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Little Churches

untitled-5074It never ceases to amaze me as I travel around this little island they call Britain just how wonderfully diverse it really is. Geologically it’s one of the most varied pieces of land on the planet with many different types of rock formations formed over millions of years from volcanos, glaciers, sedentary processes and all sorts of other ways. Unfortunately I am not a geologist and so that’s where my knowledge ceases. However, I do know that it is unbelievably varied an beautiful.

Now although I’m not a geologist I am an ordained minister, yes, the Rev Brian is now in session, but my views are spiritual rather than orthodox religious and so churches as religious buildings are, for me, somewhere I have no ties to at all.  I do however, have a fascination in them as architectural items, especially as a photographer.

Yesterday in my role as an Assistant Governor for District 1190 of Rotary International I had been visiting one of the clubs in my area for their Club Assembly, a meeting where they set out all of their aims for the next year. The sun was burning down and as I came out of the pretty market town of Keswick on the banks of Derwent Water in the North of the English Lake District National Park I looked out on the glorious hills in the area including Skiddaw and the famous saddleback.

I decided then and there that I was not going to take the M6 Motorway back home but instead head out along the fells past Bassenthwaite and onto the A595 to Carlisle. Much prettier and more scenic.

untitled-5077As usual my camera was beside me in its bag and ready for use. Now I have a couple of Canon cameras including a 1D which is awesome but my trusty little 1200d tends to be the one I use most of all. It’s light, quick, easy to use and very capable and most of all allows you to take great shots on a very low budget. I tend to use EF-S lenses on it which are designed to be used only with APS-C cropped sensor cameras.

Recently I bought a Canon 17-85mm USM lens with IS (image stabilisation) from a chap locally to myself on Ebay. Unfortunately It did not work. I traced it to a common problem where the iris ribbon cable splits. After a quick chat with the seller I sent it for a repair which only cost around £50.00 and a deal was struck for the balance.

Physically its quite a large lens but the focal length range is a really good useable upgrade from the 18-55mm kit lens supplied and the IS gives another useable 3 stops of speed when hand holding, especially useful at the fully zoomed end in low light.

Anyhow, I digress. Driving back with the roof of the car down and drinking in the sunshine I was itching to find a reason to stop and get the camera out. It didn’t take long to find one as I came around the bend to enter the little village of Bassenthwaite on the edge of Lake Bassenthwaite where I saw the most quaint and beautiful church you could imagine. Notice I said Lake Bassenthwaite? Now just a little note for my friends who are not from this area, the English Lake District has only one Lake and that is Bassenthwaite. The rest are Waters, Tarns or Meres.

untitled-5078St John’s church was looking beautiful as I passed through the small arch from the road into the church grounds. Immaculately cut grass and a warm looking stone building greeted me…..closely followed by a warm greeting from the grounds man and his small team who had been cutting the grass.

First thing to strike the eye is the tiny yet perfectly proportioned tower to the rear of the church. I was disappointed to be told by the groundsmen that the tower was being considered for removal as it costs too much for the maintenance. In days gone by the parishioners would have tended to it but these days people are less willing or interested. Sad

untitled-5076I always find it difficult to walk around church grounds to take photos as many have grave yards in the grounds. I hate walking over the grave areas as I find it highly disrespectful to do so. I tend to walk the long way around to get to different points and often the places I would choose to take a shot from are unavailable as there is a ‘place of rest’ at that point.

Going around to the rear of the building reveals the scourge of the architectural photographer…..the necessary evil of the plastic rubbish bin! Even so, it still is a magnificent building.

untitled-5100Back into the car and head back home. Just as I arrive at the main traffic roundabout near Carlisle I look out to my right and see the church tower at Thursby village peeping over the trees. And so a detour into the village is in order.

A much larger church than the one at Bassenthwaite and a much more ‘Norman’ style, St Andrews was built in 1846 so it is a relatively ‘modern’ church, it was restored in 1878 and again after a fire in 2009.

The church is an imposing building towering over the village thanks to the fact that it is built on the top of a small hillock.

I have been challenged several times about my style of photographing tall buildings. “The verticals all converge”, “You are ‘suffering’ convergence distortion”, Why not use a tilt/shift lens?”. SUFFERING CONVERGENCE DISTORTION…. it sounds as though I have some form of tropical disease lol. Well, I have used TS lenses in the past, and they do a great job but do you know what? I like the ‘convergence distortion’, it’s part of my style and I love the way that it make the building look even more imposing (or intimidating depending on the shot).

untitled-1103I do think that photography has two distinct reasons to exist. One is as a factual recording device where it is important that it records what we see honestly and accurately, the other is as an art where we can take the world around us and create an image from that by bending the light, distorting the light, diffracting the light, pulling light in from angles wider than we can see or narrower than we normally see, by changing the focus of what we see and many many other techniques. Both reasons are equally valid, indeed we rely on factual recordings for our news and our history but we also need our photography as an art.

Using the distortion is my way of adding my own artistic stamp on what I see.

untitled-5090Sitting here at home, writing this blog I have realised that I really do need to seek out many more of these little churches and photograph them. What a great theme for an exhibition. And also maybe to seek out the churches which have transformed into other uses, for instance, there is an ex church in Carlisle being used as a fireplace shop and another as a café. I think I see a project developing.

So until next time…………







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