stained glass church windows in B&W
Can any one offer any tips or advice relating to photographing church windows from inside the building using 120 format. My main areas of concern are metering the high contrast and finding a film developer combination that will suit the task in hand.
I took on a challenge of photographing a church interior a few years ago using 120 film in a roll back on a Crown Graphic. The major problem is contrast - it is extreme.
The approach I took was to spend a lot of time with a light meter measuring the light levels throughout the scene and recording the readings for reference.
Then, I did a series of multiple exposures on one frame of film. I started with normal interior lighting and exposed for the areas in the scene that were most brightly illuminated (basically, the altar area). Then, I turned off the spotlights on the altar, and did a second exposure based on the next brightest area. The series ended with one exposure with all artificial lights turned off to capture the feel of the room based only on light streaming through the stained glass windows (which, in my case, were not in the scene I was photographing but which would add to the illumination level of the overall space).
Obviously, this was rather experimental, and so I repeated the process for several frames. It took time, and obviously I had to do it when there was no one around since I was turning lights on and off.
Oh - churches often have candles, and while they don't contribute significantly to illumination levels, they are present as spot sources. So I lit the candles for several of the exposures in each series.
The result of this was negatives where the contrast had been compacted by the modified exposures. As a result, I was able to process the film (T-Max 400) normally (HC-110) and didn't have to resort to special, compensating developers. Obviously, compensating developers, highly dilute developers, and water bath techniques could also be used to deal with contrast if you can't (or don't want to) do multiple exposures.
A couple of years later I was asked to repeat the series in color. This is a scan of a commercial reproduction of the image that appeared on a church directory. http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphot...o=8053&cat=502
The only difference was that there were four kinds of lighting in the scene - daylight through the stained glass windows, incandescent, fluorescent and candles. I chose tungsten-balanced film (Kodak PRT) and commercial processing for the assignment. I figured that the candles would show up as slightly warm, but because they were spot sources within the image, that would appear natural. I also chose to not worry about the daylight because the color of the stained glass would modify the inherent blueness of the daylight, and also because the contribution of the daylight was to the overall ambient and didn't illuminate any specific areas in the scene. The fluorescent lights provided general illumination for the chancel area, and I didn't want that to record as green. I had a light orange filter that was approximiately the same color as the compensating filter recommended for fluorescent light with tungsten film, so I did one exposure with the fluorscent lights and this filter. The result may not be perfect, but no one really notices that there is a mismatch.
why not wait until the sky is overcast when shooting the back lit scene? It may still be contrasty but you can over expose and underdevelop to help bring the scene closer to what you want.
one thing you might also want to try is to use a faster film like Ilford HP5+ and a developer like Microdol x or Ilfords equivalant mixed as a stock solution. Pre wash the film for 2 min minus out about 25% of the main development time. Then use a 10% solution of sodium metaborate for 4 minutes then into the fix. This will help bring the contrast under control and more in line with a normal negative. One thing is you need to overexpose the neg at least one and possibly two stops. This will help support the shadow end of the negative. Example is I would normally expose HP5+ at 200 so I would start at ei 100 and maybe even expose at ei 50.
Last edited by lee; 07-08-2005 at 09:36 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: add more info
and use a good compensating developer (assuming you're shooting in B&W) like the Windisch extreme compensating developer or a two bath method.
Beat me to it Lee ...
I have done stained glass windows on chrome! A day that is overcast or raining is ideal. I took an average TTL reading, and bracketed both ways. If it is sunny, the contrast will be too much. Heavy overcast is the best.
I think that bracketing is the key!
Another problem is to get an angle high enough so that you don't have keystoning. (not using a view camera, of course) I was able to back off far enough to use a tele lens on most of the windows. This gave a much better perspective than a shorter focal length. If you can use a ladder to get as high as the center of the window - so that the camera is level - so much the better.
Sorry, I don't have any way to scan transparencies, or I'd post a scan. But it did work.
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I´ve had great results using HP5 (EI 250) and PMK Pyro (13 min. @ 20 C; 3 min. staining post-fixer). I would suggest PMK and reduce developing to 10-11 min.
Lately I´ve been impressed with Pyrocat HD´s ability as compensating developer using semi-stand development, although I have not used it for this subject matter.
Photos are made four inches behind the camera
If you are planning on photographing these in black and white, then one of the first considerations would be choice of filter to afford separation of the different colors in the stained glass.
Since the contrast can be so excessive in these situations, dealing with the contrast at the development stage is often counterproductive. Reductions in development will often compress highlight values excessively.
An alternative is to preflash the film, to non-image bearing light at a Zone III or IV value to support the shadow values and then meter the scene for the desired highlight value placement (rather then the shadow value placement) for the second exposure.
This methodology will support the shadows and also allow for normal highlight separation.
Obviously if you are exposing color materials, none of the above applies.
Thank you all for taking the time to reply to my thread, I will certainly put the good advice to use, Bogey
You might want to try this:
From the exterior of the church, meter the windows in the sun. Move indoors and expose with those readings. I've heard this works but have not tried it.