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Old Jun 22, 2010, 11:03 AM   #1
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Default Church of the Incarnation

I took pictures of the Church of the Incarnation on Madison and 35th Street. I was there months ago but was uncertain then whether photography was allowed so I only stood at the entrance and took a shot of the nave.

This time, I met a man seated behind a table by the entrance so I asked for permission. He was wearing iPod earplugs and had to remove them to hear me repeat my question. “Yes,” he said. Then, as if to assure me he meant it, added, “Feel free”.

Still, I felt uncertain and moved slowly. I wanted to show respect. Churches in my mind are a house of worship and an unkempt paparazzo like me poking my camera at the most sacrosanct of objects is not the primary reason for their being.

I planted my gorillapod on the floor of the center aisle. I crouched and took shots of the altar. I then turned around and did the same at the entrance behind me, the gallery above, and the stained glass window.

While doing this I heard a man speak softly behind me, “He’s taking pictures.” He then repeated this a little louder as if he wasn’t heard the first time.

When I was done I stood up and turned around. I saw a frail, old woman -- she reminded me of Nancy Reagan in her later years -- with a walking stick and being aided by a younger man. Apparently, they were waiting for me to finish so they can pass. The old woman was looking at me with big inquiring eyes and flashing a very wide smile.

As I stepped aside, the old woman continued to smile, keeping her head turned at me as they walked past, her arm being held by the younger man. There was no uncertainty in her smile -- just a smile as best as anyone could give. She seemed “joyous”, if that made any sense, at whatever it was I was doing.

I then took pictures of a small, darkly-lit chapel to the left of the altar. According to the pamphlet I picked up at the vestibule, this was the Chapel of the Nativity.

On my way out I stopped by the man behind the desk to say thanks. He removed his earplugs again and asked if I saw the Chapel of the Nativity. I said I did. He asked if there was enough light because he can go there and turn on some lights. Surprised at this gesture I said, no, I like taking pictures in low light. I added I’m not a professional, just a hobbyist learning photography. With only a hint of a smile his eyes looked down then looked back at me and said, “So am I.”

I always thought that people who worked in churches -- especially one of such antiquity as the Incarnation -- were always after greater glory. They, in my mind, had only heaven on their minds. But the man proved me wrong. I suppose like regular, everyday people -- and maybe even that man who died on the cross if given the chance -- they, too, can take the time to share passions, photography being one, that are purely of this earth.

#1) Nave. “During the nineteenth century, it was customary for Episcopal churches (at least in New York) to meet their expenses with a system of pew rentals. Certain pews were kept open for visitors and those who could not afford to pay, but most churches went a step further and set up mission chapels, where the pews were either free or rented for a very low figure. This church had its beginnings in just such a chapel.”


#2) Marble altar. “The design incorporates many types of marble from different areas of the world, including Vermont, Georgia, Belgium, Africa, Italy, and France. The altar cross is bronze covered with a dull rose gold. The cross is richly ornamented in Gothic style with grapevine motifs symbolizing the blood of Christ. It is studded with garnets and amethysts. The cross and candlesticks were made by Gorham & Company...High above the altar are three sets of clerestory windows by Henry Wynd Young. The center set features a sacrificial lamb standing on the scroll of the seven seals, as described in the Book of Revelation.”


#3) Window above the entrance and gallery. “The great west window above the main entrance to the nave depicts the Adoration of the Lord as the Risen and Enthroned Christ in Heaven with a gathering of saints and angels. Around Christ we see the Virgin Mary, Saint Peter, Saint John, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Paul, Isaiah, King David, Saint Jerome, Saint Basil, Saint Columba, Saint Hilda, Saint Helena, Saint Stephen, Saint George, Saint Agnes, and Saint Catherine. In the upper portion, there are angels with scrolls bearing the words of the Te Deum. Below them are angels singing and playing their hymns of praise. This window echoes the style of fifteenth-century English glass painters and was made by C.E. Kemp of England.”


#4) Chapel of the Nativity. “The altar depicts the Last Supper in high relief...The mosaic floors depict the names of the Messiah from Isaiah 9:6: Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”


#5) Exterior. It may be easy to criticize churches today for their lavishness. Much money is spent on constructing elaborate edifices of stone and glass when God, it is said, is already in our hearts. But if one took the time to read through a church’s architectural history, one might find not lavishness but labor. If a glassmaker is asked to build a glass window for a church, he might do so with a wholly different attitude than he would for an office building. An outpouring of reverence and maybe even charity might pervade his mind. There is a greater love to be found we all seem to know, and perhaps the builders know all too well that even the grandest and best-looking churches our hands can craft will stand pale and insignificant in comparison when placed side-by-side with the greatness of this love.


