This photograph is the best from a series that I took of Bethany Methodist Church. This was my first series of photos using my new tripod – a Christmas Gift from Daniel and Rachel. I had intended on taking some photos of Yazoo City from an overlook, but the road was blocked. It was almost dusk, so I went up the road to Bethany – hoping for a good opportunity.
As it worked out, the typical Mississippi winter day worked to my advantage. The sky was almost the same color as the church! I was able to use the tripod to get a low vantage point, and use an ~10 second exposure with a small aperture. After I had the film developed and scanned, I realized that the spotlight on the church was a normal light bulb, and gave the photo a yellow cast. So I just converted the image to black and white.
Now that some time has passed since I took the picture, it’s easier to critique. While the sharpness of the image is good, there are a few things I would like to change. If I could take the picture over again (and I will), the first thing I would do is unplug the spotlight shining on the front of the church. The other thing I would change is the exposure. Adding 50% to the exposure time (1/2 step) would probably be enough to add some detail to the shadows.
Update – 09/13/05
I’ve learned a bit more about shadow detail in the last few months – Most of it from a landscape photography book by John Shaw. If I had exposed the image longer, it would have blown out the highlights and the church itself would not have any detail. There is so much more contrast in the photo than a negative can handle. Negative film can handle about 5 stops of exposure difference between the darkest and lighest areas of a photograph. This image almost exceeds that range. If I was shooting with a digital camera, it would be even worse.
The best way of fixing the problem of shadow detail seems to be to edit the image with a contrast mask using the Gimp (or Photoshop if you have it). The following image is an inset of the original with no changes:
Here’s the same image that has been edited with a contrast mask. You can really tell the difference in the bricks supporting the church when viewed full size.
I was truly amazed with the amount of information available from a scanned negative – even though it didn’t originally show up in the print!