The Chapter House steps.

The Chapter House Steps in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 7 Jan 2005.

I have to hold my hand up here and at once acknowledge that this photo has already been taken by hundreds of other photographers – just search for these steps on Google if you don’t believe me; an early (perhaps the first?) photo of these stairs was taken in 1900, by Frederick Henry Evans.

Near the top right of this photo, the steps can be seen turning right into the Chapter House. Straight ahead, through the illuminated doorway, is the bridge that allowed the clergy to come directly into the cathedral from their lodgings, rather than having to be exposed to worldly temptations by mixing with the townspeople.

See how the edges of the steps have been worn down by the tramp of countless feet over the centuries.

Tripod-mounted OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko; Agfa Scala monochrome slide, rated at 400 ISO.

March 2015 update: three things come to mind.  First, I like this image but don’t really think its “my kind of picture”.  Yes, its a beautiful and historic place, the image has nice tones and there are the worn steps to emphasise just how old this place is.  But, that said, its still just a record of an architectural interior, and I’m not sure that shakes my tree.

Second, it was taken on a now discontinued film that I used to regard as being one of the greatest casualties of the Digital Revolution – it started life as an Agfa Scala black and white slide.  Nearly all of my photography in those days used colour slides (aka transparencies), which I used to give slideshows on a Leica projector – and it was so good to be able to include mono shots along with the far more ubiquitous colour.  And Scala was a rough and tough film – rated at 400 ISO, it could be push processed to 1600 or 3200 ISO – and I was in my dark and moody, monochrome element!

However, I used to regard this wonderful film as a great loss – but now find that scanned versions offer far less potential for digital manipulation than full colour, raw files.  Most digital cameras can of course capture black and white images straight off but, particularly if substantial post-capture editing is anticipated – as it is in all of my mono photography – then shooting in full colour raw and then converting to mono is the way to go.

And, lastly, today is a minor anniversary, because this picture was taken with an Olympus OM-4 film SLR that I bought second hand on this day 12 years ago, as a means of getting back into photography once more.  Olympus OM film cameras and lenses were absolutely something else – light, compact and with excellent mechanical and optical quality.  I shot film, mostly as slides (transparencies), which was a great discipline – but in 2009 very abruptly changed to digital – since when I have never shot another frame of film.  The advent of digital photography has certainly been the single most important event in my “photographic life”, because it provides such vast scope for creativity.





  1. I think it’s a great photo – a long lead in to that interruption of the lighter stone where the steps curve, and then the background with the door leading though, and all that mystery. I think it’s a great translation of 3D to 2D.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David, thank you very much for these thoughts and analysis – I’m glad you like the image. I know that I ought to think in terms of mystery, I know that most people do, but with images its just not something that occurs to me – but you’re right, this is a mysterious image. Maybe I’m too used to films, which have a plot that can instil mystery, and background music that builds the right sort of atmosphere. Thank you again. Adrian


  2. Ha, ha,….yes, lovely. I ‘stumbled’ across them several years ago, could not believe my eyes! When I produced my masterpiece I was quickly told that they are the most photographed steps in the UK!!! You have done them proud.


  3. So many others have made similar photos of the same structure–so what? That should not deter anyone from making a new image of one’s own. No two can be exactly the same and the photographer inevitably puts something of him-/herself into it and makes it unique. I am drawn to–and into–architectural perspectives like this, and I reeeeally like this one!


  4. Terrific shot. I love your use of light and shade to emphasise all the angles and shapes. The whole thing could be a set for a German Expressionist movie. Actually it made me think of ‘Nosferatu’ which probably isn’t apt for the actual subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, Nosferatu may not be the “soul” most welcome in these holy confines, Laura – but I’d love to see the reactions he’d get if he barged in there! 😀 Sorry, my unholiness and irreverence (irrelevance?) coming through here …

      Thank you for your thoughts about the image, I’m very glad you like it. The light in this shot was really just what was available but, having said that, I am a great believer in using shadows or even pure darkness in images – I did a Talking Images post recently where the line (something like) “if you want an image to be interesting, don’t light all of it” was the subject. Adrian

      Liked by 1 person

        • On another tack, I hadn’t realised that the PA in your blog name means Philadelphia – wow, you and your family have made a move across the face of this planet! I have very good memories of Scotland. I did geological research on Skye and around Ballantrae (Ayrshire), and have also travelled around the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland. A

          Liked by 1 person

          • PA is the postal abbreviation for Pennsylvania. Apparently nobody from Pennsylvania calls it Pennsylvania, just PA. Yup, it was quite the move and I am not yet fully adjusted. One of my kids recently told me that I am “just SO Scottish” so I guess I am not assimilating either, not that I am especially trying.

            I am glad you have good memories of Scotland because it is a wonderful country (not mere bias). I am originally from FIfe but then lived in Edinburgh before moving to England for a while and then we came back to Scotland but to live in Argyll which is where we were raising our kids before moving across the Atlantic. I am sorry to say that I have never been to the Northern Isles. I would particularly love to visit Shetland as that is where my maternal grandmother and her ancestors are from. Some day.


            • Yes, some day, you should go to Shetland, never let that thought leave you. The assimilation thing is whatever you’re comfortable with. English friends of mine moved to America about 35 years ago – we’d been teaching together in the University of Nairobi – and, meeting them again, I was astounded to find that they have not the slightest trace of an American accent – and when I mentioned this to the husband he said “Oh no, we’re not bothering with that!” 😀

              Liked by 1 person

              • I cannot see me changing at all. I think we Picts are too ferociously Scottish. My Uncle moved to Australia in the early 1960s and not only still has a Scottish accent but still has an Aberdonian accent.

                Shetland will definitely happen at some point. It was always just too expensive for us to go and then we had tiny children and now we live in another continent but I am sure we can build it into one of our trips back to Scotland at some stage. I am a family historian so I have researched my Shetland ancestors in great detail and email corresponded with many Shetlanders. It feels rather silly that I have never actually been.

                Liked by 1 person

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