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WIP - Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (more added)

Discussion in 'Landscapes, Architecture, and Cityscapes' started by PJohnP, Mar 25, 2007.

  1. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Living in a lovely city, surrounded by scenic vistas, evocative architecture, with painterly light at dawn and sunset every day, one can tend to forget that people come from many places to shoot photographs close to one's home. Every day, I pass photographers engaged in their art and craft, and each day I pass locations that are prominently placed in magazines and on book covers. The problem has been exactly that I pass these things and do not stop to exercise my own photographic muse.

    I recently decided that I need to shoot more close to home, and enjoy the bounty presented to me each day.

    One interesting, and, in my opinion, highly challenging location is the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, more commonly known in Santa Fe as the Santuario de Guadalupe. The Santuario is believed to be the oldest shrine in the United States honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. It was constructed over a twenty year period in the latter part of the 18th century by Franciscan missionaries at the end of El Camino Real. The walls are thick adobe, and the colour of the building alters with the time of the day and angle of the light.

    I said above that this is a challenging subject. The Santuario is not placed for optimal photography being placed on the corner of Guadalupe Street and Agua Fria, with power lines, fast moving automobiles, and a series of stores and restaurants in the area. There are signs around the Santuario, which, while informative, are not photographically pleasing.

    The Santuario faces roughly east, and the front of the building is enclosed by a walled courtyard, limiting the line of sight. The furthest reaches of the courtyard that would give a good line for composition are an elevated garden area, which, given the nature of the location would not be considered a reasonable part of the shooting zone. The more commonly used entrance to the Santuario is located to the west, away from the subject face for photography, so this aspect of the building is relatively simple and unadorned.

    For some time, I've pondered shooting this location at sunrise as a test case for learning, then perhaps taking the lessons and performing another follow-up shoot. This frosty and brisk morning, I essayed a couple of attempts at this site.

    This is literally a work in progress, as I plan to address the deficiencies of these shots in future efforts. And there are deficiencies that I'll address below. I'm open to suggestions, critiques, ideas on composition, the whole nine yards (approximately 8.23 meters for our international members). It's not going to be an award winning photographic effort, but it's going to be an opportunity for improved technique and thinking (I hope).


    D200, 12-24mm f/4 AFS, ISO 100, processed in NC, crop and copyright in PS-CS2

    I can see that the use of the CP is problematic - the sky colour isn't what I'd like it to be. I want the deeply coloured sky, however, I don't wish to get the gradient. I suppose a GND could be employed, but I'd have to set up the shot exactly, or get a distracting gradient in the lower part of the photo. I doubt that a GND would work at all for the position and composition of the second photo.

    I'm also pondering the angle of shooting for the first photo - it's not ideal, but the wall around the front courtyard shadows the base of the building. There are signs and a well located immediately next to where I crouched with my tripod (I hunkered down to the ground and shot with a remote to avoid the long dawn shadow that I cast into the scene).

    The second shot, taken some minutes after the first was performed with me tetering at the outside of the wall of the courtyard to get the angle, but the rich red of the newly refurbished brick walk in the courtyard now shows up. I suppose that I could bring a small stool to use for this angle in the next shoot.

    The colour balance isn't quite as deep as I'd expected - the initial light over the Sangre de Christos mountains was darker and more red to my eye.

    I'm also going to have to ponder my usual reluctance to making significant PS changes in the image - those posted notes on the door of the Santuario visible in the second shot are unappealing to me. OTOH, I'm willing to clone out an errant raven in the sky for one shot, so perhaps I'm not opposed to this in a future post-processing effort.

    But there's much food for thought, and I can start to plan the follow-up for some future morning at dawn. Maybe I can position myself to catch the very first burst of light on the top of the Santuario ? Hmmm...

    Always shoot.

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2007
  2. Not being well versed in the use of the CP, I can't comment about it at all. I'm still struggling with the effect it has on my 12-24, esp at 12mm.

    After pulling the photos down into Photoshop, I must say I'm amazed at the richness of the colours which don't show on a web photo. It certainly does NOT do these images any justice. The morning light is clearly evident in the downloaded photos. Not a warmer tone, a richer tone.

