I often do some architecture photography for JVR Architects & Interiors and I am always looking forward to photographing Joe’s unique architectural style and the house featured here was no exception!
Joe Van Rooyen and his partner John Fleetwood renovated a heritage house on Westcliff Ridge in Johannesburg. I was a bit apprehensive to photograph this house with its black walls and dark floors but in the end it turned out to be not quite as difficult a challenge as I anticipated it would be. The black walls actually photograph beautifully and with a few strategically placed small off camera flashes to lighten up the dark corners it all came together perfectly…
The black walls were edged with white skirting boards, ceilings and window frames and it almost felt like working in the studio with a dark seamless backdrop!
Above: The lounge area, mainly lit by the large floor to ceiling window to the right and a few carefully placed flash guns to lighten up dark areas.
Above: John & Joe photographed against the dining room wall. It almost looks like an image produced in the studio and for this image I used my usual simple lighting set up with a small portable Canon Speedlite plus a large translucent umbrella to the right at a fairly acute angle to produce the dark shadows on the opposite side
Click on the ‘more’ icon below for lots more info and images…
Above & below: More images of the lounge area showing the large floor to ceiling window with stack doors & beautiful custom made railings and the tall trees of the old and established garden filling up the view through the windows. Once again I used a few small flash guns bounced off the ceiling and pointed through translucent umbrellas to lighten up the areas and balance the interior light with the outside light.
Below: The kitchen is also all black with the original house’s metal pressed ceilings still in place.
Below: Four images of the exterior. Even on the exterior walls are all in black but of course with the bright sun it looks almost light grey…The staircase below has the lyrics of one of Joe’s favorite bands, Bittereinder, cut out on the stair risers.
Above & below: Two more portraits of John & Joe in front of the large floor to ceiling window in the lounge. A single flashgun pointed through a large translucent umbrella to the right lit up the faces enough to balance nicely with the outside light. A large aperture created the nice ‘bokeh’ of the flora in the background. Portraiture for me is all about the facial expressions and the way the subject hold his/her body. To this extend I take particular care in directing my subjects to ensure they look relaxed and ‘normal’….
Above & below. The main bedrooms en-suite bathroom photographed at different times of the day. I show this to illustrate how different an image can look merely by waiting for the light to change. Usually we try to avoid harsh sunlight in photographs but here I think the pattern of the sun on the floor adds to the overall atmosphere of the image and I prefer it to the more evenly lit bathroom image below.
Above & below: The master bedroom above is also in black whereas the guest bedroom, below, is in white. The master bedroom is mainly lit but the outside door to the right and a flash gun bounced off the ceiling to lift the dark shadows a bit
Below: John’s studio and office also serves as an exhibition space.
Above: John and his assistant, Amy Daniels.
When I photograph interiors & architecture I have a few rules…
Vertical lines: In order to get true vertical lines in my images I use Tilt & Shift or Perspective Control lenses. I have a Canon TS-E 24mm F3.5 L mk2 lens and a adapted Mamiya 50mm f4 shift lens that I use for most of my interior and architecture photography. I also have a wide angle zoom lens that cannot correct for perspective and in that case I would correct the perspective & distortion afterwards in Photoshop.
Natural Perspective: One of the reasons that I try and avoid very wide angle lenses is because they can distort a scene and make it look unnatural. I find that I tend to use longer focal length lenses than most other interior photographers. Longer lenses can compress the perspective and I use it whenever I can.
Natural looking Light: I normally add some artificial flash light to a scene in order to lift shadows or to add some contrast. However I also use the flash lights in such a way that it complements the natural light rather than dominate it. In almost all the images above I used some flash lights but it is mostly ‘invisible’. I prefer to use small portable battery operated flash guns on stands either pointed at the ceiling or pointed through translucent umbrellas to soften the effect and make it look more natural. Using battery powered flash guns is of course also good when there is load shedding.
If time allows I try and come back to a scene later to see if the light had changed and if it will result in a better’ image. An example would be the two bathroom images above.
I usually start at lunchtime and work until after sunset to capture the changing light and also the twilight which can be good for the more ‘architectural’ exterior images.
Afterwards I work extensively on the images using Lightroom, Photoshop, Nik Viveza and Topaz image manipulating software to correct the colour & distortion and to balance the exterior and interior light etc.