I spent a hour on Sunday night covering St. Michael’s Byzantine Church’s Centennial Year kickoff at the request of my dear friends Paul and Chris. Paul is a fellow photog, and will be spending the next year leading up to the Centennial day making a photographic record of his church, to be published in a memorial book for the members. He’s asked me to help him along the way, and this was the first shoot – so while he shot from the balcony, I shot from the front row, feeling a little in the dark and trying to anticipate the action as it unfolded.

St Michael's Church Centennial Kickoff service

Covering anything in a church is difficult at best – wedding shooters know this well. As lovely as many of them are, churches simply aren’t known for being havens of good light. And despite the fact that this particular church is one of the better-lit examples I’ve seen, I was still operating on the ragged edge.

St Michael's Church Centennial Kickoff service

What we have here is f/3.5, 1/60, ISO 1250, plus a little exposure boost in ACR. This is all further helped by a 430EX on-camera, with the head aimed generally upwards and covered by a Sto-Fen diffuser. On-camera diffused flash isn’t my first choice – it isn’t usually even my third choice. But this was a situation where I wanted to remain as discrete as possible; setting up lightstands and umbrellas wasn’t an option this time, so the little 430EX + Sto-Fen provided just the needed flick of extra light to fill some shadows and add a touch of specular highlight.

I tossed the Sto-Fen back in my pocket after the service, when the congregation descended into the basement hall for a potluck dinner. Church hall or not, this was just another open room with a suspended ceiling, which is in the realm of direct bounce flash. Of course, the trick here is keeping a balanced flash exposure, one with the power to reach the father corners, without blowing out the nearest highlights. It’s a juggling game, a few moments spent tweaking TTL or manual power settings to reach an optimum exposure.

St Michael's Church Centennial Kickoff potluck dinner

The real fun is still to come – the next step in this project is a series of static architectural-style shots, just to show several different interior and exterior views of the church. We’ve already done some quick recon-style shots, in anticipation of bringing in the gear and going all-out. And it really will be fun, because as much as I had to work light this time, in the next shoot I’ll get full run of the place.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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