Photographing The Cold Blue Light Of Contemplation

The interior of a chapel, illuminated with bluish light, made for a very tranquil and contemplative scene in a cemetery in Berlin, Germany.

I have a particular fondness for blue light. Perhaps it's the mournful, melancholy qualities of that emotionally coldest of lights that touches me most.

This image showcases the interior of a chapel, illuminated with bluish light, in the grounds of a cemetery in Berlin, Germany.

The feeling inside the space was really contemplative and it was a privilege to be there. If there was space available I would have sat down for a few moments of quite meditation.

Being Ready To Make Your Photo

I was at the end of a photography adventure that had taken me to Copenhagen, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and, finally Berlin.

I’d be traipsing around Berlin for the best part of a week photographing street scenes and architecture.

It had been a wonderful trip, but I was terribly tired. It was extremely hot in Berlin, both on the street and in my hotel room, and it was all I could do to get out and about for one last photography adventure.

On the long walk back to my hotel I stopped in at this cemetery and was quite overcome by the beauty of this little chapel.

I desperately wanted to make a photo and had prepared my camera (i.e., lens choice, aperture and ISO) to do so prior to entering the chapel.

As a result I was able to make a few frames quickly and efficiently from the back of the small chapel prior to heading back out into the heat of a Berlin summer's evening.

How I Made This Beautiful Blue Image

I made the image, hand held, at ISO 800 with a shutter speed of 1/30 second and an aperture of f/8.

Have you ever been in a place and wondered if you had the right to be there? That’s how I felt when I entered this space.

I wasn’t sure if I’d walked into a funeral service or not.

There was no coffin or minister present and folks were coming and going. It may have simply been a place of contemplation.

Still I was really careful, only staying a few minutes and making just a couple of images, without flash, from the back of the chapel.

How To Achieve The Most Appropriate White Balance

To ensure accurate color rendition I photographed with my camera set to the Daylight/Sunny white balance setting.

Sounds strange as I was inside, while outside the transition between dusk and night was about to place the cemetery grounds, in which the chapel was situation, into darkness.

But the advantage of the Daylight/Sunny white balance is that it provides the most accurate, though not necessarily the best, color rendition of the scene.

Other white balance settings, including Auto White Balance (AWD), seek to neutralize the color of light reaching the sensor so that it is recorded as white light.

The idea behind this practice is so that the colors of subjects within that scene will then be rendered as we would usually perceive them with the human eye.

However, if the color of the light source is anything other than white (e.g., sunrise, sunset), the colors within the scene will record differently to what you’d expect throughout most of the day.

In the case of the above photo neutralizing the color of the light would have removed so much of the emotion brought to the scene by the cool blue artificial light.

That’s why I choose the Daylight/Sunny white balance setting.

The success of this photo is based around the mood it conveys, and I wanted that mood to maintained in the final result.

Peaceful Days, Berlin

About To Travel?


When Is It Okay To Make A Photo?

It was a little strange being there, let alone making the photo. I sat outside for about 10 minutes watching, what I guess were visitors to the cemetery, pop in and out of the chapel.

I decided to take a look myself.

While the chapel is a small and intimate space it was packed and I wondered if I'd crashed a funeral.

After several more minutes I concluded that the chapel was simply being used as a place of contemplation and reflection.

I do hope I got that right. If their had been a coffin or minister present, or if a funeral service was underway, I would have left the site without making a photo.

Sometimes the line between right and wrong is obvious. Other times you have to use your best judgement.

But if you’re approaching your photography from the point of view of other rather than self I think the chances of you making a mistake or behaving badly are greatly reduced.

At the very least get about your photography quickly and without drawing attention to yourself.

If you really feel you shouldn’t be there, and you’re unable to ask for clarification, then it’s probably best to be on your way. Move on!

That’s what I did. I remember making one final image, in fading light, of the outside of the chapel prior to heading back to my hotel and preparing for the long flight back to Australia.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru