Beginner Advice Sought On Interior Cathedral Photography

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Name
Allen
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#1
Hi, I really enjoy photographing the interiors of Cathedrals, however some of the detailed carvings are sited high up on pillars or ceilings.

This poses a challenge for my one and only lens, a Sigma 17-50 mm EX HSM.

So I'm wondering how I can get the best possible photographs of such features working with the limitations of the lens.

For example, distant features are captured more sharply with a higher F setting, but then that allows less light in, so I'd need to use a longer exposure setting.

To try and photograph such features I use a tripod and make use of the live-view, in magnified setting and manually focus. Although such distant objects can be tricky to get a really sharp focus.

If anyone has experience or suggestions to share on how I can achieve sharper images under such circumstances I'd be most grateful.
 
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Name
Chris
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#2
Well the one thing you have on your side is time,your subject ain't going anywhere so all I can suggest in addition to what you do now is as low an ISO as possible , shoot at the lens sweet spot for aperture , which is probably around f8, use manual settings ( as you are using live view you can nail the exposure that way, as you are on a tripod shutter speed is not a problem) and use a cable release.
That's what I do with a TS-E lens , and patience sometimes I can take what seems an age to make an exposure.
 
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Name
David
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#3
I did visit Wells cathedral recently and could only park about 1 mile away. I could only carry limited equipment so did not take a long lens. I had a Sigma 12-24mm and a Canon 24-105mm on a full frame camera plus tripod. Almost all of the shots I took were of large areas for which the Sigma 12-24 was ideal. The only more detailed feature which was high up did require the Canon 24-105; though only set to 70mm as the feature was still quite large. I also used a tripod and multiple exposure Raw files. I used f8 for all of my shots and the speed ranged from 0.4 sec to 1/40 sec. I used between 400 and 1600 ISO but my 5D4 is a low noise camera. In the past I have usually used my iPad to control the camera which provides a much larger image of the live view enabling easy focus. On this occasion, I was unable to take this so just used my single spot back button focussing and manual exposure. To ensure that you do not move the camera when operating the shutter, I use the internal timer. When using my iPad the connection is WiFi so I do not need to touch the camera.

So you seem to be doing the right things within your constraints. If your camera is on a tripod, there is no reason why you cannot use longer exposure times. You may be able to use higher ISO values but it will depend on your camera. Even it you do get some noise, there is good noise reduction S/W available now. You do not indicate whether you are using Raw or JPEG or using multiple exposures. You may be able to get away without HDR for these details but will almost certainly need to use HDR for wider shots in a cathedral.

Dave
 
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Name
Alan
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#4
To try and photograph such features I use a tripod and make use of the live-view, in magnified setting and manually focus. Although such distant objects can be tricky to get a really sharp focus.
I find using a magnified view very good so I'm surprised that you're having difficulty but maybe it's explained by me using an evf and maybe you use the a back screen of a DSLR? I assume it's a DSLR because of the lens you're using?

Other than that I think you need a lens which is sharp enough at a wider aperture and a camera that's good enough if you need to use a higher ISO to still give a nice picture, especially if you need to crop the picture. Some good noise reduction post capture could well help too. Are you shooting raw and processing for best effect?

In days gone by lenses often needed to be at f5.6 to f8 or even f11 to give optimum performance but these days there are zoom lenses which are sharp enough at f2.8 and primes that are sharp enough at even wider apertures and as the detail you want to focus on will I assume be further away rather than close up the depth of field may be enough even at wider apertures.

I'd start by checking what aperture, shutter speed and ISO give the best results when shooting raw and processing for best effects. If the kit is limiting you maybe a different lens could be an option, one that's sharper at wider apertures, if that's the problem and if it is costs could maybe be kept down by buying used or even by using an adapted lens. After that the ISO performance of the camera may be an issue.
 
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Name
Allen
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#5
Thanks to everyone who has offered advice and insights on the question I raised. Will be sure to take your suggestions into account when next photographing inside a Cathedral.
 
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#7
I am going to offer a technique for removing noise in long exposure/high ISO shots.

Keep the high shutter speed and use a sensibly high ISO setting. Have your camera on a tripod. Take a ten image burst of each shot. In post-processing, load all ten images as a layer in a new image. For each layer, set the blending mode to Average. The noise is basically a random pattern so the intensity of each noisy pixel will be averaged with nine noiseless pixels - reducing noise intensity to 10%. As the actual image pixels are the same in all ten layers, the average remains unaltered so the image is not softened or altered in any way, just the noise. I always use this technique in churches - churches generally have atrocious lighting!
 
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Name
Derek
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#8
Just to add further to the thread. I have done the inside of a couple of large cathedrals (York and Lincoln). You might want to try HDR. I set up a Sigma 10 - 20 or a 24-70 usually on a small jobo pod. Then take 5 exposures using AEB. Careful processing can produce some good results with stain glass windows and interior both exposed.
 
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