Folding Muskoka Chairs

Got some outdoor furniture that reminds you of good times? Here’s mine.

Folding Muskoka chairs

We just had our annual family reunion over the weekend, and still sitting out by my fire pit are two folding Muskoka chairs I picked up at a garage sale about 25 years ago. I  was sitting down to do some work this morning and I noticed the quality of the early morning light on them. I just had to shoot them.

Muskoka is the cottage country area for central Ontario, Canada. It’s about two hour north of Toronto. Being a cottage area, it spawned it’s own version of the cottage chair, similar to the Adirondack chair found in upstate New York. Usually, they don’t fold for packing away, but these two do. I don’t know who built them or when, but they appear to be well built, home-made chairs of a similar but not identical pattern.

Since I noticed the lighting on them from my desk in my house at dawn, there was no need to modify the lighting and I had to work fairly quickly to get the shot. I concentrated on the composition.

Initial angle
Initial angle

The first shot was from the angle I’d first seen them from. My backyard has two levels, and I framed the chairs using the end of the railing of the stairs that lead down from the upper yard. As it was a test shot just to see what the elements should be, I didn’t bother to level my tripod for this shot. I could see right away it was too busy and didn’t show enough of the chairs.

Same angle, tighter
Same angle, tighter

My next shot was framed from the same angle, but much closer. It simplified the image nicely but didn’t make the chairs look altogether comfortable, and make one wonder what two chairs are doing looking at a big rock. Usually, cottage chairs are photographed sitting on a dock, looking at a lake of some sort. I don’t have a lake. Mine look at my fire pit. I decided to integrate the fire pit into the shot.

Second angle
Second angle

Staying on the upper lawn, I moved so I could frame both the fire pit and the chairs. This time, the angle looked better, and the reason for the chairs being there was more plain, but the chairs were partially obscured by the rock.

Angle three
Angle three

Bringing my tripod down the hill brought better separation between the chairs and the rock, and made the fire pit more dominant. It was now time to clean up and dress the image.

I looked more closely at the fire pit. There was a random fire brick there, but it didn’t look too out of place, so I left it there. There had been a party over the weekend so there was some debris that didn’t belong in a fire pit (a couple of cards, a cigarette carton liner (foil doesn’t burn), and a few glow-stick bracelets). I collected them and the fire pit looked much better. I considered lighting the fire, but I thought it would clutter up the image again, and would take too long and I’d lose the light. I made sure the horizon was level, the one remaining tent stayed out of the shot, and captured the image.

Folding Muskoka chairs
Folding Muskoka chairs

Once in Lightroom, I colour balanced using the paint on the chairs themselves as my neutral, since they are white. This brought back the early morning sunlight and warmed up the shot considerably. I did my usual lens profile correction, and raised the clarity to +40, vibrance to +20, and saturation to +10, and voila! An early morning Muskoka classic.

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Author: Pete Cramp

I’ve been crazy about photography since I got my first camera in 1970 (I was eight), and went to Niagara College for radio/television/film production. My career took a strange detour into Information Technology, where I coordinate IT disaster recovery plans, but I’ve taken 2016 off to establish my photography business, in preparation for retirement. My passion is documentation of historical artifacts and antiques, shooting anything from pocket watches to antique tractors. Through my company, “Artifact Photography” I offer photographic services to collectors, museums, and small businesses.