Backlighting • Graphic shapes • Channel mixer • Cropping
The best way to show graphic shapes is to reduce the scene you are photographing to its most basic and fundamental elements. In this case that reduction process meant removing the colour and producing a level of contrast that would show exactly the lines and curves that caught my eye in the first place. I couldn’t control the light, obviously, and the scene only worked from one angle, but it is the element of back lighting that really helps, even in these overcast conditions, to create a semi-silhouette of the bus stop structure and the waiting woman. So I got lucky.
The backlighting reflects off the road and the pavement, making both brighter than they would be from any other angle. This backlighting has also brought out the pattern of the paving and has emphasised the straight edges between each slab. This creates a mass of lines travelling towards the camera and which also lead the eye back into the picture.
The woman stands out as she is the only element in the scene not made up of straight lines, which makes her come forward as the obvious subject. Even the roof of the shelter, which we know is curved in reality, is represented here by straight and solid edges. The only random shapes are made by the pigeon about to land, but as that is quite hidden it doesn’t take too much away from the subject.
Having shot this with low contrast settings in-camera I took the image into the Curves and created enhanced mid-tone contrast to strip out some of the image’s greys. In Levels I enhanced the blacks, and reduced the highlight output to inhibit true whites and to soften the visual effect.
Keeping it level, and cropping
At the time of shooting I was very careful to keep all the uprights absolutely straight and level, as they are an essential part of the picture. If you find yours are not quite straight they will distract the viewer’s attention and make them miss the point of the picture. I know I say it a lot, but keeping uprights completely upright is so important.
The last thing I did to the picture was a crop it to 5x4in proportions. I chose this format as it has a classic feel that introduces a quite formal atmosphere that compliments the neat and rigid linear structure and patterns of the scene.
Choosing the moment
Picking the right moment is especially important in this type of scene, as we want to keep things as simple as possible. With people and cars in the background the scene becomes cluttered and we loose the sense of what the shot is supposed to be about. With all these extra shapes that over lap it becomes difficult to see the woman, the back lit road is blocked and the pavement falls into shade. Even one additional element is enough to spoil the picture and create a distraction, as you can see from the these additional shots shown here.
About the black and white conversion
I converted this image to black and white using the channel mixer tool in Photoshop. I chose to use the green channel as it produces the more moderate contrast of the three available. The red channel showed blown out highlights, as does the blue channel. The green channel is also the sharpest and more detailed, and it displayed the right tonal differences between the coloured elements in the scene to make hedges and the grass verge stand out.
Join Damien for a street photography class – see the details here
If you found this post useful please leave a comment