The Many Ways to Photograph an Abbey

Question: how many ways can you photograph the same subject? Answer: lots!...

a year ago

Latest Post Cross-processing Colour Film with Rodinal by Rob Kent

One Saturday, early in January 2019, Messers Jazzy & Fynbaar decided to spend a grand day out at Arbroath Abbey. Other than engaging in a 'who can bring the most cameras' competition (Fynbaar won... by a country mile, most of them Olympus flavoured!), we set about finding all the most interesting and inviting angles from which to photograph these rather picturesque ruins. Having set up my tripod, I whimsically proceeded to take the same photograph on several different cameras, with several different lenses, employing various different techniques, only later realising that this could form the basis of an interesting monograph, which I hereby humbly present.

Picture 1: Long Exposure

Having recently acquired a natty little combined intervalometer-timer-remote-control device for my Sony Alpha7 Mk.II, I decided to try a long-exposure shot. To acheive this, I screwed a Hoya Yellow (K2) Filter and a variable ND filter (set to ~400) into my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens, selected my monochrome picture profile and then guestimated an exposure of 90s @ ISO200. The result is as follows:

"Arbroath Abbey Long Exposure", Sony Alpha7 Mk.II, Nikon Nikkor-S.C Auto 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8, Hoya Yellow (K2) filter, K&F Concept ND2-400 filter @ 400, 90s, ISO200

Whilst not a perfect shot (there was a tree waving in the wind close to the lens!), I quite like the effect, particularly the softness of the sky.

Picture 2: Pinhole

Next, I attached my DIY f/221 pinhole lens, the development and construction of which I've written about previously. As there is no way to attach a filter to this lens, I had no way to slow this lens down anymore than its tiny aperture does already, so I set the camera to ISO50 and the camera selected a shutter speed of 15s. Again, the result is as follows:

"Arbroath Abbey through a Pinhole", Sony Alpha7 Mk.II, 3D printed 66.5mm f/221, 15s, ISO50

I love the dreamy, soft focus this lens creates, in particular the 'glow' around the window apertures.

Picture 3: Yellow Filter

Whilst juggling lenses and settings, I inadvertently set the camera back to a colour picture profile whilst a yellow filter was still attached to the lens (the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 again). The resulting image in the viewfinder had a wonderfully dismal apocalyptic look about it and I couldn't resist firing the shutter. See what you think below:

"Arbroath Abbey in Yellow", Sony Alpha7 Mk.II, Nikon Nikkor-S.C Auto 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8, Hoya Yellow (K2) filter, 1/8s, ISO50

Picture 4: Gothic Silhouette

Finally, I moved back a bit, turned the camera the right way up, reselected my monochrome picture profile and went for a classic silhouette shot. Deliberately spot-metering for a brighter area in the sky resulted in the ruins being thrown into shadow and the use of a yellow filter really turned up the texture and, therefore, the drama in the sky. The result is shown below:

"A Silhouette of Arbroath Abbey", Sony Alpha7 Mk.II, Nikon Nikkor-S.C Auto 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8, Hoya Yellow (K2) filter, 1/100s, ISO200

I'm really pleased with this shot. It has exactly the gothic look I wanted, perfect as cover art for a Penguin Classics edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Picture 5: Medium Format

The very first shot I actually took was with my Mamiya 6, but you (and I!) will have to wait for the film to be developed to see that one! Watch this space...


If I learned anything from this inadvertent exercise, it's that you shouldn't always settle for the first composition that comes to mind. If time allows, playing with settings, techniques and equipment can significantly alter the 'feel' of the picture. Of course, if you have a particular 'feel' or mood in mind then shoot for that, but if you don't (like I didn't), try a few things and see where is takes you: you might very well be surprised!

Rob Kent

Published a year ago


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