There’s something amazing about a building which is still standing after nearly 1000 years. This is St. John’s Chapel in the White Tower…in the Tower of London. This image is from 3 handheld exposures — part HDR, part composite. The dynamic range was extreme here with the dark shadows and the bright light streaming in the windows.
Each year in Burnet, TX, the First Baptist Church opens Main Street Bethlehem to the public. The church has a permanent town of Bethlehem built near the church and for a pair of weekends it comes alive with shepherds, blacksmiths, bakers, rope makers, candle makers, tax collectors, Roman soldiers…and bazillions of visitors from all over Central Texas. All these actors take on their full character and as you walk through the town they treat you as if you are actually in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. They ask you if you want to buy their products, taste their bread, and “Did you hear about the Messiah?!?”. If you try to get them out of character by talking about some modern thing they do a remarkable job of acting as if they have no idea what you’re talking about and they quiz you back with questions fitting the times. Our children’s favorite spot in the town is the tax collector’s table. As the townsfolk come to pay their taxes there’s the occasional person whose taxes are delinquent. The children like to watch the Roman soldiers haul them off to jail.
Most importantly, there is a manger where Mary and Joseph hold a baby to remind us of the gift of Jesus Christ that God gave us many years ago.
Shooting in the low light was difficult as the 50mm f/1.4 lens has a terrible time focusing. With the place being so crowded I really didn’t have time to fiddle around so I tried to quickly find high contrast points to focus on and snapped away in aperture priority mode. I also used between minus 1/2 to minus 1-1/2 exposure compensation so the camera properly captured the night scenes.
Some of our family and friends are acquainted with a family in Alabama which lost both their home and father in the recent outburst of tornadoes. A friend had the idea of putting on a couple of benefit concerts to raise funds for this family so over the last two weeks many people have put forth a lot of effort to organize and prepare for the events. More information at http://helpthelees.com.
There’s another concert tonight in Fredericksburg, TX. See the above link for more information.
Photographical stuff…The lighting was a challenge. On the one hand the stage was very well lit for an indoor venue. However, the dynamic range was huge and it was tough to strike a balance between the spotlight on the piano with the light on the singers. I really needed an aperture somewhere around f/8 or above to get the singers and piano in focus but I also wanted a decent shutter speed to avoid motion blur (you know how musicians sway and get all dramatic ). I shot half in manual mode and half in aperture priority and tried to keep my shutter 1/125s or faster. An aperture of f/2.8 was good enough to barely keep the singers all in focus so I tried to stay around f/4. High ISO was a must…used ISO 4000 most of the night (the 5D mkii does a great job in that range). Processing was pretty much cropping, spot exposure adjustments in Lightroom, and noise reduction with Noiseware.
Last month some of my family attended the wedding of my niece Jessica in Seattle. We would love to take the whole family to events like that but it’s just not practical in our case. The weather was what one might expect in Seattle — highs around 50 and wet.
I was asked to do some photography during the times when the paid photographer wasn’t around — rehearsal, early wedding morning — and grab a few extra pics at the reception. I had just acquired a Canon 5D Mark ii the day before we traveled and I got to try out its capabilities over the weekend. It has amazing low-light performance and I took full advantage of that.
Here are some pics from the weekend (here’s a link to one I already posted of the rings resting in the flowers). Some are just OK from a technical standpoint but are personally meaningful or interesting to our family.
The shot below was meant to focus on the ring (and it does) but it isn’t the greatest shot. However, I still like the general feel of it — soft light, very shallow depth of field so I included it. It was taken in passing as I wasn’t focused on taking pictures at that point. I’d love to have that opportunity again though. I’d get the ring hand fully in the shot, shoot from slightly higher to entirely fill the background with Jessica’s to-do list on the poster board while keeping the nail polish bottle fully in the frame as in this shot.
Some pics from the rehearsal:
The wedding coordinator was concerned that the main photog wouldn’t arrive at the house early enough to get pictures of the miscellany like the rings, flower, shoes, etc. so she asked me to get some shots. Here are a few I came away with besides the ring shot:
Pre-wedding pictures in church:
After the ceremony the wedding coordinator again commandeered me for a photo assignment. The hired photog was covering the bride and groom’s trip through the receiving line from a vantage point near the church doors. I was asked to cover near the end of the line and I’m glad I did — look at how happy they are!
