Antique Segregated School House


A little history lesson…

One of the attractions at Luray Caverns‘ newest complex, The Luray Valley Museum, is an Antique School which was previously located about 1 mile away from the Caverns.  The Hamburg Regular School was the one of the oldest standing African American School houses in the Shenandoah Valley.

How I shot it…..

Now for where I come in.  The Caverns needed a great picture of it to promote this attraction to their guests so they asked me to photograph it.  The main difficulties with this shoot was the fact that they are in the process of growing the vineyard adjacent to the school house and also they needed it before the weekend and the sky was just not ideal for a great image.


So when I first arrived to the location I walked around to figure out where I wanted to shoot from.  I knew the sun was coming at my back right side and where the shadows would fall.  I also knew I wanted to have the antique church next door in the shot as well to give it more depth and if I could, a taste of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Then comes lens selection.  I decided to go with a 16-35 lens.  I typically don’t shoot much architecture with wide angle, non tilt shift lenses because of the distortion that the lens creates.  In this case I wasn’t going for specific architecture but more artistic version of this shot, and I knew my limitations and what Lightroom could do to remove the distortion.  Great rule of thumb when shooting like this is to shoot much wider so when the distortion gets fixed and removes it leaves you with the composition you had in mind.

So next I took a quick test shot which you can see above and got a base exposure which I exposed a little underexposed because I knew I was going to light it with some speed lights to enhance the image.

Now comes the the fun part, adding lights!

My favorite speed lights of all time are the Canon 600EX-RT.  Not only are they amazing quality speed lights that are weather sealed but they also can be controlled via radio as well as line of sight.  While there is nothing wrong with using pocket wizards, I don’t have a reason with these speed lights.

To complement the speed lights I used Canon’s STE-3 Transmitter which was designed to look and function almost identical to the controls of the speed lights which makes the initial learning of the device easy if you are used to the speed lights.

Have I talked enough about why I love them for you?  Wait theres more… These speed lights can also use High Speed Sync off camera.  Yep, that’s a big one.  So when I’m out in broad daylight I can up my shutter speed beyond the sync speed to bring my exposure where I want it then light the School.

I did give the right side of the school a blast of light from a speed light but the biggest thing I did with them was to add color contrast and more of a mood to the school by lighting the interior with that warm glowing light.  For this to work I set my white balance to a daylight color temperature which I dialed in manually in Kelvins and then added tungsten gels to my speed lights so their light would be a strong orangish golden color.  The final image was done by blending multiple frames in Photoshop into one image since I didn’t’ setup individual lights in all the windows and doors.

Here’s what each window looked like lit up separately.CKG13265_CollageFor the door I wanted a lot of light so I used 2 speed lights for the door shot.IMG_0457_Collage One of my favorite tools to use when I’m doing not just architecture but a wide array of different purposes is the CamRanger.  This device allows me to trigger my camera remotely, and also review the image I just captured.  It really comes in handy when I’m standing inside of the school and I was triggering my camera while holding the speed light to make sure the light was where I wanted it without having to walk back and forth.   You can connect the Camranger to almost any mobile device or computer.  In this case I used my new Iphone 6 plus since that’s what I had in my pocket.

IMG_0458_CollageAfter I had all the shots I needed I did I really dark exposure so I would have some sky to work with in Post instead of just bringing in a totally different sky.

CKG13276_CollageAfter that it all comes down to patience as I blended all my exposures together and then did the annoying task of removing all of the wine stakes that where in the field behind the school until I got my final image.
Thanks for reading!