Santa Catalina Convent

The Santa Catalina Convent in Arequipa, Peru was founded in 1580 for nuns of the order of Santa Catalina of Sena.

About 20 nuns live in the Santa Catalina Convent today and the rest of this city within a city covering an area of more than 29,426 square meters is a photographers paradise open to public.

Santa Catalina Convent Photo Facts.

I’ve commented before on how even famous places and landscapes change.

The problem for a photographer who is not local is that there is no way of monitoring these changes.

As a stock photographer I try to update my images but there’s no doubt that I also try to take timeless images which will sell for years.

This is one of those images still selling after 20 years or so.

But there’s another kind of change for photographers over this period and that’s the switch from film to digital imaging.

It’s still possible to shoot film of course but the challenges are different.

When I took this picture I was based in the Sultanate of Oman, an advanced country in the Arabian Gulf.

There was no problem in obtaining film and the latest photo supplies.

Peru was very different.

I planned a four month trip taking in the famous sites.

It was obvious from my planning that I would have problems with films and batteries.

As a stock photographer I needed to shoot on slide film and, if possible, on medium format film.

Slide film of any brand was very hard to find in Peru and obtaining large amounts was also difficult because of currency controls and the extremes of temperature which made storage difficult.

I solved the battery problem by using mechanical cameras – a Konica T4 and a Zenza Bronica S2a.

Both these cameras produced top quality pictures – the Konica needed batteries only for the meter.

When I arrived at Santa Catalina I did my best with this setup.

I looked for a different angle for this picture – a frame.

I wanted to frame the main building and the beautiful granite fountain dedicated to Maria Manuela Murtado specially imported from Spain.

I found myself in a shuttered room overlooking the fountain.

The photographic problems were obvious.

Inside the room behind the open shuttered window the light levels were low.

Outside the blazing sunshine created enormous contrast.

I bracketed several shots using up my precious film.

Luckily I was able to scan this film into a digital file later and with help from the software this was the image I came up with.

Contrast this with a digital approach.

I could have shot in RAW for the maximum dynamic range in a single file.

I could have taken many shots at different exposures and used different part of each photo in separate layers.

I could have used HDR software to combine my photos for the maximum dynamic range.

I would have no film problems with a little planning because memory cards are so cheap now that I could take enough for thousands of pictures.

Of course, with 100% electronic cameras today, the battery problems still remain but battery technology has come on apace.

I doubt that I’ll be returning to Peru in the foreseeable future but the lessons are there for any other trips.

This image is available from Alamy, Code: AR20F7.

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Stock photography by John Rocha at Alamy

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