Night Lights at the Church

A church in town had one of their entrances remodeled this summer. They installed a couple much-needed dusk-to-dawn pole lights and re-did the sidewalks on both sides of the entrance. What a remarkable difference in lighting! They previously had the kind of lights that were imbedded in the sidewalks. Many had stopped working years ago, so the main entrance was mostly only illuminated by the lights over the entrance doors.

For the last couple of weeks, I had wanted to get down there to photograph the new lights while it was dark. I was always foiled by rain and high winds. This past weekend, I finally had a chance! We headed to town with thunder rumbling in the distance. The weather app was telling me that rain was 45 minutes away. Fortunately, we did not see any rain in the 1-1/2 hours that we were there.

The sun was setting behind the church.

My original plan was to get to the church just at sunset so that the dusk-to-dawn lights would already be on when we arrived. But with the thunder in the distance, we went earlier and had a lot of time to wait. I am so glad we went early! Because we live in a valley, there is still time between actual sunset and when the sun slips behind the mountains. In the photograph above, sunset was still 10 minutes away. The sunset and the clouds were magnificent!

Finally, the new lamps came on! I spent the next 45 minutes photographing the church from many different angles. I only had one lens with me – a wide angle 10-18mm Canon lens, no filter. It was perfect for the job! Sunrise and sunset are the same in terms of how quickly and dramatically the light changes with the sun’s movement in the sky. And when you factor in the moving clouds, it can create some dramatic images in the blink of an eye.

Look at how beautifully the new lights illuminate the church entrance!

Sometimes, a night photograph can be converted to black and white. It depends on the contrast of light and dark in the image. When I am standing further away from the building, the contrast is not as stark, so it is not as dramatic as a black and white image.

Black and White Night Entrance

In this next shot, I stood at a different angle. As the church is downtown, I had to crop out another building that was to the right. To balance the image, I then had to crop out the other side. The image instantly became crisper and more well-defined with a balance between light and dark. Because of the sharp contrast, I converted this image to black and white. This turned out to be one of my favorite shots of the entire night.

The new pole lamps cast plenty of light to the church entrance

This last photograph was made when it was full on dark. The rooftop crosses disappear in the black of the night. But with the design of the building and the light colors that run along the roof peaks, it helps separate the architecture from the black background. The pole lamps illuminate the sidewalk, as they should, and that was the chief focus of my photography.

Darkness fell on the church.

It had been a while since I had done any night photography and it was good to get back to it. The church was the perfect subject. When I do a night photoshoot, I like to start before the sun goes down and then keep shooting after dark. The transformation of the subject under changing light conditions is always dramatic and beautiful.


Deb is a landscape, night, and architecture photographer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

The story behind the photographs are found here at Beautiful Sun Adventures. Her galleries can be found at Beautiful Sun Photography. Prints are available as wall art and home d├ęcor for your home, office, or business. Or as the perfect gift for someone special!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve Heap says:

    Interesting how quickly the light seemed to drop. Did the lights not come on until the sky was actually quite dark – it makes it a little difficult to see the difference between roof and sky, although this is maybe clearer in the B&W versions. I do like your favorite shot as that does provide more interest with the diagonal lines. Did you consider any HDR type shots where you take 5 exposures at the same time. Would be interesting to see how they would have turned out.

    1. Thanks, Steve. We were on site for nearly 2 hours. The lights came on right at sunset but there was still quite a bit of light in the sky, so most of my shots here were well after sunset. I typically shoot sunrises and I’ve noticed that the light changes so rapidly, whether the sun is coming up or going down. I’ve never worked with HDR, but it does sound interesting!

  2. jim hughes says:

    What I like in these is the peaceful feeling of just being there after dark, with no one around.

    1. Thanks, Jim! I get a similar vibe any time that I’m photographing at night, even in a metropolitan setting. It’s the same feeling I get when out photographing the sunrise in nature. It’s my quiet time.

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