J MacDonald Photography
I Manipulate Photons


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What Were You Thinking?: Installment #2

Welcome to month #2 of my new series of blog posts in which I go "behind the scenes" of the why and how I make my images. This month we'll be looking at the making of M66 Church. Let's start with the  final image shall we?


This image was shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and new mZuiko 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye

So let's talk about inspiration for a minute. 

The inspiration for this photo goes back to my childhood, and my first memories of going to church. I am not from a "seriously" church oriented family, but we did from time to time attend a service. At one point we must have gone to a small church in the countryside because I have a vivid memory of a little church, not unlike this one, on a hot summer afternoon. The church was surrounded by fields and there were little kids my age holding their parents hands waiting to go inside.  

Fast forward 35 years or so and I am told about this church in a rural farm community in Michigan by my wife who happened upon it on a drive home from across the state. My son (the budding photographer) who was with her had his Olympus TOUGH TG-860 with him and was inspired enough to shoot it.  As soon as I saw the photo I was struck with the feeling of deja vu. I could smell straw and green grass, I could feel the humid summer air blowing and hear the muted conversations of adults making their greetings to one another. 


So I did just that. I made a detour coming home from our camper up north to shoot this church on a hot May evening. The sky was a sea of blue that was filing up with billowy clouds that begged of rain. The grass in front of the church was blowing in a humid breeze.....I was INSPIRED!!! 

My choice of gear, and why I chose what I did.

I had two camera bodies with me that day, the OM-D E-M1, and the OM-D E-M5 Mark II.  I also had several lenses with me but among them all the new mZuiko 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye was the one I had to use. And here is why.

The image floating in my head was of seeing a tall steeple and tall double doors and feeling a sense of something bigger than me at work. Church always felt that was as a kid. Like I was someplace that was larger than I could understand, like I was never going to be big enough to fit in it. To get a sense of "overwhelming presence" I knew I wanted to shoot wide...Really wide. I had with me the mZuiko 12mm f/2 but knew there was no way that would give not only a wide enough perspective, but one with that distorted sense of grandeur I felt in that memory.  So the fisheye it was!


Composing with a fisheye is fun. You can put the horizon line either high, or low, and watch the distortion kick in and get all crazy...You know, like a fisheye. Or......You can compose with the horizon line in the center of the image and like magic, MOST of the fisheye effect disappears. What you end up with is a MEGAWIDE image. Granted, if there are objects (like churches?) in the center of the scene they will distort and give this sense of "reaching toward you" and that is exactly what I went for here. I composed with the horizon line mostly centered, and my relationship to the church slightly to the side. This gave me the feeling of the church bending towards me, beckoning me in to the slightly open doors. I also kept myself low to the ground so as to allow plenty of grass in the foreground. Again, this was done to give a sense of beckoning to go in to the church. You are drawn from the bottom of the image and its dark green grass to the white church near the center of the scene. Rule of thirds be damned!

Post Processing

So where do I start? Let me start by saying that this was a handheld bracketed shot.  I took 3 photos (thank god for the killer image stabilization in the OM-D E-M5 Mark II) and processed them in Nik Software's HDR Efex PRO2, then did some localized adjustments to the sky and areas of the grass. The whole process too maybe 10 minutes. Do you want to see the original zero exposure value photo? 

Here it is.

The original SOOC camera shot.

If you are interested in the methods used to process this single image please take a few minutes to with the video below in which I show my technique. While the exact methods will vary slightly from one image to the next, the video will give you the tools to get a good idea how to do this with your own images.

Thanks for stopping in and feel free to ask questions below in the comments, over on the Youtube channel (Please subscribe and give thumbs up!) or I am always open to emails.

Take care.