Urbanity Image Review #2

Taken in Hong Kong, March 2014.

Some careful preparation rewarded with an opportunity.

urbanity #2 22


The Hong Kong Cultural Centre is regarded by many as one of the worst eyesores in the city. It looks just like a massive block of concrete, without windows, without hope, like a jail. The concrete provides some great texture and colour, particularly for black and white photography. The whole place looks like it has been put through a black and white conversion in Lightroom.

One of the first photographers that pop up in most street photographer’s learning journey is Henri Cartier-Bresson. His image here on the right is an iconic street photograph – and probably symbolises the whole “Decisive Moment” thing. The Hong Kong image was certainly inspired by HCB’s classic image. As soon as it was scanned up, it was clear it would make the short list easily.

Position and timing are two things that every photographer within their control. When I arrived at the Cultural Centre, I took a deep breath and sat down for a few minutes, reviewing my notes. The strategy was to walk around the centre and poke about the different areas looking for a unique perspective.

The position turned out to be under a major pedestrian bridge. The bridge was slightly forward of the wall in the image, allowing a hard edged light to hit the area immediately in front of the wall. The bridge then cast a shadow in the foreground of the image.

Whilst still setting up, a mother and child walked by. I took a couple of quick shots but a couple of challenges presented. The scene was quite poorly lit overall. Even with the lens stopped down to F2.8 (I think it was a 28mm lens) and using Ilford HP5 Plus iso 400 film, the shutter speed was still too slow for a decent hand held shot. Getting down on one knee and steadying my arm with it was the best I was going to get, short of laying down on the ground.

A couple more people walked by, and I shot them. The image’s edges were not much different to what I could actually see – it was kind of a box frame area I was looking at, with solid edges of the pedestrian bridge blocking the view of subjects entering the shot area. I moved forward and back until I was happy with the position and proceeded to wait.

Timing was the next checkbox. After five or so minutes, a young boy entered the frame, running by in school uniform. I already had the camera pre-focused on and managed to get two shots off before he exited the frame. He was running so fast that I didn’t get the shot until he was past the half way mark of the frame!

Whilst I love the image, I sometimes wonder if it would have been more aesthetically pleasing to have had him positioned in the left hand third of the image, having just entered the frame?

A piece of luck was the timing of the images – it was virtually impossible to predictably take the shot with the boy lifted off the ground mid stride. The shutter lag and the whole rushed nature of the opportunity just didn’t allow it. But then, they say you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take! (I think that is a Gretzky ice hockey quote, rather than a photography gem.) One of the two images got the timing perfect – even down to the boy’s tiny, almost imperceptible shadow.

The texture of the wall gives an almost vibrating frequency style background to the boy, heightening the sense of him running, and hte forward motion.  There are four parallel clear layers of background, each clearly defined with strong edges.




One Response to “Urbanity Image Review #2”

  1. Yes I like this one. I like that hard light line on which the kid is located. I personally like where he is in the frame, though know convention or the “rules” would say he should be in the “ideal position”. I’m a bit contrary that way I suppose lol. The HCB image is interesting. From what I’ve read, he had the camera at a hole in the fence and wasn’t even seeing the scene…that he got this image is a miracle, and in my view little to do with skill..that’s not a criticism. that sort of magic happens all the time if one is right in the moment and the space…BTW I didn’t get the pdf..maybe i got my own address wrong..wouldn’t be the first time lol paulspictures242@gmail.com


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