Romanian Orthodox church at night - how to improve night shots C&C ?


'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya
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Aug 15, 2013
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SE Michigan
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Though I really haven't taken much night shots I took some of this church. Any input on how to make a better overall photo would be appreciated as I may go out there again tonight to see if I can improve my skills.

Around where I live there are alot of Big churches that don't really give much of a story from it's street view. There are a few though where some of the craftmanship is spectacular. There are some really neat old churches in Detroit, West Bloomfield, Ann Arbor, etc but this one is just right around the corner.

On my drive around town I come across this Romanian Orthodox Christian church from time to time ever since they were constructing it. It's only a few miles away and I've always wanted to take pictures of it. From the front it does not look like a large church compared to the size of the front. But from the side you see that it goes back quite a bit.

At night with the few vertical lights and a really dark sky it looks somewhat eerie as I tried to capture that in the photos of exactly what I saw from my eyes.

While I was taking pictures of this church, around 9pm last night, the priest came out.

The priest told me that he hand chiseled each brick on the facing of the church and this brick work goes around 3 sides of the building, which itself is much bigger than the front area. And as you can see, it's not just 4 flat sides, but has multiple round sections which is alot of hand detailed brick work.

Another amazing thing he told me was that the "bricks" are actually scrap chunks of concrete that were cut and then hand chiseled to get that look on each face. He apparently hand chiseled the facing of each brick, it took him 7 years to complete that. And he also said that no two bricks are the same size - if I understood him correctly as his english was not perfect.

The priest said it cost $7 million to construct the church. And if the outside was from scrap concrete blocks the inside must be magnificant. Just looking at the details in the doors is magnificent. He told me more details about the inside and of course invited me to go sometime during the day which I hope to do.

He actually went around the front and got a couple more of the lights to function, and I retook a few shots.

It was very dark out and unfortunately the lighting was stopped by the roof overhang. I've seen the top half of the church during the day but was unable to photograph it here due to the darkness. Though in LR when I take exposure to +5 you can see the roof area, though the lights are blown out. I'm a newbie at LR but I find it neat that I can adjust it to see the sky.

The way the church looks from the street at night.

LR exposure +5 and you can see the roof (and sky) but lights are blown out

Priest got a few of the other lights to work

Side stained glass

side door - all the doors were this intricate design
I would consider taking multiple shots at varying exposures above and below your baseline exposure and then combining them with HDR software. It certainly does look like an interesting subject, and using HDR you should be able to retain the majority of the detail without the blown highlights.

HDR was intended for just this sort of situation, very high dynamic range with extremely dark areas in part of the image and extremely light areas in other parts of the image. Using HDR software to combine multiple shots allows you to retain that very high dynamic range. Unfortunately, in my personal opinion, it also has the ability to make things looked "Cartoonish" which, again in my personal opinion, is giving the technique a bad reputation. When properly used the results are excellent and, as I said, this is exactly the situation it was made for.

Also, you didn't mention whether you used a tripod or not, but one is highly recommended for this type of shot and very important for HDR since the registration of the images is important. If the view changes from shot to shot it makes it more difficult for the software to align the images. It will work, up to a point, but not as well as if they are exactly the same.
Yes, tripod used w/remote release. 24mm f/3.2 for the 2nd pic 1/3sec

I'll look into HDR thanks
Just shoot and pray god. He must be somewhere around.

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