Thursday, September 03, 2009

Photographing in dark churches

click photo to enlarge
This is the third of my shots taken on a recent visit to the church of St Wulfram, Grantham, in Lincolnshire. The interior of this particular building is a challenge to the photographer who wants to capture images without the use of a tripod because of the large number of windows that are filled with stained glass. They have the effect of making the inside quite dark.

In the past in these circumstances I've been happy enough to use a tripod to achieve the images I require. But, since the advent of image stabilisation technology, I've found it liberating and less tiring to dispense with a tripod and to hand-hold my shots. However, the particular camera I use, though it is small and portable, and therefore gets more use than I would give to the bigger, heavier models of other manufacturers, doesn't have the best high ISO performance, and I'm reluctant to shoot above 800. Consequently the darker churches and the dim corners of those that are more brightly lit are still off-limits to hand-held shots. You might wonder why I don't use flash. Well, in churches with lots of visitors, or those that have a service in progress, flash is very intrusive. And in empty churches it too often seems to detract from the atmosphere of the place: those attractive dark corners, when filled with light, lose the air of mystery that the builders sought.

Fortunately, on the early September morning of this shot, sun was streaming through the south-facing fourteenth century windows of the Lady Chapel, and not even the dense Victorian glass (and certainly not the lighter twentieth century examples) could dim it to a level that prevented me shooting. Furthermore, when I saw my wife looking up at a piece of architecture, and providing not only a foreground subject, but a silhouette with slight haloes, I knew an image was required. Perhaps it's a family album snapshot as much as anything, but I think the light and shade, and the glow from the glass give it a little more than that.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -1.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On