The Home Tour

March 24, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

 

This week I had the pleasure of providing photography services to the Canyon Chapter of the National Charity League as they presented their third annual Coto de Caza Home Tour.  This is the Chapter's premier fundraising activity of the year, which raises something in the neighborhood of $30,000 to support the many philanthropies of the Chapter.  The Tour features five remarkable homes in Coto, each one decorated and furnished in elegant fashion.  This year was no exception.

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The event begins with a morning breakfast at the Bell Tower Regional Community Center in Rancho Santa Margarita, where the guests are also able to browse and purchase various products from local vendors who support the Chapter and its activities.  The guests then board shuttles for the brief trip into the gated community, where Chapter members lead guided tours of the five homes.  The homes are, in a word, stunning.

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One of the challenges of photographing architecture, especially interiors, is the need to shoot wide.  Photographers who specialize in architectural work use "tilt-shift" or "perspective control" lenses to keep vertical lines vertical and horizontal lines horizontal.  Shlubs like me, who don't have tilt-shift lenses make do with careful framing and cropping.  Or, we let the lines go where they will, and we call it "art".

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Another challenge in shooting interiors is balancing interior light and outdoor light.  Our eyes do this effortlessly, but cameras can't handle the dynamic range presented by bright sunlight and darker interiors.  There are three ways to deal with this extended dynamic range.  First, you can lock the camera on a tripod and shoot multiple exposures designed to capture detail in the bright exterior and detail in the darker interior, and then blend them in post production.  Or, you can bring enough studio light into the interior to balance the outdoor light, and get it in one shot.  Or, you can decide not to worry about it, overexpose the room to make it nice and bright, tweak the color temperature in Photoshop and lead the viewer to conclude that the outside light is flooding the room.  This, too, is "art".

Sometimes it's important to show that detail outside the window.  But if you can't set up a tripod to capture multiple exposures, and all you have is one little speedlight, you can point it backwards, bang it off the wall behind you, and get something like this.

_MG_8895 We call this luck "skill".

While all of these houses are remarkable in their design, decor, and landscaping, some of them have truly amazing features.  This house has one room devoted completely to ballet, although the three girls who studied ballet have since married and moved on.  As a dance photographer, I couldn't resist making a few studies of the details in this room.

_MG_8938 Some of the "amenities" are just plain over the top.  I say this with true admiration, because when I saw this "man cave", the entry to which is guarded by a genuine bank vault door, I had to chuckle.

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But my jaw truly dropped when I went outside beyond the pool to see the two-story gymnasium, which almost defies description.

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The gym was extremely dark and dramatic.  The low light level called for an exposure in the half-second range, way too long to hand-hold the camera.  So you make do with what you have, including door frames, railings, or a piece of gym equipment to steady the camera.

All of these interior images were made in very mixed lighting environments, including sunlight, tungsten lighting fixtures, and electronic flash.  I continue to marvel at the classic Canon 5D's ability to handle these situations and make the final images work.

The Home Tour is a fun day for the guests, but it's a ton of work for those who prep the homes and staff the event.  The Chapter members are a great group to spend the day with.

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