Bristol cathedral

This week’s Photo Challenge is entitled peace. I’ve wanted to try using my large format camera indoors for a while now, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to capture the peaceful interior of a cathedral.

Bristol cathedral
Bristol cathedral

I used my Horseman 45HD camera with Schneider-Kreuznach Super-Angulon 65mm f/8 lens, which really is extremely wide angle on the 5×4″ format. Film was Ilford FP4+, exposed at box speed and developed in Ilford ID-11. Exposure was 16 seconds at f/22.

In order to keep the pillars parallel, I kept the camera back vertical and raise the lens rather than pointing the camera upwards. (See my previous photos of the cathedral, shot with a 35mm SLR, for an example of non-parallel verticals).

This is the first time I’ve shot large format indoors (except some crappy test portraits at home) and I ran into a few difficulties:

  • The lens was at full rise but unfortunately I couldn’t fit all of the roof into the frame. In hindsight I could have pointed the camera slightly up and introduced only slight convergence of verticals but included more of the roof. I did try this in a later shot, and I’m not sure if I like the effect.
  • I tried using this camera in portrait orientation but it doesn’t work well. The horizontal shift does not have such a large range as the vertical rise so you can’t “look up” so much. This a limitation of this (relatively) lightweight field camera, and could be resolved by using a monorail camera.
  • Using an f/8 lens in a dim cathedral means the ground glass is really very dim, and it is hard to compose and focus. I could use the f/5.6 version of this lens, but that is quite expensive!
  • Part of the pillar where the sunlight is shining on it is blown out. You wouldn’t think of a dim cathedral as being a high-contrast scene but it is actually very hard to keep detail in the shadows and the highlights. I could have pulled the film a stop and got an extra stop of dynamic range.

4 thoughts on “Bristol cathedral

  1. Jonathon, after reading through some of your blog I have realised just how much of a novice I actually am……I do not even own a true dslr and some of my entries have even been taken on my phone I believe………I feel a camera course coming on!


    1. Heh. It doesn’t matter what camera you have, it’s how you use it. I know people with very expensive “pro” DSLRs and most of their photos are crap. Likewise I have a friend who is a freelance photographer whose work is regularly published in magazines – but he uses an old, basic DSLR.

      Some of my photo challenge entries (like this one) are shot on film, some on a DSLR but I also use my smartphone some of the time.

      I personally take an interest in the science and technology behind photography. I struggle creatively, but I enjoy engaging with the technical aspects of photography. I work in IT, and I’m not particularly keen on spending hours editing my photos on the computer at home, I prefer to shoot film and process it in my darkroom. I find it rewarding and relaxing, and that’s the reason I do photography at all.

      There are many good books about photography around, and some bad ones too. Books about digital photography are two a penny and some of them are terrible. Given that (excluding the developing and editing process) 35mm film and digital photography is quite similar, I would be tempted to recommend a book about 35mm photography from the 80s or 90s. If you want to go a bit more fundamental and really learn about the basics of exposure, I would readily recommend The Camera by Ansel Adams. By the same author I would also recommend Examples: The Making of Forty Photographs. That book has 40 wonderful black & white landscape photos and a mini-essay with each one that describes the creative and artistic process, as well as technical aspects of the exposure. Ansel Adams really was a genius.


      1. Thanks Jonathon I will definitely ask Santa for a couple of books. I can see the draw for film photography, the anticipation of seeing the image days, weeks etc after taking the shot, something that is missing in this instant on demand world. The quality of the equipment seems more robust also, buttons actually push, dials actually dial rather than the suggestion or finger swipe….you can tell I am about to turn 40 I sound like my parents.
        I am a bit of a music snob I am told, I cannot stand listening to music on poor speakers or even phone speakers, I find it almost an insult to the song writer. Therefore I am always being asked for advice I simply say, listen to everything in your budget and purchase what your ears like ignoring magazines and salespeople, as they do not have your ears. My hifi setup is simply a Nad CD player, old trio integrated very ugly amp found in my in-laws loft which sounds fantastic and resulted in the sale of an old rotel and new £800 marantz, and a pair of Grado cans. All with an old vibe and feel with buttons that push and clunk.
        I have an a level in art, art history and tech design but stupidly I am on my 21st year of my ‘year off’ university.
        For some reason since meeting my wife and having children all my creative work stopped but found photography last year, Santa brought me a camera and absolutely loving it, found ‘photochallenge’ site and read everything , self taught myself Photoshop and find the whole process very rewarding.
        Jonathon for your contribution I must thank you and keep pushing with the challenges as I am learning all the time.


      2. You’re welcome. I’m glad you find the photo challenge enjoyable and helpful – that’s why I do it.

        A few years ago when I was starting in photography, I joined the photo challenge while it was being run by someone else. Eventually he stopped running it due to other commitments so I took it over because I thought it was such a valuable resource.


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