Tuesday, October 26, 2010

EXETER CATHEDRAL Gothic architecture

The word Gothic these days might make one think of Lady Gaga whose extraordinary fashion sense can on occasion borrow from the Gothic genre which conjures up a romantic style from bygone days. Gothic can also refer to the Goths, an East German tribe, who lived in the days of the Roman Empire. However, in the architectural context, Gothic refers to a style of architecture that developed from the Romanesque or Norman architecture that began in northern France before coming to England, initially in the eleventh century.

Before presenting these images, it was necessary to open the second and third in Photoshop to align the side, a result of parallax; work relating to exposure, framing and colouration with sharpness was mostly done in RAW.

Here is a selection of images, which appear in the order they were originally built; each one represents a different period of architecture ...

Entrance to the Chapter House, Early English

The Eastern Window, Early Decorated (geometric)

The Western Window (Later Decorated curvilinear)

Perpendicular Gothic, alternative entrance to the Chapter House

Monday, October 25, 2010

EXETER CATHEDRAL the experience

The day started with a seminar in a cloister room. Sun streaming through the window made it hard to see the image projected on the screen. We were told that this light would also prove problematic once we were inside photographing owing to the high contrast it would create. Although I accepted this, I could not help but feel it might also provide the scope for dramatic effects which Neena, the tutor, pointed out later in the lecture. I made notes of what she said, there was also a print out and the chance to download it all in a PDF from the Experience Seminars website so I do not plan to present it here.

I did not use that much equipment  in the end. Had a 50mm 1.4 for handheld shots and just stuck with the zoom (24 to 105mm) for the tripod photos otherwise I think it might have just taken too much time wandering back and forth. Did not use a spirit level (just my eyes) and will make the necessary corrections in Photoshop by cropping and removing the barrel distortion from the zoom. To spend too much time with equipment is to waste time though I might have tried the 100mm f2.8 macro.

Trying to cover the different periods of Gothic was behind what I photographed but every now and then I saw something I liked and photographed that. It would have been boring to concentrate solely on the windows. Here are some of the "other" photos that relate to People and Place ...

Priest making an announcement

Christ on cross with fire hydrant below

outside the entrance to the "early English gothic" Chapter House

pedestrians inside Exeter Cathedral

part of the guided tour inside the cathedral

woman walking outside the cathedral

Eagle lectern

Sunday, October 24, 2010

EXETER CATHEDRAL camera considerations

Making a profile for my camera also seems relevant as some situations could require a high degree of colour accuracy; For the blog of this ...

My choice of camera is the Canon 5D Mark 11; it has a full frame sensor and is suited to indoor work.

The Live View feature is going to be helpful in framing photographs and making the correct exposure.

We are asked to bring a tripod and a cable release for the camera as well as wide lenses! This seems a bit of a contradiction because who needs wide lenses of one has a tripod .. perhaps to make grab shots !? Am also packing the 1D Mark 111 for this.

Lenses need to be from 18mm to 300mm. I do not have an 18mm only a 20mm and a 24 to 105 mm lens. For longer lenses am taking a 70 to 200 mm f4 and a 100 to 400 mm f5.6 both Image Stabilised as is the 24 to 105 mm lens. Another lens is the 50mm f1.4 which I shall stick on the 1D and use for grab shots.

My tripod head is a ball head with a swivel base that can be used to set up panoramics. I shall take another ball style head.

Flash is not advised but I am packing a 430 EX.

I do not like to think too much about equipment but sometimes one does need to plan ahead.

Friday, October 22, 2010


It seems like sense to attend a one day workshop of interior photography at Exeter Cathedral. "Experience Seminars" who are running the day are a Canon franchise and since I use Canon cameras, it might be helpful to attend and not only learn something of photographing inside but also to find out more about photographing with my particular camera. Yet I wonder whether it might all be a bit of a routine in which one is encouraged to make photographs in a particular way of certain subjects. The cathedral must have been well photographed and it would be the juxtaposition of the building with people that might be of interest.