    Funny thing about your comment on cloning. I'm the opposite - if Mother Nature throws me a bird in to the mix, I'll keep it, but I'll take out anything man-made which pulls my eye. In the second shot, I'd take out those two white notices. Even without cloning, if I hold my fingers over them on the screen, it changes the whole mood for me. After cloning, with switching back and forth, I'm of the opinion "take them out". Just my opinion.

    The first shot, on checking Levels, there's a whole bunch of empty space on the right. Any reason? I know I'm of the personality which loves colour, and doing a Levels adjustment makes the colours pop but not to the point of Disneyland. Same with the second shot.

    In the second, I'd move the copyright over to the left, so we can take in the fullness of the red courtyard.

    These are high contrast due to the nature of the sun at this time of year. I like it!

    As far as aesthetics, love them both. We have to shoot with the locations we're given. You've done a great job considering you had 'city stuff' going on around this beautiful building. I do love the morning light!
  3. Well, John, I love the shots. There are little things to work on, sure.
    But I think you've got beautiful captures here -- far, far better than many
    of us could have done for sure.
    [...and these make me really miss the gorgeous New Mexico light --
    WHAT a place -- wow -- that light, that Light....]

    A few thoughts on the 2nd shot -- as if I had any idea what I
    was talking about :redface: -- but we all try.

    I like the composition in the 2nd shot -- the tree to the left is great.
    The notices on the church door don't bother me,
    although I might ever so slightly darken them so they don't "glare".
    Notices on church doors are not unexpected, so they do not jar.
    The shadows on the wall to the left do distract
    from the composition -- they are somewhat unexpected.
    Would that shadow go away a bit if the sun were 30 minutes higher in the sky?.

    The contrast between the rich adobe color and the sky is striking.
    There is Light in this photo -- you've beautifully captured
    the glorious light from the facade of the church.
    However, there is that typical polarizer-dark-inky-blue in the upper right.
    It does to my eye come across as artificial unfortunately
    -- pretty much 'screams CP'.
    What to do?
    • Dial in +1 EV when shooting using a CP ?
    • Try an in-camera Image Overlay or Multiple Exposure
      to blend one shot exposed for sky & one exposed for adobe?
    • Tone the dark part of the sky with an NX Color Point ?
      (Preserve adobe colour via a "marker" color point.)
    • Sample from the actual sky colours you captured &
      "photoshop" in a new sky ?
    • Blend two differently exposed shots (as in #2) in Photoshop ?
    I listed them in increasing order of 'manipulation' :wink:.
    I have no qualms about Photoshop manipulations that replicate
    the older film darkroom techniques. And if our cameras give us
    Image Overlay, etc. then I say make use of it !!

    The real question is:
    Have you conveyed -- as a photographer and as an artist --
    what you saw and felt in terms of light and colour
    when you were shooting this scenes ???

    Our cameras do not see as we see -- that's a given.
    So if we can bring the digital capture into a match with the "reality"
    of the light & colour that we saw and that we wish to present
    to the viewer, then there is no reason why we should not do that.

    You can tell that I do not subscribe to the theory that photographs
    replicate the actual. So many Editorial Decisions as to framing,
    context, composition, exposure, etc. have already been
    made by a photographer prior to releasing the shutter that it
    is silly to argue that a photograph represents reality.
    Show us what you want us to see.

    Looking forward to more :wink::smile:.
  4. MJAM


    Feb 20, 2006
    Juneau, Alaska
    The light in these photos is magical - the air is special in those parts!

    In the first photo, the base of the structure feels impinged by the bottom of the frame. This sense is heightened by the large empty sky. Also, the cross on top of the gate could be a very nice bit of foreground interest but it gets lost in the crease of the building - I didn't notice it until my third view of the image.

    In the second offering, my only suggestion would be to extend the crop just a hair to the right.

    There seems to be some significant distortion in both images. Especially noticeable in the second shot, bottom left, in the slant of the brick wall.

    The colors, composition, and subject matter are really strong here. Have fun with these, Mike
  5. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Sandi :

    Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions. I think you need to come here and try this shot !

    On the cloning issue, I've always been of two minds. Coming from a forensic photography background, the idea of tinkering with images has always had a certain threshold barrier for me to transcend. There's nothing wrong with cropping, or additional exposure, etc., but actually changing the image has been something that I've only slowly grown accustomed to in my photography.

