Stained-Glass Photography

Barts Heart Centre is a brand-new, state-of-the-art health-care-facility at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. Savannah-based stained-glass artist, Erica Rollings (, was asked to create a piece for the new hospital. Three months work resulted in an amazing stained-glass masterpiece of an anatomically-correct human heart, and it is almost 3 feet square. The piece is actually two stained-glass windows sandwiched together to show both an internal anatomy and that of the coronary arteries on the outside of the heart.

Prior to being packaged for shipment, Erica asked me to photograph the window. Most of us have taken photos of stained glass in cathedrals and other public locations “in-situ.” Photographing the art piece “in-the-raw” provides a unique opportunity to minimize distortion. The first consideration is to make sure the plane of the film or sensor (in the case of digital photography) is parallel to to window – and at the same time the center of the lens should be at the same height as the center of the of the window. If the format of the camera does not exactly match that of the window, in-camera cropping should allow enough space around the piece for post-production cropping. The final consideration is the lighting. Front lighting causes the window to lose texture and flattens the colors. The best choice is back lighting, either actual or artificial sunlight – at an angle that mimics the real thing. Side lighting can bring out the lead “came” or strips of lead used to join the pieces of glass. This photograph was taken in the artist’s backyard using backlit sunlight. The particulars include Nikon D800, ISO 100, Nikon 70-200 mm f2.8 lens at 160 mm, f11, 1/80th sec.



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