During the reception I didn’t capture all that many shots but here are a few. Light was challenging in the reception hall. Bouncing flash was not that great (note the black ceilings) and I didn’t have 3 remote flashes on stands like the hired photog did. I still like the shots even with some of the shadows. I take comfort in knowing that there wasn’t a whole lot to be done without setting up extra lighting myself. I just kept a diffuser on the flash and pointed the flash either up and slightly forward or up and slightly behind me. As the night was winding down, Jessica asked me to take a picture of her with the bridesmaids up near the dance floor. I like how the light ended up just fine with the exception of how everyone’s hair disappears into the background. I didn’t have a second light to overcome that. When we walked to the front and lined up everyone and their brother got cameras out and started firing. Getting all the girls to look at me rather than the other cameras was a bit like herding cats. None of the shots had everyone looking normal so I just picked the best of the bunch.
A candid of my beautiful wife. When she finds out her picture is here I’ll probably be in trouble. She never reads my posts so please — none of you go telling her. She never needs to know
The main photog had already left the reception when Jessica and Jonathan were making their exit so once again the coordinator asked me to take shots. I had the 50mm lens on and there was no time to fetch my 24-70 or really test out the flash to adjust compensation. I’d prefer a little different framing but I was zoomed out (with my feet) as far back as I could get and I wanted to catch some of the flag waving too. I got off 4 frames as they walked out and they capture the moment just fine. There was very heavy tungsten lighting in this little hallway. My flash was gel’ed with a 1/4 CTO and I could get away with cooling the color temperature more but I decided not to eliminate it completely. It’s a dilemma I often struggle with — Whether to keep some of that uncorrected color in certain shots. It can be a nice effect sometimes.
Jonathan and Jessica (my niece) got married in Seattle this past weekend. The flowers were going to be unavailable before the hired photographer was scheduled to arrive (I don’t remember where the flowers were headed…). The wedding coordinator asked me to grab some pics so I placed the rings on this rose and snapped away with my 50mm lens.
I also took pictures of the bride at various stages of getting ready, at the ceremony, and at the reception but I’m not going to post any of those because she may want other pictures to go public first.
When we were at the wedding rehearsal I snapped this shot of the entrance of Queen Anne Baptist Church. A single exposure was used for most of the image but I masked in a darker exposure for the lamps (blown out in the normal exposure). I was asked to shoot pictures of the rehearsal itself and while it felt a little awkward (acting like a wedding photographer during the rehearsal) I was doing it at the bride’s request. Fortunately I was able to get some decent pictures both of the actual rehearsal and of our various family members who were there.
Congratulations to the happy couple!
Sometimes you find yourself in a photographic situation where you don’t have a good shot. You may not be able to find a good angle, there may not be enough light (and you don’t have a tripod), or you may not have your preferred lens on hand. Many purists would tell you not to take a shot if it isn’t a perfect situation but in this digital age I don’t buy into that.
If the angle or framing isn’t just what you want, try it anyway. You may very well find something (a certain crop for example) in post-processing which actually works. “Do everything in-camera” is a great idea but some take it nearly to the point of “if you can’t do it in-camera, don’t do it at all”. For pros it surely makes business sense as they are very sensitive to efficiency in their work. However, I disagree that it should be a black-and-white mantra for everyone. I say take the shot and throw it away if it’s clear you can’t do anything with it later. It *is* a bit of a pain to cull the day’s shoot when there are a lot of pics, but I’ve found it worth it to take extra shots most of the time. That said, I don’t want to give the impression that I fire away blindly — there are lots of shots that I pass up because I don’t think the situation measures up.
The shot above was one that I almost didn’t take but it’s one that I personally enjoy seeing come up on my screensaver and background regularly. First, it reminds me of a great trip to Europe with my wife. Secondly, I “just like it” — quiet, somber scene of a couple worshippers, impressive stone walls, beautiful wooden pews. The light was tricky — very bright from the windows, very dark in the shadows. I had no tripod and wasn’t going attempt to get 6-ish (minimum) handheld exposures for an HDR or composite. So, I just took the shot. The exposure was 1/4s but with the wide angle (10mm) it turned out relatively good. Sure, the windows and floor are blown out but I wasn’t after a nice architectural shot after all.
The location is All Hallows by the Tower Church in London. It claims to be the oldest church in London (a claim which I have no reason to dispute) having been established in 675 AD (!). My wife and I popped in there after touring the Tower of London. Much of the church has been reconstructed over time for reasons of expansion and damage but it still retains a doorway from the 600s. Cool place. My wife and I were two of the five people in the church (us, two in the pews, and a caretaker/receptionist of sorts). That was a refreshing difference from the crowds at places like Notre Dame and St. Sulpice.