From the Editor
You look at the exquisite photos of the homes in this design issue and how could you ever know that to get pictures like this you might need a dash of Ellen DeGeneres, a call to convince anxious cops that you’re not going to commit suicide or a harness to keep you from falling out of a helicopter? I asked two of the talented photographers in this issue—Doug Thompson and Randall Perry—to share the process behind their genius. And, boy, did they have war stories for us along with basics about getting the details right.
DOUG: "If I ever quit this job, it’ll be over bedspreads and drapes."
For all of the extremes he’ll go to in order to capture the perfect lighting and camera angles, Doug seems to worry most about those bedspread wrinkles or drapes that don’t hang right. Steaming, tape, pins and, in the last resort, Photoshop will get him to the look he wants. As for the lighting, he says, the best times are early or late in the day. That’s fine professionally, but hard on personal life and nutrition: "I often don’t get to eat dinner until 10:00 or 11:00 at night," he says.
And, oh, the adventures out there. The most memorable perhaps was the time he needed a huge crane with a shooting point that would hold steady for a 10-minute exposure to capture a sunset over a particular area. As he recalls, "I had to climb 200 feet up a ladder and haul my equipment up a rope. When I looked down, I saw some flare or flash, and there were five or six police cars just below. Through some kind of loudspeaker, a cop called to me, saying, ‘Sir, please do not jump. Come down safely.’ They couldn’t hear me say I was committing art not suicide, so I had to phone my client and get her to rush over to calm the lawmen down." Doug occasionally hides in the bushes at homes to get leaves and branches into the compositions of his photos. Naturally, suspicious neighbors call security on him and he has more explaining to do.
But, really, he says, it’s all fun. That’s because, first, he brings his music into it. He loves, for example, Hank Williams Jr.’s A Country Boy Can Survive and says, "I pay my assistants a $150 bonus if they can learn to sing the song within three days." He also believes that The Ellen DeGeneres Show has such positive vibes he urges his helpers to watch it regularly. "Production goes up when they watch it," he says with a smile.
RANDALL: "I like to be where I’m not supposed to be so I can get something original."
Yes, Randall admits to climbing a church spire, shooting from a slippery rock in the middle of onrushing waters and leaning out of helicopters to deliver exceptional angles. But he’s more eager to talk about the lighting that gives his work a signature look. Many photographers, he explains, shoot six or seven different exposures that blend inside and outside and then, in Photoshop, pull it all together into the texture they want. "I do traditional lighting to get a more natural look," says Randall. "I got my education years ago shooting for manufacturers in High Point, N.C., and we lit every piece to show it to best advantage. I still do that now. My way may take longer, but I feel that is what makes our images pop."
There’ also that attention to detail thing. Says Randall, "You’ve got to arrange the fringes on a rug, level the lampshades, rub out footprints, plump up the cushions and pillows and hide any visible cords."
So check out Doug’s (p. 96-97 and p. 142-148) and Randall’s work (p. 94). And remember that Ellen DeGeneres and High Point, N.C., get some of the credit, too.