Photography Portfolio


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Historical Figures
Historical Figures
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San Simeon
San Simeon
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805-646-1991 | Ojai, CA 93023 USA.

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All rights reserved Peter D'Aprix © 1975-2012

Book Photography.

The two books I have been commissioned to shoot where my photography is used exclusively, by chance, are both on art; one a collection of the Art of San Simeon Castle in California and the other produced on the 1/4 life size Figures of artist Mr. G.S. Stuart under the aupices of the Ventura Museum of History and Art in Ventura California.

The two books while documenting works of art presented diametrically opposed photographic problems to be solved. For more on each shoot, read the "Details" button pop-up on this introduction page which is under the thumbnail images.

Client: California State Parks Foundation and Carol Everingham
Agency: Don French Graphic Design, Santa Barbara
Photographed at Hearst Castle on the hill.

This book was shot entirely on location at the castle on the hill. Some objects were shot in a make shift studio in the basement while others where shot where they are displayed in the castle and a few were moved to locations with better light or more space to do the photography.

Our work was not made any easier due to the fact that we were not allowed to shooting while the tours were being conducted at 15 minute intervals. So each interior shot had to be set up, lit and film exposed within 15 minutes. Then we had to run with the light stands, cameras and flash packs and hid behind curtains, down stair cases and in occasional store rooms while the tours passed by.

The large carpets and tapestries were the most difficult to photograph since the smallest ones were 15 feel long. The carpets which lay on the ground, were obviously impossible to photograph in place since there was no way to get above them with the 15 minute limitations imposed on us. Likewise the tapestries that were hanging on the walls did not hang flat and any lighting accentuated the ripples in the tapestries and when placed out of the camera view, could not light the fabric evenly even if it had been flat.

Wondering how on earth we could light the rugs and tapestries I spoke off the top of my head knowing that my suggestion would never be adopted said "the only way to do this is to take them all out to the courtyard, put the camera (a 4x5 view camera) on that crumbling Venetian balcony, wait until the sun was on the other side of the building and shoot with the lovely soft but very blue light of the sky in the afternoon." These tapestries had never been taken down since they were put up when Mr. Hearst was alive.

I was amazed as anyone when the director said "Well......that might be possible." So a very large tarpaulin was found, cleaned, laid on the courtyard and one by one we shot the tapestries and rugs from above.

As a foot note, the extremely long tapestry (the 'Daniel' Taper sty, early 16th century) that was hung in the dining room, and lit by UV protected window light had in fact faded over the years. This was only discovered as we were looking at the polaroids (this was pre-digital camera days) which showed the darker area that had been protected by the long table that overlapped the tapestry.

Photographed: 1981 - Copyright Carol J. Everingham Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 81-69477 - ISBN 0-9606996-0-0. Shown courtesy California State Parks Foundation and Carol Everingham. All rights reserved. No copying and/or reproduction in any form in part or whole permitted.

Client: Ventura Museum of History and Art
Graphic Designer: Gunnar Swanson Design,
Shot in the studio digitally

The space limitations of the signature for this book required the designer to spec the photos to be shot to be shot with a dropped out background to release additional white space for text copy.

After many years of shooting these Figures, the impact of these very life like 3 dimensional portraits has always worked better and had more visual impact on dark backgrounds, so I knew that shooting on white would lessen that impact and cause many other technical problems if we were to communicate the impact these Figures have in reality.

Working closely with the designer, we worked out in tests exactly how to light the Figures and what kind of background to use so that it could be removed without making the images of the Figures look as though they were cut out with a knife. Unlike a computer box or car, these Figures had feathers, hair, lace and other fine details that would be cut using a standard outlining procedure. It was obvious that we would have to use the tools in PhotoShop to remove the background but we needed to retain the slightly soft edges of the Figures that would be normal if shot against a white background.

It was equally obvious that the cost of shooting with film, making multiple high resolution scans for each of the 50 odd images used would but the budget. Instead, a digital camera from Canon was purchased with high quality lenses so that we could view each image on the computer as we shot and test our post production techniques to make sure we were supplying the figure with what we would need to work with in post production. Each Figure was different; some were dressed in black velvet with white lace and white hair, others had shiny metal armor and were sitting on white horses with white plumes. In short, all the most extreme challenges of lighting technique and camera range imaginable.

As it turned out, each Figure needed about 95 PhotoShop steps in post production to provide the printer what he needed which included a mask that followed the intricate outline of the Figure that also had a soft edge so the image would visually roll into the white background as though the background itself was a light source.