Steal Nothing But Photographs

There be Whales Here! (Juneau, AK):

"Captain, There be whales here"!  Maybe it's the nerd in me but every time I see reference to a hump-back whale I think of Mr. Scott declaring that two  whales were beamed aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  The plot where Mr. Spock and the rest of the team race back in time to capture some whales to keep an alien probe from destroying earth.  If that doesn't make you think that these amazing creatures are important, then just go on a Whale Watching Excursion with Juneau Alaska outfitters "Gastineau Guiding".  After an awesome rainforest hike with biologist/naturalist "Van" who had some serious Alaska wilderness Kung Fu, we boarded a custom build whale watching boat with our guide Lindsey and Captain Scott (Ironic, I know) who got us in the thick of things with Whales, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and more Whales.  Here are the images I captured on the excursion.  Don't forget to click on the images to see them full size on your monitor!

The hike began in the wilderness where we go up close and personal with Alaska's rainforest.

Alaskan Rainforest (D3S, ISO800, f/6.3, 1/100th seconds, 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

We saw some awesome Flora/Fauna and learned all about its uses by the First Nations people of Alaska from Van:

Juneau Flora/Fauna (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/500th second @ 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

The beach-combing with Van and Lindsey allowed us to enjoy the Juneau shore:

Juneau Shore Pano (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/8000th second @24mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

Then after a short bus ride to a loading ramp we boarded the boat to find some whales.  Lindsey was amazingly knowledgeable about anything living in the waters around Juneau and made the ride interesting while Scott did some whale recon on the radio to the other boats to find some whale action.

We found these lazy sea-lions on the way out, where we learned the difference between sea-lions and seals.  The eagle was a nice touch hired by Gastineau  Guiding to make the scene more "Majestic" :).

Bed and Buoy (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 320mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Then we got to see what we came for, humpback whales galore!  At one point when I was looking through the D3s at about 320mm I saw at least 4 blows from whales.  It was awesome!

Flukes on the Horizon (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @ 150mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

There was one little calf who I think Lindsey referred to as "Smudge" because of the smear on the underside of his flukes that spent as much time out of the water breaching as he did under water.  An amazing show!

Breaching (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Whale Dancing (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 110mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Belly Flop (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1250th second @ 180mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Flukes Galore (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/640th second @ 340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

It was an amazing adventure made even better by Lindsey, Van, and Scott of Gastineau Guiding and thanks to Disney Cruise Lines.

Until the next image theft,



Photogs Note:

Shooting whales is a lot like shooting action sports.  The trick is to keep your lens zoomed close to maximize your field of view and keep both eyes open to expand it even more.  When you see some action, be ready to zoom all the way in so you can capture the barnacles on their fins!  I keep track of my shutter speed while in aperture priority (A mode on Nikon) because I want to keep my depth of field as shallow as possible.  It's probably not a big deal on a cloudy day like this one but on a sunny day you could end up with a camera at f/8 or greater if you let the camera adjust aperture.  Not a huge deal when on the open ocean but this photog isn't as religious about keeping my sensor clean so at f/8 I end up cleaning a lot of dust spots off the photo which sucks.  However, you could easily put it in shutter priority (S mode on Nikon).  Either way keep your shutter speed above 1/500th of a second because you don't want any breaching whales to be blurry.  I also make sure that I put the lens in VR mode if you have it and set it for "Active" since you're on a pitching boat.  

All that being said, don't ruin the moment by spending the whole time looking through the viewfinder.  What I missed out on while getting these shots is seeing Julie and the boys enjoying the moment.  Something that really is more important than capturing images.  I screwed up but you don't have to.  We photographers sometimes forget that we need to spend some time watching the people you love enjoy the experience that you have provided too.  It's not all about getting the shot, you have to live and love a little too....


