This Seems Vaguely Familiar…

My biggest stumbling block in getting started on my forthcoming Dutch tool chest book was (and remains) the camera. At Popular Woodworking Magazine, we had a fancy camera (we took our own step photos), but I always used it on the fully automatic mode. And I haven’t taken a photo with anything other than my phone since 2017.

Neither fully automatic mode nor phone snaps will fly for a book. I had to learn how to use at least a few of the bells and whistles on Christopher Schwarz’s Canon 5D, make friends with his ARRI LED light setup and, perhaps most important for me, learn how to zoom in on a particular spot to set the focus in live view (I have bad astigmatism and need new glasses).

Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.

It’s all so fancy (to me).

Chris was kind enough to give me a crash course and answer many inane (and repeat) questions as I got started. A week later and I’m at having fun playing around with depth of field, shadows and blithely switching between a 2-second delay and a 10-second delay as needed. And yesterday, I learned how to hook up and use the remote shutter release! (I realize that doesn’t sound at all impressive, but the last time I used a remote shutter release it was a threaded shutter release cable for my father’s circa-1960 Asahi Pentax SLR that I used in college. And it was about three decades old by then.)

But I think I have it under control. With all but the lid finished on chest No. 1, I’ve managed to reduce the number of not-quite-right shots and the time to get a good one. On day 1, it took me at least 15 minutes to get the “right” image. I’m now down to about 5 minutes per. But at 5 minutes per, it sure takes a lot longer to build things than simply, well, building (a fact I’d managed to forget in my three years since PWM).

My plan is to discuss every reasonable approach to building these chests (and in the offing teach many techniques applicable to all kinds of builds), so no matter a reader’s tool kit, skill set or penchant for pre- or post-industrial woodworking, there will be a technique that appeals. That means I’ll be building quite a few chests (both large and small)…or at least parts of chests for close-up photography.

So I hope to get faster still with the photos – and better at deciding what to shoot and what not to (right now, I’m shooting almost every step). Otherwise, I’ll be done before the book is.

Chest on chest. The top one has fewer dovetails and more woodworking lessons.

— Megan Fitzpatrick


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