286 Places of Worship – Nathan Coley
While the medium is dramatically different, Nathan Coley’s stunning work shares similar ground to my research. The Lamp of Sacrifice, 286 Places of Worship comprises cardboard replicas of every building listed as a place of worship in the 2004 Yellow Pages for Edinburgh. This catalogue of work shares another link to my research: it was my original intention to exhibit photographs of stained glass windows removed from their context to give a uniformity to the work. Coley’s idea to reconstruct the places of worship in brown cardboard, devoid of religious insignia was to unite the buildings as one group or community. The piece explores an idea from the Victorian artist and critic John Ruskin (1819-1900): that buildings and architecture are two separate things. One is functional, the other is art.
John Lord (2015) The Lamp of Sacrifice by Nathan Coley
John Lord (2015) The Lamp of Sacrifice by Nathan Coley
John Lord (2015) The Lamp of Sacrifice by Nathan Coley
Alexander McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 2013 Collection
In his first London Menswear Show, the fashion house Alexander McQueen produced a series of suits with fabric reminiscent of stained glass windows – a bold and unexpected statement. Interesting to see stained glass pervading fashion houses.
Stuart Wilson/Getty Images (2013) Models walk the catwalk during the Alexander McQueen show at the London Collections
Stuart Wilson/Getty Images (2013) Models walk the catwalk during the Alexander McQueen show at the London Collections (detail)
Apple Event – September 2019
I have been using Apple phones since the era of the iPhone 4 (2010), but only rarely put the camera to use. However, the improvements to the cameras within the iPhone X (2017) resulted in me using the feature more routinely – particularly when doing ‘serious’ photographic work as a means of capturing the true colour and saturation of a location.
Content with my iPhone X, I was confident that this evening’s Apple Event would hold nothing of interest for me: the iPhone 11 came and went offering little more than that which is found on the iPhone X. The reveal of the iPhone 11 Pro did highlight a some stand-out features that were appealing – all centred around a the addition of a third camera, with an ultra-wide lens (0.5x zoom) and an improved telephone lens with a half stop improvement in low light gathering ability (now f/2.0 compared with the previous f/2.4 aperture).
12MP regular camera | 26mm f/1.8 | Optical image stabilization
12MP ultra-wide camera | 13mm f/2.4 | 120-degree field of view
12MP telephoto camera | 52mm f/2.0 | Optical image stabilization
Beyond the improved hardware, impressive developments have gone on in the supporting software. Night Mode uses adaptive bracketing to capture and fuse multiple exposures with different shutter speeds. This helps reduce blur with moving subjects and reduces noise in the static scene elements.
Not available until after the launch is Deep Fusion. Hailed as Apple’s AI photography, this is a feature takes 9 photographs in quick sequence (including one long-exposure shot). The device’s neural engine then analyses the collection to create an optimal end photo that borrows the best elements of each image, assembling it “pixel-by-pixel” into a higher resolution 24MP image. To me, this sound akin to exposure blending and might prove to be a sensational tool for capturing the wide dynamic range found in stained glass.
I definitely do not need a new phone, but I am tempted: the combination of improved optics together with software features that might come close to mimicking my research, piques my interest!
Designing New Glass
In mid-2020, the Chapel of St. Nicholas will undergo much needed refurbishment. Ostensibly this will be no more than a deep clean and re-paint, but it will see the existing vinyl flooring replaced with something more fitting and an attempt to improve the acoustics of this rather dead space (acoustically speaking).
At the West End, below a mezzanine layer, there are three plain glass windows in a rather bleak area of the chapel. Having photographed an number of the stained glass windows within the chapel, I have been approached with regard to producing a series of three windows to replace the plain glass. These would have to fit harmoniously within the chapel and have a design that is contemporaneous with the pre-existing Henry Holiday windows.
Frustratingly, the windows are landscape in nature – indeed, panoramic in aspect ratio, with a width of about 150cm and a height just under 50cm. However, with thirteen other stained glass windows on-site, there is plenty of assorted grisaille and rinceau designs upon which to base the work.
The first vidimus borrows components from the Chapel of St Nicholas as well as Dorneywood House, the country home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and former home of the 137th pupil at Summerfield (in which the Chapel of St Nicholas is located).
Dominic Price (2019) Vidimus of the proposed central West Window
To have three windows produced using traditional methods would be eye-wateringly expensive. However, a sympathetic solution can be achieved using digital ceramic printing onto safety-toughened glass – a rare process with Washington Art Glass being the only UK practitioners.
The Architect has now received the vidimus, and if approved, must supply the precise dimensions of the glass (including the necessary margins). This may result in a minor change in aspect ratio, but my design is such that it can absorb quite significant change (if necessary). I will then start work on a design that will be shared by the other two windows.
The promise of near-limitless highlight capture
The poor dynamic range found in normal cameras that so restricts the quality of stained glass window photography was the primary obstacle I had to overcome in my research. However, a recent publication by German researchers from the Institut für Mikroelektronik Stuttgart (HERE) reveals a pixel design for massively increased dynamic range.
Existing CMOS chips ‘clip’ when they become saturated with light. However, their ‘self-resetting pixel’ resets and has a circuit that counts how many times it has had to reset during the exposure. It also contains a conventional analogue-to-digital conversion circuit, so it is also able to measure the remaining charge at the end of the exposure.
Such technology would mark an end to the need to limit exposure to protect highlight data. Instead, optimal exposures for capturing the subject could be set, safe in the knowledge that this will not result in blown-out highlights.
Realised CMOS tests chip: (a) the packaged chip, (b) the layout
Currently the work is focussed on video for industrial applications and is at a fairly early stage. However, it should be transferable to still photography and would greatly improve the dynamic range of cameras, making it easier to photograph the interior of a church while maintaining the vibrant appearance of the stained glass windows.
