How to Photograph the Mirrored House,
Coachella and other Tourist Destinations
- Carmen Adams, FRESHphotos.ca
I like to adventure with my camera. Mainly, I want to document where I've walked in this world. I'm from a tiny mountain town in the Canadian Rockies but recently found myself in the desert for spring break. (I know, too early, but Coachella might just be too cool for this mountain girl.) While in Palm Springs, I encountered the freshest installation piece, the mirrored house.
Artist Doug Aitken’s reflective ‘Mirage’ house is one of 16 artworks scattered across California’s Coachella Valley for [the] art festival Desert X.
The dwelling – modeled on the classic American ranch house – comes clad inside and out with mirrored surfaces to create the sensation of appearing and disappearing into its arid surrounds.*
While the mirrored surfaces make for mystical, magical photos, reflecting their landscape, they also reflect the people in said landscape. Here are five tips to effectively photograph the Mirrored House, Coachella and other popular tourist destinations:
1. Golden Hour
Visiting the location at "golden hour" (one hour post sunrise and pre sunset) means softer light and less glare off the mirrored surfaces. Those surfaces are also getting pretty smudgy after time. Less direct sun means less attention to the less-than-clean mirrors. When I was there, I longed for a rag and an industrial sized Windex. While shooting during golden hour will lessen the problem of glare and generally solves many photography problems, it creates others at such a popular destination. Mainly, throngs of people.
To avoid the ant people in your photos, wearing distracting colors etc, frame them out. Wait for an occasion to get an empty shot or frame above people's heads to catch the Mirage house reflections of the sky. The sky is killer in the desert anyways, so take advantage of the blue skies, puffy clouds and often dramatic jet streams. It's not just the skies that are so enticing in the environment.
The Mirage house is set up in the hills, behind the aerial tram, in a space unto itself. This makes for great reflections of the landscape, which happens to include mega desert flowers following the ample spring rains. Shoot wide to include the mountainous surroundings and distract the eye from the people in and around the art piece. In some cases, use people in the frame to your advantage.
If it bothers your eye, digitally manipulate distracting people - including your own reflection - from window and door frames and the surrounding landscape. Seriously, the clone and stamp tools are your friend. Pay particular attention to unnatural colors and shapes ie: telephone poles and electrical wires that take away from the feeling of being in an obscure location.
If all else fails, accept the Mirage house and its location for what it is, a tourist destination. Crowds can help narrate the story. Especially fly tourists.
As with most tourist destinations, smart photography includes aiming for golden hour, framing out nuisances, using the landscape and Photoshop to your advantage and embracing what you cannot change. Don't let tourist crowds steal your photographer joy.