Fellowship Village

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Back in February I had the pleasure of photographing the new wing to Fellowship Village, a senior living facility in Basking Ridge, NJ for KDA.  It was a fun two day project and we ended with 16 nice images.  Now for some, the idea of spending two 10 hour days of photography and only getting 16 images at the end of it may sound like a little too few, but we had to put in a fair amount of work to get each image to look its best.  Here is some of what we did.


We started with photographing the 1st floor lobby, which had a great fireplace and coffered ceilings.  The furniture had to be rearranged a bit and a couple soft boxes were positioned for fill light. A Profoto Narrow Beam was placed outside aimed at the fireplace (as a key light) to add some light and shadow, and we also brightened up the far hallway with a strip box.

Staying in the 1st floor, we then moved to the kitchen and dining room. The propping here certainly took some attention, which the interior designers from KDA handled very well. Lighting was relatively simple; a strip box and ceiling bounce was used in the kitchen and a couple soft boxes in the dining area brightened up and added some depth to the image.

Next was a resident bedroom, which KDA’s designers made look very warm and inviting. With this image, I felt the kitchen area just looked a little too boring, so I concentrated on brightening it up. So we added a strip light at the room entrance (to the right) and lit the chairs with an Arri. I did add some light to the bed from the bathroom as well.

Towards the end of the first day we moved to the 4th floor and captured a quick image of the hallway. Insofar as staging, nothing was really done other then straightening it up a bit. Although hallways don’t typically involve too much lighting, and usually there are no places to hide your lights anyway, I still like to add a bit of horizontal contrast if I can. So here I lit up the table with single 4x3 soft box.

The next morning, we focused on the 4th floor lobby. When I arrived, the sunlight was streaming into the project nearly horizontally. I really liked this look, but knew it would last long enough for us to use it. So I decided to replicate it with the Narrow Beam reflector; this worked well and gave me more control then I would have had with the sunlight. I did add in a few strip lights for support and a large soft box for fill. All the while, KDA handled the staging and cleaning of the space.

The 4th floor kitchen was next, and it was somewhat of an anomaly for me. Those who work with me know I am very much into my lighting, but here, the natural light was so nice, I decided it did not need any additional major lights. I only brightened up the backsplash a bit with a couple Arri’s, and that was it.

We ended our shoot with a private dining room. With this shot I could tell the sunlight would eventually come streaming into the image right before sunset, which I really wanted to use. So in order for this work, I had to imagine how this sunlight would effect the shot and light the image to make sense with it. This actually made the image look over lit before the sunlight started to enter the shot, which my assistant pointed out. However, when the sunlight finally came in (on the right) it made perfect sense and my lighting was no longer noticeable, which is always the goal.

There were certainly many more images from this shoot, but these are the ones I really liked.

The Rooms at Seaview

Nothing like getting to visit the shore, throwing your feet up and … taking some pictures to remember the experience.  Which is exactly what I had the pleasure of doing last month.  Sure, it may be work, but I love what I do.  

Anyway, enough with the bragging!  

In April I had the opportunity to visit The Dolce Stockton Seaview Golf Resort, built just outside of Atlantic City, NJ in the 1914.  I had photographed the event spaces 6 or 7 years ago, and, at the time, a much need renovation was planned for all guest rooms, lobbies and dining areas.  (And not just the decor, but electrical, plumbing, roofing, etc.)  It was quite the undertaking that took a fair amount of planning and funds sourcing.  It was not until this November they went under (24/7) construction, rebuilding practically everything, and, of course, needing all new photography too.  

In total, we planned on a five day shoot, over two sessions, capturing most of the resort.  April was for the guest rooms and meeting spaces, all of which looked much better then they had 6 years ago.  

On day one, we attacked the meeting rooms, with the Eisenhower Room first.  Although a nice room, it was a bit dark and needed a fair amount of lighting.  Using my Rodenstock 55mm (about a 32mm on a FF DSLR), I looked towards the windows and placed my first light, with a Profoto narrow beam reflector, outside hitting the front wall.  This gave a nice sunlight feel.  It needed a little support to be believable though, so I added a strip box next to it.  Although it would have been nice to pump light in through the smaller windows, they were too far above grade, so I went with a 3x4 soft box placed about 3 yards right of camera.  A ceiling bounce and another strip box was added to the front left and above camera for overall fill.  The final touch was a couple 650 Arri’s strategically placed and swapping out the birch branches for something with a bit more color. 

For a quick 2nd shot, I swapped out the 55mm for my 90mm (~55mm on FF DSLR) and moved in for a one-point-perspective focusing on the front.  Essentially all lighting remained the same while we fussed around a bit with furniture and prop placement.  (We did a few more this day as well, but these were my favorite.)  

One day two, we hit up the guest rooms and lucked out with perfect weather.  Starting with a double, I broke out my wide angled Schneider 35mm (~21mm on FF DSLR) and composed an image from the far corner looking into the room.  (Although I normally I prefer having the window in the center of frame, which gives a nice bright center with back lighting, that composition just too boring.)  Since I was fighting the window light, I needed to really brighten up the center, and did so with a 1x4 gridded strip box at the entry.  This sent a nice amount of light into the room.  I added some fill light with two ceiling boxes near the camera, and lit up the desk and chairs with a couple 650 Arri’s.  Although this was nice, it still was a little off and ultimately I decided to add a bounce in the entry.  This gave the center of frame a bright airy feel, helping to draw the eye throughout the image.  

