Sunday, August 30, 2009

Faith on Film: Mission San Juan Capistrano in B&W

Given the response to last week’s posting, I decided to pull out my San Juan Capistrano B&W images. However, I haven’t actually printed these yet. So you are seeing the ‘best’ of my scans directly from the negatives.

Since I could not photograph inside the present Mission Church, I spent most of my time in the Original Mission Church Ruins, begun in 1797 and destroyed by an earthquake on December 8, 1812. Ruins lend themselves to B&W anyway. Often in a very hectic and busy American tourist spot you can have the ruins all to yourself, even with hundreds of other tourist around.

Here I learned a long standing photographic truth: if you set up a tripod and look like you are a serious photographer, all of the tourist will flock around to see what you find so interesting (because maybe they should photograph it also). I’ve labeled that ‘special’ photograph below. It was an empty grain storage room. I was attracted to the light coming through the window. The dozen or so people that found it necessary to ‘climb over me and the tripod’ to take a peak inside were sorely disappointed. I enjoyed the looks on their faces as they walked away confused.

When visiting the California Missions, don’t be surprised or disappointed if you don’t get inside. These are active Roman Catholic Churches and as such, there may be a wedding or some other event. I also didn’t get to photograph much of Mission Santa Barbara for the same reason.

But in this case, I think the runs turned out to be much more interesting.

Camera: Mamiya 645 Pro TL with Tripod
Lens: Mamiya Sekkor f/2.8 45mm
Film: Ilford ISO 100

Scanner: Epson Perfection V700
Resolution: 2400 dpi
A higher resolution would have taken a ‘million years’. I use these scans (usually at much lower resolution) as my contact sheet.

For the brightest white with details preserved, always use a deep yellow filter!


  1. Hi! Very good black and whites from the Mission, great post. Answering your question, no I never had that problem in Boston. I had the problem in New York years ago when trying to photograph a bridge.

  2. I can see now your passion. These are excellent photos. The Capistrano is a place to be for a photographer, very beautiful.

    Thank you for your kind words and I wish you to visit the places you want.