Big Island Hawaii (Green Beach):

If you ever get used to south point and decide to leave, you can hike 3+ miles up the seashore, through dunes, into sandblasting 30mph winds, and arrive at the most amazing beach. Green Beach at South Point (Ka Lae) is one of two green beaches in the world and the Grants have visited one! The other is in the Galapagos and is a place that is on our bucket list.  I'll get straight to the images....

This is without a doubt one of my favorite images from the trip:

You gotta Click Here to see this baby full size!

Green Beach (D3s, ISO125, f/5.6 @ 14mm, HDR, through Nikkor 14-24mm Lens)


Its hard to tell from the image but the entire beach is nestled into a bowl of some type of Volcanic Sandstone.  You can see the green of the beach (From the Olivine in the sand) if you look to the left side middle of the photograph.  Its hard to tell from the wide angle of the image but the beach is about 150' down from the top of the sand dunes.  You climb down this natural stairwell in the wall of the beach to get to the waters edge.


The Natural Stairwell (D3s, ISO125, f/5.6 @ 14mm, 1/250, ISO125 through Nikkor 14-24mm Lens)

The Grant Boyz weren't really happy about the hike in.  I hiked at least one mile and climbed about 150' of elevation with Wyatt on my shoulders.  At one point JD was walking with a scowl on his face and both hands were in fists.  I recommend walking in and riding out so that you can see the interesting features of the shore on the way there.  I think you can tell from the image below that the Grant Boyz "Let it Go" and had fun!

Boyz on Green (D3s, ISO125, f/5.6 @ 14mm, 1/500th sec, through Nikkor 14-24mm Lens)


The current washing out of the bowl of the beach is pretty strong so I wouldn't let the kids swim here.  This is pretty much at the end of the world here and I didn't want to risk someone getting into trouble.  Get sucked out of here in a rip current and your next stop is Antarctica!

I cannot wait to steal an image of the other Green beach in the Galapagos!




Holy Hyper-Sync!

I shot my sons T-Ball team tonight.  Typical sporadic portrait session between herding cats over a bunch of 5 and 6 year old boys.  As you can see, the image is pretty typical:

Wyatt (Pujols) Grant (D3S, ISO 640, f/3.2, 1/6400th, 38mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

Its easy to get a shot of a cute kid in his baseball uniform!


Photog's Note:

So what you ask?  What if I was to tell you that this image was shot in DIRECT SUNLIGHT at 6:20 in the evening?  Check out the meta-data above at the sync rate.  Using a Pocket Wizard TT1 and AC3 controller on camera, a TT5 remote on my Elinchrom Quadra Flash covered with an Elinchrom Deep Octa I was able to keep the depth of field shallow and shoot this image at f/3.2 and 1/6400th of a second.  Pretty freakin' amazing.  I left the ISO at 640 to get the recharge up on the flash between ball players.  If I was shooting this bad boy with the Nikon Creative Lighting System I would have been stuck with a 1/250th sync speed and ended up at f/22 to get the exposure I wanted without isolating Wyatt from the background.  I'm tickled as can be with this setup for HARD light in the afternoon.


Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Image Restoration):

I grabbed an old army image of my Uncle Bill Wayne off of facebook and restored it.  He was killed by mortar fire in Vietnam years before I was born and I never had the pleasure of meeting him.  Everything I have heard about him has been that he was an amazing young man that served his country with the same passion and commitment that he had for his family.  I figured that such an amazing young man that was taken from us too soon in the prime of his life deserved a picture that was not weathered and aged.  It was an honor to restore his photograph.  Spending an hour with him at my PC made me feel as though I almost know him, even though we never met.

God Bless you Uncle Bill Wayne.

Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Fallen Hero / Paratrooper) Restored

Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Fallen Hero / Paratrooper) Before

Photoshop is such an amazing tool!

I hope you enjoy!


