On Assignment: Scenes of Faith & Freedom

by | Sep 1, 2023 | Assignments | 0 comments

Browsing through the Christian Law Association’s Instagram feed is a feast of scenic inspiration! I love the beautiful photos they choose. It’s the kind of collection that makes me think, “I wish one of my photos could be on there. . . .”

Well, it can be! If you submit your most epic landscape photo to this month’s photo assignment, and CLA thinks it’s good enough, you may very well have the privilege of being a published photographer.

But before you go digging through your scenic portfolio, you might want to take a look at the assignment details. CLA has clued us in on what they actually want more than beautiful vistas. Bonus points to anyone who includes any of three very specific items in your submissions! Include any one of these three items (or all three!) into a beautiful scene (be it a landscape scene or something else!), and your chances of winning will be greatly increased.

I’ll tell you what these three items are in this video of how I went about shooting this assignment. . . .

When I first heard that the title of this assignment was “Scenes of Faith & Freedom,” I envisioned photographing a panoramic vista with a cross-topped church in a sun-bathed valley. I also had thoughts of historic landmarks, or even a statue of Stonewall Jackson on horseback with an American flag waving behind him. (The reason for this thought being that there is a statue of him in front of the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg, about 20min away, as he was born here in this area. Smile)

But then I ran across a photo online that gave me some inspiration in a completely different direction:


It had such a cozy feeling to it. And I knew where I could find some old lanterns! “Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to replicate and expound on this.”

True, it wasn’t too difficult, but it was difficult. Smile Things came together very well until I tried to stretch the American flag out as a background. No matter what I tried, there were always so many wrinkles! I can’t tell you how many things I tried. I cut out of the video most of the time I spent fixing this problem. But finally, I landed on something that would work.

This is my first photo. Completely unedited.

230826_James Staddon_8857 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 45 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100-2

It’s a gorgeous setup! I knew there was a lot of potential here. Each element (and the textures too!) all fit together so nicely.

In post, I obviously needed to do some cropping. The board wasn’t wide enough, or long enough. I needed to edit out that sticker too, and brighten the whole thing up a bit. But I do have to say, I really did love that soft window light! Not harsh sunlight coming through directly, but indirect, ambient light. Here’s the edited photo.

230826_James Staddon_8857 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 45 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

Like you saw in the video, I swapped the lamp with the Bible, to provide a better spot for overlaid text.

230826_James Staddon_8860 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 45 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

The wrinkles are even more noticeable now. Enough to drive me nuts! So from here on out I decided to take the time to edit them out in every photo.

230826_James Staddon_8860 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 45 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100-2

Much better! Makes a big difference.

I was feeling satisfied with the different elements I had gathered. I just needed to photograph them in multiple arrangements now. Also, the current photos were missing something: depth.

I closed the Bible and moved to vertical. This would allow me to flip the board longways and move the Bible and lamp closer to the camera, further away from the background. With a wide aperture, and zoomed in a bit more, I could now blur out the background flag.

230826_James Staddon_8864 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70 mm, 1-5 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 100

The Bible looked too flat on the table, so I put a little something under it to raise it up just a hair.

230826_James Staddon_8865 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70 mm, 1-5 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 100

Again, swapped.

230826_James Staddon_8870 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70 mm, 0.5 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100

And then, I accidently stumbled on something amazing! It was after I had finished recording the video. I was flipping the reflector around to put it into place when a ray of golden light flashed across my setup. “Where on earth did that come from?” On the other side of the house, shining through the kitchen windows, direct rays of golden-hour light were reaching into the dining room. My reflector had accidently caught them and reflected them up onto the Bible, lamp, and flag. I perfectly positioned the reflector. “Beautiful!” Suddenly, the photos had a golden glow to them, as if the setup was outside!

230826_James Staddon_8882 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70 mm, 2.0 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

230826_James Staddon_8885 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70 mm, 1.0 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

The golden light faded quickly. My allotted time for photographing the assignment was coming to a close. I tried a few more shots with a different lantern to close out the day.

230826_James Staddon_8888 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 70 mm, 4.0 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100

It was interesting to see the difference that the reflector made. Below, the photo on the left is with no reflector. The middle photo is with a white reflector. And the photo on the right is with a gold reflector.

230826_James Staddon_8890 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 57 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100230826_James Staddon_8891 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 57 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100230826_James Staddon_8892 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 57 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100

It had been a good photoshoot! I don’t take the time to set up still life photos very often, so this was a fun foray into an unfamiliar field for me.

Now It’s Your Turn!

Find an American flag, a Bible, and a cross. Incorporate them into some beautiful scenes. And bonus points if you can include all of them in the same photo! Looking forward to seeing your creative perspective on Scenes of Faith & Freedom.

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