At the southern end of La Jolla, California, as La Jolla Blvd makes its track down into Pacific Beach there lies a jewel of a neighborhood, Bird Rock. The local flavor of the Bird Rock neighborhood is a relaxed contrast to the well known Prospect strip crowded with shoppers and visitors. It would make sense if you lived in this area that you’d love a view of the grand Pacific and an easy spot check of the surf at Bird Rock from your roof deck, right? Absolutely, and that is exactly what the homeowner had in mind when he searched out the talents of interior designer Kristianne Watts of KW Designs, contractor Paul Spadone of Streamline Development, architect John Rumsey of MPA Architects. In addition to the design team, the selection of Weiland Sliding Doors to bring the incredible outdoor setting right into the living room was critical. On this day in early November I had the privilege to capture in image the talents of these four parties.
It was truly going to be a full day to capture all the images the design team desired of this project. Arriving on site at 6:30AM, my assistant Zack Benson and I went right to work with this dawn exterior image. During scouting I determined we would begin with this image looking east into the rising sun. This would allow us to capture images looking out to the setting sun in the dramatic light of dusk. Along the coast there is always a risk of morning overcast skies, which in the summer is more affectionately referred to as “June Gloom”. I know, I know, us spoiled San Diegans referring to cloud cover in the summer until noon as “June Gloom” when many would jump for 65º and overcast in July, right? This morning there was not a hint of gloom, it was crystal clear, deep cobalt blue sky and a breath of wind, perfect.
Moving inside, I took advantage of the soft morning light filtering into the master bedroom to photograph this space. Lighting is so critical to any successful photograph. The ability to “see” light, to understand its movements throughout the day for a given project and also how to build along side it with professional lighting equipment is a defining factor in architectural and interior photography. In addition to the existing daylight, a nice large softbox was set up outside to increase the lighting moving into the space. Additional accent lights were utilized to enhance the artwork, linens and wood of the dresser. It is these accents that really bring an image to life and add depth to a two dimensional image.
Just outside the master bedroom, the entry hall included a couple of original “Blue Dogs” by famed artist George Rodrigue. Having spent a decade in Louisiana, I’ve had the privilege of viewing quite a few of Rodrique’s signature pieces, but rarely do I run across them this far west of the Mississippi River, a nice surprise and reminder of the Bayou, not to mention the rich pop of color was perfect against the neutral walls.
Moving to the second floor kitchen entailed a few trips up and down the stairs, five minutes of cardio-photography is always a good midday boost, Starbucks isn’t bad either, but today was a cardio day. The kitchen brought lighting challenges of deep toned cabinetry that was also highly reflective. The flexibility that working digitally brings me today is terrific, especially in such a situation. Utilizing multiple layers and position lighting in different locations allowed me to blend multiple image layers resulting in illuminated cabinetry minus reflection. All of which could have been achieved in the days of film, but in the same time and efficiency, I’ll argue not. For the record I was a diehard large format film photographer for the first twelve years of my career, so I definitely look at it from both sides, film vs. digital.
Opposite the kitchen, the Living Room and the afternoon light begins to arrive, filling the space, the whole second floor actually with warm afternoon Fall sunlight. Of all the seasons, I’ve always been quite a fan of the Fall. There are afternoons like these, clear, crystal blue skies, and then those afternoons the fog banks roll in and you can disappear along the waters edge, even the sounds of the passing cars become swallowed and disappear in the fog. As the afternoon moves forward, as an architectural photographer, you also realize that dusk is marching briskly toward you. While working on one image, your mind is organizing the remaining images, checking the time, estimating how much time each will require and where you need to be at that magic hour. Plain and simple, this begins to become “go time”. A little less conversation possibly, focus dialed up a notch higher, the time when a top assistant is worth their wait in gold, and Zack is pure, like 24 carat.
I mentioned there were four parties involved in this projects photography, which is a great opportunity for all involved. For me, it also means capturing images to suit each of there needs. Last thing you want to run into is delivering a project and having one party to be displeased, my goal is to meet and exceed clients needs and expectations. Weiland Sliding Doors & Windows of Oceanside, California has been a client for the past few years and terrific to work with. The first time I opened one of their doors, a large door, huge piece of glass, I expected to exert a bit of energy, much to my surprise, turning the handle, releasing the doors, they slid like they were on ice. I was amazed, impressed and left dreaming of a home on the water that would provide just the right setting to enjoy Weiland’s doors.
Fourteen hours after that first image, the final image was captured. Again, scouting pays off, as there are often images that can be captured once every ounce of sunlight has left the sky. Creating all the light required with my own lighting, the equivalent to working in a studio, creating all the light required. There are challenges to creating 100% of the light, bring a real, natural light appearance; but also advantages, certainly greater control.
The Bird Rock Project, an outstanding project and did I mention LEED certified, so its good for mother earth as well, an all around winner. For me, each of these projects becomes filed in my hard drive, both literally, I mean these images are backed up in three separate locations, but also figuratively. I recall the weather, the light changing, the stories told throughout the day, the rising swell on this day that covered the horizon with perfectly spaced lumps as the sun set. The Coronado Islands were pristine, so vivid through the colorful afternoon sky. The adventure to a nearby buildings rooftop to check for potential angles, which didn’t come to fruition, but you don’t forget the climb up the wall and pulling up to the roof, and then the added joy of coming back down. All these bytes of memories, for me, are emblazoned into each image and that is why I love my work.