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Congratulations To George Gutenberg - January PFRE Photographer Of The Month

Published: 23/01/2014

GeorgeGutenbergCongratulations to George Gutenberg of Palm Springs, CA who is the PFRE photographer of the month for January. This month we had 36 amazing twilight images entered in the January contest.

Both the readers (as indicated by the favorites feature on flickr) and the jury agreed that George's image was the winner and Jonathan's was second. Here are the voting results:

  1. George Gutenberg, Palm Springs, CA - 69
  2. Jonathan Kissock, Adelaide, AU - 25
  3. David Barger, Tucson, AZ - 10
  4. Adrian Jones, Cape Town, SA - 7
  5. Lou Novick, Santa Fe, NM - 1

Here are George's comments about his winning image:

... photography is very subjective, and over the years we all develop a style in how we want to present the subject. So it is certainly rewarding to hear that some of my peers enjoyed the image.

I made this particular image in December as part of documenting this 8,000+ sq. ft. new construction.

The image was essentially captured in camera, but required extensive (but subtle lighting) added as I was shooting against the setting sun, and the house is so big. 3 large light banks with Arri tungsten fixtures, were needed to even out the lighting of the foreground, versus the radiance of the bright interior. I also used about 8, or so, small tungsten spots to light some of the interior areas, as well as the court yard as needed

There is no significant post production, other than cleaning up the new sod (foot prints, and a some patches). This home features a beautiful home theater, and it had one of the "pirate" films playing in it, so we wound up adding that capture to the other flat screens as well. The sky is as it was captured. It's all about timing when it come to getting it all to work in-camera.

Thanks for everyone's participation! I've put the entrant names and points on the photos in the flickr pool. The photos will be in the flickr pool for the rest of the month so feel free to comment on them.

Larry Lohrman

20 comments on “Congratulations To George Gutenberg - January PFRE Photographer Of The Month”

  1. Congratulations George! Did you have to supplement any of the interior lights, or just the 3 lights in the yard?

  2. @ Jeff Morris,

    I did augment some of the interior lighting with some small tungsten spots, as well as a couple in the courtyard seen in the background.

    In retrospect, there were other areas that could have benefitted from some additional lighting (like the camera side of the outdoor bar and furniture), but my time there was limited, and the window of opportunity for this twilight shot was closing quickly.

  3. It's an incredible shot and congratulations! This shot and the subject made it impossible to be beat by any entries and is the reason I didn't enter myself...too chicken! haha

    I do have to say though as someone who shoots a LOT of twilight photography, all that supplemental lighting is not necessary, especially when shooting a house like this. It's lit up as much as a NFL stadium with about 100-75 watt incandescent pot lights inside and out and the outside could be lit with a diffused powerful flash if done right. The grass looks strangely perfect... I'm not taking away from the shot nor is that my intention. I just want people that don't shoot a lot of twilight photography to know this much set up is not always required especially when a home is this ideally lit and has a light coloured exterior. I have shot hundreds of twilight shoots and all I use is my flash off camera, sometimes with and without diffuser. It takes some experimenting with positioning and settings in the camera, but I always get the shot. Plus I have enough time to capture multiple angles and front and rear of home plus more in the short window of time allowed with twilight photography. Also I do this all solo with no outside help which keeps costs down for realtors.

    Great job George and congrats again.

  4. Excellent work.

    "...all that supplemental lighting is not necessary, especially when shooting a house like this."-Mark. It depends on what you are trying to achieve. You can't make the house look like it does in this photo without lights. Maybe it could be done as well with strobes, instead of hotlights, but it is easier to see what you are doing with continuous lighting. Perhaps a high quality photo of this subject could still be made with little or no added lighting, but it would not look nearly the same. Also, as George mentioned, the sun was setting behind the house, which makes it harder to balance the light between the sky and the house/landscsape. It seems to me that, if one were going to shoot this without added lighting, a morning twilight would be preferable.

    As for a set up like this for real estate photography, I am going to guess that, in this particular case, the builder paid for much or all of the photography and intends to use it for their
    long-term marketing, in addition to marketing the property for sale. Either that or George put in extra work on spec, in the hope that the builder (and perhaps others) would be interested in licensing the photo for their own marketing usage.

  5. Thank you all again for the very kind comments!

    David is correct, using tungsten lights allowed me to actually see the overall scene better. It's a big house and I wanted to have better control, and I wanted to know that when I left, I actually had the shoot in the can (yes, I'm old school).

    There are certainly times that I too use strobes, but typically not for night shots. I'm fortunate to have a lot of tungsten lighting (50W through 2,000W), but also multiple strobe systems. What to use when, depends on the scene, and is primarily just a taste thing for me. It all comes back to developing a style your own.

    With regards to whether you "need to light" or not, to me, it's about the actual results. There are a lot of things that I don't "have to do", but I choose to do it because I want it to look a certain way. "Good enough" is not something I subscribe to. Yes, it takes a little more time, but I always try to give it my all.

