Gettin’ Smart at the Museum of Math

Click on Any Image for Full-Size

Not to get you guys thinking that I’m in a creative rut or anything, but hot on the heels of last weeks post about my Digitalman, here’s the series of photos I did of Glen Whitney…a Harvard-educated mathematician and former hedge fund manager…for a story on philanthropy in Barron’s Penta.

An unapologetic numbers geek, Whitney is pulling together about $30 million and building the Museum of Mathematics in a prime 20,000 square foot raw space on East 26th Street right on Madison Park in Manhattan. Since the construction hasn’t even begun on the museum, Adrian and I thought it might be kinda cool to inject some math into the portraits, and maybe using a projection technique would be one way to to pull it off. But the magazine budget wasn’t quite as lofty as the previous ad shoot, which meant spending the kind of money required to produce the job with the super-spendy toys I used on the Digitalman was not gonna be in the cards…so we went about as low-tech as possible, left the strobes at home and decided to work with the available light and use nothing but a digital projector. And it all ended up being not only a lotta fun, but we got some very cool portraits of Glen in the process.

I did a location scout, ‘cuz I really needed to get an idea of exactly what we had to work with…a dark, dirty cavern with lots of rough concrete walls and pipes was what I found…

After spending a few days making various Photoshop ‘slides’ using hundreds of real math equations, we rented the biggest digital projector the budget could afford, and Bo and I headed off to MoMath…

Any early test…

…and a couple of the final selects. We used the ambient light from the construction worklights to fill in the background areas, but the shot was essentially lit entirely by the digital projector…

Next, we moved to an area that was a bit cleaner and less cluttered for a cover image…

…and I broke out my home-made Kino-Flo florescent lights and we did this…

The Museum of Math is scheduled to be completed next year…check out the details on their website and make sure to take the kids when it opens!


6 thoughts on “Gettin’ Smart at the Museum of Math

  1. Hi there,

    I really like how the light looks in the cover shot. Q: Did you florescent white balance for it? How did it change from the warmth in the test shot to the blue-greenish in the final shot ?

    While all of the projector shots were done on the Canon 5D mkII, the shot of him with the hanging lightbulb was on a tethered H1/Aptus 75, so I could very easily eyeball a color balance in Leaf Capture on my laptop. My DIY Kino-Flo’s have 5000k tubes in them, but there were incandescent bulbs hanging all around kicking up a lotta warm light, so I had to move the color temperature sliders around until the warmth got knocked down and I got the desired effect. The final color temperature was 3600k with a tint value of 95. That 3600k is where all the cyan/blue shadows came from. BTW…we did shoot a MacBeth chart, but when I did a baseline grey balance off the card I got 4700k and a tint value of 140…and the shot looked like Hell! BT

  2. I get so pissed of lighting with gray cards, multiplicands, etc…..I guess a dumb ass from Kentucky needs help
    Glad you guys know how to use them


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