High Speed Train Window Self Portrait:

I was shooting one of the L Trains while in Chicago and when it went by I saw a brief flash of my nuclear green shirt in the window.  I decided that on the next pass of the train I was going to try and capture my portrait in the window of the train.  Obviously setting the D3S at a shutter of about 1/2000th and blasting away at 11 frames per second would be pretty easy.  However, to get that shutter speed in this low of light would have required a super high and grainy ISO.  The solution was to pan on the train window as it was going by.  Here is the result of the effort....

Train Window Self Portrait

Train Window Self Portrait (D3S, ISO800, 1/30th, f/2.8 @ 56mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

Click on it to see it full size on your monitor.  I'm the ugly dude with the green shirt holding the camera.  Kate and Wyatt were collateral's in my image!  🙂


Until next time...



Black Friday Upland Hunt (Family Tradition):

For the last 8 or 9 years the day after Thanksgiving has been reserved for hunting with family. When the weather allows, the McNeil's, Morgan's, and Grants get together to enjoy each others company and shoot a few birds. This year a great friend Mark and his son John came all the way from Indy to join us. We managed to get about 35 birds and had a wonderful day despite the blustery weather. My goal with the camera this year was to get some portraits of the family doing what they love to do. It's been kind of a tough year for many of them dealing with illness and loss so the day had a slightly more sentimental atmosphere for me. I care deeply for these guys and I wanted to capture some great images of them. Here are some of my favorites. Remember, click on the images to enjoy them full size on your monitor....

Daniel Morgan

Daniel Morgan (D3s, ISO200, 1/6400th @ f/4 through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

Mike McNeil

Mike McNeil (D3s, ISO200, 1/1000th @ f/4 through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

Mark and John

Mark and John (D3s, ISO200, 1/500th @ f/6.3 through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

Danny Morgan

Danny Morgan (D3s, ISO200, 1/640th @ f/6.3 through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

Shane McNeil

Shane McNeil (D3s, ISO200, 1/2000th @ f/4 through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

JD Grant

JD Grant (ISO200, 1/200th @ f/6.3 through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

My favorite image of the day was the following...

Upland Fine Art

Upland Fine Art (D3s, ISO200, 1/200th @ f/4 through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

To see all the images shot that day go HERE:

Until the next image theft, Enjoy....


Michael and Megan (Wedding):

This weekend the family traveled to Peoria, IL for Michael and Megans wedding.  Many of you probably remember the engagement shoot I did for them several months back.  You can check it out here.  The wedding was fantastic and the reception was great fun.  I didn't take a lot of pictures (I was keeping the Grant boyz from burning the place down) but I did manage to capture a couple fun ones outside.

I was going for a fun tilt shift effect with lotsa bubbles on the first image.  I let the paid photogs have the premo shooting locations (Professional Courtesy) so I stayed back, held the camera high above the crowd @ f/8 and fired 11 frames a second with the D3S.  My camera sounded like machine gun fire compared to all the point and shoots around and I got some looks.  I got the shot though!  Make sure you click on them to see them full size on your monitor!

Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Michael Hennessy

Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Michael Hennessy (D3S, f/8 @ 24 mm, 1/100, ISO 200 Through Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8)

I dropped the image into Photoshop CS6, did some color correction and sharpening as well as some selective Focus and dropped it back to Lightroom for upload.  Less than a minute of Post.

This next shot was just a straight up portrait through the crowd which wasn't easy considering everybody was crowding in to congratulate them.  This is about the only shot I had without the back of somebody's head in the shot.

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple (D3S, ISO200, 1/250th, f/8 @ 40mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

The Kids Look Happy!  Congratulations!



The Wrisbergs (Impromptu Family Portrait Session)

The Wrisbergs have been great friends of mine for almost 20 years and even longer for Jules.  Last weekend they came over for a cookout and we decided to do a little impromptu photo session in the backyard before the kids set it on fire.  Wyatt provided the entertainment which made for some great big smiles and a lot of fun.  You can see all the images we took HERE

The Wrisbergs!

The Wrisbergs! (D3S, 1/320, ISO 800, f/7.1 @ 36 mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

This is my favorite image of the day.  I love making kids leap for the camera.  It always produces exciting results!

