Monday, October 31, 2011

Photographing Interiors for your Blog, Part 2

I've really struggled with this post.  Other than coming to your house and showing you how to adjust your shutter speed, it's been really difficult to think of a way to approach it.  So I hope with a little description and some examples of photos at different shutter speeds, you'll get the idea.  I'm afraid you're going to have to dig out your manual to figure out how to adjust the shutter speed on your own.

This is a photo I took of sister back in the '80s.  It was taken in our basement in complete darkness.  Using my grandfather's old camera, I taped the button down so the camera's shutter (or eye) stayed open.  Just as if you were to sit in a completely dark room with your eyes open you would see nothing, it's the same with a camera.  In TOTAL darkness, a camera could sit with its shutter open for hours and record nothing.

To create this image, I used colored flashlights to illuminate the objects (my sister and glasses on the table).  There is a sheet hanging behind her which I lit with a red flashlight.  And, finally, I used a small penlight to outline her so she looks like a neon sign.

This may have taken two or three minutes to create with the camera shutter sitting open the entire time....and she had to sit completely still.

To take photos with a slow or extended shutter speed you're definitely going to need a tripod.  With your camera's shutter open longer, any movement of the camera will make the photo blurry.  You don't need anything fancy.  Here's a tripod on Amazon that's $17.

In this old photo of the kitchen, I might have used an exposure of (kept the shutter open for) one or two seconds.  As you can see, the cat in the foreground moved (against my strict instructions) and he comes out a little blurry.   I kind of like the effect as it shows action.


There may, in fact, be times when you want blur to show movement.  Here, in this photo of a carnival ride, the blur allows you to see the motion.

So blurry might have it's uses...

...but it's not necessarily something you want in your blog photos.  A tripod will help prevent photos  from looking like this.

Slowing down your shutter speed isn't a matter of more is better.   You can really overdo it.  This image is terribly overexposed.

By adjusting the shutter speed and taking a few test shots, you can find a setting that gives you a nice quality of light, even on a cloudy day.  

Also notice in this photo the placement of the camera.  It's just above the height of the table.  

Here you can see the placement of Michael's camera during the photo shoot.  

By placing the tripod down at the level of the objects, or a dining room table or a bed, it feels more intimate.  It puts the viewer right in the shot.  One of my favorite blogs, The Vintique Object, has done several posts in which she analyzes how wonderful interior photographs have been taken.  Here's an example of one of Camille's posts.

This photograph demonstrates a typical problem.  Your room looks like it has good light but when you take a photo, it comes out very dark.  The reason for this is your automatic camera setting.  Because the camera is faced directly into the light coming from the window, the camera is trying to automatically adjust for that bright light and it leaves the room looking very dark.

By switching to the shutter speed setting, I'm able to slow down the shutter to allow more light into the camera lens.  I don't think this is a great photograph necessarily, because the sun is shining outside and making the light look a little harsh, but it's a tradeoff.  This kind of light can make a photo look very dreamy if that's the look you're going for.  It would be better to take this photo on a cloudy day or at dusk when the light is much less severe.

We'll get to the flower arrangement in a minute.

I thought I would do a little experiment with this scene.  I took these photos a few days after the photo shoot when the flowers were still alive.  The sun has set outside and the house is dark enough to turn lights on.  I would never consider taking photographs in this light.  On an automatic setting, the camera does a pretty good job of capturing the scene but notice the image is very grainy.

I tried taking a photo with the flash and, as you can see, it looks just terrible.  I don't think there's ever a good reason to use a camera mounted flash for an interior shot unless a room has no natural light and you're forced to. 

I put the camera on shutter speed priority and extended the shot to eight seconds.  It's not a fantastic shot but it's essentially dark outside so I think it's pretty good.

I zoom in to take a closeup with a 15-second shot and you'd almost never know it isn't the middle of a sunny day.

When yesterday's forecast predicted a rare October snowstorm, I ran outside and cut the last of everything in the garden.  These are the blue hydrangeas that have aged to green, mauve and burgundy, coleus, new rose growth and Japanese maple.  We were lucky to get only a few inches of snow but this is definitely the last arrangement I'll get from the garden...presented in the style of the Dutch masters. 

