While Adriana and I were in Kiev, Ukraine over the Easter weekend we focused on two things – getting some brilliant pictures of the beautiful churches and spending the day in Chernobyl to capture the history and desolation of what happened there.  This post will focus on the former, as I’ve already shared the incredible images from the latter.

In Kiev, the locals are generally Ukrainian Orthodox, of which there are various Patriarchates, like the Kiev Patriarchate or the Moscow Patriarchate.  I’m not going to focus on any sort of Christian history or try to explain the differences between Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, but I will focus on how I captured some of the images that I took below to give you an idea on where to go if you get an opportunity to visit.  As a general rule of thumb the churches of Kiev don’t allow photography inside.  If you’re particularly aggressive in planning ahead, you could potentially work something out but generally speaking it’s a no no.  There is one place in Pechersk Lavra that you can take indoor photos, as you’ll see below.

There are many, many churches in the area surrounding the city but I’m going to focus on five of the more famous ones.  Yep – this will be a bit of a long post.

1) St. Sophia Cathedral

This church is primarily green and white, with a beautiful bell tower standing over the wall that leads into the church.  The bell tower is blue and white with a golden dome on the top.  The first photo is my favorite of the bunch, taken on the first night just as the sun was setting (our apartment was pretty much right behind this church).  That first picture is an HDR photo that after processing I had to do a free transform on the tower to straighten it out a little bit.  I like the color of the sun setting below the building.  The second picture is taken from the Hyatt hotel – there’s a rooftop bar where we spent some time having a few drinks and taking some snaps of the churches (and also to take a few timelapses, as you’ll see below).  The next photo is of the interior of the church yard (once you’re through the wall).  As stated above, most of the churches don’t allow you to take pictures inside.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check them out – they’re absolutely stunning and well worth any wait (which there usually isn’t).  Finally I posted a pic that I took just after sunrise in the morning – again I had to do a free transform on the church tower so it didn’t look so crooked.

2) Mykhailivsky Cathedral

This is the beautiful Mykhailivsky Cathedral (I think it’s also known as St. Michael’s in English) – blue in color and facing opposite the St. Sofia church.   I think this is the prettiest of the churches that we saw in the main area of Kiev.  The wall surrounding it is the same beautiful “baby blue” color and the design of the bell tower is simple and well structured.  

During the day (particularly on Saturday and Sunday) we found the locals buying various plants and flowers to bring into church with them.  I took this picture of the row of plants being sold for the locals and thought it created a nice leading line to the Monastery in the background.  I used a small aperture (big number) to make sure I had both the flowers and also the bell tower in focus throughout the frame.

3) St. Andrews

Above is a picture of St. Andrews – this is one of the smaller churches that we saw but unfortunately while we were there the entire area around the church was under construction.  The road was all torn up, and there was a huge crane in front of the cathedral so I wasn’t really happy with the other pictures.  But I wanted to post this one to give you an idea of what it looks like.  Like the other’s, it’s very impressive.

4) St. Volodymyr’s Church

The above picture is St. Volodymyr’s church – this was pretty unique as the color scheme was very different from the others.  I have to say the inside of this church was absolutely stunning – unfortunately you can’t take any pictures.  I respected their wishes, but the artwork inside and the feeling of medieval mystery permeates the interior.

Below I’m also including this street shot I took, of a few local people selling some flowers and plants to take into the church.  I like the way this image turned out; I’m not normally one to be aggressive about street photography but I’m trying to expand my horizons a bit so wanted to share this with you.

5) Pechersk Lavra (Caves of the Monastery)

This is the big one – the famous compound of churches that pretty much every visitor to Kiev should visit.  There are many churches around the area and when you first walk into the main gate you can see a beautiful church in front of you (the first picture above, in more detail in the second shot).  I found the paintings on the outside of the buildings to be absolutely beautiful, and I highlighted these very slightly in the photos above.

Pechersk Lavra is one of the few places where you can visit the interior of one of the churches; below are a few pics of the interior of the church next to the main gate (I’m sorry but I don’t know the name of the church).  The interiors are beautiful and I had full reign of the place, but only in limited spurts of time.  I struggled a little bit with the composition on many of the shots; the area is exceptionally small and even with a wide angle lens it was tough to really capture the essence of the place.

Finally, we captured a few photos of several of the priests while they were getting ready for the service.  I love this picture of the priest solemnly walking down the stairs while his colleague is getting prepped in the dark doorway to the right.  I also captured the image of the cross with the multi-domed gold cathedral in the background.  The lead picture above is also an image from the Pechersk Lavra.  I loved the leading lines that the crosses of the cemetery played to the beautiful gold domed church on the background.  We were fortunate to have lovely weather while in Kiev and it always helps with the photography!

This about wraps it up for the trip to Kiev.  The churches are incredible, the people were wonderful and it’s one of the places that not many people have spent time.  Before going on this trip I struggled to get some real research on the churches and understand where we could get some good images and whether or not we could photograph inside.  Hopefully this post will now serve as a way for others to get clarity on what the place is like and which churches are worth seeing.

I leave you with a time-lapse shot that I took while I was there; the first one that I’ve ever taken.  I’ve produced a time-lapse tutorial for beginners over on the tutorials pages to walk you through how I did this if you’re interested in creating your own.

Below is a map of Kiev, including the primary photos of the churches and where I captured most of my images.  You can also check out my Kiev set on Flickr to see a wider collection of pics.

Enjoy!  And until next time I hope you can capture some great images!