Leaping Wrisbergs

Leaping Wrisbergs (D3S, 1/500th, ISO 800, f/7.1 @ 32 mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

We love the Wrisbergs.  Very fun couple.  The Bruschetta, Grilled Salmon, Grilled Vegetables, and Wine weren't bad either.

Until the next theft....


Hiking, Boyz, and Black & Whites:

I was born way too late.  I think black and white images have a certain character to them.  Add the texture of tree bark, rocks, and sky and I absolutely love them.  The boyz and I went hiking today and I managed to steal some portraits of them along the way. 

Balance Beam

Balance Beam (D3S, ISO 400, 1/160th, f/5.6@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)


Cliffside (D3S, ISO400, 1/60th, f/6.3@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

JD on the Trail

JD on the Trail (D3S, ISO200, 1/4000th, f/1.4@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

Natural Bench

Natural Bench (D3S, ISO200, 1/1250th, f/1.4@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

Tree Throne

Tree Throne (D3S, ISO200, 1/1250th, f/1.4, 50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

And of course, the gratuitous color shot just to remind me that it wasn't 50 years ago....


Blow! (D3s, ISO400, 1/640th, f/3.5, 50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

All images were shot with ambient light and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex 2 with minor sharpening and vignette added in the new Lightroom 4.  Make sure you click on the images to see them full screen on your monitor.

Photogs Note:

Incidentally, this is the first time I've bolted the old Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 prime onto the D3S.  After shooting exclusively through my new Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 for the last 2 or 3 months, I'm a little disappointed in the sharpness of the 50mm wide open. There may be a 24 or 35mm f/1.4 prime in my future! I hear it is RAZOR sharp.  If your gonna have an f/1.4 lense you gotta shoot it there.  If it doesn't make you happy, UPGRADE!  Dang Nikon Acquisition Syndrome is hard to cure!


Michael and Megan (Engagement Shoot):

Oh to be young, in love, no kids, and engaged again!  This past weekend we all had a blast shooting some fun engagement photos in "Old Town St. Charles".  The weather was fantastic and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day for a combination of photography and smooching.  Actually a few awesome clouds would have been nice to enhance the images with an amazing "God Sky" but I'm not complaining because its February in St. Louis ang 60+ degrees! 

Our choices were a little limited because everyone else in St. Louis decided to come out and join us including an entourage of about 50 other photographers doing some kind of photo-walk / photo-class.  However, we managed to Steal a few images regardless.  Here are my personal favorites from the shoot:

The Warmup

The Warmup (D3S, ISO 200, 1/100th, f/5.6 through Nikkor 24-70mm)

So Serious

So Serious (D3S, ISO 200, 1/160th, f/6.3 @ 32mm through Nikkor 24-70)


Smoochin' (D3s, ISO100, 1/200th, f/5.6@24mm through Nikkor 24-70)

The Last Image

The Last Image (D3s, ISO 200, 1/125th, f/5.6 @ 32mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

Megan's sister was there as part time chaperone to keep things from getting too steamy and help out as full time photo assistant.  She did an awesome job considering how much she was being paid.  Here is an image of the team at work.  This is her response to my request, "Give me your Super Hot and Sassy Photo Assistant Pose"....

The A-Sister-ant

The A-Sister-ant (D3s, ISO200, 1/400th, f/5.6 @ 24mm, Nikkor 24-70)

We finally broke free from the bonds of St. Charles and made a trek to Busch Stadium for my favorite image of the day.  We finished up with a really cool and sentimental shot of the couple and Megan's grandfathers "Cardinals Fan Brick" and a few other shots at the stadium.

Super Fans

Super Fans (D3s, ISO 200, 1/60th, f/5.6 @ 24mm through Nikkor 24-70mm)

If you would like to see some of the other images we stole that day feel free to visit HERE.  Remember, to see any of the above images "Full Size" on your monitor just click on one!

