Light and Shadows in Street Photography - "Always remember, sir, that light and shadow never stand still."

A couple of weeks ago, I was down in Sussex at Petworth House where they had an exhibition of some of John Constable's paintings done during the time he spent there in the mid 1830s. One thing that caught my eye, to the extent I stopped and wrote it down, was the following piece of advice given to Constable by Sir Benjamin West, then President of the Royal Academy:

"Always remember, sir, that light and shadow never stand still."

(Attributed in C R Leslie's 'Memoirs of the Life of John Constable', 1845)

I felt that this is as relevant to us street photographers today as it was 180 years ago, perhaps even more so. I do a lot of my London street photography either around Central London or in the City and there are particular places that I either go back to regularly or pass on my way to or from work. Different times of day - sometimes the same time of day but different seasons, bring a totally different view, so there will be days when I walk past a particular spot without taking any pictures and then, one day, the light will be just right. An example is of this image of a shadow of someone descending the stairs to the underpass at Waterloo station.

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Certainly at the time that I pass by, the light is only like this for a week or so in the spring and autumn - always assuming of course that the sun does actually shine!

I'm always looking for opportunities where the light is 'right', my favourite images are those taken contre-jour - a trip over to the City last week, and 10 minutes near the 'Gherkin', brought this one.

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Two minutes later,  the sun had moved on, as had the shadow and so had the opportunity of any more such pictures.

With, hopefully, some better weather on its way, I'll be looking for similar such places - and then waiting for the 'right' person to come along. 

Justin Cliffe -