonably good exposure).

    But the interior walls of the buildings are often plastered with a white plaster having a glazed finish. Quite reflective, and prone to highlights from incident light. Incident light such as comes from skylights and windows without shades or drapes, that is. Highlights from the walls usually register from about 220 - 255 range of luminosity, often right up to the limit.

    Then, too, people like to have images of the interior that show something of the outdoors through those windows, not just a white glaring rectangle of luminosity 255. What's outdoors varies with, well, whatever is there. But whatever is there is being hit by a harsh reflective sunlight.

    Photographing these buildings' interiors then becomes a series of conflicting priorities with precious few alternatives in my case. While I'd love to shoot the buildings in the "golden hour", that's not usually possible, and also to the point, the rooms don't all have openings to the west...

    Shooting in a newly constructed house yesterday, I was asked to capture a spiral staircase from above, landing the decorative wood on the ceiling above, showing the colourful wooden steps, registering a hanging spiral series of blue lamps, but not completely blowing out the windows with the - naturally, donchaknow - sun streaming in.

    Oh, and the spacing for the shot was such that my 12-24mm DX/AFS couldn't capture the full angle. This would require two or three shots that I could digitally stitch.

    And not photograph my big feet in the bargain...

    I looked over the stairwell quite carefully. Keeping in mind that I didn't want to blow too many highlights, I decided that I could accept a blowout on one area of the stairs if I could hold the walls and the windows within reason. I could enhance the overhead wood with DEE in processing, before stitching and post-processing.

    Of course, the sun was shifting by the second to blow more of the steps as I pondered, so I quickly did one test shot of the area to see what would blow first, second, and so forth. Hmmm... Not too favourable for the windows, but I could accept the outside being overexposed to some degree. I decided that I'd restrict the focus of the outside by opening up the aperture to f/4, as wide as it goes on the 12-24mm.

    Balancing out the exposures would be tricky - especially for when I would stitch the photos - but I could make some other adjustments in Capture and match the histograms in certain areas. The dark wood overhead would drop the shutter to 1/125, but I could tell the lower area would shoot faster in AP, a lot faster perhaps. Maybe -1 EV compensation would work.

    The best I could think of for the white balance was "Cloudy" because, while indoors, the intensity of the sun was such that "Shade" would redden the colour of the plastered walls excessively. In fact, when it came to later processing, I would alter the WB to "Direct Sunlight" but warm that up to 5,500K to try and keep the correct slightly off-white shade of the plaster.

    I shot two images in succession with a reasonable degree of overlap. I couldn't get a good angle where all of the blue lights would be backed by the white plaster, but I could set it so that only one would be contra-jour with a window. As I keep saying, always shoot, and so, I did.

    The images were processed in NC, with slight modification in EV adding +0.17, changing WB to direct sunlight at 5,500K, DEE 20, 1, 128 (knowing it would add noise to the white walls but would bring up the wood to an acceptable level), and the usual adjustments of the curves to hold things in check.

    Non-ideal results, but perhaps good enough to run though Panorama Factory, a package I often use because of simplicity of workflow. PF would add yet more noise to that generated by DEE in NC, but I could manage that later.

    The overall look of the stairwell would be somewhat hot, but in fact, that would give the well a "glow". The outdoors scenes were blurred a bit and also hot, but given that the piles outside were construction materials, this, too, could be accepted.

    The combination of DEE and PF did indeed add some mid-range noise, but this photo isn't intended for the delicate sensibilities of incessant measurebators, so I could manage that with NeatImage in PS.

    Some PS post-processing, cloning out a few noise points, and fixing a couple of minor areas where the stitching process munched things, and I was done.

    D100, 12-24mm DX/AFS, ISO200, -1EV comp, WB Cloudy, two shots, f/4, the upper one 1/125, the lower one 1/500s

    Even when every priority is in conflict, always shoot.

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  2. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Wow what a callenge.
    I know nothing of this type of thing. However I do read alot of post and things. This is a tip I remember.

    Carry a dark drop for the window light that is glaring you.

    Sure with I could help.

    good luck. I know it can be done.

