Paul Sellers Woodworking - Ryan Cowan - Photographer

Photographing

Paul Sellers

This gentleman on the left here is a highly skilled, well renowned and respected woodworker with thousands of students and followers around the world.

Not least, the inhabitants and keepers of The White House in the United States of America, have commissioned him to make furniture for them which now stand on either side of the Oval Office entrance way in the Cabinet Room


It was my honour then to be asked to meet with Mr Paul Sellers and his son Joseph to be a part of their latest project, a book called Essential Woodworking Hand Tools.

I traveled to Penrhyn Castle in Gwynedd, North Wales in cold January winter mess to spend three days photographing Paul in his huge workshop there.

This project was a delight to work on as both Paul and his son Joseph had a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish. They both had a relatively good knowledge of the technical aspects and workflow of photography and so allowed for plenty of time and creative freedom for me to work in.

The brief for Paul Seller's book was to capture the tools, their uses and the technique required to get the best results from them. An emphasis on Paul's hands, feet and posture when demonstrating good hand-tool techniques was necessary to the content of his book, so I focused on providing good clear lighting in an otherwise dark workshop in Penrhyn Castle.

The images needed to be bright enough to clearly see the detail in the techniques but I wanted to avoid overwhelming the scene with too much light and make sure that there was plenty of space for shadow too.




Paul's workshop is inside Penrhyn Castle. It's a dark , stone walled building with extremely high ceilings. The windows are few and the daylight during a short winter day in north Wales doesn't offer much, if anything, to work with. Paul had installed several tungsten softboxes above his workbench to use during filming for his e-learning sessions, but these provide a flat, flood-lit  spread from every direction. Not what I had in mind.

The lighting setup I used around Paul's workbench remained consistent for most of the shots, altering them only if the Paul's positioning had to be seen from a different angle.

I used two Nikon SB900 Flashguns on boom stands. One of these lights was diffused by a 80cm umbrella softbox which was used mostly to rim and wrap the subjects from slightly behind. Another light would be shot straight into a Westcott 7' ( 2 metre ) "Parabolic" silver umbrella.

I've used this Westcott 2 metre umbrella a few times with great results.

Each time I've used it in low-light and light-less locations, other photographers have assumed I was using a large sunny, day-lit window for lighting. Surely, if you can fool your peers, it must be convincing enough for the untrained eye too.




Another lighting set up I used, had three flashguns firing into light modifiers.


An SB800 flashgun firing into a Westcott 16" ( 40cm ) Mini Apollo

One Nikon SB900 overhead and an unbranded cheap shoot-through umbrella and another SB900 shooting into an unbranded cheap 80cm umbrella softbox.

I triggered the lights using Pocket Wizards.


You can also see from the corners of the image ( left ) just how dark the room was compared to the added lighting.


Here is the book cover image

A spread from a chapter heading in Paul's new book.

It has been a real pleasure to see some of the responses that have come from people, far and wide, who have purchased Paul's book.


“The pictures are very well done – something I find a lot of similar books don’t do right. This is a great book to pick up if you are wanting to learn more about hand tools and the traditional woodworking approach.” – Jessica


“This has to be the most definitive book on woodworking hand tool use out there. All the hints, tips and techniques are relevant for todays woodworker.” – Edward Flynn


“A quality read and excellent source of information.” – kind words from an anonymous contributor “Paul Sellers’ passion for hand tools is contagious.” – Terry


And this sent to Paul from Denmark via Facebook:

“Dear Mr. Sellers and coworkers. It has been with much anticipation, that I now finally lay my eyes on my copy of your book and DVD. I am blown away by the quality of the book. It is built with the same passion as the production of your videos and this radiates from the book’s quality.”

I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with Paul and Joseph Sellers.


I am honoured by the very kind words they have both expressed in appreciation for the work we have produced together.

I would also like to thank them for choosing me for this project and for being such brilliant people!


Thank you and congratulations on a fantastic book.


To see more from Paul Sellers, please visit his website paulsellers.com

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