A photographer who understands glass

Email by Elizabeth Steinebach on November 26, 2010
Categories Filed Under: NEWS

I'd like to introduce you to a radical new way of looking at glass.

Every stained glass artist, painstakingly selects every piece, devoting hours of time and attention has had the moment of install - and the ah-ha moment. Then in an effort to promote the work, face disappointment trying to capture an image that truly reflects all the nuances and light interactions.

Take a stained glass history course and you'll never know who you will bump into. Not only did we have an excellent course on the history of glass, but also we had opportunity to create a new ebook. This new ebook unfolded with resources within the class - particularly a photographer, who literally took all of us into glass, quite by surprise.

Paul McDonald, could have started his working life at his dad's newspaper office, likely becoming a fine photographer, after a chance work encounter in the dark room. But he didn't. College and then 31 years at IBM stepped in the way. Retired now four years, destiny's path redirected Paul's focus to rekindle an old passion.

Out of the blue, during friendly dinner conversation, Paul offers to photograph his guest's tomb. His friend, an Egyptologist working at the ROM, takes note and six month's later, Paul is in Egypt, the official site photographer. As twists of fate go, Paul is taken by the beauty and the light. The precision of the image documentation is vitally important and this demand for excellence, motivates Paul to better understanding of light and shadow, as well as the limits of camera technology.

When I asked Paul about his interest in stained glass, he responded " That's a fun question: the day I realized I had absolutely no idea how to photograph it. I like a good challenge." This spark of curiosity was further ignited by a friend's desire to photograph his church's windows and Paul decided to tag along.

"I took a selection of photos looking for different types of windows, popped them into my computer and was horrified at just how bad they were. Too light, too dark, poor definition and lack lustre colour. "… "I returned to the church, prints in hand and was even more horrified at how much of the actual window didn't translate in the print."

It took over a year and a half, with hundred's of trial and error prints that truly educated Paul in understanding the medium he was trying to capture. The work that you see now and the introduction of HDR - High Dymanic Range imaging, in my mind, has made every old image of stained glass ineffectual.

Paul's current path has him being paid to photograph churches, both large and small. "I'm not concerned about the religion, it's the challenges that the spaces represent. Their size means they can use the light to their advantage. Plus, the stained glass art tends to be unique, rather than template windows from the larger glass companies."

Paul is available to photograph your stained glass.

You can contact Paul: paul.mcdonald@mac.com

Paul does plan to have a website soon and will keep us posted on his work.

My image of We Worship, outside in natural light

Paul's image of We Worship, using HDR, image also taken outside in natural light