St John the Divine

St John the Divine is a church sitting close to the former location of Merton Place, the country house of Admiral Lord Nelson and was built in 1913/14 to mark the centenary of his death at the Battle of Waterloo.

I had sent an email, introducing myself earlier in the week to the Revd Paul Hambling who agreed I could visit and take shots. Of course I offered the shots for the use of the website as a way of thanks.

I had previously taken shots at Winchester Cathedral, trying not to fall down the tight spiral staircase at the time, and completed some video work at Greensted in Essex. This time I would be different as I found out that I would be on my own in the church, not having to wait for other visitors to move along. I met Paul at the vicarage and he took me around to the church, giving me a brief tour and in case of emergency, how to open each door. I was allowed to move things as long as I put them back in the exact place I found them. The bell tower was out of bounds as it was being renovated and for health and safety reasons was closed for the time being. Paul left me with the key to the side door and I was alone in the house of God.

First thing I noticed was how quiet the church was. I expected things to creak with the wind outside battering the grill on the window, but no, total silence. This gave me time to think about what I wanted to do. I had three lenses with me, Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 and the Canon 50mm f/1.8. I decided to do panoramic and architecture shots first with the 10-20mm, then close up work with the 50mm and finally anything else I can do with the 70-200mm.

You will know I have been getting in to H.D.R photography and thought this would be a great opportunity to experiment with the church interior.

I have found an annoying problem with my 10-22mm, because it is an extreme wide angle lens, not quite fish-eye, I have found I need to be dead centre when you have a lot of parallel and converging lines in the shot other wise it will look a bit weird. Lightroom can do a very good job of compensating for this but can produce distorted results. I am mindful that the Lightroom process can crop the image somewhat when compensating so I always take a step back or two to help in post processing.

However I started to move around the church taking multiple H.D.R shots. I tried just -2,0,+2 bracketing for the majority of them but in cases where there were windows I went along the full exposure range of -7,-6,-5,-4,-3,-2,-1,0,+1,+2,+3,+4,+5,+6,+7. This produced over 300 shots alone! Although I was allowed to move things around I am not much of an interior decorator so I only moved a book or two and the odd chair when needed.

I then switched to the 50mm and looked around for some close up work. I noticed there was a book open with passages about Lent. I focused on a passage near to the top of the book and took care to show the baptism font in the background.

I spent over two hours in the church, the light was fading as I left, locked the door and posted the key through the door of the vicarage. As I walked back along the gravel path towards the noise of main road, I stopped to take a last shot of the outside of the church.