A king room was next on the list, first shooting a desk detail.  I had brought a (recently acquired) beauty dish to this shoot and was looking for a way to use it.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to do so, although I was concerned whether or not the light spread would be large enough.  Thankfully it worked well, with two additional bounces giving us a good amount of fill.  Flagging the dish a bit so the shadow off the door would not be so harsh was the final touch.  

Last was the overall image of the king room (and yes, we did switch rooms.)  The inner architectural photographer in me initially thought to compose this as a one-point, but, although great for architects, can end up being a little static.  For this client, a slightly angled shot worked much better.  For lighting, I really utilized the sunlight streaming into the room for my main light.  This really brightened the center, and I balanced it with a strip light in the bathroom and two ceiling bounces in the back of the room.  To make the desk pop a little, I lit it with an Arri for a capture, editing in the light in post.  Given the view, we really wanted to push the golf theme, and fussed around with some props for this shot as well.

Overall, a really fun shoot.  Although the lobby was not fully complete yet, I could tell it would look amazing when finished.  Returning in June should be equally as fun.  

Winchester Gardens: Lighting Review

 Joe Kitchen is a commercial photographer in New York & Philadelphia that photographs architecture & interiors, hotels & resorts, still life and beverage.  Joe regularly travels to Washington DC, Baltimore, Boston and the rest of North America for projects.

A better and older architectural photographer than I once told me, “if people start to think about your lighting, then you failed.”  Ever since then, I always strive to have my lighting appear natural and non-present, to at least the layperson.  However, this often leaves people wondering exactly what I did, if anything, with the lighting.  So for those interested, whether you’re a designer, a fellow photographer, or just a curious bystander, here is a quick lighting overview of a recent project. 

The project was Winchester Gardens, a retirement facility in northern NJ, designed and photographed for KDA.  Overall, we (myself, two assistants, and two designers from the client's office) created 10 interior images in a day, and I will be reviewing 4 of them.  (Just to note, all final images shown have had the highlights layered in from shorter exposures.) 

First image of the day was the 4th floor common area.  The goal here was the show the overall space, give a sense of the layout, and have the finishes come out.  A wider composition a good deal away from the fireplace felt best.  First order of business was to light up the fireplace with a 650w Fresnel.  Since the fireplace is dead center and very dark comparatively, this was necessary to avoid having a black hole in the image.  Next was to imply the hallway/dining area left of the image and between the two pillars.  Adding a bounce and strip box in that area did the trick.  This also added nice shadows to the fireplace wall, bringing out the woodwork.  Last, a 3x4 soft box and another bounce light was incorperated for overall fill. 

Later in the day we moved to the 3rd floor common area, which was actually at grade, for a similar image.  The layout was basically the same and to avoid capturing the same image twice, we moved closer in.  First thing was to light the fireplace again (along with the table), which had a greater effect since the wood was lighter.  We also added another bounce light and 3x4 soft box for fill.  Initially I decided to use the same bounce and strip light combo on the left as before, but felt it was too obvious since the pillars will not being shown.  So I removed them, but doing so made the far wall look a little dead.  I made up for this by placing a strobe with a hard reflector outside illuminating the fireplace. 

Towards the end of the day, we moved into the lobby.  This image was the most complicated since two different rooms were being shown.  In order to have the viewers eye travel through the reception to the far room, I decided to use soft light in the foreground and harsh light in the background.  First, we placed a strobe with the narrow beam reflector outside and hitting the far bookshelf, and added a strip light just right of the shelf to reinforce that look.  A 3x4 soft box was also used in that same room for fill.  For the reception area, we opened the inner door of the vestibule (on the left), allowing sunlight to come in, and placed a strip light there to help break up the room.  A wall bounce was place left of camera to simulate soft window light and add fill.  The right side of the room still looked a little dull, though, and I decided to use a bare bulb strobe, which creates a look similar to a sconce, to brighten it up.  There was also 2 or 3 tungsten Fresnel lamps used in various places too. 

(If I could go back and make one change on this image, I would have gelled the bare bulb strobe to be warmer.  Although I do not feel it is obvious what I did, making the light warmer would certainly feel better.) 

Last, we moved in for a detail of the far bookshelf.  Really, much of the work was already done here from the previous image.  We kept the narrow beam and large soft box where they were, moved the strip box (on the right) a bit and added a ceiling bounce on the left. 

Pro Tip: an issue that came up on this shoot, and others, but probably does not deserve its own blog post, is how to deal with soft box reflections on wooden walls.  Often is the case that I will place a large soft box in just the right spot only to get a glare on a semi-glossy wooden wall.  Most people would choose to just move, which would compromise the lighting.  My solution often is to leave it where it is and gel it to be warmer.  Usually it is the bluer light of the strobe that makes the reflection stand out.  Bringing the color down to 3200K or warmer will make it less noticeable and appear natural, especially if there are windows in the image.