Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Lighting Dilemma...

I have this ongoing problem with the lighting in my workroom (a.k.a. dining room though it hasn't been used for that purpose in nearly three years). I need bright white LED bulbs in my fixture to provide good lighting for minis, but it casts a weird tone in a lot of my photos. Often, my iPhone camera gets confused by it, causing the display to brighten then dim. Sometimes I can diffuse the light a bit with a sheet of polystyrene dollhouse flooring and that helps. But try to hold the camera steady, hold the diffuser steadily to cast just the right shadow over the subject and push the button simultaneously . It must be absolutely ridiculous to watch! I am trying a few apps that supposedly snap the photo for you on voice command, but so far, the results are sketchy.


I am calling the above photo the "in my underwear" shot, because in order to show you the light fixture I have to show you what my work space looks like when I am in the middle of a project. I do clean up and put stuff away in-between tasks because I don't function well in messy spaces. But there it is - it's okay if you judge me! :o)
A couple years back HBS sent an email flash sale. They were offering a Houseworks Side By Side Duplex kit for (if I remember correctly) $9.99. It's been in that stack of "future dreams" ever since. Lately, I've been thinking I could turn it into a photo box of sorts. When constructed I could replace the plywood roof with a plexi one, then set a diffuser on that to take photos.

Look ma! No hands! :o)

If I used neutral finishes for the interior, I could photograph almost everything in it. The size is 24" wide by 10" deep, so I can easily tuck it up on my shelf when not in use!


So last Saturday, I started the kit. It comes with 6 pieces of luan plywood and 5 pieces of trim for the edges. There are no tabs, slots or grooves, so tape, glue and weights saved the day! The plywood is thin and slivery - I still have 3 of them I can't quite dig out, so if you get one of these kits be aware.


My floor piece was pretty warped, but using the weights made it behave while the glue set. I knew going in it would be challenging thanks to following Kat's posts when she put hers together. I went back to her blog for a refresher before I started. Hers came out awesome and really shows how neat this kit can be with a little imagination!


Each of the three shorter walls are interchangeable, which makes it nice because you can set it up for your specific purposes. The back wall has the windows centered vertically, so you can change the orientation of them, as well. I wanted each space to be separate (think two different business sharing a common wall) so I have the doors on each of the end walls. I cheated the center wall to the right so that the left "shop" had just a bit more space.



For the interior of shop 1, I wanted a rustic but neutral feel. I was thinking of a Pottery Barn or Ballard Designs kind of feel. I had an abundance of 1/8" x 3/4" basswood on hand, so decided to clad the walls in "reclaimed barn wood". I made up a few test pieces with a Real Brown wash (3 parts water to 1 part paint) then set to painting a whole lot of sticks and scrap pieces!



After some drying time, I coated over the brown with a 2 to 1 wash of Warm White. 2 coats, then after they had dried, I sanded to achieve a nice worn and pickled whitewash.


During all that drying time, I painted an undercoating in the room, just in case any cracks should show peeks of the wall. The doors and windows were treated to the same process.




I installed vertical "beams" in the corners and around the door, then began to clad the walls. I am still considering my options for crown molding, so I am leaving the top row off for now.





I decided to go with some Houseworks flooring for this project. I like it's ease of use, it looks really nice no matter what kind of finish you're going for, and it's paper backed - a real plus when gluing onto thin plywood. The less chance for warping, the better! After making the paper template of the room, I just tape the pattern to the edge of the flooring sheet and cut with an xacto knife. Easy peasy!





In keeping with the neutral and rustic theme, I gave the floor two coats of the white wash, letting them dry in between, then sanding at the end. The wood sheet tends to curl during this process but not to worry - it lays right back down as it dries! I installed with Gorilla Wood Glue - same glue I've used for everything so far. While all of this was drying, I settled on the material to use for the baseboards and got them painted. Installing them is the next step!


I'll also be creating a solution for those unsightly and trip hazardly door thresholds. Stay tuned for that in my next post!

Until then my friends, I hope the holiday season is filling your heart with joy and excitement!

xo xo,
Jodi

34 comments:

  1. I LOVE your paneled walls Jodi and the pickling of the woods look FANTASTIC!
    After seeing your Beautiful wood finishes in your corner gardening vignette, I can see that this rustic look will be the PERFECT backdrop for future garden, shabby &/or industrial scenes, so GOOD THINKING in turning these two rooms into Multi Purpose environments. :D

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I hope it meets all the needs for form AND function!

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  2. Paneling the walls is a good way of ensuring the thin plywood to stay flat.
    There are many room settings you can create for this project. A craft work shop beside a pottery, etc.... What ever you do, I'm sure will be worth following.
    Hugs, Drora

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    1. Thanks Drora! Yes - after reading Kat's posts about the amount of spackle and sanding that she had to do to her walls, cladding seemed like the best solution. And the added structural support is a bonus!

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  3. Well if that is your workspace looking messy then I'm just off downstairs to light a match in mine.. lol
    But.. Ooohh.. this project is looking exciting! :)
    I agree your neutral rustic palette is going to be a great backdrop for so many scenes. Love the pickled paneling, such a great effect.. I'm definitely trying that one day. Watching your project is inspiring me while I'm too busy to do my own. :D Hope your holiday season is going wonderfully.

