Facing blindness, metalsmith Andy Cooperman renews his commitment to making things worth seeing.

What would you do if you faced going blind?

This video is the second in our series about people who make things by hand in the Seattle area. Our next piece will profile a former college mate of mine who has chosen an unusual occupation: coffin maker.

A few people have asked me, so I thought I’d share a little, about how I lit this piece. Or rather, didn’t light. I achieved the dramatic, dark mood of this piece primarily by removing light.

I had intended to carefully light Andy with a couple of softboxes with egg crate. But after turning on one of our Arri 650s, it was clear that was going to way overdo it. I blocked off one of the windows entirely with black foam core, and partially blocked the studio’s skylight with a flag extended to the ceiling on a c-stand. I then closed all the partially opaque window shades. This had the effect of stopping down all the daylight two or three stops. I white balanced the camera for tungsten, which shifted the dim daylight entering the studio toward blue-green.

Then, depending on the angle of the shot in the studio, I selectively opened the shades for additional fill. The rest of the light, with a couple of exceptions (the shot of him hammering the molten metal and the shot of him walking under the cleaver), came from Andy’s practical lights in the studio. Those two exceptions actually feel overlit to me. That’s why I changed course and just went with available light.

Sometimes it’s really important to throw away your plan and do more with less.

Some BTS shots that my talented producer and sound recordist Lisa Cooper snapped with her iPhone show how much light we had to eliminate to get that mood:

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