Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sunlit church interiors

click photo to enlarge
In the days when I took photographs inside churches using a 35mm camera I almost always used a tripod. The older medieval churches and many Victorian buildings, through a combination of small windows and stained glass, have low levels of light, and so a stability aid was often necessary. In churches of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, and in certain later churches, larger windows and less (or more translucent) stained glass sometimes meant that the tripod could be dispensed with. There is a big difference in all churches between a sunny summer day and an overcast winter day, but the general principles outlined above still hold.

When I transferred to digital in 2000 the situation didn't change: a tripod accompanied my church photography. Anyone who has photographed in this way knows that carrying a heavy lump of metal around, and erecting and disassembling it on a regular basis detracts from the pleasure of photography. So, when Olympus introduced in-body image stabilisation in a camera that I was prepared to pay for (the E510), then I gratefully bought one. And I've never looked back. Today I don't often use a tripod. The image above was taken with my compact camera (the LX3). This too has image stabilisation (and a fast f2 lens), so it rarely requires a tripod. The smaller sensor means that it has good depth of field, even when wide open, and its high ISO capabilities are fairly acceptable, so it manages dark interiors quite well: in some respects better than the Olympus.

If I'm photographing church interiors with the architecture in mind I much prefer a bright but sunless day. When there is sunlight throwing shafts and pools of light in a predominantly dark interior the dynamic range of the subject is enormous, and getting detail in the shadows without the sunlit patches turing to white is next to impossible. However, when I'm looking to capture the light and mood of a church interior I often welcome a beam of sunlight through a traceried or leaded window: it makes the old stonework glow, adds an interesting focal point, and sharpens the carved details. It was these qualities that prompted today's photograph of the west corner of the south aisle that holds the font in the church of St Nicholas at Walcot in Lincolnshire. For another of my blog photographs of this church interior see here, and for a full-size version, here (click the image for maximum dimensions).

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On