Here's another darker spin on the arrangement just for Halloween.

This last flower arrangement celebrates Jane's last day of smoking.  Join the celebration at this ex-smoker's flower party....and good luck, Jane.  Be strong!

Now get out those camera manuals and tweak your shutter speeds!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quilted Over-Dyed Rugs

I was at Bloomingdale's on Sunday and they had a bunch of these quilted and over-dyed rugs.  I thought you might like to see them.   Excuse the quality of the photos, they were taken with an iPhone.  I don't have an iPhone but I begged some guy to snap a few photos and e-mail them to me. 

For the right place, I think they'd be kinda cool.

I have no idea what boho means but I think this is boho, right? 

 I really like the pale one lower right-hand corner.  I might have to put it on my Christmas list.

What do you think?  It's certainly a great way to recycle old, damaged rugs.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Middle Bedroom, Before and After

I'm having a tough time coming up with a good way to demonstrate my shutter speed post so I thought I would show you the middle bedroom.

The motivation for sprucing up the middle bedroom was, as you now know, the photo shoot.  Even though BH&G told me this room wasn't in the shot list, the openness of the upstairs made it quite possible it would end up in a portion of a shot.  Aside from the kitchen, whose makeover I showed you a few weeks ago, this was the other room that wasn't quite ready for prime time.

This shows the room's evolution.  Above is the room when I bought the house.   This was the only room that didn't have wallpaper.  I painted it Benjamin Moore Bali which I thought was a nice vintage/beach glass color.  I've tried unsuccessfully a few times to bring "sea" colors into the house.  They just don't fit and I can't explain why.

I initially set up the room as a "studio" where I was going to work on my artwork but, after three years of never working on a piece of art, the large desk was becoming a dumping ground.

I got rid of the large desk and replaced it with this antique spool bed that I stained dark brown using gel stain.  I built a platform inside the frame so it needed only a mattress to become a daybed.

And here is the room today.  I've repainted the walls in Benjamin Moore White River at 50% strength.  My paint colors keep getting lighter and lighter and I'll probably navigate to Decorator's White next time around so the woodwork can be darker which has more of a historical look.

The rug is too small but I love the colors.  I've tried a few different Dash & Albert rugs that just didn't look right.  Too new looking I think.  The antique Bar Harbor wicker chair came from York Antiques in Maine.  I would have preferred an upholstered chair but with limited time and funds before the photo shoot, I thought this was good versatile chair that would work as an accessory in almost any room.  

The paint on the chair is the original paint which is bluish-greenish gray.  The cushion is covered in a vintage ticking from Wendy Lewis.  I love all the colors with the rug.  Now if I can only find a larger one in the same colors.

The bedding.  The matelasse coverlet I got from Antiques on 9 in Kennebunk for 70% off...the best deal of my life. The pillows from back to front are:  A vintage linen pillow case from Wendy Lewis.  The Euro-sized floral pillow shams are Ralph Lauren.  The blue ticking pillow shams and red ticking are also textiles from Wendy Lewis.  The bolsters are an oatmeal colored Ralph Lauren linen I bought on ebay for $20 which is trimmed in an old linen shirt from my closet.

Above the bed is the vintage cow print/chart that was formerly in the kitchen. 

Many thanks to Ann LaFortune for making the shams and the bolsters for me.  I sent Ann a bunch of fabric and she helped me figure out what to use where.  

The back of the blue shams are done in the same oatmeal linen as the bolsters with a flap of oatmeal and brown windowpane plaid linen making them completely reversible.

I also bought these cool pillow covers made from vintage material from Ann's etsy shop that work really well in the dining room.  Be sure to check out Ann's shop.  Her prices are really fair and she also does custom work.

I would have preferred to have a small chest rather than the small table under the painting.  I feel there are too many spindly legs in the room and a chest would allow the spindles on the bed to be the star in the room.

