The exquisitely appointed Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a photographer’s paradise. The former home of businessman James Deering, who made his fortune manufacturing agricultural machinery, is filled with architecture begging for megapixels of detail, super wide angle views, and impeccable HDR techniques.
In 1916 Deering’s elegant mansion, designed in the Mediterranean Revival architectural style by Paul Chalfin, was completed after three years of construction. One of the most breath-taking rooms in the villa is the ornately decorated music room. Capturing the detail in an exquisite room like this requires the following:
- a high resolution camera
- a sharp, super wide angle lens
- precise techniques
- HDR photo processing
In photographing the Vizcaya music room, I achieved the first three above using the following equipment:
- Sigma SD1 Camera
- Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM lens
- Gitzo GT2541EX tripod
- Gitzo GH2780QR ball head
- Sigma CR-21 Remote Trigger
- Hoodman RAW 675X UDMA 16GB CF Card
The Sigma SD1, with its 45 megapixels guarantees a photographer sufficient details, enough image information to create a 4’ x 6’ prints, if necessary. Attaching the Sigma 8-16mm lens to the SD1 offered enough reach to cover from floor to ceiling, capturing the custom carpeting and the intricate ceiling decorations, and shooting the lens at f/8, generally one of the sharpest apertures on any lens, maximized image sharpness. Finally, taking a range of multi-second exposures mounted on a sturdy tripod—and triggering the SD1 in mirror lock-up mode by remote—eliminated any camera shake.
Pixel peeping after the photo shoot was amazing. The details captured in the image for exceeded what I could make out when there. Yet, the exposure range was to wide for one singe frame. So, after processing the RAW images in Sigma Photo Pro software, I created an HDR image from seven TIFF files, combining them in Photomatix using the Exposure Fusion settings. Finally, I optimized the image in Adobe Photoshop, utilizing the Nik Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins.
My goal was to create an image that captured the amazing detail of the Vizcaya music room so that viewers could feel like they were standing in this amazing Florida treasure. Further, I hope that this viewing experience is tantalizing enough that some will make an excursion to Vizcaya to take in the amazing architecture first-hand.