Until the next image theft, enjoy!


Naughty Grant Boys (Warning – Christmas Card Spoiler):

The axiom of being a photographer is that there is this personal expectation to one-up yourself each Christmas with a more cute and creative image for the annual Christmas Card.  Added to that is the expectation from everyone else that the image contains a picture of the Grant boyz.  Here is this years attempt at both! 

Naughty Grant Boyz

Naughty Grant Boyz (Merry Christmas 2011)

Merry Christmas and Enjoy!

Warning: Chemical Engineering / Environmental Satire:

I know that many of you tree-hugger types may find this image offensive and it is still true that bio-fuels and "renew-ables" are still all the rage in Washington when it comes to energy source selection but I decided to go old school with this years Christmas photo and get back to the energy solution basics with good old fashioned COAL.  The kind that Naughty kids from all over the globe have been getting for centuries.  Giving the boyz a mason jar of Trans-Esterified Soy Bean Oil (Biodiesel) just didn't seem to fit the tradition of the season.

Please be warned if you decide to give your naughty kids COAL for Christmas with the expectation that you will save a few dollars on the Holiday budget you may be in for a surprise.  When the democratic run EPA found out that I was doing this shoot in a Non-Attainment area and a metropolitan city, I was notified by certified letter that I had to submit an Air Permit application to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources stating that I would not exceed the maximum concentration of CO2, NOx, SOx, Particulates, Ozone, Organics, Lead, and other heavy metals emissions as defined by the NAAQS.  The consulting fee's alone required to read and understand the local regulations and the expertise and software required to calculate the emissions plume exceeded my intended holiday budget by almost $200,000.  Plus, I was going to have to get an indentures waver from my sub-division for the 150' tall addition to my chimney because of the low stack temperatures required to meet said low NOx and energy consumption guidelines.  This massive stack is necessary to insure that my emissions would not endanger any tax paying Missouri voters and guarantee that they end up in Illinois where they are far too broke from enthusiastically preparing a jail cell for their past Governor  to afford the bureaucracy necessary to deal with such environmental shenanigans. 

Thus, I just settled for the above quick image of the Grant Boyz and had a HazMat team whisk the offending materials off to the closest membrane lined hazardous materials landfill.  Even though the materials were mined from the ground in the first place........


Black Friday Tradition with Shane (And now JD):

For about the last 7 or 8 years, I've had a Black Friday Tradition (Day after Thanksgiving for those of you who have been living in a cave for the last decade) of meeting up with my cousin Shane down in Southern Illinois and going bird hunting.  In good times I see him about 2 or 3 times a year.  In bad times I see him 4-5 because that means there were some family funerals we mutually attended. 

Shane Afield II

Shane Afield II (D3s, ISO200, 85mm, f/5.6, -2/3EV, 1/1600th through Nikkor 85mm)

Shane and I have been finding excuses to go shooting and hunting together for almost 25 years.  I have always had a fondness of him and consider him the younger brother that I never had.  I have great memories of my Aunt and Uncle coming to see us in Kansas City when he was just a toddler.  I used to carry him up and down the block and introduce him to all my neighborhood friends. It has been a highlight of my life watching him work hard and make his place in the world. It wouldn't be fall without a bird hunt with Shane and this year JD was old enough to join us, complete with upland blaze and Red Ryder BB-Gun.

JD After the Hunt

JD After the Hunt (D3s, ISO640, 85mm, f/5.6, -2/3EV, 1/1250th through Nikkor 85mm)

JD Shooting

JD Shooting (D3s, ISO200, 85mm, f/5.6, +1/3EV, 1/2500th through Nikkor 85mm)

JD and Shane

JD and Shane(D3s, ISO200, 85mm, f/5.6, +1/3EV, 1/2500th through Nikkor 85mm)

What a fantastic fall day spent with a couple of my favorite people in the world.  And who could forget the dogs........