    More importantly, I do not really differentiate between "real estate photography", or whether I shoot for a magazine, an architect, or builder. I would put the same effort into a shoot like this, regardless of who the commissioning client is. Access and time constraints, will of course have an impact on what can, or can't be done.

    my 2 cents


  6. "Yes, it takes a little more time." I would say that is a bit of an understatement. I would say that, compared to most real estate photography, this took a lot more time, equipment and help.
    As far as I can tell, very few people doing real estate photography have the amount of continuous lighting equipment used here, nor do they normally have the time needed to set it all up or an assistant to help with that. I am guessing that George uses an assistant for something like this, which is yet another expense. I, for one, would not set up this amount of equipment without an assistant. Oh, and beside all the equipment, time and assistance, it takes some real talent and experience as well.

  7. David, actually I work solo. But, I rarely shoot more than one assignment per day. That leave me the whole day to shoot whatever daytimes are needed, but also time to plan and work out what needs to happen next

    I have a system where I know exactly what shot needs to happen when. That allows me to place critical lighting ahead of the time when I actually need it in place.

    Because I have accumulated quite a bit of inexpensive tungsten lighting gear over the years, I can have several lighting setups arranged well ahead of when they are actually needed. I don't need to move much of it from shot to shot. Once I have the shot I need, I either move on to the next set-up, or if visible in the next shot, I quickly remove it out of frame. Often I will have more than one camera setup, so that I can move very quickly from one end of the house to the other and be able to capture different views on a short window of opportunity.

    Placing the lighting itself, does not take a lot of time, hiding the fixtures, and cords, takes a little bit of planning and finesse. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and you develop a system, tricks, and some special tools that make the job easier. The worst part of doing it my way, is schlepping the equipment in and out of the location truck, and that get's really old at times.

    I realize that many photographers shoot multiple houses each day, and therefore don't have time to do it the way I do, but that is a choice I made long ago. Every time I tried working faster (which to me means that I was cutting corners), I didn't like the results. I'm sure that my clients would feel the same, so I do it the best way I know how.

  8. +1000 Good job, GG. George is exactly right in his approach. It isn't complicated, it's about pre-visualizing what you want, not necessarily for the house you are shooting, but in general. My guess is that like me, many of George's twilight and interior shots follow the very same shooting style and technique, which is then adjusted slightly for each property. It's a given that a twilight opportunity will on last maybe a maximum of 45minutes, and only 20minutes of that will be very good, and only 5-10 will be outstanding... and that's IF the weather is calm, and IF the angle and clouds that might interfere with incoming natural light are conducive. Every night, there are lot's of "IF's", but in reality, that doesn't change the shooting style much, but it does change the look of the resulting image.

    In my case, I can manage 2-3 interiors in a single day, and still complete a twilight shot, but the only way I can be capable of doing predictably good work on every property (even when shooting 3 in a day), is to have developed a fast, fool-proof approach that lends itself to every property, with a secondary approach for rooms or exteriors that are problematic.

    I believe that the property George shot could have been "adequately" done without any additional lighting, but here's the thing... He already knows what he wants, and is willing to make whatever effort is required to get it. In my opinion, the reason the shot was so instantly well-liked was because it's cinematic in nature, meaning it's far more intentional, rather then a happy accident. As luck would have it, perhaps all the lighting installed in the home actually did match itself., 🙂 which makes a property much easier, and as he said, all he had to do was accent what was already pretty good, and then employ his timing and skill to make it happen.

    The shot I posted, I found rather amusing from a personal standpoint. It's not the best work I've ever done, but... it happened on a night when the property I was shooing during the day ran too long, and then I got stuck in traffic, which meant I was waaaay too late when I arrived at the twilight house. On top of that, the client had requested an elevated view, and for some reason, the Camranger/iphone/camera setups were absolutely NOT on speaking terms. And... there was a slight wind, and pole setup I was using wasn't really made for that much wind. Oh, and it was cold with a windchill. Montana, par for the course. It probably took 12-15minutes to troubleshoot the Camranger communication problem, all the while what was left of the twilight was rapidly evaporating before my eyes. Finally, I got it together, and actually had to press my shoulder to the pole to help stabilize it, and then wait for less windage. The only saving grace was that the property was on the far west side of town, with nothing to obstruct whatever incoming light was left. The interesting thing that happened though, was that the light coming out of the house actually created quite a contrast with how dark it was outside, which to me, was surprisingly enjoyable... since I generally never shoot this kind of thing in the dark. We're talking roughly an 1/2 hour to 45 minutes after prime-time. No time to setup lights. It reminded me of a house possessed, sort of. The final shot required lots of post-work, and 6 images to make use of for each angle of the house. (total of 3 angles) There are actually the beginnings of star trails in the sky because of the 90second exposure << that's how dark it was. Client was more then happy.

    I posted that story ^^^ to contrast it to the approach George used, because mine was a happy not-entirely-accidental shot, but what George made reference to was that he allows time to work in a way that suits his intended outcome, and as far as I know, the results are probably stunning every time. Whereas I, tend to be overly ambitious about what I can include in a single day, and there is absolutely more variance in the resulting work. Mine was only successful for the client because I'm used to working in adverse conditions, and have enough experience behind me to make practically any situation work out, even on the suckiest of days, and of course, nerves of steel.

    And the moral is: decide what you want, and do that. George shot a winning photograph of a great property, and his approach culminated in perfection.

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