A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a young artist Gerhard Symons with a rather unusual request. In celebration of what Gerhard believes is a world first, he’d commission a stained glass dedicated to Anton Bruckner’s 3rd Symphony, and was looking for someone to photograph the launch event. With such an unusual request how could I refuse?
As with any shoot I was keen to find out exactly what was required so after a quick exchange of emails and a couple of phone calls I knew what Gerhard was trying to achieve, and was happy to take on the shoot.
The first things I wanted to know were; how big the stained glass was, how it would be mounted/displayed and possibly most important of all how it would be lit. Gerhard described the stained glass as being mounted in a free standing frame with it’s own internal back lighting and without any front glass. Once I knew that the stained glass was self-lit my task became very much easier.
During our phone conversations Gerhard also mentioned that he had a number of small jewellery pieces (mens’ cufflinks) that he would like photographed as well. With all the jewellery photography I’ve done for Charming Threadwares I was quite happy to take this on too (you can see Charming Threadware’s Etsy shop and more examples of my jewellery photography here).
The final stage of the planning was to get a run down of the event. I was pleased to hear that the exhibition was to be held in the Hitchin Priory, where I’ve shot a number of different events including a book launch (See the photographs from the Carriages to Cars book launch here) and a 70th Birthday celebration (see the article here). The Hitchin Priory even featured in the Hitchin 2016 Calendar I shot as a mini-world (see that article here).
From my conversations with Gerhard I knew that I was going to be working on a relatively tight schedule, so I was keen to ensure I had the right kit (especially since I knew I would need to mix natural, artificial and flash lighting) and a good plan of what to shoot and when.
My first priority was to capture the stained glass as a whole, and then to shoot specific details within the artwork. As I worked Gerhard gave me a very informative “tour” of the stained glass highlighting the different elements, and explaining their significance, for example the maker’s mark shown above.
Once I’d taken pictures of the artwork itself I was keen to capture Gerhard with his project. I knew from the outset that this was going to be a challenging shot, since I’d need a slow shutter speed to allow the light from the Stained glass’s back light to collect, but a faster shutter speed to avoid Gerhard moving during the exposure. I ‘d also have to consider how to avoid reflections from other light sources. In the end I used a combination of very low ambient light (to put a glimmer into the wall lights), a slow shutter speed of just under a second to capture the stained glass and focused flash to spot light Gerherd. After a couple of test shots to check the light I was ready. Gerhard stepped into the frame and I quickly shot 3 or 4 different poses which I’m very pleased with.
For the jewellery shots we moved into an adjacent room, guests were beginning to arrive, where I could set up a studio light. With the time ticking on, I needed to work quickly so chose to a tried and trusted light set-up, which I knew would give me good results and that you’ll see me use in many of my jewellery photos. With some slate chips spread out on a background Gerhard laid the cuff-links out and I set to work with reflectors and flags to get the right highlights and shadows for each different piece.
The final part of the shoot was to take a few general images of Gerhard’s guests enjoying the evening and his art works.
I think this was a very successful shoot, and certainly added a new genre of photography to my skill-set, as Gerhard and I joked at the end of the shoot stained glass photography is certainly a niche area, and that I could probably refer to myself now as Hertfordshire’s premier stained glassed photographer.
If you’d like to learn more about Gerhard Symon’s you can contact him on his email email@example.com and can learn more about the Brucker 200 project from the website www.bruckner200.com.
If you’d like to speak to me about photographing your event, or artwork please use the contact form here.