Behind the Scenes: Ethereal Confines of the Heavenly Devine


It was an early and freezing February morning, that Karen Jerzyk and I shot in this amazingly ornate abandoned church. We sat under the arched ceiling as we watched the sunrise pour bright red light through the windows as it broke over the horizon, with our friends and models. As we waited for more quality light for shooting and walked through the dismantled debris of intricate carvings, we studied the details in the stained glass windows and walked over dead pigeons. Out of nowhere,  Karen suddenly found her right leg engulfed by one of the rotting floor boards, with a proud and nasty bruise that followed after. 

As the clouds started to clear the sky and sun was lighting most of the interior, we began shooting. Karen started shooting first, with her model vibrantly maneuvering poses over a broken pipe organ on the torn up balcony, accompanied by colorful smoke bombs and a caged dead bird that she easily and recently acquired. 

Once the smoke cleared and another batch of clouds cleared the sky, I was ready to start shooting. I tried shooting the interior with a 10-20mm Sigma lens, but at the last minute I switched to my 85mm Nikkor instead. There were two main reasons why I switched from shooting everything in one shot with a wide lens to using a prime lens and compositing the images in post production: 

  1. Shooting multiple shots of the environment at a fixed length would give me a much higher resolution in the final image and would also provide more depth of field. 
  2. I honestly felt like challenging myself to do it, like I was egging myself on to just go a little overboard and see how it would turn out.

I set my tripod up as centered and near to the edge of the balcony. Shooting pan after pan, starting from the middle, working my way up, then back to the middle and captured the bottom and floor. In total, all the pans added to 250 shots, taking around 35 minutes to shoot. 

At this point I was ready to shoot my friend and model, Steph. It was an early morning for her and she had to go to work shorty after. While waiting, she laid on the floor, cocooned in her bed comforter, trying to keep warm. I placed her near the window in the same direction I shot the interior to match the light for the composite later. I brought to the shoot a pair of taxidermy bird wings to also shoot in the same light and position them in a way to have them look as if they were flapping. 

This photograph has been one of the most challenging photographic projects I've attempted. The church itself is a stitch of between 75-80 individual photographs that I sorted out from the shoot, along with several more to create the angel. Three weeks in total was the time I spent on post processing, and I'm really proud of the final result. At 100% I could print this photograph around 7ft!