Single Shot Stories No. 002 – Jacob Downey

Single Shot Stories No. 002 – Jacob Downey

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  • Photographer: Jacob Downey
  • Camera/Lens: Pentax Spotmatic, 55mm f1.8
  • Film: Fuji Neopan 1600 (I have no idea why I thought using 10 year expired 1600 ISO film was a good idea)
  • Location: England

The Story: There’s been so much and so little that’s happened in the nearly 18 months since the pandemic turned the whole world upside down that it can be difficult to remember the days before the first lockdown.

I have the very real privilege of working at one of England’s 42 cathedrals. The day I took this photo I could feel the pandemic closing in. I spent most of the day frantically pulling events out of the calendar and answering calls asking about our situation. At the start of the week I’d agreed to look after a residentiary canon’s cats, but now with the prospect of a lockdown looming, I was desperately trying to find someone else to look after them before I started my evening shift.

There was a different atmosphere during this service. A handful of people gathered in a vast building that has stood through so much change. It has less of the usual mix of tourists and transient members, instead boasting a handful of people seeking genuine comfort and reassurance. People seemed almost reluctant to leave the comfort of the 800-year-old stone walls, and they hung around after service. I chatted with a few of them  and naïvely told one woman we’d stay open as long as we could, as long we were allowed to.

After everyone had left I started my normal routine of locking the building. The last thing to do is to make sure the lights are off. This night they were playing up and some stayed on. I climbed up to the organ loft to get a better view of which lights were still on. As I was just about to leave I had my well-loved Pentax Spotmatic [more on this excellent camera here] slung over one shoulder. At the top I saw this view, a darkened cathedral, the altar bathed in light. I took a guess at the light, remembered I was using 10-year-expired high-speed film, and took one image overexposed by one stop and one underexposed one stop before the roll was used up. I went back down, left a note about the lights for the morning shift and locked up for the night.

And that was it. The next morning the national Church suspended all public services and five days later the entire country was in a lockdown that would last three months. Nearly a year and a half later that evening remains the last completely normal service I worked. I’ve been back plenty of times since, but it’s still a long way from normal.

I keep a “Top 20” of all my photos, there’s a strict one-in-one-out policy. This one is in there and I don’t see it getting bumped anytime soon. It’s not objectively the best photo I’ve ever taken, but I’ve never captured the feeling of a moment more truly than I did with this photo.

[Many thanks to Jacob for sharing his shot and story. Tell Jacob what you think of his photo in the comments below!]

Add Your Story to Single Shot Stories!

We’d love to feature you and your photography on the site and to share it with our many readers! Please pick your favorite photo with a story, and tell it to us. Everyone is welcome to submit a photo. Submissions are limited to one per photographer in a three-month period, and must meet the following criteria:

  1. Along with the image sent to us via email, include in the same email the camera, lens and film (if applicable) which were used to take the photo, and location where the photo was made.
  2. Include a story of no more than 500 words about the image. The content is completely open so long as it discusses the submitted photo.
  3. The photo should be 2,000 pixels on the long end. 

To submit your Single Shot Story for publication here on CP, send all of the above information and the photo in an email to

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Guest Author

In addition to our staff writers, we accept articles from passionate and knowledgeable photo people. If you have an article idea that you'd like to publish on Casual Photophile, please submit it to our email address for articles -

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  • Paul Hoppe Photography June 28, 2021 at 9:29 am

    I like the dark mood this photo expresses. I really like how this Singe Shot Story idea is starting out. I sent my submission already. This reminds me that the last normal church service was the day my daughter had her baptism. A weeek later and churches would be shut down for months….we are so glad it worked out.

  • Cool photo. I must have missed the intro of these single shot. Great idea.

  • I wish I had taken a photo of the bus journey home when I found out schools were closing. This photo seems to portray my mood and feeling though. Super shot and thanks for the background story.

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Guest Author

In addition to our staff writers, we accept articles from passionate and knowledgeable photo people. If you have an article idea that you'd like to publish on Casual Photophile, please submit it to our email address for articles -

All stories by:Guest Author