    On the light levels, I didn't want to make the shot "pop" that much, as I was trying to get that very initial golden orange light from the east. If I get a red sunrise the next time, I'd expect the image to trend "darker" as well.

    I'm thinking about my angles for shooting a great deal. I could use my 35mm PC f/2.8, but I'd need to move back proportionally from the 14mm FL I shot at, and that would introduce a lot of extraneous elements; and there I'm back to the whole discussion of cloning stuff out...

    John P.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2007
  6. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Andrea :

    Well, you just have to come back to visit and we can shoot this together... :wink:

    Yes, but the light quality would be substantially different. If you look at the difference in light between the 1st and 2nd shots, then multiply that, it would be in line. While dawn came this morning at 0701h, the mountains to the east screen the sun for almost fifteen to twenty minutes, reducing the net golden orange colour of the light when it hits the Sanctuario, as well as changing the angle relative to the "horizon" (e.g., the mountain tops), so the period of shooting isn't a "golden hour", but more like a quarter hour or so at this location.

    Well, if I can muster the time this week for another shoot, I may try several approaches. One thing might be to just shoot with no CP, or alternately, leave the CP effect minimised. While I have no animosity or disdain for people who use larger PS post-processing on their shots, I'm wanting to do this as much as possible "in camera", and process/postprocess less. A personal quirk, y'see, and also a part of the challenge for me in shooting this particular location.

    Mostly. The blues are deeper in the corner, just as you noted. The building's not quite as orange as that moment. But it's fairly close. The next step is to bring it closer yet. The high difference between the sky and the building may require an HDR approach (but see my comment above on postprocessing). In an ideal world, I'd have dramatic clouds to the west behind the church, too ! :wink:

    Heh. Well, that's going to be part of the exercise. I've seen the Sanctuario at dawn on a number of occasions, but the mental images are not quite what I saw this morning. It's going to require some practice and more thought...

    ... but that's the entire idea of this, eh ? :rolleyes: 

    Thanks for taking the time for your fine critique. :biggrin:

    John P.
  7. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Mike :

    Some excellent comments, and I thank you.

    The distortion is intrinsic to the 12-24mm lens, shot in the first case at 14mm. I'd use my 35mm PC "Shift" lens, but I'd have to back up considerably, and that would introduce many extraneous elements. I'll have to bring that lens and scout a location for this - it's not impossible.

    That cross on the wall was an element that I couldn't manoever to get better situated this morning. I'm in full agreement with you about the placement. I suppose I could stand in the fountain/well to shoot, but that's probably six types of sin to do at such a location, and during Lent, no less !

    And yes, the light here is absolutely magical, which is why we call this the Land of Enchantment ! Sunset's equally fun.

    John P.
  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    This morning didn't look too promising, with clouds over the mountains in the direction of where the sun would rise, but after a brief internal debate, I pulled the gear together and went to the Santuario. There were some good glimmers of gold on the clouds as I arrived, but the position I had shot from yesterday morning was no longer so good - an automobile was parked to the side of the Santuario, as the (pre) dawn mass was underway.

    I'd thought a great deal about the comments and critique that I received yesterday on the initial shots. One thing that I had come to realise was that I much preferred the angle and composition of the second shot to the first. I also knew that in such a wide-angle photography that the placement of the camera as high as it was over the wall yesterday didn't work to best advantage.

    I generally follow the "near-far" approach to wide angle photography, where the photograph incorporates a substantial number of objects, even if these are not the prime subjects, in the foreground. This tends to produce a more pleasing sweep of line in the shot, as well as placing the subject in a stronger context.

    Thinking for a minute or two on this yesterday, I had considered that I might be able to huddle back in the SE corner of the courtyard in front of the Santuario, and thereby achieve my goals. I couldn't recall if there would be sufficient room, and there was also the garden area next to the walls to consider. Having the automobile in the line of sight from the NE end of the Santuario property was, in a sense, a godsend, as I would now move to the alternate (and preferred location).