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    1. Thanks Sam! You should have seen it during the gingerbread decorating! No matter how many times I cleaned up, there were sparkles everywhere!
      I hope you find some time for minis because we are all waiting for an update!

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  4. https://www.amazon.com/Neewer-Bendable-Flexible-Compact-Cameras/dp/B0053OOPNG/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1513156756&sr=8-8&keywords=small+camera+tripod
    I have one of these...not the same brand, but the same thing.
    When I was taking photos of the library, which has four fixed walls, I used it to hold the camera at mini eye level then set the timer on the camera so I could put the ceiling back on. I'm thinking it might free your hands to hold and position your diffuser. I've also seen short bendy ones that can hold cell phones.

    Or...another thought...put a dimmer switch in for your chandelier.

    I like your little shop setup!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions Keli! You know, I think Russ may have something like that for his GoPro - I'll have to see if the thread size will work, then I can test it out! I have a small phone tripod, but it doesn't always do the job. I always seem to knock it when I try to press the button!
      I have asked for a dimmer switch to be installed in a couple places, and this fixture is one of them! Now if poor Russ could just find the time! Or maybe I could watch some YouTube videos and do it myself! :o)

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  5. Hello Jodi,
    I am loving the barn wood. It looks fantastic and makes the space so interesting! I can't wait to see more. In regards to your workroom, no judgement on my part. I wish my workspace was that tidy.
    Giac

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    1. Thanks Giac! I am really drawn to rustic and weathered and am just so thrilled to be able to try out the ideas in miniature! It is too expensive to do in my real house, which is completely traditional. I think our retirement property will have to include a converted barn! :O)
      I did clean up and reorganize after the Christmas Cottage, so this being a new project, it doesn't look as bad as "usual"!

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  6. Me ha gustado mucho tu espacio de trabajo, es espacioso y tu mesa muy ordenada:-). El comienzo de tu escena es fantástico,me encanta el tono que has logrado.Buen día:-)

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    1. Gracias Rosa-Maria! ¡Me alegro de que te guste! ¡Mi mesa seguramente se convertirá en un caos a medida que avance más!

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  7. I love this whitewashed look. Marvelous!

    Lighting is definitely no easy task. I have the same issues, so I'm thankful for digital cameras so I can just keep shooting until I get a good one. :D

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    1. Thanks Brae! It is so nice to hear from you - been wondering what's been pulling you away! ;O)

      You are so right! Remember film? Never knowing if you'd got a good photo until the film and processing money were spent. I'll stop complaining and remember how lucky we are to have digital technology!

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  8. Lighting is just... gah. I have no clue about it, as you can tell from the range of ugly to good to bad photos on my site.

    Love how your walls and floor are turning out.

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    1. Thanks Sheila! You take beautiful photos, and you have been brave enough to learn to use a REAL camera! Maybe one day I will surrender, but I worry I will have spent money and made no improvement. :o/

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  9. I use light boxes Jodi. It has made a world of difference to my photography. I have two.
    The first is a large white collapsible canvas cube that can fit an entire roombox or similar. I've had it for a few years. Sometimes I put it outside in bright sunligt for photography, sometimes I use it inside and put desk lamps on either side. I can move the lamps around to cast shadows where I want them. Primitive, but it always works well. The best part of it is that when not in use, the lightbox can fold up into a flat parcel about the size of a dinner plate, and slide into my bookshelf.
    My other lightbox was a recent acquisition. A small collapsible plastic cube that has LEDs embedded in the ceiling. It is powered with a UsB cable and folds up to the size of an A4 envelope. Only big enough to photograph a dollhouse person, or one miniature at a time, but the quality of photos I get with that is amazing.
    Both were really inexpensive. If you would like me to send you links from an online shop, just let me know.
    A tripod is next on my list, but I like to move around a lot for different angles while photographing, not sure whether I will use it all that much.
    Your wood siding looks awesome. Can't wait to see the space develop!

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    1. Thanks for the tips Megan! I would love to have the links and maybe you could post them here in the comments and on your blog so that others having the same issue can be helped.
      A couple years ago I did purchase a small, fold up light booth. It came with two lights for the side. One quickly stopped working, even replacing the bulb did not help. The other I have tried to use from time to time, but I am just not doing something right. It also gets VERY hot which is scary. It is so small it's hardly worth setting up.
      I am determined to solve this issue, so I really do appreciate the advice and links!

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    2. This is the small light box with built in LEDs. Mine does not get too hot, fortunately!
      http://www.wish.com/search/photo%20box#cid=59f84ee52b0a1c71c27ef945
      And this is the light tent. I have a large one
      http://www.wish.com/c/581aabeee7a2100539925c09
      This could also be useful if you only need a backdrop
      http://www.wish.com/search/photo%20box%20canvass#cid=53d3130a46188e7d8c726d9d

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    3. Thanks so much for the links and info Megan!

      Holy smokes! The LED Light Room Photo Studio Photography Lighting Tent Kit with the cable is only $18 usd - not a bad setup!

