Street Photography in Stormy Blustery Weather Conditions

A picture is nothing but a bridge between the soul of the artist and that of the spectator — Eugène Delacroix

Time is like the weather, you have to constantly watch it as it changes, morphs, and stretches into its surreal combinations of drenching, drying, blowy atmosphere.

Clouds shift across blue skies and block the sun, release it, dim it, split its rays into wild shafts. Two hours can pass through our lives like a mad clown on a bicycle.

Then it slows to a rhythmic pulse of impatience.

I used to read the Diary of Eugene Delacroix. It’s a wonderful compilation of his thoughts and discoveries an artist. He was a French oil painter determined to do his own ‘thing’.

I remember one passage in the book; he had been to a concert to see his friend Chopin play a concerto — the description, and Delacroix’ critic of the concert was in itself an eye opener to how to listen to music.

What caught my attention was the notes he made on the journey back to his quarters. He sat in the carriage and observed the rear end of the horses as they moved in the sunlight.

The horses’ muscles from the point of the tail to the shoulders shifted and moved in the afternoon light. He saw how this affected the changes in colour on the back of the horses.

His observation was summed up with understanding that there is always a small area of pure local colour that blends into the highlight. But most of what we look at is either a greyed out version of the colour or it is darkened and lost in shadow.

This is an important observation when we study a street scene for photography.

Image by Sean P. Durham

Yesterday I went out again. Looking for an opportunity to take a couple of shots on the street.

There are always the broad roads in Berlin. I can stop, hang out and watch for my opportunity. A passing group that twists and turns in the afternoon light, a particularly bright area surrounded by shadow, people, hustle and bustle — seldom a horse and carriage.

Lots of colour to observe. I can watch how the sunlight brightens and dims the local colours of the garish adverts in bus shelters.

I’ve never forgotten the lesson from Eugene Delacroix Diary. He showed me something through his observations. At that time I was a painter. The use of colour and its subtleties felt like delving into 17th century magic.

I avoided the main roads and went into the backstreets. The photo above was taken under the arches of the railway bridges. People pass through quite often.

I’ve noticed how their mood changes with the light as they make their way from the well lit street into the darkness under the bridge. They rush along, in a hurry to get to the other end where there is more light and people.

There is a constant stink of discarded humanity under this bridge — not a place to hang out. But I did. I wanted to see and feel the light, the shadows, and see how much colour the darkness would allow.

The man walking past the bicycle is in blue jeans and white socks, his skin tones reflect the oncoming light easily, but the blue jeans kept going in and out of colour. Sometimes his legs looked like dark sticks with white clods at the ends, then he’d take a step and the colour blue flashed for a moment.

I took three shots as he passed. This one is successful for me.

The red bicycle acts as a passive bystander and the movement of the man’s body, his slightly raised hand, and the well defined head create a fine photo that’ll go into my files ready for print.

Thanks for reading. Your comments on photography, cats, and things in between are all welcome.

Eugene Delacroix in History

The Diary of Eugene Delacroix on Goodreads