This past year, Christ Church Cathedral has been celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding. One of many celebratory occurrences has been the acquisition of the classic crèche scene from the old Woodwards department store, which was formerly sometimes on display at The Bay. In addition to singing in the choir and serving on many committees over the years, I've often been responsible for architectural photography of the space and things in it--and with two (and soon to be three) renovations at the Cathedral since I joined in 1998, that's been an important ministry as well as leading to all sorts of other interesting work. This time last year, I got the opportunity to photograph the crèche--since at that point we weren't sure what its future was going to be. It's since been donated to the Cathedral officially by the Bay, ensuring that it will be on display in a happy and appreciative home.
There are a bunch of challenges involved in photographing the crèche, largely owing to the small space it's displayed in. Since the west alcove is only scarcely larger than your average bathroom, that's a lot of stuff for a small space--and a lot of extra light to carefully pack in and, likely, remove in post. That of course took a good couple of hours of carefully placing and flagging hot lights to bring out the detail in the wood. It's not just a group portrait executed in wood--a lot of the detail isn't in the faces, and getting that out was an effort powered by a half dozen PAR hotlights.
The more interesting challenge was getting light on the 'Mary' window after hours. Since I wanted control over all the light, I had to shoot the crèche after hours (which since it's winter, only means about 4pm). However, from experience (being bored during all those committee meetings!), I knew that light pours through the Mary window at around 11 each day as the Hyatt next door essentially functions as a gigantic bounce card, dumping nicely filtered, coloured, and angled light onto the west alcove. I thought it would be neat to incorporate this light into a photo of the crèche...but that wasn't going to happen after hours without putting a remote flash outside and creating that light myself.
Which I did, thanks to my assistant Andre holding a RadioPopper-equipped flash on a long pole atop an extension ladder outside. Amazingly, there was enough signal getting through the window and heavy stone wall to (most of the time) trip the flash.
If you haven't been by the Cathedral yet to look at the crèche in all its glory, it's worth a visit. It will be on display until January 6, so check the Cathedral's website for hours and stop in. Merry Christmas, everyone!