Taking Pictures In The Bathroom.
My original plan had me walking Tuesday morning at 5 AM. My friend Tom was going to pick me up at 7:30 AM and take me to do a photoshoot of a recent remodel job that he completed. Monday night I received a text message from Tom, “Can you help me with my computer? I’ll take you to breakfast.” “Sure,” I replied. An adventure with Tom trumps walking.
At 4:50 AM Tom pulled up in front of my house. I put my coat on and headed out the door. Once inside the cabin of the car I was greeted by a friendly hello and a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. We headed into the city meeting rush hour traffic. I was grateful that Tom was driving; traffic makes me crazy.
At our favorite breakfast joint, The Palace, Tom chided me to order “Something decent this time.” I have been making an effort to be conservative in my ordering, and this unannounced change had clearly been picked up by him. I went with a veggie omelet. Tom pulled out his MacBook Pro and I fiddled with it and solved his technical problem. I have never had a computer class, but I seem to have an ability to understand computers. Sometimes the answers to a computer problem will literally flash in front of me. I guess this talent would be classified under the category that my wife refers to as my autistic brain.
Off to the suburbs and the photoshoot. Tom had several appointments Tuesday morning and so I shot solo.
The remodel consisted of a kitchen and two bathrooms. He had put a lot of thought and energy into the project and was rightly proud of the outcome. He wanted me to digitally capture when he was seeing for his portfolio.
Dear reader, there are few architectural shoots that are more difficult than a bathroom. Consumers see glossy photos in advertisements, but they don’t realize that these images can be bathroom “sets,” and not the real thing. When a pro shoots a real bathroom the room is sometimes partially deconstructed to allow for proper shooting angles.
Bathrooms are small, and to give photos the illusion of a larger space it is necessary to use a wide angle lens along with a camera capable of using such a lens to its greatest advantage. Wide angle lenses add a tremendous amount of distortion to an image. Objects towards the corners of the lens spread out and tilt in very unnatural ways.
Lighting is difficult when shooting a bathroom, a flash has to be carefully directed to avoid washing out closeby surfaces. Even using existing lighting presents its own problems of unwanted reflection and exposure blowouts.
Reflective surfaces, like mirrors and glass shower doors, are everywhere. It isn’t considered professional to see a photographer in the mirror of a finished photograph! Doors open into spaces, blocking the room view. The list of issues goes on and on.
When we view a bathroom in person we are able to take in the whole experience. Our brain makes a composite image out of many scanned images. Unwanted objects are filtered out, holes are filled in. The camera can only see the room one section at a time which highlights, not hides, flaws.
Door removal and room modification were (obviously) not an option, the best I could do was to try to emphasize creativity, rather than absolute accuracy.
I mounted a borrowed 16-35 mm L series lens on a Canon 5D and positioned myself in the room looking for the best angles… I started shooting. High shots, low shots, inside shots, outside shots, this angle, that angle… click, click click. A quick scan of the camera’s LCD screen to make sure I was in focus. Another scan to make sure that I wasn’t being reflected in the glass shower door. Click, click, click. It took me hours to shoot the two remodeled baths and the kitchen.
When I arrived back home I loaded the images into my computer. A tweak in the overall contrast, a little more exposure here, better white balance there, and so it went. I have some perspective correction tools that reduced some of the most egregious optical distortions, but I’m am hardly a Photoshop expert. I don’t have the ability to create a geometrically accurate image, or the ability to perfectly clone out imperfections. Even so, I spent the rest of the day tweaking photos.
In the end, I felt OK with the results. They were a little better than the last bathroom photoshoot that I did. Hopefully, the next bathroom shoot will be a little better than this one. Although challenging, my project was also exciting. I pushed myself to think differently, I became more proficient, not only with the photography but also the post-production work. I forced myself to use my own standard as a reference point. That standard was not perfection.
Dear reader, I believe that last Tuesday’s photo shoot was actually a metaphor for how I approach life and its problems. If I have a problem I tend to believe that there is a solution to it. I think about the potential issues and plan accordingly. I explore my solution specific strengths and weaknesses. I focus on potential pitfalls and possible workarounds for them. I face the problem and try to learn from both my successes and failures. I correct my course as needed. I establish what is an acceptable outcome. Perfection does not exist, acceptable is the way to go.
I am not claiming that this method is the only reasonable one, but it generally has worked for me. When I talk to some of my patients I can see how their problem solving is ineffective and at times causes them unnecessary stress and grief. Some people adopt the impulsive “ask forgiveness” model. Some plan so obsessively that they never get around to tackling the task at hand. Some use the “I’ll worry about it tomorrow” option. Some feel that any outcome other than 100% is a failure, so they do nothing. Some utilize the, “It is not my fault, it’s your fault,” philosophy. None of these are congruent with happy life.
We are creatures of habit, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t adapt and change. If you are unhappy with the way that your life is going explore what you can do to change it. Be reasonable and take responsibility for your actions. Don’t blame others, become your own force of change. Sometimes the slogan, “Life is what you make it,” can be true.