The Historic St. James Santee Episcopal Chapel of Ease: A quick look at Architectural Composition

McClellanville, SC

The historic St. James Santee Episcopal Chapel of Ease 18mm, ISO 400, F/5, 1/60

The historic St. James Santee Episcopal Chapel of Ease ISO 400, 18mm, F/5, 1/60Nothing like a good name for your church. Who wouldn’t want to attend a chapel of ease? On a drive back from Charleston, SC, my father-in-law and I pulled in to the historic fishing village of McClellanville. (On a side note, if you want local shrimp, this is where to get it!) At the last census, the town registered just under 500 for its residency. It’s a small town, but not without its charm. The coastal highway 17 holds ages of history; communities and villages that still exist today. It is always a beautiful corridor to explore.

The St. James Episcopal church was constructed in 1890 to accommodate the growing population of the village (hence, the Chapel of Ease moniker). You can read more about it here.

The chapel sits in the shade of a few Live Oaks. I struggle with architectural photographs. In this composition there are a couple things to consider: how much of that beautiful tree in the front to include; how to frame the church; how to balance the exposure so the church isn’t too bright and the tree to dark and vice versa; and making sure your “horizon” is straight.

I shoot in a file format called RAW, as opposed to JPEG. While the RAW file is pretty big (about 25 MB) it allows me to correct some exposures and colors in editing. Much like a photographic dark room, you can “burn” in some lighter areas and “dodge” darker areas to achieve balance. I took my exposure for the church since this was the focal point of the shot. ¬†Fortunately the tree wasn’t too much darker than the church so I was able to draw out some details later.

I took this shot at 18mm which is a wide-angle shot. While this fits more of the subject into the frame, it also distorts the way somethings look (read: the church looks crooked). I chose to make sure the tree was aligned correctly with nature (the trunk is 90 degrees to the ground) and allow the church to take on a moving-like quality. The front looks very large and the rear shrinks away because of depth perception. We generally don’t think about this when viewing something in real life, but in a photograph it becomes more apparent. My goal was to achieve motion in the photo: making your eyes move from the tree to the front of the church to it’s rear; or drawing your attention to the middle of the photograph.

Hopefully that makes sense. Feel free to share this on your social media of choice or drop me a line in the comments below with your thoughts!