So at this the composition was pretty much set. It was time to consider lighting. The sun continued it’s trek across the almost cloudless sky and my set was completely in the bright sun. I considered the direction of the sun when I set the shot so I was liking the angle but I needed something to break up the sunlight that was washing over the entire setup. Mark set out once again and cut down a few more branches than I needed for my lighting gag. I grabbed 3 of them and clamped them to some lightstands that I brought with me. I placed them off camera between the sun and the set and viola, I had beautiful dappled light across my entire setup.
At this point I was almost ready to shoot. I had about 2 hours left in the day and the light was not as good as it would eventually get but I thought I’d start shooting and tweaking whatever wasn’t perfect. I played around a bit with adjusting the color temperature setting on the camera both warming up the image and then cooling it down. I ultimately decided on balancing for 6000K which gave me a fairly neutral white balance. From there I’d let nature do the work and warm up the image as I knew it would as we approached “magic hour”.
For the next two hours I shot and tweaked, bracketing every minor set and lighting adjustment. The shadows and highlights throughout the frame were in a perpetual state of change as the sun moved toward the horizon and while I kept adjusting my light stand “trees” that created the dappled light, it was impossible to get the light on every item perfect in any single shot. That being the case, I adjusted the light exactly how I wanted it on the rose, the grapes, bread, cheese, bottle, glasses, etc. and shot them all.
I shot until the sun dipped below the hill and the last of the direct light kissed my set. I left the camera setup for a while afterwards and continued to shoot as clouds magically appeared and the last of the day’s sunlight danced across the forest and rocks. When all was said and done, I had shot over 200 images.
We wrapped up with Mark, Tracy, Lee Ann and myself enjoying a celebratory toast of the Quintessa and enjoying on the food that made up the set (the aged cheddar was particularly good).
The only thing left for the day was to eat Thanksgiving dinner.
At this point the job was only half done. When we got back home I went through the images and selected about 30 that had interesting lighting on one or more elements in the composition. Some images were overexposed but the reflections were perfect while others were dark but the highlights were just right and some were exposed for mid-tones and had just the right sunlight or shadow.
I chose image #314 as my “base” image. It was perfectly exposed and had several key elements in the image already. I then spent the next twelve hours in photoshop grabbing pieces of the other thirty or so images and massaging them into place over the base image. Slowly but surely, layer by layer, as I added and subtracted from the base image, the image took on a whole new life.
During the shoot I had the idea of adding Mark and Tracy somewhere in the image. I dubbed it my “Where’s Waldo” gag. So before we left Sedona I captured a few images of the two of them together backlit by the sun. I deliberately underexposed it so I would pretty much only see their figures as a rim lit silhouette. Now that I was in front of my computer, I copied that image and pasted it into the reflection in the bottle. Now I know this sounds like it could be like a like a cheesy wedding photo so I was careful to make it so subtle that you pretty much had to know it was there or you wouldn’t even see it. It worked.
Now that I had it just right, I made a safety copy of the file and then collapsed all the layers into a single layer and made some final tweaks, removing the houses and dead trees in the forest. Lastly, I selected and applied a VSCO film treatment to the picture to take the edge off the digital image which gave it a “filmlook”. I was done.
A day later I presented the image to Mark and Tracy. I invited them over so they could see it for the first time in all it’s glory on my 27” monitor. They couldn’t believe it. The image took on the “hyper-reality” quality of the watercolors. The focus and colors were crisp. I asked them to find themselves in the picture and after some hunting, they did. All that remained was to select a location, size, frame and paper stock to print in on.
We went to their house for a small celebration of our accomplishment and the unveiling. Everyone is thrilled with the outcome. The piece captures a moment in time that they will be reminded of every time they enter the room.
If you have a special moment that you would like captured please contact me. If not for yourself, then maybe for a family member, friend or colleague. If you don't like wine and cheese here are a few other suggestions to get your ideas flowing:
Breakfast on the Lanai
Cocktails at the Club.
Romantic Fantasy Date for Two
Family & Friends Dinner (Themed cuisine…Italian, Pizza, elegant)
Desert / Night Cap
Happy Hour / Tea Time
Home Sweet Home / Grandma’s House
Childhood Memories (sports memorabilia & trophies, the arts, diplomas and other accomplishments)
Family Tribute (estate and/or personal items)
Professional/Military Career Tribute (Historical Items, media/press clippings, written testimonials, awards, medals, plaques)
Birth / Infancy (clothing, toys, stuffed animals, blankets, décor)
Travel & Events (memorabilia, tickets, collectables, trinkets
Hobbies / Collectables (sports, music, cars, special collections, photos)
That's it for now. Happy Holidaze :)