Oxford-based painter, sculptor, and glass designer Nicholas Mynheer works almost exclusively on religious themes and is currently fulfilling a commission by Regent’s Park College to replace an initial three (of six) plain glass chapel windows with stained glass. Today I had the chance to discuss his work with him.
It was a pleasure to spend time with Nicholas in his busy studio: festooned with stained glass designs, etched glass cartoons, glass mosaics, assorted sculptures and sculpture scale models. I would have spent many hours discussing the merits of different rock types in his production of statues, or simply looking through the vast array of work, but we keen to maintain some focus on pertinent stained glass facts.
It was interesting to learn that he limits his glasswork to the design, relying upon professional glass makers to realise the completed windows – using one company for stained glass and another for etched glass.
Dominic Price (2019) Nicholas Mynheer at work
His project for Regent’s Park College is currently on hiatus following a planning permission objection that stated that the work was not in keeping with the building. However, a solution is being worked upon that would see the windows installed a little like a double glazing panel.
Nicholas Mynheer (2019) Creation window design [Regent’s Park College]
One of the more time consuming parts of the post production work on my photography of stained glass is the removal of tie bars
that I try to achieve whenever possible. These I see as a distraction to the art work itself. I was interested to learn from Nicholas whether tie bars
are a consideration when designing windows. He has always conducted his work without worrying about their impact, believing that the transmission of light through the glass should minimise their negative impact on the overall design. In his case, the placement of the metal within the window is decided by the stained glass manufacturers themselves (in consultation with the artist).
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
The much anticipated anouncement of Canon’s flagship DSLR, the EOS-1D X Mark III did have some suprises. Typically such announcements contain only the briefest data together with a carefully conceived silhouette image, giving away almost no information about the product.
On this occasion, the data was far more detailed, covering most areas other than resolution and a selection of high resolution product images were also released.
Of particular interest to me is the inclusion of an all new, Canon-developed CMOS sensor and DIGIC processor, that will deliver greater image quality at even higher ISOs, with the ability to capture stills in 10-bit using the HEIF (High Efficiency Image File) format. This produces wider dynamic range and greater colour representation than JPEG – undoubtedly beneficial in the photography of stained glass windows.
In my more usual practice of sports photography, a new autofocus sensor that will better accommodate brighter and darker situation with greater precision, will be well received. Frame rates of 16fps using the optical viewfinder and mechanical shutter, increasing to 20fps in Live View, with mechanical or electronic shutter will be extraordinary, and a dramatically improved battery life will be most welcome,
Having worked my way through most of the EOS-1D range, it is highly likely that I will move from the Mark II to the Mark III, and I look forward to hearing more news of the product in the coming months prior to its release, which in keeping with their previous models, will I expect be immediately prior to the Olympics.
Half term escape to South Africa
The October half term provided an opportunity to return to South Africa and visit Cape Town. The main shopping venue on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is Victoria Wharf Mall, home to over 450 retail outlets and 24 million visitors per annum.
This has recently undergone a R180M (£10M), 10-month refurbishment and extension that included the replacement of huge plain glass windows at either end of the main drag with bright painted glass.
With a project focussing upon boosting the popularity of stained glass, it is reassuring to see its increased prevalence.
My work used for fundraising
The upcoming refurbishment of the Chapel of St Nicholas is being funded in by donation. To help raise awareness of the project, as well as to generate some funds, I was approached regarding one of their fundraising ideas. They planned to produce a high quality, double-skin umbrella: the outside looking smart and corporate, with an unexpected, sophisticated lining linked to the beautiful chapel that is both contemporary and eye-catching.
The design below is the montage I created from 144 photographs of the Henry Holiday stained glass within the chapel: reinterpreting 100+ year old pre-Raphaelite glass into an abstract, contemporary design.
Dominic Price (2019) Abstract Quarries [Henry Holiday – Chapel of St Nicholas]
The umbrella has gone to production, available in two variants: a small folding umbrella and the larger golf umbrella below:
The design was warmly received and the pre-production samples exceeded the expectations of the fundraisers. I am certainly very pleased with the results – it is a use of my work that I had never anticipated. As it was a charitable project, I made no charges for my work, but was delighted to be given one of the golf umbrellas as a small ‘thank you’.
UPDATE: 10 December, 2010
The first batch was comparatively small (100 units) in order to test the water. These sold out in a matter of days, so a larger second batch was ordered, which were delivered today and 30% were sold by the end of the day!
The design is also to be used in the production of drinks coasters for the reception rooms within Summer Fields.
Tim Walker: Wonderful Things
Wonderful Things is the largest exhibition of British photographer Tim Walker’s work. Running from 21 September 2019 until 08 March 2020. It included a retrospective of his work as well as ten new series, created specifically for the exhibition. Walker spent a year or more selecting ten objects from the V&A’s collections, then a further year making photographs inspired by the objects.
One of the first sections within the exhibition is a recreated chapel. The scene below depicting in a stained glass window from the 1520s prompted Walker to conduct a photo shoot based on some of the bold colours found within the stained glass.
Tobias and Sara on their Wedding Night, about 1520 Cologne, Germany. The V&A collection © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Red, in particular, was chosen to recreate the feeling of warmth in the window scene, as the colour reminds Walker of his mother and childhood family home.
Tim Walker, Illuminations, Sara Grace Wallerstedt. Fashion: Moncler 1 Pierpaolo Piccioli, London, 2018. © Tim Walker Studio
I have always battled with the tenuous nature of such links, but am in no position to question the cues an observer may take from an image. It is of course pleasing to see a current exhibition draw inspiration from medieval stained glass.