Stained Glass

Some people have hobby farms;
Jeff Gardner has hobby windows! 
Between July, 2008 and August 1, 2009 Jeff Gardner traveled all over the upper midwest, photographing stained glass windows in 83 Catholic churches in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Montana.

Above:  Self-portrait by Jeff Gardner, taken into the organist's mirror at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Warsaw, ND 
Below right:  Institution of the Eucharist, photo by Jeff Gardner, taken at St. Agnes Catholic Church in St. Paul, MN
A church steeple in Gentilly, MN called to Gardner from a mile off the main road, east of his hometown of Grand Forks, ND.  The beauty of that tucked away, small-town church in June, 2007 began what, for him, would be a two year obsession.  8,500 miles later, he had photographed the exterior of every Catholic church in the Fargo Diocese, including 26 inactive church buildings.  He designed a book of his work on-line and sold a few copies and was looking for another project. 
In July, 2008, Gardner became interested in photographing stained glass windows.  That meant re-visiting 15 or 20 of the churches in the diocese.  The windows being somewhat rare, Gardner expanded his range to include the entire upper mid-west.  His collection of beautiful stained glass window photos can be viewed on-line now at Flickr.  Search by saint or by church.

A newbie to photography (since 2006), Gardner has won many awards for his photos on a variety of subjects, with one of his pictures appearing recently in the London Times.  Since I recently had been taking pictures of stained glass windows myself, I was amazed at the nice parallel sides on his pictures.  Most windows are high up in a church, giving you angled sides if photographed from the ground.  I asked if he was miraculously levitating when he took the pictures.  My husband thought he just had a fancy, tall tripod.  We were both wrong.  The key to Gardner's success is . . . using the distort function on Photoshop Elements to straighten out the sides.  Sometimes he admits to standing on the pews if the church is empty to get a close-up or a better angle.
Other tips for stained glass window
photographers?  Gardner suggests underexposing the shots.  Apparently Photoshop is able to lighten shadowy dark areas in your pictures but not darken areas that are too light and there is often a lot of variation in amounts of light  that are coming through different parts of the same window.  For you advanced photographers, he also suggests an "HDR" (high dynamic range) program but I am now in over my head.

Thank you to Jeff Gardner for permission to use his wonderful photos on this site and for all the expertise he has shared.  
Pictures:  Above left:  Close-up of Moses from the Cathedral of St. Helena in Helena, MT. 
Above right:  This 28' diameter window is found in the choir loft of Gesu Church in Milwaukee, WI.  Individuals shown are clockwise from top:  Guardian Angel, Sts. Agnes, Gregory the Great, Helena, Vincent de Paul, Rose of Lima, Aloysius Gonzaga, Bernard of Clairvaux, Gertrude the Great and St. Florian, King David, Sts. Ambrose of Milan, and Cecelia.  You can view close-ups of the individuals as well as other windows from Gesu Church at Jeff Gardner's site.
All pictures on this page were taken by Jeff Gardner and are his copyrighted property. 

July, 2011 Update
Jeff Gardner says he now has sets of windows from 231 churches on his Flickr site!