    Indeed, the SE corner was the narrowest part of the raised garden, and I could place my rubber seat pad (always bring one of these to a dawn shoot - it keeps one's posterior dry and warm), with the tripod immediately adjacent to the raised garden wall, and then compose the shot. With the low light, and my desire to work with low ISO, smaller aperture/increased DOF, I would be shooting with a remote in any event.

    I shot several initial photos to check placement - I knew that with the contorted position I was working in and the inevitable WA distortions that I'd later have "level" the shot in PS. Sadly, the upgrades to my neck and spine that would allow me to swivel and move my head like a snake's are on backorder. :rolleyes: 

    Shortly after I set up, the congregation began to exit the Santuario, and I was warmly greated by a number of people who wished me well with my photography. After just a few minutes, the courtyard was once again still and quiet.

    The sun was struggling with the clouds to the east over the mountains, but I had a very good warning indicator looking back to the centre of the city where a construction crane stood tall into the morning sky. As I watched and waited, a golden colour enveloped the top of the crane, and then progressed downward. The moment for shooting was coming quickly.

    Now, I'd paid attention to both Sandi's and Andrea's comments about the light, exposure, and the use of the circular polariser in their critiques yesterday. I had considered using a graduated neutral density (GND) filter for my shots, but the close placement that I was working within meant I was shooting at 12mm with my lens, and I would get vignetting with the filter holder.

    So. As the sun began to illuminate the Santuario, I shot several shots with the lens au natural, and then I handheld the GND directly over the lens. This was tricky, as I had to then contort myself to see through the lowly placed camera on the tripod, and move the GND up and down to get better placement of the transition zone. Not having four hands, I couldn't hold the GND, use the DOF preview, and depress the remote shutter simultaneously.

    When I returned home, I looked over the shots, and realised that I liked the darker brick of the courtyard in preference to the lighter colour I had achieved with the GND. The sky colour in both photos was quite good, and the sky gradient that that I found in those shots, in fact, was a reasonable depiction of the moment that I had photographed. In post-processing, I decided that the base of the Santuario would form my "horizon level" even though the wall to the left would show a WA distortion/slant.


    Having completed that shot, I walked around the courtyard looking for other interesting compositional positions, but, in all truth, with the specific light this morning and the places one could actually stand, sit, or crouch, I had been in a superior spot.

    But walking out of the courtyard, I was struck by Mike's comment about the placement of the cross on the gate, and seeing that the automobile had been driven away, I quickly sat on the edge of the fountain well, and snapped off another shot. Without actually standing within the fountain, I couldn't quite get as far back as I'd like, but I think this composition was more in keeping with Mike's suggestion.

    D200, 12-24mm AFS f/4; ISO100, processed in NC, crop and copyright in PS-CS2

    The slightly off-green colour of some of the lighter stone in the wall and gate does, BTW, match the colour I was seeing this morning, as well as the enhanced red colour of some of the wall stones.

    WRT the first shot, I'm still pondering the issue of cloning out the notices on the Santuario door (as well as the jet contrail on the right side of the Santuario). The drainage grating in the centre of the courtyard bricked area could also, I suppose, be a candidate for this treatment.

    As Sandi noted yesterday in her post, these photos do not display with best colour through the internet. Feel free to download them and look at them in PS or some other package - I think that the differences are striking !

    And I thank everybody for their comments and critiques on yesterday's shots ! I'll likely let the Santuario photography process sit for a week or two while I contemplate what's been shot so far (and who knows, I might find some other neat locations around town to fit that aphorism of mine about, "Always shoot" :biggrin: ).

    John P.
  9. MJAM


    Feb 20, 2006
    Juneau, Alaska
    John, I think the composition of the vertical image is greatly improved. The structure appears to be "presented" by the augmented red brick. The red now takes up a well balanced thrid of the image. I also get less of a sense that I'm craning my neck to look up at the building, though your angle doesn't seem to have changed, just your distance to the subject. For some reason, however, the image seems to have lost a bit of its golden hue.

    The horizontal image is much stronger as well, to my eyes. The cross serves as a strong piece of foreground interest (esp with the name of the structure clearly and nicely chiselled into it). The red wall now serves to draw the eye into the image and creates pleasing angles in concert with the strong angles of the Santuario itself. Nicely done! Just one nitpick: now I feel like there is not quite enough sky at the top in order to adequately frame the image.

