Abbey Normal?

Westminster Abbey, London, 1993

One of my favorite types of lighting is to have a brightly lit object in front of a dark background. This serves to highlight the subject and make it stand out better. When I’m on location with a model, I will often look for a way to place a model in sunlight against a shadowy or shady background. A simple way to do this in a studio, of course, is to simply use a dark backdrop against which the illuminated model will stand out.
Sometimes, though, this can happen with larger objects – like buildings.
I recently went through a closet where I keep my photo gear and looked through the files of photos I keep on the top shelf. One of these was a binder containing photos that I’d put together as a presentation for stock photo agencies, in the days when I thought I could do stock photography to help pay for my travels. (If you’re wondering, it never happened.)
Naturally, these were what I considered to be my best travel photos at the time. Almost all of them were medium format images, but there were a couple of pages of 35mm transparencies that I had made before I got my medium format gear.
Among them were the two photos you see here, depicting Westminster Abbey in London, and I can still remember making them. It was the summer of 1993 and I was on a whirlwind “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” kind of trip with a friend. I normally don’t go on tours like this in Europe, as I prefer to travel around on my own, but at the time, I was working full time and going to school at night, so I just had no time to plan a trip of my own making.

Regarding these photos, my friend and I had gotten to the Abbey in late afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky. Being in Great Britain, one is lucky to see any direct sunshine at all. (What’s the line from The Beatles’ song ‘I am The Walrus’: “And if the sun don’t come you get a tan from standing in the English rain”?) As luck would have it, the sun was streaming through clearly from the west, but being Britain, there were dark clouds behind the Abbey.
This, then, is one of my favorite types of outdoor lighting for things like buildings or mountains – direct low sunlight on the subject with a dark, cloudy background behind it. Fortunately, too, the great cathedrals of Europe all seem to face west, so in this case, it was the façade of Westminster Abbey that was so beautifully illuminated.
When I came upon this scene, I was not in a position to take any photos. I also didn’t know how long this light would last, as a cloud could have come by at any time to block the sun. So, I literally ran from where I had been standing to get to a place where I could take the photos.
I did get there in time. These are the results.
In other news, I developed five rolls of film today.  I have now finished developing all of the film that I shot on my trip to Japan – last May.  That leaves only 40+ rolls of film – almost all of them of nude models – to be taken care.
One of these days, one of these days……..

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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6 Responses to Abbey Normal?

  1. artmodel says:

    Gorgeous photos, Dave. I hadn’t considered the beauty of that light arrangement before. Well, with models I have, but not like this with a building. The Abbey looks amazing illuminated in this way.

    • Dave Rudin says:

      Thank you for the comment, Claudia.

      This kind of lighting doesn’t seem to occur often, but when it does, it can be amazing. The fact that the Abbey is made of light colored stone enhances the effect even more, along with its facade facing west right into the sun.

  2. Fantastic detail in these shots, Dave. The architecture itself is great art, and then the effect is doubled by the beauty of your captures.

  3. Dave Rudin says:

    Thanks, Carla. I posted the photos large so that people could see the details of the facade.

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