Lancaster Cathedral Trip
6th Mar 2015
Lancaster Cathedral was the location chosen for my first photographic trip after my heart attack and bypass operation. Being inside would keep me out of the cold wind and rain while at the same time the amount of walking I would need to do would be minimal - both factors to take into consideration during my convalescence.
My friend and fellow photographer Ashley Barnard was with me 'should' I need assistance but it still didn't stop me from feeling apprehensive.
I felt awkward setting up my equipment, actions that I used to do without even thinking about now seemingly needed extra consideration. Everything seemed slow and ponderous, a few movements even caused me pain - as if I needed reminding that my chest was still healing from the operation. Eventually I was ready to start looking for compositions.
Not only were my technical skills very rusty but my compositional skills needed brushing up too.
One of the great challenges in architectural photography is to find and photograph the small details in unique ways. In a cathedral anyone can photograph along the aisle towards the altar or the great stained glass window but it takes a great 'compositional' eye to find the smaller details. The way the light catches carvings or creates shadow patterns, the interplay between different objects are all subjects that can be photographed.
Sadly I wasn't up to this level of photography, I would need to start again with the basics so I concentrated on simple images.
On the left is an image I took of the area behind the high altar, it was really very dark in reality, I used a long exposure to make it look brighter than it did to the eye.
As I became engrossed in the image making process and the time just flew by, I even forgot that I should be taking things easy as I lay on the floor to make an image of the ceiling. Climbing up off the floor gave me the reminder I needed, a few sharp pains around the site of my chest scar and I knew it would be a few more weeks before I would try getting that low again.
On the right is the image of the Altar ceiling, I love the patterns, the shapes and the vibrant colour so You can see why I was willing to experience a little pain in order to make the image.
Canon 5D MkIII: Canon 24mm TS-E lens, f11, 15 seconds.
Cloudy, dull days are the best to photograph cathedral interiors as the dull, flat light helps to retain colour and detail in the stained glass windows. If you do find that even then the light is still blowing out detail in the glass you can take a second exposure using a faster shutter speed which retains the detail and then blend the two images in Photoshop. This is one of the reasons I always use a tripod in my photography, it allows me to take several images (if required) of the same composition from exactly the same location, this makes image blending much easier. If you hand hold your camera there will invariably be some movement between frames which will make blending almost impossible.
Obviously Cathedrals are primarily places of worship and as a photographer I don't want to get in the way of worshippers so I time my visits for around lunchtime when there are fewer visitors. It is also why I photograph cathedral interiors during the winter as there are less tourists too!
Eventually I tired, my energy levels are still not back to normal but short trips like this will help to improve them and making images once again is a bonus.
On the way back to the car we had to walk up a steep hill something that I would have climbed without even thinking about before my bypass but until now it presented a scary challenge. Until now all my 'post-op' walks had been on flat ground, this would prove a big test for me. I took my time, puffed and panted my way up and eventually arrived back at the car. I was surprised at just how quickly I regained my breath after this steep climb - all was well and I had gained a little bit more confidence in my abilities as well as a few nice images.