On the Staircase

I was in London again two days ago to see ‘David Hockney – Printmaker’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. A fascinating and brilliantly curated exhibition of his early Etchings and his subsequent work using Lithography up to the end of the 20th century. I hadn’t realised quite how ground-breaking he was as a technician using those particular techniques particularly as they evolved during his time in California. As usual I’ve got to this exhibition shortly before it closes, so it’s a bit late to encourage you to see it unless you can make it there by 11 May. For  a review of this exhibition click here.

On the way back through London I stopped off at London Bridge for a quick look at The Shard (Europe’s tallest building) at which point it started to rain so I retreated inside to wait.

I found an out-of-the-way corner at the foot of a staircase to wait and immediately saw the potential for an image of people on the staircase with the vast area of glass behind it – a perfect environment for a silhouette. I could picture the high contrast posterized final image that I was looking for in my mind’s eye.

I waited about ten minutes. More people were descending towards me rather than climbing up it. I wasn’t happy at the idea of shooting those descending – a little too brazen, I felt, even with the G10. How I wished I had a camera with a flip-out screen that would make me feel less obtrusive. I just wanted that one isolated person close to the mezzanine level. I had to keep waiting. Finally two women stated to ascend. This was my opportunity. I was running out of time.

One of them was just reaching the point I wanted, but the women on the left side of the stairs had stopped for some reason and was leaning against the wall. That really annoyed me at the time, but I still shot the image.

IMG_6054_wpBack home, it was only as I started processing that I realized that rather than trying to work out a crop to remove the women on the left, she actually added to the tension, balanced the composition, and also asked questions.

Was I right? As always it’s good to get your feedback – do make a comment.

About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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19 Responses to On the Staircase

  1. Adrian Lewis says:

    A flip out screen? Well you’d better get a G11 then, Andy! I like this very much. I see what you mean about the woman on the left, and think I would have darkened her arms a little – but there’s so much in the rest of the shot its untrue – the stairs, handrails, railings, that huge cross in its curved frame, and of course the other woman – perfectly caught. Good stuff! Adrian

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much for that comment, Adrian. I’m aware of the G11 – tempting. Actually I lightened the woman’s arms, but maybe I’ve done that too much. Argh! There’s a little too much grain and noise in her face too that I tried to tone down without much success – but that’s only really obvious when the image is enlarged to a bout A3. It’s an image I think I need to return to to after a while and see if I can process that element of it a little better. Glad you like it overall.

  2. Chillbrook says:

    I suspect the lady on the left wanted to be photographed Andy.. it’s a smashing image and I do think the women on the left adds the tension you describe. I love the shape the roof and the handrails form, an eye looking out on the world..

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much Adrian. There is an element of ‘posing’ by the attitude of the lady on the left, but I don’t think it was intentional. It was one of those frames that I saw as offering potential. If I had stood there for half an hour I know I could have done better, but the CCTV would probably have spotted me by then and might well have had my collar felt.

  3. oneowner says:

    I like the shot as it is but you can get a second image from this by cropping out the left third of this, ending with a near square format of the woman on the right ascending.

  4. You know at first she was bothering me a little but when I studied and looked at the image for a longer time it actually felt right. That woman being there actually adds more interest and (as you said) more tension to the scene. It makes my eye sweep from left to right and really take it all in. Wonderful image Andy.

  5. lemanshots says:

    The woman on the left makes the photo being special and vivid. I would’nt remove this person.

  6. Very nice – glad I’m not the only person who hangs around and ‘stalks’ locations waiting for the right person to walk through!

    • LensScaper says:

      Many thanks for that comment. I prefer to think that I ‘hang around expectantly’. It’s hard to do that, at the same time as cradling a camera and looking totally disinterested. It’s an acquired skill, I think, and I’m working on it!

  7. John Linn says:

    Andy, very nice as is. The woman leaning on the rail is looking through the picture and the woman on the top is looking out, making a very interesting contrast.They are both equal distant from the edge of the picture (side-to-side) but do not seem that way because of their body positions. I like the composition. Stairways are always a favorite to me with the strong diagonals.

  8. ShimonZ says:

    He’s considered by many, a very important artist. I’ve seen some wonderful works of his.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Shimon. Hockney’s exhibition two years ago showing his work painted on an iPad was really quite extraordinary. He seems to have the ability to master new techniques remarkably well.

  9. Len says:

    My first look at the image took my eye to the brightest area and the contrast with the silhouette. It wasn’t until I studied it a bit more that I spotted the second woman. I think that is what makes the image. Subtle but not too obtrusive.

  10. Helen Cherry says:

    You were indeed right to leave her in Andy .. her look of concern adds too..

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