    I have to say, however, that the inherent distortion in these images is very distracting to me. I have the same issue with my Sigma 10-20, but I usually shoot lanscapes without manmade structures, which hides the problem. Have you ever thought of using something like PTlens to correct for distortion? It's apparently easy to use and only costs $15. Just a thought.

    Thanks so much for sharing your project with the Cafe. It's been very rewarding for me, Mike
  10. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Mike :


    The angle of that shot is basically from close to ground level, where the previous day's shot was over the courtyard wall, so you're not at all far from the truth. In fact, I had to shoot with a remote for other reasons than just the slow shutter speed - I literally couldn't keep my head down at the viewfinder for more than a few seconds, or I cramped up in a knot...

    As for the colour, the sunrise wasn't quite as "golden" as the previous day's had been. That's one of the things that may draw me back for another attempt (or even a deep crimson sunrise - that would be fun to shoot).

    Yup. I was of the same mind. However, I'd need to find some way of getting back maybe another three feet on the line of the shot, and that places me right in the middle of the fountain. It's possible that I could shoot from the other side of the fountain and crop, but I'm unsure if I'll get as pleasing an angle. Good suggestion, and food for thought on the next go-around with this - sometimes even small alterations in positions can make for much improved photographs !

    This is something that I've been thinking about since your first critique comments. However, in my experience, the correction software often changes the line of the shot, essentially cropping the photo, and I'm unsure if there's enough extra room around these shots to allow for the correction and cropping. That's also related to same discussion as above, where physical boundaries around the Santuario limit my ability to "back up" any further. I've used LensDoc from Andromeda, and this has been an issue in tightly composed photos with little "extra room". I'll have to look at the package you recommend.

    But it's something for me to work on in my copious free time. :wink:

    The entire idea of this personal challenge/project was to get other ideas from people like you to stretch my photography in new/better directions. Thank you.

    And now, old son, I'm going to challenge you (or anyone else reading this thread) to develop a "WIP" thread of a similar type.

    John P.
  11. Hi John --

    I do like the skies much better in your 2nd set of images.
    The clarity & luminosity are more appealing without the dark blue-grey
    as in the 1st set.

    Vertical Photo:

    The incorporation of the courtyard in front of the church is great
    because the rectangular white brick areas recapitulate the notices
    on the church door as well as acting as "near" components
    to lead the eye into the photograph.

    The dark areas and shadows are both more detailed and less distracting
    in the 2nd version -- and thus more appreciable as part of the scene
    rather than as an intrusion into the scene.

    Yes, you did lose some of the golden light that was in the first shot.
    Hmmmm, really, one little color control point in NX would bring that back,
    and could you just ever so slightly brighten the courtyard pavement ???
    Enough -- don't want to make this about the pros/cons of post-processing.

    I found it interesting that I liked the various angles of perspective
    in the 1st version better than the second version where the
    courtyard seems to tilt down to the right.
    I think this is just the opposite of what Mike had to say !
    But I am not suggesting a correction of the perspective
    to a 'normal' view at all. These kinds of angles do serve the composition
    and are not jarring because the brain makes certain corrections while viewing.
    And most likely perspective issues are complicated by
    viewing on a small PC screen.

    I haven't commented on the 2nd images in the sets,
    but I do see something interesting emerging from your
    horizontal shot now that the cross is not lost against
    the same coloured background of the church.

    Such a beautiful building -- there is much rich material there --
    it would be interesting to see some smaller scale shots also --
    such as just the corner of the wall with the cross
    or just the tower against the sky or the wooden lattices
    over the window.

    Looking forward to more !!
  12. I'm curious as to why these photos look better
    in a Viewer than here on the Web page.
    Is it a color space thing?

    How does this version look?
    I just HAD to try that color point on the adobe to see
    if NX really would recover the golden light.
    It's just easier to show someone than it is to try to
    describe it. What do you think? Is it too too ??

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  13. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Andrea :

    Wow. Well, maybe it's time for me to start using NX instead of NC 4.4.2 . I'd purchased NX when it hit the market, but I purely loathed the interface.

    Thanks for this example.

    John P.
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