April 26 and 27 marked this years Heart of the Home tour, a fundraising event for the Children’s Support League of the East Bay. We’re proud to say that one of our photos graces the cover of the the directory, as well as many of the marketing materials promoting the event. We’ve been serving as the “official photographer” for the event for several years, providing our time and resources pro-bono. Usually the exposure comes back to us in additional business, so in addition to supporting a good cause we usually see a return on our investment. It’s always fun to see these fabulous homes and to work with the staff of CSL. We photograph the projects in January so that the organizers have material for marketing. Photos of the houses also appear in April issue of Diablo Magazine Also, on pages 50 through 55.
We’d like to say congratulations to one of our clients, HDR Remodeling for taking the 2019 Contractor of the Year award from NARI, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. We’d like to think our photography was instrumental in winning the award. This award is for an ADU, an Accessory Dwelling Unit. These projects are becoming quite popular in the San Francisco Bay Area where there is a high demand for housing. You can read more about this project on HDR’s website. We’ve photographed several ADU projects for HDR as well as those for several other clients.
Despite the rain and overcast we’ve managed to complete several photo shoots this week. Monday, February 11 we spent the day photographing projects for Gilman’s Kitchens and Baths. With a crew of four we were able to photograph three projects, a project in Campbell, which took the better part of the morning, then a mid-century remodel in Portola Valley and finally a kitchen in Foster City. We left my house at 7 am and were back at 7 pm. The weather worked to our advantage on Monday. For much of the interior photography we do I prefer the soft light of overcast skies. This produces a nice soft light and it helps bring the landscape in without too much contrast. You can see this in the photo above. The green vegetation in the windows seems to compliment the design of the room.
Why does it take four people to photograph a house? I like to have one person on the crew that knows the client’s story and can art direct to make sure we’re capturing the images that tell that story. I also like to have somebody as a stylist that can arrange flowers and props and such. Finally, I like to have an assistant that knows my gear and can help with the technical aspects of creating an image. This might involve putting up drapes or flags to control unwanted reflections. It’s also more fun to work with a crew, particularly if we’ve worked together before and can develop a rhythm to how we work.
Here’s the crew for our photo shoot for this years Heart of the Home Tour which will take place in April. Great fun with a great group of people.
Last week, on January 9 and 11 we photographed three of the houses that will be on the tour. I’ll keep those photos under wraps for the time being. We get an early start in January so that the tour organizers can use the photos to generate the tour brochure and other promotional materials. The tour is a fund raising event for the Children’s Support League of the East Bay. The homes are in Piedmont and neighboring parts of Oakland. This is the sixth year we’ve provided services as the “tour photographer.” We provided our services pro-bono and if history repeats itself, the exposure will be well worth the time we invest.
Of the 14 companies listed in The Best General Contractors in Oakland, we can claim eight of those companies as our clients. Not a bad statistic considering how many general contractors provide services in Oakland. Check out the article in the current issue of General Contractor Magazine. Of the companies listed we’ve provided photography for Oliver Builders, Rasmussen Construction, Black Creek Builders, Wolfe, Design Set Match, Alward Construction Company, HDR Remodeling, and McCutcheon Construction. We feel like we’re in good company.
One of our clients, Levitch Associates, Inc. is featured in the December East Bay AIA ARCHNews. The article describes the challenges of a residential remodeling project in East Bay city of Albany. The article includes several photos we captured of the project including the kitchen and bath. We’ve photographed over three dozen projects for Levitch in the past three years, with projects ranging from residential remodels to salon and restaurant remodels. The Levitch website features much of our work. We’ll be photographing more work for Levitch in 2019.
We recently had the opportunity to photograph a remodel of a magnificent house in Napa. We arrived on location at 10:00 in the morning and spent the day photographing both interior and exterior features. One of our specialties is photographing projects like this at dusk. Towards dusk when the sun starts to set and the skylight starts to dim the interior of the house comes to life. When photographing earlier in the day the windows tend to look like black holes.
We were here for a re-shoot. The client was not happy with the photos that resulted from the previous photo shoot with another photographer. It seems that photographer provided photos that served as vignettes, showing particular details. Architects and contractors are interested in photos that represented more expansive photos of the interior and exterior spaces. So we set out with that in mind.
While I like to work solely with available light, the previous photographer used lights. Using lights can be time consuming. Every light you put up creates it’s own highlights and shadows and getting the resulting mix of lights to look natural takes skill. With natural light I like to play with the existing shadows and highlights, which I believe can add drama and life.
I was told by one of the crew members that was on the previous shoot that we seemed to be paying more attention to composition and aesthetics where the previous photographer was preoccupied with the lights.
A number of years ago I was discussing photography with the creative director of a winery. She told me that their top bottle photographer was an expert at telling the wineries story in the reflections in the wine bottle. It could be a reflection of the vineyards in the background, or some other aspect of the winery.
Since then I’ve always looked for ways to use reflective surfaces to help tell a story relating to the photo. It could be using the bathroom mirror to show the shower, or some similar situation. Here’s a good example of how that can work. In this case the reflective surface is a TV screen. In today’s home there are no shortage of TV screens, most of which photograph as black holes with annoying reflections. When I set up the camera for this image, the TV screen was angled to show a stack of boxes onone side of the room; not very interesting. We angled the screen a bit, and voila, we were able to bring more of the outside greenery into the room.
One of the things that leads to a successful photo shoot is being able to solve problems on location. Besides our cameras the next item in our arsenal that gets the most use is a red mop bucket full of cleaning supplies: glass cleaner, towels, Goof Off and a variety of other items. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve reached for that bucket on a photo shoot.
On Tuesday evening though we had a situation that we hadn’t anticipated. We were scheduled to shoot a sun room addition with a fire pit. We checked ahead and confirmed that the fire pit was working. When it came time to turn the fire on we discovered that the propane tank was empty. To save the shoot I was able to pull the propane tank off my pop-up camper and use it to fuel the fire pit.
Save the date – August 4, 2018. That’s the date for this year’s AIA East Bay Home tour. We recently photographed one of the houses that will be on the tour, a remodel by Studio Bergtraun. An amazing project. Tickets will go on sale June 1. Mark your calendar and buy your tickets here.