Tanned, rested, ready

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Anyone who takes lots of woodshop photos knows that sometimes what comes out of the camera doesn’t quite look like what you took a picture of. That happens a lot when photographing wood.

One of the pitfalls of taking pictures of wood is getting the colors to come out right. Unless you know a lot about camera settings (as in, all the stuff that pros know), what you see in the images sometimes bears no resemblance to what you see in real life.

Although nowhere near pro, I’m a pretty good photographer, so I can usually – key word there – adjust and compensate such arcane things as white balance and such to make wood look more true-to-life in photos. When I can’t, I can usually – that word again – fix things in on the computer in Photoshop.

But for a recent photo of a project in poplar, it came out just way, way too yellow. Sure, fresh poplar can be yellow, but this was a particularly yellow batch. Camera tweaking didn’t help; neither did Photoshopping. No matter what I did I couldn’t get it right, and I didn’t want to resort to stain or dye, as that would have overdone things. What I really wanted was the look you get from a bit of aging, the way natural exposure to the sun does. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to set this project in the sun for a month; I need the photo now.

But then I got an idea. They have a tanning bed where I get my hair cut, and as it happens I was in need of a haircut. So I took the project with me and they let me toss it into the tanning bed while I waited for my turn in the chair, right through getting my hair cut, and till after I was done and paid for it all. In all, maybe a half hour to 40 minutes of tanning.

The results weren’t dramatic, but it did the trick just enough to kill some of that yellow cast and impart a bit of golden brown to the wood which is exactly what I wanted. The only issue was two small spots where the wood didn’t tan at all.

I suppose I shouldn’t have strapped a pair of tanning goggles on it.

A.J.

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