      The larger tent you use is kind of like the one that came in the set I purchased on Amazon.

      https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0027OUOVW/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      Maybe I just need a better set of lights for it? I am going to peruse Wish and see what solutions I can find. Thanks again!!!


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  10. El proyecto se ve formidable con mucha promesa.
    El lugar de trabajo......mejor no enseño el mio y respecto a la caja de fotografía siempre estoy pensando fabricarme una.
    Un abrazo

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    1. Gracias Marian! ¡Puedes mostrar tu habitación y yo lo entenderé! ¡Espero que hagas una sala de fotos y la compartas con todos nosotros!
      ¡Abrazos!

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  11. A mi me gustaría tener un espacio de trabajo así de grande y ordenado!!!Tu nuevo proyecto tiene un estupendo aspecto.

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    1. Gracias Isabel! ¡Cuando la familia viene a comer ahora tenemos que servir en el mostrador o comer en el sofá! : O)
      Hago minis más de lo que vienen a visitar, ¡así que ahí! : OP

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  12. Goodness, you are Zooming ahead on another fascinating project!!! The white-washed walls remind me of the inside of old milk rooms on our old farm! I am curious about what the store will be stocked with!
    As for the photos and light-box issues... I am in the "Dark Ages" with my equipment! LOL! My old house has few or no overhead lights so everything is standing lamps moved around with extension cords everywhere! Small clamp lamps that don't fit onto anything... little table lamps on stacks of books or a chair or.... ! Nothing is properly lit and I struggle to get things in focus. I admire your intentions to get better photos! As for your "in-your-underwear photo.... I had to chuckle! My "Dining Room" is the main workroom in my house... you see glimpses in all my bad photos! LOL! Too crowded and very untidy! :( But I have always ended up using my Dining Room tables for projects! Who needs to eat on them when there is a table in the kitchen?! :)

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    1. Oh I would love to see photos of the old farm Betsy! I bet they are just full of inspiration! We still have the family farm in Montana, though there has not been vegetable gardens or livestock since my grandpa passed in 2009. I really need to go back and take some photos. It was called the Lime Quarry Inn back in the 1930's.
      The lighting and function is so frustrating isn't it! I have decided to try to take the frustration out of minis, so this means solving the light, organization and storage issues. I know I have enough space if I just utilize it better!
      I agree that when you can eat in the kitchen, there's no reason for a dining room. I have nobody to impress, so it might as well be a space that makes me happy!

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  13. Looking fantastic! Love that wall treatment.

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    1. Thanks Shannon! It's been really a lot of fun to do! I am glad you like it too! ;O)

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  14. Yes, lighting is painful! That is something I struggle with as well. Your workspace is very tidy compared to mine!
    I was thinking about getting this kit quite a while ago and I am surprised that it is a lot thinner (the walls) than what I was expecting. I really like the wall treatment you are doing. Very modern and interesting.

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    1. Hi Sam!
      Since I just finished the Christmas Cottage, my work space is a lot more tidy now than it was!
      The photo of the kit has the 1/2" trim attached to the front so it really does look thicker. It's really just 1/8" but with your mad skilz you wouldn't have any problem with it!
      I am glad you like the walls too! :o)

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  15. Loving the layers of stain and white. Such a pretty combo.
    If your interested what I've learned with lighting and photographing miniatures...
    First off, nothing beats daylight. Shooting in the dark makes it harder for your camera to get everything in focus. But trust me, I know this isn't always possible.
    Second, have a lot of light sources. I usually have at least 5. An overhead (ceiling light), 2 small white (cool) light lamps, and 2 floodlights on tripods, and small flashlights which I haphazardly affix to a chair or something to create spotlights usually to mimic the sun's rays into the building (examples below)
    https://www.bedbathandbeyond.ca/store/product/ottlite-reg-tulip-desk-lamp-in-silver/1018491400
    https://www.amazon.com/Impact-Tungsten-Reflector-Two-Floodlight-Light/dp/B005GMUYNU

    I find the best way is to angle the lights slightly away from the project or reflect it onto your scene. Overall the more sources and ambient lighting you have going on the better things look. I usually you a mix of cool white and warm white bulbs work nicely too.

    For The Belmont House, I took photos at 9pm and took every single available light in the house :D

    And last but not least, invest in a dimmer for your dollhouse lights!! What a difference this makes! No more overexposed images. I found mine at model train software, and it comes with a remote. I bought four different receivers so I could control 4 different sets of lights at different variables.

    Hope this helps someone!

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    1. Thanks Kristine! This is greatly helpful! I think for me, I am just going to have to commit to having things set up and ready for photo taking, like having the extra lights on standby with rigging already in place. I like the Ottlite idea and found it on Amazon too:
      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004W8WVCG/ref=asc_df_B004W8WVCG5306487/?tag=hyprod-20&creative=394997&creativeASIN=B004W8WVCG&linkCode=df0&hvadid=216553505939&hvpos=1o3&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4595570918541896939&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033471&hvtargid=pla-359915833427
      I am definitely going to check out the dimmers, too!

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  16. Menudo trabajo tan preciso, te queda estupendo.
    Un abrazo
    Maite

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