People in the frame — experimenting in the City of London

I saw the evening sun and shadow on these steps in the City of London one weekday evening. I liked the contrast, the mix of vertical and horizontal lines, the way that the dome of the bollard mirrored the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. I had to photograph it. But as with my other architecture photography, I had to have a person in it. So I waited. Even though rush hour was long gone, I didn’t have to wait long. I got this man in silhouette. I was very happy with this. It works exactly how I wanted it to, with him disappearing into the shadows.

Man walking down steps in shadow, evening sun and shadow on steps in the City of London with the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in the background

I waited again and tried again. I tried the shot before the next person got to the steps. But it doesn’t work as well. He’s in the wrong place in the frame.

Man at the top of steps, evening sun and shadow on steps in the City of London with the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in the background

I changed the angle a little. I like where these people are in the frame and that all the activity is in the bottom third of the frame. But the dome of St Paul’s is lost and I don’t like the fact that the commuters have their backs to me.

Woman and man walking up steps, evening sun and shadow on steps in the City of London with the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in the background

So a few seconds later I reframed and hit the shutter again. There is interest throughout the frame here but the woman still has her back to me and the dome of St Paul’s is obscured.

Woman walking up steps, evening sun and shadow on steps in the City of London with the dome of St Paul's Cathedral in the background

So I think my first instinct, to get the man in the shadows, was the best one. What do you think?

6 thoughts on “People in the frame — experimenting in the City of London

  1. Love the composition and the angle you are taking the picture from, and St Paul’s in the background works really well. For me – your man in the shadows coming down is on the right side for composition – for it to be a great shot (and this is only personal opinion of course – someone else will have a different idea) I would like to see a 20 something lady in a flimsy summer dress lit up on the same side as “shadowman” – or – a young(ish) trending couple smooching, again lit up leaning against the handrail on the same side as shadowman – where you find such such people, in that location, at that time of day is pure luck and the perfect scenarios are only found once in a blue moon and the scene might need to be “worked” many times before that was to happen. I bet Bresson didn’t get masterpieces without a revisit or two 🙂

    1. Thanks Steve. My favourite is the second one with the man on the right-hand side coming down into the shadows. I like your other ideas. I think I’d have to find a set of steps in a different part of London – flimsy summer dresses and smooching couples are not something you’ll find in the City! It’s all sharp suits and work ethic.

  2. I agree with your preferred choice because the man doesn’t detract from your initial impulse of lining up the dome of St Pauls with the bollard but he fills the gap between the two. And in that shot you show enough of the dome for us to clearly see what it is. In the other 2 the dome is too far back. And the people too far away. So your positioning of all 3 elements is perfect. Maybe in post you could lift the shadow to hint more at his face? But I prefer the mystery. Lovely shot btw.

    1. Thanks Tanya,
      I did consider lifting the shadows to show his face but I liked the fact that he was disappearing into the shadows. You toy with these things but in the end have to go with your gut instinct.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *