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02-14-2011, 11:56 AM   #1
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Techniques and equipment for shooting in old churches?

My wife has a penchant for old church architecture. So in the past I'd find myself in some cathedral with my point and shoot, low light conditions, super high ceilings and people everywhere. The results I got were not exactly stellar.

Now that I've got a K-x, I'd like to get prepared for my next encounter with a church and see if I can do better.

I'm curious how people handle this situation. What lenses do you use? Do you jack up the ISO and use something like an 15mm Limited f/4 or a fast DA * 55mm f/1.4? Do you use a normal sized tripod, monopod, or small travel tripod and make a long exposure?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

02-14-2011, 12:09 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Ideally, I would want to use the DA 12-24 and a tripod. If for some reason a tripod can't be used, I would just turn on the SR, dial up the ISO, and make the best of it.
02-14-2011, 12:11 PM - 1 Like   #3
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This is going to depend largely on what you have, when you go, where you go, what's allowed, day and time of day. I would probably want to use the widest and fastest lenses in my bag. But I can also think of some single elements in a church where a fast 50 would be VERY appropriate. A single stained glass window, a baptistry stand, a communion rail, an old rugged cross, the organ keyboard, a priest in his vestments. Watch your white balance, and shoot RAW--or at least be prepared to do some serious work with it in post--those stained glass windows do some really interesting stuff with light inside a church. Churches are obviously NOT known for their excellent photographic lighting opportunities, so you may end up using a higher ISO which may necessitate noise reduction in post--depending on what you are shooting. If at all possible I ALWAYS shoot using the best stablizing apparatus possible. Inside a church I don't think I would even attempt shooting without at least a monopod. Again, that will largely depend on what's allowed and how much traffic you encounter.
Ka-CHING...that was my 2 cents expiring!
02-14-2011, 12:13 PM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by kbrede Quote
My wife has a penchant for old church architecture. So in the past I'd find myself in some cathedral with my point and shoot, low light conditions, super high ceilings and people everywhere. The results I got were not exactly stellar.

Now that I've got a K-x, I'd like to get prepared for my next encounter with a church and see if I can do better.

I'm curious how people handle this situation. What lenses do you use? Do you jack up the ISO and use something like an 15mm Limited f/4 or a fast DA * 55mm f/1.4? Do you use a normal sized tripod, monopod, or small travel tripod and make a long exposure?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
If tripod is possible, do that at low ISO. Mini tripod is usually allowed in, so that would be next choice, like on top of a pew. Monopod next choice, then handhold at higher ISO.

02-14-2011, 12:29 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I also enjoy this when travelling, and have found that there are several things to consider.

In many churches they will not permit the use of either tripods or flash while inside. As a result you have to deal with natural light at very low levels.

This means bumping up the ISO and using things like posts, pews, or the floor to support you or the camera.

I find I like results from 28 mm and wider lenses, and most of the time use my sigma 10-20, but have also lately used my 8mm fisheye.

Exteriors can also pose problems because in many towns there is not sufficient room to back up so again an UWA is great.

SR helps a lot in the interior situation, but don't be afraid to go for high ISO.
02-14-2011, 03:03 PM - 1 Like   #6
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I took the photo below with a K-x, DA15, and the table top tripod pictured. You definitly want wide though, even 15 is not really enough.



02-19-2011, 06:15 PM - 1 Like   #7
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My experience is of shooting in Mexico and Central America. (Few old-enough churches, temples, etc are found here in the USA west.) On most of my journeys I had a 5mpx Sony DSC-V1 'NightShot' P&S with 4x Zeiss optics. Tripod, sometimes; flash, never. For wide bright interiors, I stitched panos. For narrow interiors, I focused on details: windows, art, etc. For dim interiors, I switched to 'NightShot' with noisy high-ISO IR, followed by much PP. Those latter pix weren't Nat-Geo brilliant, more like textured-mezzotint evocative. When going for evocative, grain/noise don't matter much.

My last long journey saw me equipped with the K20D and my first basic lens kit: DA10-17, DA18-250, FA50/1.4. A bit more capability, but not quite what I expected. Now that I have the Tamron 10-24 and Zenitar 16/2.8, and 24-28-35-58-85 f/2 primes, I think I'm better equipped for the next long trip.

But let's say I had a Kx or Kr of K5 or other such ISO monster, and a bigger lens budget -- what would I use, and how? Fast lenses aren't quite so imperative, but are still Good To Have for dim light and DOF control. An ultrawide for small spaces. A superzoom for much else, including details. A macro lens for SMALL details. A 'character' lens, to be evocative. Yes, a Fast Fifty. A tripod. A beanbag, for where tripods are prohibited or infeasible.

And I'd take an attitude, a paradigm. Decide: concentrate on architecture, on artworks, on people / history, on splendour / colour, on surrounds / contexts, on details, on forms / shapes? Am I trying for magazine-quality shots, or 'art' shots, or gritty photojournalism? One of the most heart-rending images I know is of a church in Guatemala's Ixil Triangle where many civilians were slaughtered during the US-backed genocide, the church walls filled with bulletholes, and a sign near the door bearing the names of the slain. Decide: what are you looking for in churches? This will inform your shooting.
02-20-2011, 12:05 AM   #8
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The problem with low aperture settings is that even with wide angle lenses you don't get the greatest depth of field. So hand held is a problem. Though the Kx can take great photos at 1600 ISO and acceptable ones at 3200. The Sigma 10-20 will give you an even wider view than the 15mm at decent depth of field apertures. Hand held is not my first choice.

I've used a Gorillapod in churches. The articulated legs will wrap around just about anything including a pew back. Having a small ball head on the pod makes it easy to level. I use a small infrared remote to avoid movement. Self timers flash enough to attract attention. No flash without permission. The Gorillapod will wrap into a curve to slip inside a jacket.

Second best is a monopod. Walk in with that as a walking stick. Again a small ball head with a quick release plate makes setting the camera on the pod quick and non-distracting. You can even lay a monopod against a wall or pew and adjust the angle with the ball head.

Or get a new K-5 which has even better ISO performance and shoot hand held. Don't I wish.


Last edited by mysticcowboy; 02-20-2011 at 12:11 AM.
02-20-2011, 12:57 AM - 1 Like   #9
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What I have done

From what i have learned if you ask to photograph a venue before people before or after they open they will most likely let you use a tripod because it is not a liability seeing as how there aren't any people there to trip over it. So try contacting the head man of the venue and see where it goes from there
02-20-2011, 05:15 AM - 1 Like   #10
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Daytime photography in old churches can be difficult due to the bright windows and deep shadows. Try using the K-x's HDR capability to see into the shadows while not blowing out the window exposure. This will require a tripod, beanbag or some means of immobilizing the camera.

I've had some success with the K-x's built-in HDR.

Dave
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