Category Archives: Shooting A Grand Old House

Cross Keys Plantation House

This is another example of what you can find when out exploring. The Cross Keys House.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

This is the plantation house in Cross Keys, South Carolina. It is named for the carved inscription on either chimney, with the building date of 1814.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

During the US Civil War after the fall of Richmond VA, the Confederate capital, Jefferson Davis (president CSA) and his cabinet rest here while heading further south.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

We found this site by accident. A quick ‘U turn’ brought us right back to photograph the building. There was no entrance allowed and it was locked.

Cross Keys Plantation House
Cross Keys Plantation House

The Cross Keys House is listed on the US national register of historical sites.

Inside A Charleston Grand House

When we shoot the old homes most of the work is wide, full room, photographs. I do think that’s the best way to give someone an idea what these houses are like.

Inside A Charleston Grand House
Inside A Charleston Grand House

I also feel many of the important details are buried within the big view, almost overwhelmed.

These photographs are not wide. In fact they were taken with my ‘kit’ lens (18-135). A kit lens was looked down on for years, it’s the inexpensive one that can be bundled with a camera body.

Inside A Charleston Grand House
Inside A Charleston Grand House

I thought that way until I found shooting like this I always needed something longer, or shorter. Space is at a premium, and distance changes in every room.

It turns out my better lens are all staying in my bag more and more.

Inside A Charleston Grand House
Inside A Charleston Grand House

 

 

From A Charleston Grand House

The entrance to my house is just not as grand as this.

From A Charleston Grand House
From A Charleston Grand House

Usually I work with black and white here, these are some of the originals too nice to bury.

From A Charleston Grand House
From A Charleston Grand House

When I first started shooting old homes and cathedrals I went for wide images, get everything in a single shot. I learned an expensive lesson, shot some elegant German churches that turned out not so good, I now pay attention to details.

From A Charleston Grand House
From A Charleston Grand House

Click any image below for a full size view.

Manigault Family House

Built in 1803, it was designed by Gabriel Manigault to be the home of his brother, and is nationally significant as a well-executed and preserved example of Adam style architecture. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.

Manigault Family House
Manigault Family House

The family were French Huguenots that fled to Charleston due to religious persecution from the French Catholic government. Charleston has one of the first Huguenot Churches in the US (click here to view our article), services are still done in French.

Manigault Family House
Manigault Family House

At some point this building was to be demolished to allow a filling station on the property. The Charleston Preservation Society was formed, this being their first of many projects.

Grand House, Ambient Light

There are no old houses in Charleston that allow photographic lighting, unless it is arranged in advance for a special occasion.

The last time I used any kind of flash was during the Charleston Jail shoot, and yes that was a special arrangement. (That shoot used Speedlights and Rogue Benders for snoot and soft box.).

The images here, the Manigault House, all used the natural ambient light. Good news is many of these old manors have huge windows.

Grand House, Ambient Light
Grand House, Ambient Light

Above, the curved stair case and chandelier caught all the outside sun. The photographs settings were based on the bright window so everything else was very dark. The crystal sparkles this way.

Grand House, Ambient Light
Grand House, Ambient Light

The next photograph, from a different angle, did not use the the big curved windows for light readings. The ceiling was bright enough to frame the stairs and crystal. Getting this was simply shooting many different images until a had one with balance. Using film that would be sloppy and wasteful. It’s digital and I had space for another 1,000 tries so who cares.

Grand House, Ambient Light
Grand House, Ambient Light

Every old house I visit always has statues on the window sills. Many are original to the homes and really beautiful. The Charleston elite, and plantation owners, collected expensive art works. During the Civil War many homes were looted for their wealth. Most owners hid what they could.

Grand House, Ambient Light
Grand House, Ambient Light

Shooting here is all about contrast and shadows. In the film days you would ‘dodge and burn’ prints in the dark room to get it right. Thanks to digital we sit at desks now.

Grand House, Ambient Light
Grand House, Ambient Light

Above there was actually two sets of light sources. Off to the right was the large bow windows, the door below brightened first floor. Another trial and error shot since the curved stairs on the left were always in the dark.

Grand House, Ambient Light
Grand House, Ambient Light

The last photograph here would have benefited from a graduated filter on the lens. The window light is too bright. I did apply a software filter, top to middle to help.

No high end gear was used here. The camera body was a Canon 70D, my smaller backup camera. It does have a nice touch screen for shoots like these. The negative being it does not do low light very well. In this environment it usually doesn’t matter much.

One lens was used in all the photographs published here. A Canon 18-135 ‘kit’ lens covers all the focal lengths needed. I did have a few prime lens but time is an issue and distance is always guess work. Besides someone walks with you through the homes and I tend to slip away… they eventually come looking for me.

Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and DxO Silver Efex were the software programs used here.