Light is what makes architecture come to life. It's not about architectonics, but how it all works with natural and/or supplied lighting. Architecture, to me, is about living and life.
Thanks to the digital revolution, many newbies—and many pros—now feel that lighting is no longer needed. No emulsions to worry about; just click a curve and you're done. Many people feel that it's easier to auto white-balance than it is to correct the lights. For all its advantages, digital has made people lazy, which has led to a homogeneous look and, in my opinion, a lack of respect for the craft. “I'll fix it later" just doesn't cut it in the top ranks. No wonder there are fewer pro photographers now than ever before!
Since we're on the road constantly, traveling light is a necessity, but it's rarely accomplished. A while back, I was a director of photography in the motion-picture and TV business. If you've ever rubbernecked on a set, you've seen a grip truck. Grip trucks carry the coolest stuff on the planet and come in as many sizes as there are types of trucks. I favor the big ones. An average truck has 20 or 30 C-stands; a half dozen 1Ks, 2Ks, and 5Ks; a couple of HMIs; reflectors, gels, flags, scrims, clips, gobos, cukes, sandbags, apple boxes—the works!
Not having a loading dock or needing HMIs every day, I designed my own mini grip truck, which fits in the back of a Suburban. In daylight, I carry at least two 2000ws power packs, eight 2000ws heads, a 4000ws head, three softboxes, 10 stands, and several sets of grids, barn doors, and a couple of snoots.
In the tungsten arena, I always have the majority of cc gels made, about six rolls of scrim, frost, two 2Ks, and a 5K tungsten light, three 250w Lowels, two milk crates of kickers, a crate of C51s (The Dollar Store brand), four C-stands, and a couple of minis. I also have foamcore, flags, and a few hundred pounds of sandbags. When shooting motion-picture film or dig-vid, I bring out the big boys.
You'd be surprised how frequently I break out this stuff. If we get to a shoot and decide it needs to be daylight when it's really midnight, we've got it covered.
The inherent problem with success is that you're always busy. Although you may have all your bases covered (you've seen scouting shots, you sent someone ahead, you surrounded yourself with good people), stuff happens, and I like to be ready.
Really Seeing the Light
I see the light that exists in a room first, then I see the light that should be there. This is a tightwire act, since changing the light of someone else's vision can be daunting. I try to light as subtly as possible. If it looks staged, it's just not right. Enhancing, not overpowering, is the key.
In real life, the eye sees many colors, but unless you point it out, many times they don't see it at all. The most obvious example of this is the difference between daylight and tungsten. They're normal colors, and whether you use them depends on the goals of the assignment. If it's too great a shot to pass up, and there's no natural or artificial enhancement, the heavy artillery comes out. This is what we live for: the shot no one expected to get.
I'm not a believer in theatrical lighting, but I am a huge fan of theatrical instruments. My 2Ks are used as much as my strobes, gelled or not, depending on the subject and use. We know the warm look is not in with national shelter magazines. If the shot is for general use and might be pitched to the mags, I'll shoot two versions: one corrected for all the same temperature, and one as I see it.
Kelvin was drilled into my head early on, so I usually call it within 50 to 75K. Exposure is usually within a half-stop, but I still bracket.
As you may have surmised, I'm not a big fan of fixing things in Photoshop. We shoot for good, not to fix it later.