The Cologne Cathedral (der Kölner Dom) didn’t fit into the wide end of my Nikon Df’s 28-200mm zoom lens. Nor could I make it fit into the extra-wide 21mm lens on my Reto Ultra Wide and Slim. So I got out my iPhone and set the camera to ultra wide — 13mm (equivalent). That did it. But even then, I had to back up so far that other smaller objects blocked some of the view, and I had to tilt the camera.

Kölner Dom

Finally, I’ve found a good use for the iPhone’s ultra wide camera!

When I visited in 1984, I knew that my cheap 110 camera couldn’t fit the entire cathedral into one frame. So I shot eight overlapping images of the church, working my way up from the bottom. For years, I had them taped in order to a piece of paper. But about 15 years ago I scanned the prints and used a program called Autostitch to bring them together. Then about 10 years ago I bought a cheap digitizer for my 110 negatives, and did the same.

Kölner Dom

For fun, I repeated the exercise with my Nikon Df and that 28-200mm zoom lens. I used Photoshop’s Photomerge feature this time. After 40 years I still haven’t learned to make more images across in the lower sections of such a large object.

Köln - Kölner Dom

My other cameras weren’t useless here. I got some good drama with the Nikon Df when I moved close and looked straight up.

Köln - Kölner Dom

I tried this angle on the Cathedral with the Reto Ultra Wide and Slim with Fujicolor 200.


Finally, with the Pentax IQZoom 170SL, I went for a conventional straight-on shot. It was a full-sun morning, with light falling directly onto this scene. The T-Max 100 film inside returned great detail. I developed the film in Rodinal 1+50.

Köln - Dom

My iPhone proved useful one more time at the cathedral for a good selfie.


I also photographed the cathedral from the rear, and made a whole bunch of images inside. But this post is long enough, and those images will wait for another day.

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14 responses to “Photographing the overwhelmingly enormous Cologne Cathedral”

  1. Michael Elliott Avatar

    I think the straight up dramatic shot is probably my favourite shot I’ve seen of Cologne Cathedral. It really is a beast of a building, I think of the archetypal shots of it with the railway bridge in front of it (from the rear?) when I think of the cathedral, and I just don’t think the people who designed, planned it out and built it were thinking of the photographers!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That would probably be because it predates photography! :-)

  2. tbm3fan Avatar

    That is the one cathedral I missed in 1976 and wanted to see since the only picture in my head is it standing amid the rubble of WWII. At least saw Westminster, all the Gothic Churches in France, stood on the roof of Notre Dame, and walked up through the Basilica at the Vatican and to stand on the roof behind the statues facing the Plaza. Those statues at the time had steel bars strapped in back to keep them together.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t believe I saw the photos of the Cologne Cathedral amid the rubble before this year. They were sobering.

  3. DougD Avatar

    The angled shot with the retro is my favorite. I regret that I never got a good look at the inside, when I was there for a work trip we looked quickly before taking a short Rhine cruise.

    We had a beer afterwards in an establishment near the cathedral, and the German engineer hosting us showed us where the the building stones were pieced together after the war to literally rebuild the building. It was impressive!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It takes a long time to really see the inside because the place is so dang big!

      I knew that the cathedral suffered some damage, but didn’t realize it needed some rebuilding! I had heard that the place was largely intact as it was deliberately not bombed because it was such a good landmark.

      1. DougD Avatar

        I mean the hotel where we were having a beer later had been bombed out and pieced back together. I was unclear in 1st comment

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Ohhhhhh now I’m tracking with you!

  4. M.B. Henry Avatar

    Wonderful pictures of a beautiful building! I too struggled to get good shots when we were there, just because of its mammoth size!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I swear the camera team at Apple had this place in mind when they created the ultra-wide lens!

      1. M.B. Henry Avatar

        Right? I definitely didn’t get pictures as nice as yours!

  5. J P Avatar

    Beautiful pictures of a structure intended to point to the beauty, power and majesty of God. I believe that beauty has been sadly neglected as a method of evangelization in our modern world. I am glad you got to see this wonderful cathedral in person!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! That’s the whole point of the large windows that point to the sky. They point to the majesty of God!

  6. […] read Jim Gray’s recent post on his excellent “Down The Road” blog about photographing Cologne […]

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