Monday, July 9, 2012

Behind the Scenes: The Making of an Architectural Exterior

Last weekend our air conditioning mysteriously gave out, and I was hanging out on our deck (which was a good 10 degrees cooler than the interior of the house) when I had an inspiration for an image of the house taken from beyond the edge of the deck.

Now, our deck is about 20 feet above the ground and the spot where I wanted to place the camera was about three feet off the end of the deck; not a particularly convenient location. However, I happened to have the right tool for the job: a 24 foot tall telescoping Manfrotto stand.

Fully extended, it just reached over the top of the deck. With proper safety lines attached, it was perfectly safe... as I managed to prove when one of the sections of the stand came loose and the camera fell about six feet before the safeties kicked in. No damage was done other than the near heart attack that it gave me.

I hooked the camera to my laptop via USB cable. This allowed me to do two critical things:
  1. See what I was taking a picture of - since the viewfinder was 24 feet in the air and pointing the other way
  2. Trigger the camera without having to hang my body over the edge of the deck

How the image was made

I wanted to make a composite image, balancing the natural outside lighting with the interior house lighting. Luckily I had the moon to help with the outside lighting, but I knew I would need several exposures.

I ended up using only six of the dozens of exposures that I took. The following exposures were used:
  1. Exterior walls - This was actually the last frame taken and was exposed for the moonlight. I turned off all the interior lights that I could.
  2. Exterior touch up - I was attempting some light painting with a flashlight in the previous image and used this image to cover up some of the spillage.
  3. Deck - The image exposed for the interior lighting (4.) barely lit the deck, so I overexposed by two stops to get the level of brightness I wanted.
  4. Interior - Exposed and white balanced for the interior lighting. 
  5. Deck chairs - I wanted to highlight the chairs at the end of the deck, so I set up a flash on a stand and triggered it using a PocketWizard. The flash was white balanced for daylight, so I had to adjust the white balance to get enough warmth to match the interior lighting.
  6. Forest - I combined this late afternoon exposure with image 1 to achieve a day/night effect with the forest.

I combined all the exposures in Photoshop and corrected for the camera tilt to generate the final image.

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