A Shot in the Dark in Cold Burrrrrr-y

[…Bury St. Edmunds, England…]

The Christmas Fayre – that’s how they spell it here – is going on in the charming town of Bury St. Edmunds. It’s only a 3-day affair but judging from the amount of visitors, it’s one of the most successful fairs in England. I’ve been to quite a number of these in Germany – there they call it Christkindlmarkt or Christmas market, and they’re a good way of getting into the spirit of the season.

I had looked forward to this event not because of the fair, but because it’s probably the only time out of the year that the grounds of St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and the Abbey Ruins are open past dusk. I’ve wanted to shoot here at twilight since the summer, but like I said, they close down the gates before that. Much to my dismay, it wasn’t much of a spectacle after dark seeing that there were hardly any lights on in the Cathedral, and I had to fumble my way around the dark ruins on the slippery ground. It was so dark that the ruins were merely indiscernible silhouettes and focusing was a lot of guesswork and a bit of luck.

So there I was far away from the maddening crowd of the fair and in the middle of darkness by the ruins, when I saw two neon yellow figures walk towards me in opposite directions. One flashed his light briefly behind me, and asked,”Did someone run by you just now?”

I looked up behind me, put my frozen numb hands back into my coat pockets, and as I replied, white puffs of air billowed from my mouth. It’s a biting cold night, nothing that I wore tonight seemed to protect me one bit.

“No. Why?” I asked.

At this time, the other security – a female, had just inched towards us but said nothing.

“We received a report of a shadowy figure, dressed in black, running down here. Did you see anyone?” The man asked casually, as if trying not to alarm me.

No matter, I was still alarmed. I guess it didn’t help that not too long ago, I was just thinking about the Ipswich serial murders. I was in Ipswich on Wednesday night and was reading about the city this morning when I came across that article. I know that walking in the dark by yourself is never a good thing. That, and watching too much crime TV.

“Oh no, should I be worried?” I asked.

“No no no, we were just checking. Did you just get here?”

“I’ve been here about 5 minutes.”

“Were you down there earlier?” he was pointing further down at a different direction of the ruins.

“Yes I was.”

“So I guess it might be you then.”

“I guess it was,” I said, feeling much better with that thought. “I’m just taking pictures though, is that okay?”

“Oh no, you’re fine,” he said. “Carry on.”

And with that, they both left me alone in complete darkness for another minute or so of exposure that felt like forever.

The Georgian-style town square of Bury with the tree lit up in Angel Hill. Last year, the Christmas Fayre of Bury attracted over 70,000 visitors in 3 days.

This scene probably looks better in my shot than in real life, thanks to high ISO I was able to squeeze out every bit of light coming from the cathedral. My lens could not find anything to focus on in the darkness, so I moved the focus point around until it found something. I could've done it manually but it was too cold I could not think straight. Pictured here is the St. Edmundsbury Cathedral (more info at http://www.stedscathedral.co.uk). 25 seconds @ F/9, ISO 320.

Not much of a shot, but I just wanted to show the front of the Abbey Gate and part of the Cathedral on the right. The Abbey Gate was built vastly out of scale with the gardens and modest cathedral of St. Edmundsbury. It was damaged during the rioting in 1327 but it was rebuilt later in the 14th century.

Part of the Abbey Ruins where I met the 2 security fellows. Hard to believe by looking at this image that it was actually dark when I took this shot with only a faint light in the sky. The ruins itself was not lit up, so I used a high ISO to get something out of it plus a a little exposure adjustment in post processing. 30 seconds @ f/9, +.05 EV, ISO 320.


2 responses

  1. Great photos. Just wanted to say that the caption on the second photo is not quite accurate. The photo you have is of the Cathedral but this building was until 1914 quite simply the parish church of St James. In 1914 it was chosen to become the ‘new’ Cathedral for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and has recently seen a major building project to complete the building with the addition of the new Tower (finished in 2005). This former parish church stood within the grounds of the great Abbey of St Edmund, itself now in ruins (and featured in your fourth photo), which housed the shrine of St Edmund. The Abbey closed at the Dissolution of the Monastries in 1539 and there are no signs of the original shrine, nor it is known where the relics of St Edmund are.

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