Thursday, November 29, 2012

Indy shoot, Part II: St. John's church

The second stop on the Oct. 13 photo swing through downtown Indianapolis and parts nearby was St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 126 W. Georgia St. (see yesterday's post for photos at the first stop, St. Mary's Catholic Church, and background on this one-day shoot).

This morning, more than a month after the shoot, as I reviewed the photos from St. John's included here, I was reminded that I started chasing more creative shots with this stop. We'd started the shoot relatively early on a nippy morning, and I didn't feel that comfortable throughout the swing through St. Mary's church, the initial stop. But at St. John's, the ceiling and window patterns jumped out at me, and I felt excited about chasing those -- some straight on, others at angles that appealed to my "out of the box" side. That explains some of the "disorientation" you see at first glance at some of the images. But even today, again, more than a month later, I don't feel compelled to pull up these shots in photo editing software to "straighten" them, and I feel pretty comfortable about that.

For a few images, such as the one leading off the post, I did tilt the camera to effect the angle. But for others, it was a simple matter of shooting straight upward (first image below) or straight forward (second below); the vantage points where I decided to compose the shot gave me these angles naturally. I really liked the second image below, because even on my first glance, I immediately saw a sort of star-burst effect in the rounded ceiling support beams extending from the statue in the foreground and converging at the light the way they do. The halo effect in the center was exacerbated by the high-dynamic range (HDR) treatment in post-processing -- and added to the composition's distinctive nature, in my mind.

I was far less thrilled with my exterior shots. In fact, I preferred the few exterior partial-church shots on a sunny spring afternoon in April 2011. I think the difference between the two visits were the sky conditions (overcast on Oct. 13, sunny in April 2011) and the lenses. I used a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 lens for almost everything on Oct. 13; in April 2011, I was using a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens.

The ultra wide-angle Sigma is a very useful option with interior shots, and it allows me to get full buildings into the composition, often from close up. But there is a trade-off: distortion. Distortion increases as you get closer to the wide end (10mm) of an ultra-wide, so if a photographer wants to avoid that totally, he/she needs to either re-compose or take a loose frame -- lots of negative space -- to allow for distortion correction in post-processing. (Distortion correction in post-processing robs photos of a lot of its content, so you compose with lots of space around the subject so you can save the core subject after distortion correction).

There are specialty lenses available -- called tilt-shift -- that cater to architectural photographers so they can correct such distortion at the point of composition, instead of in post-processing. These lenses bend and, well, tilt to keep structural angles looking natural to the eye. But they are expensive, and unless you do a lot of architectural photography, might not be worth it.

I used Photoshop's distortion correction filter when preparing to post the full shots of the St. Mary's exterior yesterday and the one of St. John's today. I'll turn to it again in a few days when I prepare my exterior shots of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the last stop on this Indy outing.

I was OK with (not a rousing endorsement, but "acceptable" in my view) the distortion-corrected shot of St. Mary's exterior, not so much St. John's today. The one of St. John's was doubly hurt because of the lighting situation; at the time of day we visited there was serious backlight from most angles. I tried to approach the shot to compose to exploit that situation, and hence, you see the sun peeking around the right side of the church in the image presented today. So yes, that was deliberate. Again, I'm not saying it's a work of art; just an option I chose to try given the circumstances.

I include in this post, at the very end, a frame from the April 2011 shoot. It was late afternoon ... and also sunny. And even though I stood across the street from the church, I could not get the full church into a frame from any reasonable distance with the 28-75mm f/2.8 Tamron lens. But I did land a composition I liked, framing an afternoon moon between the church's two spires.

Next stop on the shoot: the Governor's Residence at 46th and Meridian streets.

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