Lake Tahoe Home by Shelterwerkes

Kitchen by Shelterwerkes

We used no fewer than 6 or 7 lights (strobe, and continuous) to bring out the warmth and details in this kitchen.

On a weekend in July, I drove up to Truckee, California to shoot a Lake Tahoe-style project by Shelterwerkes Architecture. We made a long day of it on Saturday, and wrapped up Sunday morning (just in time for me to catch a flight out of Reno for LA).


This bath was shot with almost all natural light (there’s a kiss of light being added to the doors at the rear). I liked the way the tub feels at once airy and open, and yet cradled and intimate. Well done, Shelterwerkes!

Truckee is in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and only about 4 miles from where the Donner Party met their fate (I was looking for a souvenir Donner Party Snowglobe in town but couldn’t find one).

Up there, the design aesthetic is 100% natural wood, and field stone, and steep-pitched roofs. If you use peeled logs, it’s a cabin. But regardless, it’s a pretty safe bet that there will be a lot of knotty pine, stone, and warm, amber, earthy colors.


Shelterwerkes re-arranged the interior of this structure and added an elevated outdoor deck. The rooms all face the wooded rear of the property, and you really feel like you’re isolated in the woods, even though there are neighbors on both sides. Then, they applied their own unique take on the “Tahoe Style” to finish each room. Wood and stone, yes — but with a modern aesthetic and energy-efficiency in mind.


The natural, existing light in this bath came from a window in the near right corner which had the effect of completely flattening the pebbled wall and the tree-trunk sink pedestal. We suppressed the daylight and introduced our own light from the rear right corner, which brought texture and 3-dimensionality to the wall and pedestal.



A polarizing filter is adjusted to cut most, but not all, of the glare on the window, revealing our model. He’s lit with a single strobe, bounced off the ceiling in the rear of the room.

The rear deck connects the central living spaces (kitchen, den, living room) with the outdoors, and divides the two wings that contain the master suite (one side) and guest rooms (other side).


We introduced continuous light on the inner surface of the stone wall, as well as the paneled ceiling, to augment the existing lighting – thus allowing the camera to capture the entire scene exactly as our eyes experienced it.

The front entry features a field stone wall that extends out well beyond the front facade of the house, guiding you in.


Possibly the most challenging shot we made. Nearly every surface visible is receiving some added light. Some of the lighting is designed to emphasize the texture of the stonework, some is to brighten the rear areas of the scene, and some corrects existing color casts and renders the scene with a consistent color temperature from inside to outside.

The entry itself pulls you inside, with the fieldstone continuing into the foyer. The sensation is very much that the wall alongside the front entry is continuous into the interior.

One of the great satisfying things about my work is the chance to really spend some time with well-designed structures like this one, parsing their components and figuring out how it all works together!

5 responses to “Lake Tahoe Home by Shelterwerkes

  1. Hi Scott,
    Thank you for sharing the lighting info. What a property!
    What do you use for continuous lighting: is it LED panels or something “heavy weight” like ARRI?
    Thanks and regards.

  2. I enjoyed looking at these, Scott. I particularly like the opening kitchen shot. Nice to see the design ideas by Shelterwerkes.

  3. Very Nice, Scott.

  4. Really nice shots again Scott. Very interesting property, beautifully designed and implemented.
    Great to hear your lighting outlines for the images as well. Thanks.