Sherborne Abbey

We visited Sherborne Abbey almost a year ago, and enjoyed it so much that we went back again this year. The real point of the visit was to hear Hannah sing at choral evensong in In Ecclesia Exon. If you came here for the photos, then please enjoy. For more photographic rambling, scroll down 🙂

The final picture in this gallery is the only one in colour. The black & white images were scanned directly from the negatives, while the colour one was scanned from a split-toned print. Compared to the original negative, I cropped it a bit during printing and then toned it in copper red followed by iron blue, to give red highlights and blue shadows. Getting the split between red and blue to fall in the right place is trial and error – I did quite a few test strips before making the print. I’m extremely happy with it though – it’s one of my best prints and is currently sitting in pride of place on my grandmother’s coffee table. Apparently that’s one up on being stuck on my parents’ fridge.

On the previous visit, I took a 35mm Canon T90 and a 17mm f/4 ultra wide angle lens, and shot some Ilford Delta 3200. In general I was pleased with the results but the grain was quite prominent, limiting the maximum enlargement size. This time I took my Mamiya M645 with 35mm f/3.5 lens which gives a much larger negative but keeps the angle of view approximately the same. This is the first time I’ve used the M645 wide angle combo in a large church.

Due to low lighting in the abbey, I decided to push the Delta 3200 one stop to 6400. The grain is quite bad, but because the negatives are larger it is not so prominent. Next time I may not push to 6400 – I don’t think it’s necessary as the M645 is nice and easy to hold securely, meaning you can use some of the slower shutter speeds handheld.

I struggled with the metering at 6400. The CdS metered prism on my M645 had an option for ISO 6400 but it can only meter across a very limited range of shutter speeds at that high ISO. There is a mechanical interlock that prevents you from setting slow shutter speeds at higher ISOs. I hadn’t appreciated this until I was already in the abbey (an hour’s drive from home). The retro 1970s user manual for the prism explains it nicely – the slowest shutter speed you can set using the CdS meter is 1/125 which is far too fast. I was wanting to shoot at 1/30 handheld and even slower than that if the camera was balanced on a pew. Next time I use the M645 in low light I will definitely take a separate light meter. This hadn’t been a problem with the Canon T90 I took last time, but that is ten years younger than the M645. Technology moves on a lot in a decade!

M645 shutter speeds
M645 shutter speeds

Metering aside, the M645 is a very capable camera at this type of photography. Tripods are not often allowed in cathedrals but the M645 is fairly lightweight and easy to carry (compared to its big brother, the RB67). Either with a prism or the waist-level finder it is quite easy to hold and shoot at slow speeds. There is also a wide range of lenses available for the M645, and the M645’s 35mm f/3.5 is wider on 6×4.5 (90°) than the RB67’s 50mm f/4.5 on 6×7 (81°), although unfortunately neither is quite as wide as my Canon FD 17mm f/4 on 35mm (104°).

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