Out and About: Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire

It was visiting Salisbury that originally convinced me that I could live without London; it really is a beautiful place.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve visited the cathedral over the years. Sometimes I’m there as a tourist to take photos, see the Magna Carta, eat in the cafe which spills out into the cloisters or buy trinkets in the shop, other times I visit to experience a place of peace and spirituality for a time (even though I’m no longer Christian).

You don’t have to pay to visit, so I pay when I’m there as a tourist; to me that seems fair, and no-one questions it.

Some of my photos of the cathedral were taken 15 years ago. It was one of my first digital photography subjects; I’m not sure I have any film photos of it.

These are all very early shots from around 2003 – 2005.

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My first ever digital photograph; near Salisbury Cathedral
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Cathedral Close

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I can always find something interesting to photograph in the cathedral, and it’s somewhere that I enjoy spending time as it’s calm, cool and beautiful. It is a lot lighter and brighter than cathedrals like Notre Dame, but as you move towards the alter areas it tends to get darker so something to be aware of. Also, the view of Salisbury Cathedral has been voted the best view in Britain several times so if you’re keen on photography you might want to take a wander to get a shot from a distance.

These are more recent images.

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Some photo tips:

  • Go when it’s quiet.
  • Remember there are people who are there to pray / worship and act accordingly – don’t photograph them, don’t disturb them, don’t take photos during a service unless you’ve been given permission to do so.
  • Join one of the cathedral tours for views of Salisbury from the cathedral.
  • Look for details and reflections in small things. Some of my favourite images are the ones that give a clue to the setting without it being immediately obvious.
  • Think about time of day if you want to get shots outside. The entrance is often in full sunlight during normal visiting times so it can look a bit flat. Walk around the exterior – some of it is under scaffolding at the moment and a lot of the gargoyles and statues are being repaired or replaced so expect some gaps.
  • I’m not sure if tripods are allowed, so a fast film is essential for the interior as it gets very dark. I balance my camera on a bag or bench.
  • Turn off your flash, it really doesn’t help in such a large space.

And as in all photography, experiment. Below are some shots I took on Fuji Instant Wide film and some iPhone photos with cheap phone lenses attached to the phone. Results are varied obviously, but do you really need the shot that everyone else takes?!

There are a lot of places to visit nearby, including the iconic Stonehenge; I’ll leave the links for you to explore. Salisbury is a compact city and has excellent rail links to London Waterloo so it’s easy for a day trip if you’re in London.

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Salisbury Cathedral

Visit Salisbury

Stonehenge

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