Saturday, December 19, 2015

Nativity and photographing stained glass

click photo to enlarge
When I first started photographing stained glass a tripod was a necessity. Today, thanks to image stabilisation and improved high ISO capabilities, that's not the case. As a subject stained glass presents quite a few challenges, particularly when it is in a church. Firstly there is the fact that it is usually above head height. This necessitates either raising the camera or correcting converging verticals. Then there's the very wide range of tones in stained glass, usually ranging from white through to black. How to expose them all correctly is the problem: usually some underexposure is necessary followed by selective post processing.

Stained glass is best photographed on bright, overcast days because sunlight on the window usually presents insuperable difficulties if you are seeking true colours. Windows near transepts and porches are a problem because the shadow of the building projection often makes one side of the window much darker than the other. I've never succeeded in satisfactorily overcoming the exposure challenge that this situation presents. The demands of the clergy and congregation often present problems. For example, the east window (often the most elaborate stained glass in the church) often has a sanctuary lamp hanging in front of it, resulting in a silhouette of the metal holder and chain. Other window sills are frequently used for vases of flowers and other objects designed to beautify the building.

However, these difficulties notwithstanding, I enjoy photographing stained glass, as this blog will testify. At the end of each year I search my collection for a nativity scene to use as the illustration on our Christmas card that we make. Above is this year's example, an example of Victorian glass from the parish church of St Denys, Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 120mm (240mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On