Seeking Blue on Blue

When I’m photographing a subject with a strong color element, I almost always prefer to have a background that is either relatively neutral or that has a color that is complementary to the subject’s color. But for the Blue Church (really Saint Elisabeth Church) in Bratislava, Slovakia, I was hoping for a blue sky to go with the blue subject. But a blue sky was not going to happen…


On my first visit to the Blue Church the sky was overcast, though with enough texture to provide some degree of contrast and drama. The sun was in the sky above the church, so I captured a sequence of exposures with the intent of assembling a high dynamic range (HDR) image from the frames. When I assembled the images, I decided to enhance the drama a bit in the process, since the scene was already looking a bit gloomy. I also decided to make the Blue Church stand out a bit by converting everything except the church to black and white. The result is shown in the left image above.

Today the forecast called for rain most of the day, and tomorrow I depart to begin recording new training videos. So my expectation was that my only other opportunities would involve more clouds, not less. However, the forecast ended up being far from accurate, and there was a reasonable amount of sun peeking through the broken clouds. So I hustled over to the Blue Church again, hoping for a blue sky behind the brilliant blue subject.

Unfortunately, there was still a fair amount of cloud cover. The light was much stronger than it had been the previous day, so there was better overall contrast, and the color of the church seemed stronger. It wasn’t the blue sky I had been hoping for, but I had run out of time. And all things considered, I had gotten pretty lucky with the weather.

As photographers we sometimes have to make the best of the circumstances we’re given. I do find, however, that when I’m in the same place for more than a couple of days, I enjoy returning to a subject more than once to take advantage of different weather or lighting conditions.

Have you found yourself visiting the same subject multiple times, in the hopes of getting better conditions? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below…

About Tim Grey

Tim Grey is in the business of making photographers smarter and happier. He is the author of more than a dozen books on digital imaging for photographers, has written hundreds of magazine articles, and publishes the Ask Tim Grey e-mail newsletter as well as the Pixology digital magazine. He also speaks at a variety of events and leads photography workshops around the world.
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5 Responses to Seeking Blue on Blue

  1. Maria Olga Meneses says:

    Tim, that second day sky turned out gorgeous! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve been going to the same spot on a river near my home in Ohio almost weekly for 10 years. I’m always looking for the light, water, and atmospheric conditions that favor the growth of iron bacteria—especially the one that’s iridescent—in the water. During the half hour it takes to walk to the river, I try to predict what I’ll see, but I’m often completely surprised when I get there.

  3. David Clark says:

    Both treatments are interesting, but I’m prejudiced towards the all color version, possibly because the sky is more interesting to me.

    I’m wondering why you left the distortion of church spire in place. Was that a deliberate creative choice? I think straightening the building would add drama to an already excellent image.

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