Lower Gilmore Bank, Edinburgh, 2019

It’s the sort of picture I’ve always longed to be able to make – technically and compositionally appealing.

I’ve already written about my new camera (I saw the light) and the way it’s helping me see things quite differently in monochrome. This image taken in an otherwise inoffensive little arcade between a busy Edinburgh street and the quiet of the canal basin is one that pleases me no end. I suspect I wouldn’t even have tried to take this with my slightly long-in-the-tooth Canon 5D.

It’s the sort of picture I’ve always longed to be able to make. Complex play of light, reflections, deep deep blacks, people interest, a panoramic feel with a depth to the view and action all the way through the depth: they all conspire to offer me a quiet satisfaction with way the image came out.

The light, always the light

The light first of all. There are three sources of light in the picture: daylight from the other side of the arcade dominates but there is light also from the little window on the right and from the reception area in the offices on the left.

The daylight is picked up and reflected on all four surfaces of the arcade. The ceiling and the left wall of glass hold the brightest reflections, but the picture would not be so arresting without the damp paving slabs and that little glint round the vertical window on the right.

The light also makes the black tones really black. The dynamic range available to me in my new Fuji beats the old Canon hollow, or at least that’s the way it feels. There are details in the shadows where before I wouldn’t have seen them. And this makes the black tones even blacker by comparison.

The people

Lower Gilmore Bank, Edinburgh, 2019

Then there’s the people. They are concentrated in the centre of the picture, framed by the arcade, a picture within a picture. Apart from one free spirit they are all walking away from or towards the camera. They give the picture a depth of interest as they recede into the distance towards the spiral staircase in the building at the back. The depth is enhanced by the just-visible details in the bottom corners of the picture.

The composition

Its panoramic nature lends the image its real complexity. The picture also has a composition that is split rather firmly into traditional thirds, both vertical and horizontal. At a usual viewing distance you’ll find your eyes moving left and right to take it all in which adds to what I describe elsewhere as the perceived effort of taking it all in (Ultraw-i-d-e). You start by concentrating on the central panel with the people in it. Then your eyes move to the left to the revolving doors and the strong reflections. Finally you realise there’s interest on the right too, more subtle perhaps, but there’s detail to be seen in the high window and the glow round the tall window.

So, technically and compositionally appealing with enough in it to hold the interest for a good while. Can you tell I’m pleased with it?

Despite my misgivings about talking too much about camera settings and other configuration matters which aren’t too important, these are the bits of technical information about this picture some folk find useful:

  • Camera: Fuji X Pro-2
  • Lens: Samyang 12mm f2
  • ISO: 800
  • Exposure: 1/40 at f8.0
  • I use Lightroom and NIK software for sharpening and noise reduction.

Other back stories

The Fin, 2011

Way back in 2011, I was fascinated by the buildings in Manchester – mainly the Victorian and Edwardian commercial architecture. There was lots to go at, and much that was in an attractive state of dilapidation. But there’s lots of modern buildings too and I regret not photographing more while I was there.
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Chad. No! A study of brick walls in Manchester

Chad! No! Manchester, 2012

“But it’s just a picture of a wall!” It’s also a picture of ambition moderated by pragmatism, of nostalgia, of seeing how things were, how things are now and how they got there.
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Time’s Arrow, 2016

The story behind the image. There was something about the line of gravestones not just leading to the door but also taking you back in time as you walk along beside them.
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Distant Horizons, 2019

Sometimes, when you take a photograph, you know immediately what it’s about. Other times, you’re not so sure. This was one of those times.
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The Night Express, 2016

It’s as though the bridge is being cast in front of your eyes, a trail of molten gold flowing along the raised track.
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