Buck and Billy

Buck and Billy (D3S, ISO200, f/5.6, 1/1600th, -2/3EV, Through Nikkor 85mm)


Buck (D3S, ISO200, f/5.6, 1/1250, -2/3EV, Through Nikkor 85mm)

To See all the images from the day, Click Here:

Remember to Click on the Images and you can see them full size on your screen.  Enjoy!


Four, Cuatro, Vier, Quattro, Quatre, четыре, 四:

My youngest turned four today.  Wyatt is one of the most independent people I have ever known.  At the age of four he is completely comfortable in his own skin.  He doesn't care about what people think, wears whatever he wants, does whatever he wants, raids the pantry for his own snacks, fixes his own beverage of choice, has a plan to break everything we own before the age of 11, has numerous sunglasses and hats, Snowboots in Summer - Sandles in Winter, is a power disciple of Mickey Mouse Playhouse who doesn't miss an episode, and so far the only thing he seems to be scared of is snakes.  He also has his own suturing suite at Progress West Hospital and has been known to carry his plastic surgeons business card in his pocket for just in case.  He is so different from everyone else at age four that it is almost comical.  Everyone loves him, especially his dad.  Although I have evidence that he is secretly plotting my murder.......



Happy Fourth Birthday Wyatt.

Filed under: Family, Wyatt No Comments

The Cathedral Basilica (Saint Louis):

Last week I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Cathedral Basilica.  I've been to the Cathedral on two or three other occassions but every time it was for a huge event and I never really spent the time exploring the various "Chapels" around the Nave and Altar.  It is an absolute treasure to Saint Louis and to the catholic faith.  Obviously, being bestowed the "Basilica" rank is a huge confirmation of its magnificence but as they say a picture or in this case pictures are worth a thousand words.  (Remember, at any time, click on the image and you will be able to view it full size on your monitor).  I only took one image of the outside of the cathedral because the light was horrible when I was there.  I'll have to plan a trip back and document the exterior of this fantastic structure some other time when the light and sky is more favorable.   

Stone and Rose Window

Stone and Rose Window

Cathedral Facts:

  • Construction was completed in 1988, 76 years after it began.
  • There are 83,000 square feet or almost 2 acres of mosaic tesserae (tile).
  • There are 41Million tesserae using over 8000 shades of color.
  • 46,410 square feet of granite flooring.
  • 2 Stained Glass Rose Windows manufactured by Tiffany and Company.
  • Numerous marble statues (Saint Therese, Saint Anne, Saint Vincent De Paul, The Four Apostles and the Kneeling Angels)
  • 63 marble pillars with distinct capitals on the top of each.
  • 4 chapels (All Souls, Blessed Sacrament, All Saints, and Our Ladys Chapel)
  • 4 magnificent arches at the intersection of the naive (Arch of Triumph, Arch of Creation, Arch of Sanctification, and Arch of Judgement)
  • 3 Lunette's or half moon shaped sections featuring Passover, Last Supper and the Faithful.
  • An amazing Baldacchino or canopy supported by 14 columns over the altar helps paritioners inside experience the dome above the cathedral.

HDR Imagery:

The Narthex or entrance to the cathedral is a just a preview of the glory inside.  It features ten scenes depicting the life of Patron Saint King Louis IX of France.   

The Narthex

The Narthex

Once inside the nave, the cathedral is absolutely breathtaking.   

The Nave

The Nave

As you walk toward the alter and look back, you see where you entered and the first of the rose windows.   

The Rose Window

The Rose Window

As you walk toward the alter and pass under the great dome of the cathedral the view straight up is fantastic.   

The Dome from Below

The Dome from Below

The altar and baldacchino are incredible.  If you look in the lower corners you will see the two icons of a minor basilica.  In the lower left is the Tintinnabulum or bell and the conopeum which is a large umbrella composed of red and yellow stripes.  In ancient times they were used in papal cavalcades to the cathedral.  If our savior on the cross needs an introduction you should probably stop reading now and go to church!   

