Westminster fountain at sunset

by Jorge Córdoba

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I have an assignment to shot some frescoes in a low-light church. The church is rather small and it has scaffolds (bars) inside which are rather close to the paintings. So, most probably I need to have an UWA lens raked somewhere at 16-20 mm.

There is electricity somewhere there but I'm quite reserved that I can mount a full-fledged studio inside.

Thanks in advance for any tips.

PS: The camera will be a Canon 5D Mark III and I would preffer to shoot in the available light.

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Photoshop cs6 content-aware functions may be useful for post work but im not sure how well they would do with something as complex as the frescoe in question –  timatgetdim Jun 7 '12 at 19:17

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Your only option for available light is to use a tripod and do a long exposure.

If the available light is so low you can't even get something with a long exposure, or the light creates strong color casts or reflections you have no choice but to add light somehow - but you don't need a full-fledged studio you can do just fine with a one (or at most two) speedlight setup (so you don't even need electricity)

By the way, You can find great info on eliminating light reflections on painting with filters and other related topics in answers to other questions on this site (don't have time to look then up right now, sorry).

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If you don't want to use flashes or indiscreet light, I'd suggest you to go the long exposure way too.

Assuming you have allowance and patience to try some experiments, you could use only the ambient light and position reflectors and diffusers to eliminate some of the shadows (of the frescoes or pillars) and highlights (from windows or church lights).

Depending on how little ambient light you'll have and how small your aperture gets, the exposition times can became a challenge in themselves, since you may have problems with people moving around or staying in some place that influences light and you don't notice (I guess if they stop in front of the frescoes it would be easy to detect).

Try to use the smallest ISO possible and an aperture small enough to get the different frescoes layers and depths into focus, but not too small in order to avoid distortions on the final results.

Again, patience and time will be your friends here.

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Can you take down the bars, even temporarily?

If the bars are thin enough and far enough away from the paintings, you might be able to use the tricks for photographing through chain-link fences -- use as big an aperture as possible, trying to defocus the bars so much they are practically invisible, and trying to make your subject well-lit while trying to keep the bars black. a b

I've been told that real snapshots of planet earth are invariably mostly covered with clouds. The popular "photos" of earth that have no clouds are painstakingly assembled by combining hundreds of photographs, discarding the parts of the photos that are covered by clouds. a b

Is it possible to do something similar in your situation: take a bunch of photos of the paintings from different camera positions, such that any one part of the painting is visible in at least one photo (no matter how much of the rest of that photo is covered by bars, or if the camera is on the other side of the bars, no matter how little of the full painting is visible from this angle), and then later somehow combine those photos to eliminate the bars? Perhaps using software ( " Which tools are good for creating panoramas/stitching multiple photos? " ) rather than manual assembly ?

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you use flame. Yeah, burning stuff. Be safe, of course, but the old churches were not lit by florescent, incandescent, or speedlight.

Try a kerosene lantern, so that should be safe. And of course, follow all the low light advice you can find, tripod, remote release, long exposure. You may even need to go to bullb and a use a timer.

I also worry about the scaffolding, I guess you can't take it down and then put it back up, right?

Good luck, sounds like a cool project, and please, update this thread with a shot or two when you are done!

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