It was in the world news early this week. Last Tuesday at 8:10 in the morning, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the tourist island province of Bohol situated in the central Philippines. The power of such temblor was equivalent to 32 atomic bombs, and it flattened houses, crumbled buildings, destroyed bridges, cracked roads and, as of last count, claimed the lives of over 170 people, mostly buried under piles of rubble. The death toll is expected to mount as more bodies are retrieved from under collapsed structures. I have featured Bohol (and the nearby province of Cebu which was also heavily affected) in many previous posts. Both provinces are popular tourist destinations. Bohol in particular is known for its Chocolate Hills , the rare Tarsier, the green Loboc River, pristine beaches and its centuries old churches. Aside from the lives that were lost, the nation grieves with the destruction of 10 heritage churches, all priceless national treasures, some dating back to the 1500s. I had the opportunity to photograph some of these beautiful churches during my early travels, and below I have paired my pictures of them with the pictures I saw in the news in the aftermath of the quake. For us photographers who enjoy capturing old, historic structures, these are heartbreaking sights:
These old churches were built with materials during those times – coral stones, mud bricks, limestones – and are most fragile. Throughout their history, they have been subjected to fires, typhoons, previous earthquakes and even World War II. They were the first to come down during the powerful quake this week. Experts are assessing if some of them can be rebuilt, while others like the Loon Church which was flattened, may have a new church built on the site. I am quite fortunate to have captured the beauty and grandeur of these churches in their original condition before the disaster. Now I have them immortalized in images, and preserved in my memory as I saw them in their full glory.
Note: These churches are featured in Junsjazz Images & Inspiration Digital Magazine Issue #2.
Outlines, forms, shadows, shapes, lines, light, tones, textures – these are the ingredients of black and white photography. Have fun with your imagery. Play with the elements and composition. Love the light. Bask in contrast. Experiment. Crop to exclude and emphasize. Discover. Assess with your eye. Process with your brain. Capture with your heart. With these, I can offer no other more meaningful tips when it comes to making monochrome images. With tools and knowledge, it all boils down to you – the creator and artist. After all, each picture is an individual mark of its maker.
Thank you everyone for the follows, likes, visits and views during our Church Week. I hope you enjoyed the images and the articles. Join me next week when we embark on another picture series. Wishing you all a restful and refreshing weekend!
Capturing High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos and processing them is one of my photographic enjoyments. Shooting a scene in its normal exposure sometimes doesn’t cut it, especially if your light is on the side or back of your subject. In that case, your subject is dark and becomes just a silhouette. Using your camera’s bracketing feature (to take three different exposure shots) or shooting in RAW format allows you to create HDR images, and post processing them later. I usually go for the former or if ever I capture in RAW I convert the image first to jpeg or tiff (to minimize noise) then process. We will not do an HDR tutorial here, but I will share my viewpoint on why I do HDR on certain subjects and scenes. First let me point you to some great links:
HDR allows you to present an image with all the nuances of light and the subtleties of color.
Hence HDR images are quite colorful (though this isn’t always so) with deep contrasts. When done right, you can produce images that pop right out. I am fond of HDR but only on certain subjects such as landscapes and, you guessed it right, churches. The key phrase here is “when done right.” In HDR we have the tendency to amp it up to get that “ah” and “omph” and likening it to too much salt, it spoils the broth. The standard for HDR is realism. It must look natural, but enough to bring out the details. Note the cracks, exposed bricks and signs of age on the walls of the church pictured above, or the deep yet fading (or I should say peeling) colors of the church below. In a non-HDR image, you will just see a relatively smooth wall with a few jagged lines representing cracks. So much more are exposed – light, details and information using the HDR technique. Here is an excerpt from Rhommel Bernardino in his article What is HDR Photography? (it’s the first link above):
With HDR technology, photographers can compile different photographs taken at variable exposures. Not only that but also this technique allows photographers create images with an excellent light detail, which is not possible in single shot taken by ordinary cameras. By using HDR cameras, photographers can capture excellent still photographs, in overexposed as well as underexposed settings. Though photographers have the freedom of adding several effects to the photographs, it is always recommended to keep the image as realistic as possible.
As photographers we all know the challenges of shooting at night or in low light conditions. We need a tripod, we need to bump up the ISO, we need a “fast” lens (one with large aperture to take in more light). But I won’t delve on a tutorial on night photography, there are lots of sites that provide that. Instead let us focus on capture and composition, still with churches as subjects but taken at night.
The two images are of the Cebu Cathedral, the one above was taken last year while that below was taken several years earlier. The Cebu Cathedral has an expansive facade, so unless you have a wide angle lens you have to move way back to capture its entire front. Capturing it up front however gives you a singular, non-dimensional perspective unlike when taking a picture of it from one side. In the above photo, slanted lines give you an idea of the structure’s dimension – it is large and wide. A technique to show size and dimension is to include people or a person as reference. Note the size of the woman entering the main door. The sheer size and grandeur of the Cebu Cathedral, splendid in golden light, are emphasized. If ever there is a tinge of light remaining in the sky such as the dusk scene below you can still capture silhouette images. I was fortunate that the lamps in the front courtyard were already lighted hence providing me an appropriate foreground.
I have mentioned several times in previous posts that photography is the art of observation. Look before you shoot. You may be afforded just seconds to observe in action situations and moving subjects, so you have to be fast with your eye and finger combination. With churches and other static, immobile subjects you have all the time in the world to assess, plan and observe before you ever press that shutter. In other words, walk around, find angles, change perspective, look for details. I recall a quote from a noted photographer who said that one is likely to be rewarded with a great image if he put some planning into that capture and was deliberate with his shot, rather than leaving everything to chance. Oh, I say amen to that!
The first thing I notice in a church from the outside is the belfry, or the bell tower. Since they are usually the tallest part of a church structure, they have that prominence in the overall architectural design underscoring their functional importance. There are churches with dual belfries while others have singular towers. Here are samples of belfry images from my collection:
For me, the interiors of churches are as much of a photographic delight as its exteriors. The grandeur in the outside is complemented or even topped off by the elaborate inside. You’ll find ornate pieces, sophisticated ceilings, fancy wrought-iron designs, luxurious stained-glass windows, and hundreds of other items of interest. It’s literally a photographer’s heaven.