Doing Time in Eastern State Penitentiary

Karl Barth

Posted April 27, 2014 in: Photo Trips 

For the April photo trip, the Calvert Photography Club went to prison more specifically Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This was one of the most anticipated trips and had been planned for almost a year.

Photo by KarlIn our March meeting, Bill Conway presented and talked about HDR.  As part of the presentation he showed off his HDR shots of the prison and also gave a history of the prison.  It sounded and looked like a cool place.  Plus it made me more excited for the trip.

One of the decisions I had to make before entering the prison was whether to shoot HDR or not.  If I were to shoot HDR I would need to bring in the tripod.  Since this was a popular attraction I decided not to use the tripod and not shoot HDR.

When my Mom and I first arrived at the prison, I had the opportunity to open and lock the main prison entrance doors. It was a cool experience but the doors were obviously very heavy.

I was amazed at how huge the prison was.  There were a lot of corridors you could walk down but there were some corridors that were blocked for safety reasons. Not surprisingly there was a lot to shoot and lots of opportunities for the monthly assignment, “Decay.”

I was pretty pleased with how my pictures turned out.  Since I was not using a tripod I bumped up the ISO 800 and sometimes 1600 to get a decent shot.  It really depended on what my light meter said on the camera.  I switched between manual and aperture priority modes through out the day.  For most of my shots I used an aperture of 8 because I wanted a good depth of field.  As I expected, when I looked at my photos there was a lot of grain but I was able to fix the photos in post processing using Lightroom and Dfine.

If there was a downside for this trip it was the drive.  It took 3 hours to get there but I have to say it was really worth it.  I might even have to make another trip up there.

About Karl Barth - Karl is a husband and father of two kids. He loves photography and shooting whenever he can. He runs Karl Barth Photography. His site is


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