“Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall; the genial flame of charity in the heart”

Washington Irving

On 11th of December, myself and Christina were hired to capture the wonderful Bloodwise Carol Concert at the spectacular St Gile’s Cathedral.

As with all photography jobs, you never really know what to expect; even if you’ve been given a brief. Something always pops up. In this case it was lighting…

We were given a usual warm welcome at the door by a Bloodwise Team Member and generously given free access. This was a sold out show, and it was a pleasure to have been Bloodwises’ choice of photographers.

Shivering with cold and nerves, we began to seek out our photography hiding spot. With an ever increasing arsenal of lenses, my bag is the heaviest it’s ever been. It was a relief to get that off my shoulders, I can tell you. It was like a proton pack. (I hope everyone reading this gets the reference!)

After stretching out a little, my heart sank. See, the thing is, I’ve been taking photos in St Gile’s and other cathedrals for 13 years, but not of a concert in one.

The problem is shutter speed. Even with flash, the people are moving, and so you are bound to get blur, unless you point directly at them, leaving the photos washed out and removing all atmosphere. This was going to take a steady hand, diffusers on the flashes and will power. We needed to spread the light, as the ceilings in there are too high to bounce the light.

Luckily we were there in time for rehearsals, and had a chance to speak to Stacy Rowan, who has led us through previous jobs we have done for Bloodwise. A familiar face is always comforting and she is very supportive.

I had the chance to practice before the main event and realised this was possible. I got my settings right, shooting in full manual mode, and adjusting white balance.

Now it was time for the big struggle. Something I’d not thought about before we got there. DARKNESS. Of course it was going to be dark outside. And each Choir wanted group shots outside the cathedral after their rehearsal.

Christina opted for the tripod method at 50mm. I went for 18-135mm. We both used flash.


I will go ahead and say this was one of the hardest shoots I’ve ever done. Since Christina had chosen to use the tripod, she had to remain outside and wait in the freezing cold for the next group to finish. I deliberatly under-exposed knowing that they can be rescued in Lightroom as I shoot in RAW format so the files are bigger than the moon.

Time to go inside. People started arriving. A LOT of people. We changed to the settings we had used before and everything was ok.


The Carol Concert began and I was blown away. Shamefully enough, I had never seen a live Carol Concert before. I found myself regularly retiring to our designated photography corner just to listen. Christina continued tirelessly; she was enjoying the photography too much!

The concert was presented by STV’s Laura Boyd, who was warm and welcoming. Obviously I had to go and meet someone in that position. So she got her own mini photo shoot…

Although every Carol Choir were exceptional, there was a solo singer that really blew me away. In fact I only got 3 photos of her. Her name is Amy Carmichael. Amy is a cancer survivor, and she was just incredible. She finished to a standing ovation. I suppose, when you beat something like cancer standing in front of that many people is nothing. Then there’s me and Christina, creeping around, dressed in our black Tenth Floor Photography uniforms in the shadows. Photography is a stealth mission; standing up as a solo singer in front of a crowd is sheer bravery.


The evening was concluded with wine and nice chat. I was shattered. When I got home I still lay awake in bed thinking about the incredible work Stacy and Bloodwise Scotland do, and how honoured we were to be invited to capture these moments.

It was one of the fastest turnovers of photos the Tenth Floor Photography Team have ever accomplished. Here are some more for you.

A fantastic time was had by all, and Bloodwise Scotland really managed to bring out the spirit of Christmas, whilst raising life saving money. (and also challenging 2 professional photographers with lighting in a cathedral at night!)

I would like to give a huge thank you to

  • Forth Valley Nurses Choir

  • Forth Valley Chorus

  • Pitchcraft

  • Phoenix Choir

and of course, Amy Carmichael.

Congratulations to Stacy Rowan and her team for hosting such a wonderful event. Forever beating blood cancer.

To see the full selection of photos, and how to donate, please follow the link below.