The Altar and Baldacchino

The Altar and Baldacchino

The All Saints Chapel is one of two Tiffany designed Italian style chapels featuring triptychs of saints and half lunettes.   

The All Saints Chapel

The All Saints Chapel

All Saints Chapel

All Saints Chapel

The Our Lady's Chapel features Triptychs depicting the life of the Blessed Virgin.   

Our Lady's Chapel

Our Lady's Chapel

The Blessed Virgin:   

Blessed Virgin

Blessed Virgin

The domes and arches at the intersection of the naives was spectacular.  There are depictions of the history of the City of Saint Louis all over the cathedral.   

Domes and Arches

Domes and Arches

The nave to the right as you are looking at the altar.  I believe the mosaic on the ceiling is depicting the resurrected Christ.   

The East Transept.

The East Transept.

The West Transept was equally incredible featuring the fires of the pentecost.   

The West Transept

The West Transept

The patron saint King Louis IX has his own marble statue in the cathedral.  The marble is amazing....   

King Louis IX

King Louis IX

King Louis IX

King Louis IX

The view from behind the main altar and baldacchino was pretty spectacular.  This image almost looks 3D.  each of the 14 columns is completely different.   

The Baldacchino

The Baldacchino

The ambulatory leading to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is red depicting Christs Blood.  I didn't get many images of the chapel due to it being closed for an event.   

The Ambulatory

The Ambulatory

The entrance to the Blessed Sacrement Chapel has two huge iron gates that were on an exhibit at the St. Louis Worlds Fair in 1904.  They add a cool sense of security to the Chapel.   

Blessed Sacrament Chapel Entrance

Blessed Sacrament Chapel Entrance

The All Souls Chapel is above the resting place of past and future parish cardinals.  It is distinctly different or more conservative than the other chapels with its walls being primarily marble with no mosaic.  The custom is to hang the cardinals Galero (red tasseled hat) from the ceiling until it disintegrates.   

All Souls Chapel

All Souls Chapel

The main altar, baldacchino and dome featuring the 12 apostles.   

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles

If you would like to see all the images I captured, click Here:   

I had an amazing time spending time in the Basilica Cathedral.  I cannot wait to go back and capture some more "detailed" images of the mosaics and relics in this cherished place.  A person could spend a lifetime studying the detail and underlying meaning of every mosaic and architectural feature in this holyist of places and it would not be a waste of time.    

In a word....  "Spectacular"  


Photographers Notes:

Capturing images in low light in a Cathedral is difficult but obviously not impossible.  Capturing bracketed images for HDR can be daunting, especially since all of these were taken hand-held since tripods were not allowed.  I didn't spend a lot of time talking about the settings of each of these images because the only change made to the camera was the focal length of the Nikkor 24-70mm lens and I lived at 24mm almost the entire time.  Camera settings were Aperature Priority, ISO3200, f/4.0, full scene matrix metering, Auto-Focus (Lock not continuous) and RAW to tweak later.  I was moving fast and keeping up with a group so lens changes and goofing around with the camera was not possible.  You have to have good handheld technique, compose it fast, compose it accurate, squeeze off a few rounds, and get out.  The photog version of a SEAL team.   If you want to shoot your own cathedral / church images, here are some tips:  

