This week I’ve been in St. Petersburg, Russia because this is the home of Rembrandt’s paiting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. We have been shooting a documentary about Henri Nouwen and his very interesting relationship with this painting. We were granted the rare opportunity to shoot the actual painting as it hangs in the Hermitage Museum. It’s really amazing to stand in front of it, even more so to work “with” it. As with many of my projects recently, we shot it with the Canon 5D Mark II. It was a very overcast day so we didn’t have much light coming from the windows, nor are the gallery lights very bright. We brought in a small light kit to supplement the exposure a little, but I found myself having to have to use a higher ISO than I wanted. At 1250 ISO, the images were a bit noisy, but not too bad. For some shots that didn’t require much movement, I went down to 640 ISO and dragged my shutter a bit down to 1/30th of a sec.
I’m currently in Philadelphia working on a documentary project where Rembrandt’s work holds an important role in the storyline. We thought it would be a good idea to move a little away from how we’ve been normally shooting talking-head interviews and try to go for a more… Rembrandt feel. Now, “Rembrandt lighting” is a pretty standard and classic lighting approach when it comes to lighting people but I tend to always light from the opposite side of the face that the camera is favoring. As I studied Rembrandt’s portraits more closely, I noticed that he almost always lights his subjects from the same side as the viewer (er… camera?). So it was a bit of a change for me, but that’s what is called for. I also tend to use a varying amount of back light or edge light on my interviews, but again, Rembrandt almost always has a lack of this. His backgrounds are also very often a nondescript texture rather than a specific location or domestic backdrop. His paintings tend to lean towards the warm side of the palette as well.