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Vermeer’s Secrets: A Photo Safari at the National Gallery of Art

Study Vermeer's Works at the National Gallery of Art to Learn About Composition and Lighting!

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One of the great blessings of living in the Washington, D.C. area is the National Gallery of Art and the priceless treasures it often brings to the public, free of charge! Among them are some of the best paintings by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.

Only about 35 paintings by Johannes Vermeer are known today. The National Gallery owns four works by or attributed to this beloved 17th-century Dutch artist: Woman Holding a BalanceA Lady WritingGirl with the Red Hat, and Girl with a Flute.

For decades, conservators, scientists, and curators at the National Gallery have conducted research into this quartet of paintings as well as two enigmatic works that are now considered to be 20th-century forgeries. Vermeer’s Secrets draws on 50 years of imaging technology and microscopic examination to illuminate—and sometimes revolutionize—our understanding of how Vermeer achieved the compelling effects of his paintings’ light-filled moments of quiet solitude.

Vermeer is so popular because captured the play of light coming in through a window and falling softly upon the face of his subject, as seen in this picture entitled “Woman Holding a Balance.”, a technique that portrait photographers always seek to achieve.  So, we have designed this photo safari with the idea that modern-day artists and photographers can learn a lot about composition by studying Vermeer’s paintings!

Our photo safari begins inside the Constitution Ave and 6th St NW entrance to the National Gallery of Art’s West Building, located at 4th and Constitution Ave NW, with an orientation by Paris-trained Washington Photo Safari director E. David Luria on artistic composition and on how to photograph famous works of art in a museum without flash or tripod with a late-model smartphone or adjustable camera.

We then proceed up to the exhibit area where Mr. Luria will work with each client individually on achieving correct color and exposure on each painting so that clients can bring Vermeer’s work right into their homes, their computers and social media.

We then end the safari with a special treat, descending into the wonderful underground light tunnel display entitled “Multiverse” that links the West Building with the East Building, punctuated by hundreds of   LED lights in a $3 million display designed by artist Leo Villareal. Then we will photograph the splendid atrium of I.M. Pei’s East Building with newly re-installed ceiling mobile designed by Alexander Calder.

Equipment recommended for this safari are late-model smartphones with adjustable ISO and white balance settings, or adjustable DSLR or mirrorless cameras with fast lenses like a 50 mm F/1.4 or f/1.8 lens, or a 35 mm F/1.8 lens for faster shutter speeds in dark galleries. Mr. Luria will demonstrate how to set Kelvin temperatures , ISO and proper exposure on any of these devices so that clients come away with the most accurate images of the works of art. No tripods, no flash, no backpacks.