  1. Loose the iPhone:  This is no job for your iPhone, Blackberry, or point and shoot camera for that matter.  I'm not saying you can't do it but you would need some serious support.  If you had a little tripod for your phone you might be able to pull off single images but why would you want to?
  2. Lights Out:  This should go without saying but unless you are getting a shot of another shooter and you need fill for portraits, turn off the flash!  All those tiles are just going to light up like a Christmas tree and blast specular highlights in your face.  This is especially important if there is a request for no-flash photography.
  3. High ISO:  Here is the bad news.  If your camera cannot pull off 3200 or 6400 ISO with minimal noise your images are going to suffer.  Lotsa red and green grainy dots are in your future without a good camera.  I am lucky to own the D3S so I shot all of these images at 3200 ISO.
  4. Fast Glass Good but not Mandatory:  Fast glass would help a little but because you want some decent depth of field, you are going to be around f/4.0 or f/5.6 for most of these shots so having the new 24mm f/1.4 isn't going to be that much of a help.  Good glass is an advantage.  I shot the Nikkor 24-70 mm lens here because I was on a tour and didn't know what I was going to shoot.
  5. Compose the sensor flat to your subject.  I don't have a tilt shift so I have to be cautious.  If you don't compose with your sensor flat to the wall, its going to have that tapered towering skyscraper effect.  As you can see from the images above, most have perfectly square lines.  This was no accident.  Square lines = good composition.
  6. Compose big:  Leave a little space for cropping and lens correction.  When moving fast your going to screw up your composition.  If you leave room to crop, rotate square, and tilt/lens correct for vertical or non-flat sensor to wall composition then you can fix it with photoshop / lightroom without losing all of the subject.
  7. Good handheld technique:  Tighten up the camera strap, twist it around your arm, wrap yourself around the camera, press it tight to your face, compose, exhale halfway and fire.  I like to rest the D3S on my shoulder using a Kirk Super Grip for added stability.  This badboy + an L bracket for your camera is about $250.00 but worth its weight in great images. 
    Super Grip

    Super Grip

    Practice your low shutter handheld technique.  I can shoot down to 1/10 to 1/5th depending on the day with my technique.  Lay off the wine the night before if you want to be rock steady. 

  8. Brace yourself:  In just about every image I am using features to help stabilize my shots.  At a minimum I am using my good handheld techniqe and leaning against a pillar or wall.  Often I actually rest the camera on something or push the action grip (it has little rubber nubs) against the wall and my face for added support.  If your church allows it, use a tripod.  If not, don't be an A-hole and follow the rules.  If you break the rules enough, it forces people to make rash decisions and not allow photography at all.
  9. Take pictures but listen to your tour guide.  As you can see from the above post, there are several great cathedral architectural terms I learned on this shoot.  Before now, I had no idea what a Tesserae, Narthex, Lunette, Baldacchino or a Cinquefoil was.  If you stay engaged with your tour guide, ask questions, and smile at her every once in a while, your tour is going to last longer and go to places that it normally does not.
  10. Be respectful:  If there is an event, mass, etc going on or your tour guide is talking quietly with a group, don' t just rip off 9 bracketed images in the middle of it all.  The D3S in burst mode sounds like a freakin' sub-machine gun in a marble and mosaic covered cathedral!
  11. Donate:  Toss some coin in that donation box.  How do you think they maintain that beautiful subject you just shot!

Until the next theft!  Enjoy!


One Hundred Image Blog Posts (Favorite Photographs):

It's been 22 months since I got the inspiration to do an image blog and here we are with our 100th post!   The driving purpose of this site was to  force me to integrate photography into my daily life. Practice makes perfect and if you don't have a need, there is usually no drive to practice.  What an incredible two years it has been!   The urge to keep this site up to date with fresh content has pushed me to not only improve my photography skills to a level that I would never have dreamed but it has also given me a reason to see new things within St Louis.  And man do I see differently.  I rarely look at anything anymore without taking a second peek at it through the lens. 

So.  I really wanted to photograph something epic for this artistic milestone and I did.  This week I had the opportunity to photograph the inside of the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica and the images turned out great.  You'll get a chance to see them in post 102! However, after some consideration, I decided that post 100 should give a recap to the readers and I would share my favorite images from the past 2 years.  Believe it or not, this was not an easy task.  From August of 2009 I have captured over 38,000 images on over 250 separate occasions.  Thank god for digital.  In the fillm days that would have been about $17K for film and processing.  Makes the return on investment of my Nikon gear seem a little more justified.

Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite blog images in no particular order.....