Project Development

Christ Church Cathedral

I was made to feel incredibly welcome on my planning visit, but for this visit the terms of my photography were understandably strict within one of Oxford’s largest tourist attractions.  I was not allowed to hinder the routine operation of the Cathedral, nor impede the tourists and most significantly must not slow the work of the restoration team.  Sadly the internal lighting would have to remain on throughout my work.

Thus far, this is the only site that has required copy of my Risk Assessment and with the visit involving access to the scaffolding, within a construction site, I had to meet all PPE requirements (safety helmet; high-visibility top; safety footwear).

Today was the first day of school holiday for me – my first chance in a little while to refocus upon my MA.  I could not start my work until after Holy Communion, which was due to end at about 8:10am.  Notwithstanding, I opted to arrive at the Porter’s Lodge some 25 minutes prior to that so that I could plan, quietly.  The weather was not entirely onside: just a few clouds and bright sunshine, so I was anxious about the severity of shadows that this would create, in addition to pools of light coming from the various plain glass windows.  Once issued with a ‘Contractor’s ID’, I headed to the Cathedral and wandered the site confirming sight lines etc., to the calming accompaniment of the Common Book of Prayer 1662 Communion Service.

I did steal a panoramic photograph and have now spent three hours trying to get this to display in reasonable quality as a scrollable image…  sadly no joy, even when using the full 75MP resolution!  I will endeavour to revisit this predicament.

Christ Church (low res) (3) Panorama 01

Dominic Price (2019) Christ Church Cathedral panorama

With Communion over, I was advised that I would have access to the scaffold for 45 minutes from 1pm – during the workers lunch break, to minimise movement and shake on the rig.  I had the Cathedral to myself until 10am… almost.  There were routine interruptions in the form of singing lessons for the choristers of Christ Church Cathedral School (where I spent a happy six months doing my PGCE placement some 26 years ago!), which precluded me being able to take some shots, but did allow me to focus on the surroundings.

Christ Church (02) low res

Dominic Price (2019) St. Frideswide stained glass painting with light

It soon became apparent that the Cathedral has a significant problem with spiders webs particularly in and around the smaller tracery lights and panels of the various windows.  They are an ever-present feature of stained glass photography and have cost me many hours of additional editing.  Whenever possible I avoid editing lights that are heavily cobwebbed, but this may prove impossible here.

Christ Church (low res) (4)

Cobwebs on a tracery light

By 10am, I could focus on some photography from the sacristy – an area high above the visiting tourists where they would not get in my way.  I also opted to take a few interior shots of the architecture.

Christ Church (low res) (7)

Dominic Price (2019) Christ Church College Cloister

Christ Church (low res) (8)

Dominic Price (2019) Christ Church Cathedral chancel vaulting

With camera battery nearly drained, I discovered to my horror that my spares were still docked in the charger at home! With Oxford now awash with tourists, progress across the city was not fast, but I still made it back to the Cathedral in time for my 1pm appointment.

Access to the top of the scaffold was via three ladders.  At each level it was quite a squeeze to fit myself, tripod and camera through the surprisingly small aperture.  The upper level looked pleasingly room-like and felt fairly stable, despite being some sixty feet up.

Christ Church (low res) (2)

Dominic Price (2019) Christ Church Cathedral restoration work – looking east toward my tripod and camera

Christ Church (low res) (1)

Dominic Price (2019) Christ Church Cathedral restoration work – looking west

The view from the top was worth the effort and afforded a superb view of the East Rose Window – revealing to my amazement that the bottom of the window is cropped by some trunking (not visible from the ground), which will require some careful editing.

Christ Church (low res) (3) Panorama

Dominic Price (2019) Christ Church Cathedral – view from the upper level of the restoration work scaffold

With over 400 images in the bag, I now have a mountain of editing ahead of me, but am welcome back whenever I like.

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