Cover Shoot at White Water Shaker Village - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Cover Shoot at White Water Shaker Village

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Personal Favorites, Required Reading, Woodworking Blogs

Shooting the photo for the cover of a magazine is as unpredictable as my second girlfriend, Kym Harper.

Sometimes it’s impossibly fast. You put the project down, take a photo of it and you’re just about done. The sun comes streaming through a window. Little cherubs sprinkle shavings exactly where you want them.

Other times, I’d rather be getting a root canal without the benefit of anesthetic. It takes forever. The image fights you. It refuses to look decent.

This morning we headed out to take the cover photo of a Shaker stepback that Glen Huey built for the cover. It’s a close copy of one from the White Water Shaker Village, so we decided to take the photo in one of the buildings at the village that is in the midst of being restored.

As the art director, Linda Watts, and I drove out there this morning, we wondered if this shoot was going to be a roughie or a smoothie.

The good thing was that the project looks like a million bucks, as Glen’s stuff always does. The other good thing was that the rooms at White Water have lots of detail and windows , but virtually no furniture. The bad thing was that the rooms were small and that was making the photographer grumpy. The cure for a grumpy photographer is equal parts lard and sugar (usually doughnuts).

Today I forgot the doughnuts.

Despite that oversight, everything went swiftly, like when I went to see the movie “E.T.” with Kym in 8th grade. The sun didn’t come streaming through the window, but we solved that by placing a light outside the building on a C-stand weighed down by sandbags.

We started about 9:30 a.m. and were done by lunch. It doesn’t get any better than that (not even during “E.T.”).

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. I told Glen I wouldn’t post this photo of him on my blog if he paid me $10. Where’s my money, dude?

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Showing 8 comments
  • Mitchell

    Good article, Chris. The average person has no idea what it takes to get a good working photo for publication, especially when it must be produced on location.

    The ability to "see" light and having an "eye" for camera angles are just two of many abilities a photographer must have to be any good. The one "gift" a photographer never hears praise for, though, is his strong back. This is because the average person has no idea the amount of junk that had to be hauled in and set up before that magic image was produced.

    The time it takes to make the actual exposures is nothing compared to the time spent hauling in stands, lights, reflectors, tri-pods, scrims and all the other junk required to make those exposures appear on film. Then, once the images are "in the can" as we used to say, you have to break it all down, pack it all up and haul it all back again.

    Ok, I’m dating myself saying "film" here, but film or file, the work is the same and the back has to be just as strong.


    With the light streaming in, you could try taking a couple shots and use CS4 to make an impressive HDR shot!

  • Rob @ Evenfall Studios

    Hi Chris,

    About 20 years ago I restored an antique kitchen cabinet like this, it was called a Kitchen Queen. It had a white metal porcelain top. It was a painted piece when I started, 10 layers. It was vividly painted over the years, but it ended up wood when I was done.

    The kitchen queen also had metal bin drawers for flour and sugar too. It was quite a cabinet for the kitchen in it’s day, a sort of baking center.

    Is the Shaker step back somehow a pr-runner to the kitchen queen of the early 1900’s? The sure look very reminiscent of each other.

    It’s a nice cabinet, thanks for sharing!

    Bests, Rob

  • Patrick

    Maybe Glen was looking for loose change under there to make up for the blackmail- uh, friendly jibe.
    I am surprised though, at the extent yuo go through to make something great look even better, as the story of another co-worker propping up a tree just outside the window of the shop for a ‘natural’ prize shot.
    You admirably suffer for your art.


  • Doug Fulkerson

    I’ve always enjoyed the magazine covers for both magazines. I like the Woodworking covers a little better because you don’t cover the pics in text and we can appreciate the project uninterrupted. Kudos to Al Parrish for some excellent work. I’m sure the next cover will be no exception.

  • Hank Knight

    I suspect the jug on the floor in the first photo more than made up for the donuts.

  • David

    Hahahaha! You’re letting him off for cheap. That picture is priceless!

  • Steve

    Geez, I keep forgetting what a young whippersnapper you are. When E.T. came out, I was in my fourth year of grad school.

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