    Now I am sure your composition around a drop might not be easy.

    Doug Barber, Man of light might help, as Well as Jarrell conely. Next the lighting forum on DPR are great.
  3. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Gale :

    Yup. You called it right with the composition. Well, I couldn't drape it inside, and the outside of the windows was on the second story.

    Good advice, though with folks wanting the view as well as the interior, I'm a bit stuck on that one.

    The other other alternative for this would be to shoot with a tripod (I shot all of these handheld.), making two exposures, one for the window and one for the interior, then superimpose the windows in a layer in PS.

    Too much work. :lol: I want to be able to get this down to a quick neat science, because I don't think I could charge enough to cover a lot of (relatively) heavy post-processing effort like that for all the shots. These efforts have been a trial process for a colleague, but if I was doing it more regularly, the workflow has to become more smooth.

    John P.
  4. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Dumb question. Not sure why you need to shoot this. But I would tell them your

    Question is. Could you shoot from the bottom up the staircase instead.

  5. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Gale :

    Not a dumb question at all. I did several shots from below, but the angle of the light was really really bad. More to the point, the line of the well couldn't be captured as neatly.

    Now, if could shoot at night with some of those hanging lights, it might well have been more effective from below than two days back. I'm unsure just how I'd have managed blowing the bulbs but getting the well nicely lit, but that's a different challenge. :D 

    BTW, I saw my colleague today when I dropped off the shots in TIFF format on a CD-R, and he told me that his submissions from the previous two shoots both won awards in their respective categories. Given that it's only the photos that were used for the evaluations, I felt a small touch of pride. His buildings, but my shots, eh ? 8)

    John P.
  6. Sounds like it's time to raise our prices, PJ :D .
  7. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Could be, Frank, could be...

    I've been toying with doing some of this work, because I see so much bad house and building photography out there. Very basic errors are common, but the work sells for the market. I could do a shoot once to twice a week, maybe, but I don't know if I could command the prices I'd want for that frequency of shooting.

    Before I'd make that jump, I need to consider if I would invest in some lights to make my work product better. Shooting solely with available light has serious drawbacks for this kind of photography.

    I'm certainly in the market now for a couple of two sided silver/gold reflectors, but I've been holding off on the lights. Too much bulk, bother, and extra effort at this moment. The reflectors would help in a lot of ways as well as the indoor work. I could have used them for some other areas of that house to warm some areas I was shooting. Spending on a set of lights, learning to use them effectively, and lugging all this stuff around really doesn't attract me at this minute.

    But all that could change if this would look viable with a fair payback period for the added equipment based on a regular set of customers. I have the lenses, and the D100 is certainly capable enough for this task.

    All food for thought.

    John P.
  8. It is interesting that you should mention that since I too live in an area where the skys are blue the sun bright and blown highlights are a way of life. I once said to a friend when I lived back east "you guys never have blue sky's." He said what do you mean the sky is blue right now. How do you explain to someone what a blue sky looks like when they have never seen one because of the humidity? I feel for you buddy but the only way I know to overcome the problem is with remote flash or strobe lights to get the inside somewhere near the outside. Good luck.

    PS. If you live in the east, don't take offense, just come to a dry western state and look up in the sky at night. You will be amazed at the stars that are to be seen.
  9. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Gordon :

    In addition to the blue colour, we have a higher intensity of light. Living at 7,000 feet plus of altitude, and regularly going to spots above 10,000 feet changes the equation substantially.

    Well, with respect to the architectural photos, I have some strategies that I'm looking at, but I can't remotely fire strobes with a D100. At least easily, since I don't have iTTL in that camera.

    Reflectors are an option for some things, I think, as are window blocking items as noted by Gale. I'm also thinking that I'd timetable two shoots at different times of the day for some of this stuff.

    But I'm still mulling over if I want to do so much of this...

    Isn't that the truth? I was a couple of hundred miles east from you two years back for the lunar eclipse in May, and the sky was astounding on that night near Capital Reef.

    Glorious part of the world that you live in, sir.

    John P.
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