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Houses of Worship
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Houses of Worship

In addition to reflecting their deepest spiritual beliefs, the places where people worship are often signposts of architectural and social progress. Pictures of them, both inside and out, can make an excellent running theme in your travel album.

One common frustration travelers encounter in photographing such buildings is getting a clear shot at them. Often nearby vantage points are obscured by other buildings or the clutter of a busy city. A more basic problem is fitting the entire structure into the frame. You can sometimes squeeze things in with a wide-angle lens (24mm or wider), but you must often tip the camera up to include the tallest parts, which produces an effect called keystoning, in which the buildings appear to be falling backward.

The simplest cure for both problems is to move farther away and shoot with a normal or medium telephoto lens. Don't be afraid to include some of the building's surroundings if you must, even if they conflict with it philosophically: A modern shopping mall next to an ancient temple gives viewers a realistic perspective. Indoors, since flash is fairly useless in very large spaces (and is prohibited in most religious buildings anyway), you will need to resort to setting a very fast ISO speed. Even then you'll have to use the back of a pew or the railing of a choir loft to steady the camera, unless you have good image stabilization. Shoot from the ground up using a wide-angle lens to exaggerate the height of a massive nave; or climb to a balcony or choir loft to get a bird's-eye view of altars or stained glass windows. A medium telephoto will enable you to isolate architectural details that you just can't get to physically.

Remember that these are houses of worship. Ask whether photography is permitted; if you're allowed to photograph, be discreet and always defer to those worshipping.

Next: "Stained Glass Windows"