Bucket list: Cave Hills Church at sunset

There’s a photo I’ve wanted to get for years. My subject is the Cave Hills Church, situated at the base of an incredible ridge of rocks, at just the right time and from just the right place.

I’d been here before, and found myself totally enamored of it, but I’d never really caught the photo of it I wanted. I discovered this church after seeing someone else’s photo of it and painstakingly dialing in its location. Once I visited the first time – and it’s a long trip to get back there – I knew what I wanted. But how to get it?

The thing about this church – or any church, or any photo subject anywhere – is that there’s a right time and a right angle. Take this shot, for instance…it’s really nice, but it completely misses those beautiful rocky cliffs in the background! So I knew I wanted to be uphill a little bit, trying to include those cliffs.

Okay…not bad. I had good clouds to work with that day. But it doesn’t quite do those cliffs justice. The church is too large in relation to the rocky ridge. Okay, bringing a high-quality telephoto lens and shooting from a distance will even that out, with the church a little smaller and the hills a little larger. That’ll work.

But what about the light? That green grass is lovely, and the hills have a nice texture, especially when offset by that deep blue sky and fabulous clouds. But that isn’t what I was trying to capture.

There we go. I knew the sunset would hit those rocks just right, bringing out their true red color. But it took some care to finally get this shot. Part of what keeps photography fresh for me when so many of my photo friends have fallen by the wayside (aside from never doing weddings or portrait work) is the planning. I love learning about places like this, finding where they are, scoping out to see if they still exist and how to access them, and then finally capturing them. This was quite a satisfying ordeal.

I’m putting this intermediate shot in here for illustration: I had to wait for the sunset, then catch that brief, fleeting instant where the red light hit the cliffs behind the church. You can see here that the shadow is starting to creep up the hill. The church is still partially bathed by the light, which is pretty yellow yet. Once the sun went behind the peaks behind me, it took on that red hue and only fell upon the rocky ridge which was the most critical element of this little plan of mine.

By the way, this was the ridge behind me, the one which diffracted that sunset light to give me the splash of red I was looking for. Once I’d achieved what I wanted with the church, and the red light on the rocks began to fade, I whipped around to grab this haphazard shot for the heck of it. Maybe to give it credit for lighting my scene with perfection.

Of course, now I’d like to get that sunset photo with green grass, not golden stubble (it had just been cut for hay). So I guess I’ll plan another road trip to this church next year!