#344. On location: Gloucester Cathedral (When Harry met Hermione)

By pascaljappy | Travel Photography

Apr 14

After visiting monumental religious edifices such as Winchester, Notre Dame or Ely, approaching Gloucester Cathedral is a little underwhelming. It isn’t showcased by beautiful surroundings, set on a mound or particularly large. So, the long drive from Oxford suddenly feels like a waste of time.

Inside, however … is photographer’s paradise.

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Your first sight, when entering is an unusual looking baptismal font, which the tour guide is quick to tell you is a recent, and mixed blessing, gift. One which replaced the older, more venerated and better loved stone version now relegated to the crypt, below (logical, right ?)

DSC07271-Modifier-ModifierFinal home of Kings and higher order church representatives, the cathedral is spectacular and offers many fantastic angles. Set 2 photographers free inside and they’re unlikely to come out with the same photographs. Anyone remotely interested in history will find the place fascinating, as will lovers of great architecture. Every space seems to have a different atmosphere and is conducive to a different style of photography.

Below are a few samples of the things to expect.

DSC07327-Modifier-ModifierDSC07316DSC07293-ModifierDSC07295-Modifier-Modifier-2Stained glass is particularly interesting. Some very ancient depictions of sports (apparently a golfing scene pre-dates Scottish ones by 3 whole centuries) are found next to contemporary creations, some stunning in colour, others very abstract (you can see the golfer in the bottom-right red roundel, two pictures down, click for a larger view).

DSC07315You will need a wide-angle lens for a lot of these scenes. My lens of choice was the Zeiss Distagon 25/2, brilliant for extracting detail in low-light and low-contrast environments.

All the photographs on this page were made using this lens. As you can see, it renders with a bit of bite, but doesn’t feel harsh. Its colours are fantastic, particularly considering the lighting conditions. It feels quite similar in drawing to the Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 ZM recently reviewed on this blog, with perhaps a bit more tooth and slightly less elegance. But if behaves exceptionally well, with the exception of occasional purple fringing and shaky extreme corners on flat subjects.

DSC07302-Modifier As you can tell from the photographs of the crypt’s baptismal font and of the pulpit with two lamps, above, bokeh is very pleasing in those situations. And I really like how three dimensionally the statue below is rendered, as well.DSC07357-ModifierBut my visit was neither historical nor review based …

The fact is the cathedral is often used as a set for film crews. Our elated guide described her recent chat with Benedict Cumberbatch a few weeks earlier. And several episodes of Harry Potter used the magnificent cloisters as Hogwarts corridors. That was my reason for visiting 🙂 🙂

DSC07343-ModifierIn episode 1, this is where Ron and Harry hide from the troll about to attack Hermione.  And below are the corridors used in the Chamber of Secrets as well as in the more recent films, notably when Ron & Harry stare idly at first years before professor McGonagall snaps at them and sends them away to new courses.

And the stunning cloister has seen more movie & performing arts sets since (Dr Who, Sherlock, Wolf Hall …) and will likely see more in the future.

DSC07341 DSC07332 DSC07330Architecturally, the cloister is very similar to Oxford’s Bodleian Library, also used in Harry Potter films (the Divinity School was the set for Hogwarts’ infirmary) and are well worth the visit even if photography isn’t your thing.

And the crypt is another interesting / beautiful / Harry-Potteresque, must-visit attraction in the cathedral. It is accessed via this red door, in guided tours only.

DSC07292-Modifier Lighting, in the crypt, is very low, but glorious. You’ll need a high-sensitivity camera or a tripod. The latter is objectively better, but the tour is fast-moving and you will not be alone for long, so high ISO is best for grabbing opportunities.DSC07262So there you have it. In all its glory, one of the photographic crown jewels of the Cotswolds. Gloucester also has interesting docks and arcades to photograph. Other fantastic towns and villages (Painswick, for instance) are close-by. If you’re in that neck of the woods anytime, make sure you pay a visit, and plan for a good 2 hours of photography in the cathedral alone.

Have fun !

Let me leave you with a few B&W interpretations, all of which are available in incredibly rare limited editions of 1 for $6,500,000 (worth a try). If you know someone with more money than brains, please share, we’ll split profits 😀



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  • SteveG says:

    Well done, Pascal. You found one of our favourite places and made a good job of catching some of the beauties.
    There are many other architectural beauties further west – call me and I’ll take you to some of them.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Steve, thanks for the kind words and offer! I’ll take you up on it. It’s looking like my next visit to your wonderful aread will be next October, which gives us time to plan ahead. I look forward to it. Pascal.

  • Philberphoto says:

    Stunning pictures, Pascal! I asked myself “which one do I like best?”, until I had counted almost all of them, and stopped. Wow! And the treatment in post is superb. Now I can’t go and visit, because I am afraid I will not enjoy the magic your shots have created in my mind. Better to keep the illusion!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ha ha, thank you Philippe 😉 The colour photographs have had very little PP. But the B&W are indeed heavily edited. I particularly tried to work on smoothing the background on some photographs to highlight the difference between in focus and out of focus areas. The cathedral is still worth a visit, as it has a lot more to offer than what is displayed here 🙂

  • Christopher Perez says:

    I MUST go. Wow. What a place, this.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, you’d probably find lots of interesting subject matter for your creations. I love churches, they all seem so different in character to one another.

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