The table was $27 at the Cambridge Antiques Market.  I've used an old square English fishing basket underneath to fill some of that space and disguise some of those spindles.

The small green cabinet in the corner houses a lot of electronics for the house:  modems, wireless routers, phone, etc. and a small TV that would allow a guest to hang out and watch their own TV if they wanted to. 

Above the TV is a painting that you might think is vintage.  It's actually a new painting by a friend, Katrina Walker, from Provincetown. The painting provides a peek inside the Beachcombers Club, a private men's club of artists and writers that started in 1921.  Katrina found the vintage frame, that fit the painting perfectly, in the trash.  This is a very cherished piece.

There's no hiding that my elliptical machine sits in the corner along with the wrenches pieces I showed in the last post.

Above the windows, I've kept the original shelves.  Since the windows are really low on the walls, I use the shelves as kind of a valance on which to place an ever-changing collection of things I find interesting at the moment.

There's a  raku vessel, an art piece made from found objects including an old flag, a shoe last, an abstract bronze sculpture and a shadowbox piece by Provincetown poet/artist Lynn Stanley.

Finally, this is the Great Great Grandpa vignette.  I love to pull these items together to study their relationships.  I'll do another post sometime soon on vignettes so I won't talk a lot about it.  

Here is a close up of the details.

For a quick makeover, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  I'm sure it will continue to evolve.  I was also pleased that the photographer was inspired to take a few photos in this room.  One of his shots was just amazing so I'm hoping to see it again in the book.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dawn Southworth in the Middle Bedroom

Here's a little sneak peek of the middle bedroom featuring the work of 
Massachusetts artist Dawn Southworth.

These two pieces are titled Wrenching Dreams I and II.  

Wouldn't this be a great way to display a collection of old tools?

The wrenches are vintage paper cutouts applied to collaged tar paper.  
Some of the wrenches, as you'll see below, are sewn to the piece with metal
wire thread.  The frames are made from wood reclaimed from a shoe factory
which is riddled with nail holes.

Be sure to check out her ironing board covers.  They're powerful, haunting,
creepy beautiful...perfectly fitting for this Halloween season.

Hope to take more photos of the middle bedroom over the 
weekend...if the light is bad enough!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

North End, Boston

Today, we're taking a detour from the usual stuff for quick tour of the North End of the Boston.  Even though it's Little Italy today, this old part of the city was a hotbed of activity during the Revolutionary War.  Above is Paul Revere's house.  Built in 1680, it's the oldest structure in downtown Boston.  It was from here he began his legendary ride to warn "The British are coming."  

Just a few blocks away, it was the Old North Church that displayed two lanterns to warn Charlestown of the British troops' movement.  "One of by land, two if by sea."  Even though these important Colonial sites are meshed into a modern commercial and residential part of the city, I wanted to focus on just a few of the vintage parts of Little Italy that make it so charming to me.

Even though many of the restaurants and shops are corporate business ventures, there are still many family-owned ristorantes, bakeries and markets that have been here for decades. 

And on a beautiful day, they open up their fronts so their patrons can enjoy the outdoors.

I met up with some friends for a weekend lunch.  All of our birthdays are within two weeks so we usually get together a few times to celebrate.  If they would only put away the iPhones.

After lunch, we hit the Salumeria Italiana which is one my favorite Italian markets.  I used to live less than a block away from here and I really miss this place.

A large selection of imported pastas...

...olives and salt-packed capers...


...the most incredible cured meats...

...and canned goods.  

One of my friends is a San Marzano tomato aficionado so we have to come here to buy them.  He says they have to say "D.O.P." on them to be real.

Just about a block down the street is Polcari's Coffee.

This is a place that time forgot.

They sell coffees, teas, spices, imported nuts, cheeses, pastas, condiments, canned goods, and other assorted imported food items.

Isn't like something out of a movie?

And before finishing our visit, we make the obligatory stop at Modern Pastry.

Cannoli to go.

If you ever visit Boston, I hope you'll take a few hours to check out this gem of a neighborhood.