Photographing Mission San Juan Bautista

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San Juan Bautista is the 20th mission we have visited and photographed.  It is clearly in the top five of our favorite missions and I could make an argument that it is number one.  It has very large grounds, is absolutely beautiful inside, and is surrounded by the quaint town of San Juan Bautista.  Here is what you might see:

San Juan Bautista was founded in 1797 by the Franciscan order.  It is the fifteenth and largest of the Spanish missions established in California.  It is named for Saint John the Baptist and is the namesake of the city of San Juan Bautista.  San Juan Bautista has served mass daily since 1797, and today functions as a parish church.

The inside of the church is ornate with great statuary, painted walls, and an opulent altar.

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The Baptismal
The Baptismal

Here is the small chapel behind the main church.

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It has a small, but pretty cemetery.

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The front of the church faces a large grass plaza.  You will get a lot of good views of the front facade, Father Serra, and the El Camino Real Bell.

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It has a great front porch
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You should use a tripod for the interior shots.  At 100 ISO and f/16, the exposures were 20-30 seconds.  The combination of the long exposure and the small aperture creates the pretty “light stars” too.  We also made a few shots set up really low to create a sense of size and scale.  If you have a point and shoot, you might try the “night” setting.

Because we were there in harsh mid-day light, we had to “think” in black and white.  We used our infrared cameras and converted the images to black and white.  We also shot color and desaturated the images.  This created a little bit of a gritty look that I like with the old architecture.  We like to process our photos using Nik’s Silver Efx Pro and Color Efx Pro.

You can probably spend a good 2-3 hours at this mission.  This mission is in the middle of nowhere, 46 miles south of San Jose, and 35 miles east from Santa Cruz or Monterey.  It is definitely worth the side trip.  We also loved the little town which has really cute shops and some fun restaurants.

Well, 20 missions down and just one to go.  There are many articles about the various missions on our blog.  Here are the two main blogs about the CA missions – CA Missions I and CA Missions II.  You can also search our blog for California Missions.

To see more of our photographs, please go to

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