I spotted this character in the foyer of Warsaw’s Philharmonic Hall (Filharmonia Narodowa w Warszawie) on a rainy day in early winter.
He looked really interesting anyway, but stood in this position, against the symmetry of the window and the symmetrical-enough notice boards, the contrast between the order and right angles of the surroundings and his roundness makes him really stand out.
And I couldn’t have arranged the umbrella any better myself.
Photographically, there are a number of elements that make the picture work. Firstly, you need to be holding your camera in your hand when you spot a scene like this so you are ready to take the shot. If the camera is in your bag, and you have to get it out and switch it on the likelihood is that you’ll miss the moment.
The next important consideration is to echo the symmetry of the scene through your composition. I placed the man in the middle of the frame and made sure I had even spacing between the notice board edges and the edges of the picture frame. Holding the camera as level as possible and making sure you are directly in front of the shot (so that the film or digital sensor is parallel with the subject) keeps all the picture elements right-angled and even.
I enhanced this view by cropping the final image square, to add to the timeless feel of the shot. It was taken in 2007, but it could have been 1930 from the look of it. The light sepia tone, of course, further emphasises this atmosphere.
Exposure is important as well in this scene, as a certain degree of overriding was necessary. Left to their own devices all cameras would produce a picture that was too light when faced with the darker shades of the situation. However, these darker shades represent what I saw. Keeping the picture slightly dark also allows the inclusion of the complete range of tones – an automatic exposure would have left some areas too light and burnt-out.
Pentax K10D, 50mm lens 1/60sec at f/4.5, ISO 1600