Moscow’s Nativity Convent – 360° panorama and Photo tip!

The Rozhdestvensky Convent, or the Convent of Nativity of Theotokos (Russian: Богородице-Рождественский монастырь) is commonly referred to just as the Nativity Convent and it is located inside the Boulevard Ring, on the left bank of the Neglinnaya River.

Not only this is one of the oldest nunneries in Moscow (it was founded in the Moscow Kremlin in 1386, probably by Maria of Rostov, mother of Prince Vladimir the Bold and then moved to its present location in 1484), but the small katholikon, which was erected in the last years of Ivan III‘s reign, is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Moscow, outside the Kremlin walls. During Soviet times, the convent was abolished (in 1922), but in spite of that some of the nuns and lay sisters continued living in their cells (two of them – Varvara and Viktorina – until the late 1970s). The divine service was resumed only in 1992, after the dissolution of the USSR.

The convent actually comprises many buildings. Besides the aforementioned Katholikon of the Nativity of God’s Mother (built in 1500–05), the second oldest is the Church of St John Chrysostom (center right in the feature picture of this post and built in 1676–78). The Neoclassical bell-tower (center left in the picture) dates back to 1835–36, while the refectory and the Church of Our Lady of Kazan (far right in the picture) were both completed in 1906.

Even if you are not interested in religious architecture or in visiting a church, entering the walls of the Rozhdestvensky Convent is almost a “mystical” experience. You are instantly catapulted from the loud cacophony of Moscow’s bustling central streets to the quiet of the convent. The outside wall actually do a surprisingly good job in cutting off the noise of traffic and the atmosphere is of peace and tranquillity. As long as they behave correctly and they are not scantly clad (that is relevant only in the summer months, in Moscow…) everyone’s welcome to walk around the convent or rest on one of the benches along the internal roads.

Photo Tip!
Nowadays it is extremely easy to take panoramic shots with most modern smartphones, but you are still limited in the vertical angle of view, due to the smartphone non interchangeable lens. If you want more creative freedom in your shots you can achieve the same result with your camera (DSLR or mirrorless). Using a wide angle lens and taking many shots in portrait orientation, you alse get a final image with a TON of pixels. There are only three things to keep in mind:

  1. It is always best to shoot in manual mode, with a fixed shutter speed and aperture. This way you get a constant exposure and blending the images will be definitely easier. If there is a lot of luminosity difference between the various parts of your panorama, keep the camera in aperture priority (shutter speed, per se, does not affect the blending). It is also important to either put your camera in manual focus, or tell it not to refocus between shots (Nikon, for instance, calls this function “AF-Lock”). This way you will have the same ratio of in-focus and out-of-focus (if any) elements in all your images.
  2. The main problem with panoramas is the presence of near and far objects in the frame (think foreground and background). If that is really, really important to you, then you really should use a tripod and a special panorama head, thanks to which the camera actually turns around the entrance pupil of the lens (also sometimes referred to as the “nodal point”) so that the relative position of background and foreground does not change due to the parallax effect. It sounds complex, right? Well, because it is! The simple solution is to avoid having objects very close to you when shooting panoramas (as, for instance, tree branches) unless you can “keep them confined” to a single frame (that means that they appear in only one of the many pictures you take to create a panorama). If you do that you can easily shoot panoramas handheld, without even needing a tripod!
  3. There should be an overlap of about 30% (1/3) of each consecutive image. That means that when you move (rotate) your camera for the next shot, about 1/3 of the image you are photographing should have already been visible in the previous image you took. Personally, I find that 30% is a bit overkill, but better safe than sorry, right?

To assemble the various shots in a panorama there are a lots of different softwares. Nowadays both Lightroom and Photoshop do a pretty good job (and in Lightroom you can merge your RAW files and get a “RAW” panorama, where you have much more latitude afterwards to recover shadows and blown highlights, or set the white balance without loss of quality. Other specialized software include simple programs where you click and the software does the rest (like Double Take for the Mac) or desidedly more professional (and expensive solutions like the fantastic Autopano Giga. There are also many open source programs, which are really powerful, precise and free to download and use, but they tend to be more complex and aimed at more experienced users.

 

 


 

Would you like to take part in a photowalk or a photo tour of Moscow or any other Russian destination with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking photographer (me) showing you the sights, the best time and viewpoint(s) to capture them in your images and helping you improve your photo technique with practical tips? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!

 

 

 

 

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