M3 Wk1: From here to there

Week 1: Looking Back

My project is a study of the stained glass windows within Oxford’s chapels. With 47 chapels to contend with (I keep finding more!) I am focusing on just one window per chapel, although in reality, I typically photograph three of four. Using multiple exposure blending in order to create an image that demonstrates the wide and full dynamic range depicted within each window necessitates as many as thirty images of each window to be captured.  A composite image is created by piecing together, manually, the optimum individual glass pieces from the available range.  That image then receives a final edit, removing any damage and eliminating the horizontal support bars.  Depending upon the size and complexity of the window, post production can take 20+ hours.

A significant concern is the time and requirements it takes in order to secure access to the chapels.  Some of Oxford’s Colleges are very accommodating indeed, but rather too many play hard to get, or require an extraordinary level of paperwork. I am in a bit of a battle with one at the moment: I have filled out the very detailed two page ‘Tour, Filming and Photography Application Form’, which first has to undergo a committee hearing, then, if approved, has to be passed in front of the Governing Body for ratification.  This process should take less than two months.  However, they require me to have £10 million liability cover in place for photography in interior locations and currently I only have £5 million of cover.  I do a lot of competition target shooting… somewhat perversely, were I to travel into the chapel with one of my rifles, I would be covered for the required £10 million liability insurance!!

While I have enjoyed aspects of the previous modules, the one stand-out feature is that they prevent me from working on my project.  I can commit to one or the other, but not both. My aim for this module is to attempt the impossible, managing my job, my project and the module.  Quite how others cope with the addition of a family, I cannot imagine!

‘The break’ for me was the start of a new academic year, so since late August I have been working seven day weeks in-school… much looking forward to next Saturday and Sunday, being the first Leave of the term!  However, last Wednesday afternoon I did dash into Oxford and photograph three stained glass windows within Oxford’s smallest chapel: The Chapel of St. Edmund’s Hall, but these have yet to leave my camera. I hope to get the chance to work on these images during my off-duty nights this week – if that is the case, images will follow…

I was hoping to have edited two lights from the east window, but time only allowed for one…

DCP_8529 croppped (low res)The ‘before’ shot is the middle of the 25 exposure bracketed images, with the final image being the result of about ten hours of multiple exposure blending, followed by eight hours of editing to remove the supports bars (this image being particularly awkward as a result of the patterns on the assorted gowns).  The final part of the process was a return to the chapel, with the image saved on a tablet so that I can compare the edited image with the actual window or light.  In this instance, it required no further work… I was keen to brighten the image as it appears quite murky in places, but that is true to the original, so I have left it looking, perhaps, rather dull…

St. Edmund Hall - Ecce Agnus Dei (cut out) UPDATED PNG (low res)

This window is the earliest example in Oxford by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris (1865).  The finished image suffers a little because the entire window is quite dirty… resulting in the blackened specks in many of the individual pains of glass. Additionally, I have noticed that the earlier pre-Raphaelite windows are significantly less vibrant than those of the late 1890’s and beyond.

The Latin quote, ‘Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi‘ is from John 1:29… ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!’

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