The Artist’s Chair

The Artist's Chair, steve dilworth, studio, rsa


The Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibition ran from April 28th to June 6th. It’s a highlight of the exhibiting year and features RSA Academicians and selected submissions from leading and emerging artists from across Scotland. Harris based sculptor Steve Dilworth was one of those invited to participate. The theme of this year’s show was The Artist’s Studio. The RSA asked each of the participants to supply an image of their studio, the emphasis being on the artist’s chair – apparently an important (and much used) item in any self respecting artist’s creative space 😉

I’ve photographed Steve and some of the items in his studio previously. He suggested I pay another visit, this time making the chair a prominent part of the picture, as per the RSA’s request.


The RSA published the image on the front cover of their Summer 2012 newsletter, cropped to suit:

The Artist's Chair

Every where you look in Steve’s studio there’s an item of interest. Due to the sheer amount of  ‘stuff’ he’s got all over the place, I wanted to capture as much detail as possible.  I started the session by setting up three lights. After much experimentation I wasn’t getting the kind of results I’d been hoping for. I eventually abandoned the lights and went down the HDR route. The final image consists of nine exposures shot in one stop increments. I merged them in Photomatix Pro, with some final processing carried out in Photoshop. This multiple-exposure technique allows me to reveal detail in the brightest and darkest areas – from the sunlight coming through the window and perspex roofing to the darker areas underneath the workbench. This approach pulled out a whole lot more detail than any of my single exposure attempts.


Steve Dilworth

Before I abandoned my lighting setup, I nabbed this portrait of the artist waiting patiently for me to get my act together. This is a single exposure using two flashes – one mounted in a 60cm softbox and the other firing into a shoot through umbrella.


Steve Dilworth - A PortraitFor a more in depth look at Steve’s work, check this 15 minute video, Steve Dilworth – A Portrait by Paul Cox. With contributions from Iain Sinclair and Robert Macfarlane.

4 thoughts on “The Artist’s Chair”

  1. Hi John

    Im a big fan of your work, really like this picture, can I ask how do you create the kind of painted effect in this picture and some of your others, have been trying to create such a look in photoshop without much success. keep up the good work, love the way you show off our Islands in such a creative way.

  2. Hi Angus,

    I think you’re probably referring to my selection of HDR (high dynamic range) images eg the series of abandoned house interiors?

    It’s not possible for me to cover everything here but I can give you a general outline. In a nutshell… I shoot multiple exposures, ranging from very under exposed, to very over exposed. AFAIK all DSLRs can be setup to do this for you automatically but are often limited to a maximum of three exposures (bracketing). For this particular image I altered the exposure manually a total of nine times, working over a nine stop range in order to capture the maximum amount of detail. I load the images into Photomatix Pro – probably the most popular and versatile piece of HDR software out there. Once all your exposures have been processed into a single image, you are presented with a series of sliders that allow you to manipulate the image to your taste. Its taken me a long time to discover how to make Photomatix deliver the kind of results I’m looking for. The resulting image usually looks a little flat so I finish off by making some contrast adjustments in Photoshop to boost fine detail. Not quite the whole story but hopefully of some use.

    You’ll find a ton of HDR related info on the web, but BEWARE…. much of it is horrendously overdone, resembling someone’s vision of a bad acid trip. HDR has gained a bad rep with many photographers due to the mass of overblown hyper-real stuff you see plastered all over the web. But it can be a very powerful tool when used appropriately.

  3. John, Just catching up on your blog! I very much love this image, and like so many, not a big fan of HDR, but a huge fan of detail!
    The sheer amount of information in this image is mind boggling, but it’s done in such a visually pleasing manner.
    A big fan.

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