Principal cinematographer (and favored colleague!) Cynthia Pushek, ASC did a magnificent job shooting this period series for Amazon.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t renewed beyond its first season, and that was a loss for everyone because the show was terrific.  My part in it was negligible – just a few days of additional photography under the direction of the fabulous Scott Winant.

            The accompanying clip is an example of how to shoot a steamy love scene while retaining both good taste and discretion.

            The technique should be obvious to all: backlight!  We used two cameras; keeping both on the same axis made the task quite simple.  The location wasn’t a set – it was an actual room in the Roslyn Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.  I would like to have gotten the lighting units into a better position a bit further away from the action, but the effect works pretty well as is.  They’re motivated by the table lamp that appears in many of the shots.  Any lighting that appears outside the window on the street was purely coincidental; I wasn’t allowed to put up anything of our own.

            Only two 650W Tweenies were used, both placed as high as I could get them on the opposite side of the camera axis.  Both were wired through dimmers that allowed me to shift their intensity at will according to what each lens was recording at a given moment.

            This scene works not because of what you see.  It works because of what you think you see – but don’t!



  1. Hey Richard, it’s a very wonderful scene! I love the mood and how simple was your approach. Could you please explain further (in case you remember) the measurements you had there and the contrast ratio? To my eye looks that the practical was 1 f/stop over and the backlight like 1 1/2 or 2 f/stops under and the front like 5 stops under. Does it make sense?
    Thank you for taking the time to write this blog. Very useful information!!

  2. Andres – thank you for your interest! I exposed at T2.8. The back light was exposed at -1 to -2 under key. There was no fill, least of all on the camera side where I wanted the silhouette to fall off to black (I have no idea what the measurement was; I just let it go dark). The lamp shade was in the vicinity of +2 stops over key. I hope this answers your question!

  3. A very simple scene but leaves a lot to the imagination.
    The backlighting made the scene very seductive!
    I was wondering why this scene was shot in the Historic Rosslyn Hotel
    and not on a set. The room itself seemed pretty nondescript,
    especially with the low light levels. Was the hotel used for
    other scenes?

  4. Ken – We shot in the Rosslyn all day, using other parts of the place for different sets.

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