Leo Martinez, wine maker for Santori Winery in Sonoma Valley, CA.

The Wine Maker

Sometimes even a simple portrait can be more complicated than one might think when they view the final image. For this image I did of Leo Martinez, wine maker for Santori Winery, Sonoma Valley, CA, I had to use several frames layered together to achieve the final look.

When I first saw this small barrel room, located in the winerey’s private residence, I thought it could make for a nice location to photograph the wine maker. The challenge was how to light the subject while keeping the feeling as natural as possible. There was no way to place the lights out of frame other than to shoot a tightly cropped image. The solution was to shoot several images from the same camera position and then composite these frames together.

Test shot with my brother, Matt, helping me out with the shoot.

The first thing I needed to do was to figure out my lighting solution. The barrel room didn’t have a lot of light and what it did have did not create a flattering light on anyone standing within the room. I knew that I wanted to create a feeling of the wine maker sampling some wines and wanted the light to appear as if it was coming from a source in the room. Using a strobe fitted with an extra small Chimera softbox I placed it a bit above the subject and just to his right. The goal was to make it look like the light was coming from the overhead light fixture hanging from the ceiling.

That’s me fiddling with the lighting.

After doing an initial test shot I could see that the right side of the frame was a bit darker than I wanted. I love shadows but always try to keep some detail in these areas. It’s sometimes a challenge achieving detail while preserving the overall mood of the image. To add a bit of light to this area I placed a light on the right side of the room which is just out of frame. The lightstand was actually placed in a large sink on that side of the room and the strobe was fitted with a seven inch reflector and bounced up into the corner of the room. Also helping to block the view of this light was large cabinet which provided a built in flag that kept the light from spilling out and causing any flare on the camera’s lens. Since the ambiente light was all incandescent I placed color corrective gels on each flash to bring the color balance of each light source more even.

With Leo now in the room I proceeded to shoot a number of frames where he is going through the various aspects of monitoring his company’s wine maturity.

With the photos of Leo completed I then let him escape from my torture chamber and Matt and I proceeded to remove the lights from the room. We had to be very careful not to bump the tripod, as it was positioned right in the doorway. For the final composite it’s critical that the various layers line up as close as possible.

I then went on to photograph the room empty of photo equipment and people. I usually do a lot of bracketing when I’m shooting interiors as it gives me more exposures to work with when doing the final composite.

The final shot after using the multiple layers as well as just a bit of retouch to remove some of the lights in the ceiling which I found distracting.


Camera: CanonEOS 5D Mark IV

Lens: Canon 16 – 35mm f2.8 L

Strobes: Paul Buff – Einstein

Softbox: Chimera Extra Small

Camera Settings: ISO 400 – f4 – 1/15th second – Lens at 16mm