A little background research will help me go beyond the over-driven approach that can affect the photographer when making images even if he/she does want to make images that are aesthetically pleasing!

A little research into Exeter Cathedral means a visit to their website! However, I have already heard from reading E.H.Gombrich's The Story of Art that the cathedral has fine examples of late Gothic architecture, a style that shows a marked development from the initial pure Gothic style. This latter is known as The Decorated Style and Gombrich says that the Western Window at Exeter Cathedral is a good example of the complicated tracery found in this style.

However, on the Exeter Cathedral website there is a slightly different story as it here discusses the East Window ... "Towards the end of the C14th it was noticed that much of the tracery (stonework) of the window was rotting - probably because corrupt iron had been used in the original work. It had to be dismantled and new stone was brought from Beer quarry to replace the damaged sections and the master mason of the time, Robert Lesyngham created a new window in Perpendicular Gothic style." 

The Exeter Cathedral website only makes a brief reference to the West Window, seen best from the outside, preferring instead to focus on the Great East Window. Perhaps only a visit can sort this matter out. A little further research however, reveals that there were three main Gothic styles in the UK ...
  • Early English (c. 1180−1275) includes pointed arch known as the lancet includes doorways and windows, the latter not always equilateral but sometimes being steeply pointed. Usually narrow by comparison to their height and without tracery.
  • Decorated (c. 1275−1380) a style that can be broken down into the Geometric and Curvilinear styles. Windows have tracery, subdivided by mullions (vertical bars of stone) that run as high as the beginning of the arched window where they then run horizontally across the window. Above this, in the top of the window is the tracery. At first, this was geometrical but later curvilinear.
  • Perpendicular (c. 1380−1520) shows slimmer stone mullions in much larger windows that reach to the top of the arch; there are other vertical mullions (supermullions) that form rectangular compartments with transoms. Other signs of this period are the beginnings of fan vaulting, doorways frequently enclosed with a square head over the arch mouldings and large elliptical mouldings.

It would appear that all three styles can be found in Exeter Cathedral !? More information about this can be found at ...   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Gothic_architecture

Experience Seminars have also provided a map that reveals where these three styles can be found in the cathedral and yet since it is not in colour, it is not so easy to make out where the different styles are to be found.

Rummaging around a small library of guide books from places my parent's visited, I find one on Exeter cathedral. Printed in colour in 1976, one can not help but notice that although the compositions are good and the colour adequate, photography has come a long way technically since the images were made some 35 years ago.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

response to Jose Navarro post on the OCA website

Your article intrigues me, sets me questioning the medium .. thanks for that!
I did not notice that Steve McCurry’s work had been referred to as “street photography” which is surely a misleading comment even with a broader definition of the “street photography” genre.
In regards to the Street Photography Now project, I have looked at the book which is impressive and has sold out on Amazon. One of the authors runs workshops in street photography and the weekly injunctions are actually quotes from street photographers (such as Bruce Gilden). These “exercises” are practical not unlike the ones on the OCA course.
Yet you raise a valid question as to whether it makes sense to adopt a certain attitude that relies on predictability when street photography is all about unpredictability. As a student at the OCA, I find myself “chewing the cud” over this particularly as I often question my motivation for doing the OCA course and what I expect to get out of it.
“People and Place”. the current course I am doing, is an interesting approach. The “exercises” are not so specific as the Street Photography Now injunctions and leave much more to the imagination and surely this is important; photography is in part mechanical yet for it to work, non-mechanical qualities are essential.
Yesterday, spending a day in London, I found only one photograph worth taking though there were endless possibilities! Yet I did visit the Edward Muyerbridge exhibition for the second time; my reason for a second visit was to analyse Muyerbridge’s treatment of the “People and Place” theme and write it up for my blog. His only “street photographs” were posed, the genre not existing in the late nineteenth century owing to the limitations of the medium.
“People and Place” is not a genre yet it does provide an interesting framework through which to consider photography. “Street Photography” is a narrower approach that relies on the instantaneous.