#6) A man reads the paper early in the morning on the front steps of the Church of the Incarnation.


Quoted passages are from "A Guide to the Interior of Church of the Incarnation", available at the church for a 50 cent donation.

Thank you for looking. C&C welcome.
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Old Jun 22, 2010, 3:18 PM   #2
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Enjoyed your photos and appreciate your quotes from the guide. A related note, the financing of churches through pew rental was common on the eastern seaboard at through the 1860s at least being replaced by the practice of tithing in the later 1800s.

A. C.
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Old Jun 22, 2010, 4:49 PM   #3
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I really love your last shot. Great composition and pp.
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Old Jun 22, 2010, 5:51 PM   #4
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I have to agree with Bynx on this one. The last photo is very well done...
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Old Jun 22, 2010, 7:57 PM   #5
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I love the last photo. Interesting.
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Old Jun 23, 2010, 7:02 AM   #6
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Thanks all. I saw the sunlight (being reflected off the building across the street) on the "Church of the Incarnation" sign and so aimed to take a shot. But the moment I did the sun disappeared. I stood there for a long time waiting for it to reappear but it never did so I continued walking. As soon as I reached the corner the sun came out again so I hurried back. I'm glad I did.

Thanks, ac.smith, for the extra info. A "tithe", according to wikipedia.org, "is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a religious organization." I know of one church that still does that.
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Old Jun 23, 2010, 3:12 PM   #7
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I love all your shots. As always. I would love to know how you get your indoor shots to look like that.

Best regards/Daniel
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Old Jun 24, 2010, 7:21 AM   #8
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Hi, Daniel. Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence .

There's really nothing special in my pp, I think. As Walter S mentioned a while back (where is he nowadays?), I do "picture books". So I wanted to develop a pp technique that is fast and will work with just about any picture I take. The idea is, when I've amassed pictures of a certain place, I just run them through this technique, in batch, if possible but I don't know how, so I do them individually. As you might infer, this is hardly the definition of "art". It's more like "assembly line".

Anyway...

When I shoot, I rarely do 5 bracketed shots. I add 1 or 2 or sometimes 4 more towards the dark (underexposed) side for good measure for a total of 9 bracketed shots. I do this especially when there are lightbulbs or windows.

(I don't think I ever did 10 bracketed shots because I suspect misalignments begin to occur resulting in loss of sharpness.)

After running them through DPHDR and shrinking the size to 1024x681, I only do two things in PSE7:

1) Sharpen. My settings are: "refined" is checked, "radius" is 0.3 and "amount" slider is 150%. (I used to max "amount" to 500% -- and still tempted to do so -- but I agree with the rest of the gang here that it is over-sharpening.)

2) Darken. I use PSE7's Enhance->Adjust Lighting->Levels and slide the "input levels" slider to the right until I get the contrast I want.

That's really it. Optionally, I would select the sky or the window or lightbulbs to darken them more and show more details, or the tiled floor to make them more shiny, etc. But I think darkening may have a lot to do with your camera's white balance, etc., so my settings may not apply to yours or anyone else's.

And sometimes, I would add "vignette" around the subject at center because I saw this effect on National Geographic pictures and thought it was nice.

I'm actually wondering why you're asking because I think your interior shots (boxing gloves, for one) were very natural-looking and can't be improved with more pp.

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Old Jun 26, 2010, 12:32 AM   #9
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haha... half way through the images I forgot whoms pictures it was.
Then when I saw the exterior shots I almost screamed out VV!! haha
You've actually made yourself a style of HDR your own in my opinion !

btw... GREAT shots !!
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Old Jun 26, 2010, 3:43 AM   #10
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vvcarpio:

Thanks a lot for that explanation. I will have to try to experiment with some indoor shots. So you do a total of 2-3 and sometimes 4 shots, and only add underexposed shots if I understand it correctly? I´m not confident with HDR programs so I will have to experiment there.

Great to get explained how you do it anyway.

And thank you very much for the compliments of my shots. I actually think the "Boxing Gloves" shot is the only indoor shot I´m actually pleased with

I find it really tricky to get goos indoor shots although I have a fast (f1,8) prime lens.

But I will keep on training and getting inspired by you and all the other great photographers in this forum.

Best regards/Daniel
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