Getting the Shot: The Basilica Voto Nacional

The Basilica Voto Nacional is a Quito, Ecuador, landmark.  Construction of this massive, neo-gothic Catholic church began in the 1880s and continued for decades.  Gothic style churches are not common in Latin America, and it turns out this is the largest one in the Americas.

The facade is visible from many areas of the city as the church sits atop a hill.  One of the great draws of the church is the ability to climb to the top, and take in the spectacular views from its nearly 400-foot towers.  In addition to the bell towers, one can also climb a spire near the rear of the church, giving a wonderful view of the towers.  When I visited Quito this past February, this was the photo I wanted to take.  I’ve seen quite a few shots from up there, and usually the towers are somewhat visible, plus parts of the city.  I wanted to do something on a much wider scale, if possible, and get a really sweeping view.

It costs only $2 to visit the church.  While an elevator can get you to the top floor, you still must climb several ladders — one exposed to the elements — to get to the top of the spire.  On my first trip to the top, it became quite clear I could do something fun with a stitched panorama — taking a dozen photos and “stitching” them together to make a much wider image.  My Sony point and shoot doesn’t have a wide-angle lens.  However, it was overcast and rainy, and the light just wasn’t great.

I returned the next day, thinking the light was better.  By the time I got to the top, it had changed — back to clouds and light rain.  I was ok with some clouds — big puffy ones with blue sky behind would be great.   Dull gray was not what I was after.

My third day, the weather finally cleared — somewhat.  I ran back over to the church, paid my $2, and climbed up.  This time, I finally had some sun, blue sky, and yes, puffy white clouds.  I snapped about fifty photos, making some single images and also some overlapped images to stitch together.  When I returned home to Indianapolis, I imported the photos into LIghtroom and stitched them together.  I had what I wanted!

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