Margate Old Town Photography
Landscape &Travel Photography Techniques
Dec 5th 2013
The Old Town in Margate has undergone considerable redevelopment in an effort to rejuvenate the town and improve the area. As you can imagine, public opinion is divided on the merits of this and the prospects of reviving this old seaside town.
However, one of the joys of being a photographer is that I can rise above (or sink below…) these thorny debates and, instead, look simply for the photographic potential in a place and enjoy it for it's artisitc potential and qualities alone.
I find that I respond quite instinctively to architecture, in a creative sense, and find my eye is often drawn to roads and alleys that offer a visual journey through the scene, as opposed to; foreground, middle and distance which is my landscape approach.
Swirling patterns in the street add texture to an otherwise empty foreground and the tungsten light from the street lamp adds a kiss of warmth to the middle of the scene. Canon EOS 5DMKIII, TSE 17mm lens, 0.3secs, F8 ISO 200.
Not that these elements aren’t still important, it’s just that when trying to ‘find’ a photograph in an urban space I look for ways through the scene first and then work out where to place the tops and bottoms of buildings etc in the view finder afterwards.
There are some ingredients that make these sort of shots really work, not all of which I had here. Great light is a first-a lovely clear sky will yield a striking midnight blue dusk and rain will offer reflections, which I dind't have the fortune to enjoy. In an ideal world, I’d have rain first followed rapidly by a clear sky just as the sun sets!
Timing is key. I shot this sequence over a period of just under an hour and I started at the first signs of a post sunset after glow (see the pinks in the sky) through to the very end of the deep blue dusk sky, before it goes black and less appealing.
Timing shots in the evening is not an exact science but about tuning into the quality of the ambient light and how it is balancing with any artificial lights to make otherwise dark recesses like the windows pop a little with light.
Converging verticals are also a problem. In this shot, in the City in London, the buildings are racing towards the sky but also seemingly ‘falling’ inwards from both sides. This is due to the nature of shooting a vertical object (the building) onto a sensor held at an angle.
The Lloyds ad Willis buildings in London, shot pointing the camera almost straight up, the normally straight vertical lines run right across the image as opposed to striaght up and down and paralell with the sides of the photograph.
To avoid this I use my TSE 17mm perspective control lens. It’s a tilt/shift lens that allows me to adjust the perspective and keep these lines vertical. The lovely wide angle means I can keep a sense of space and reflect broadly the same view we can take in with our eyes.
The mixture of ambient light in the sky and strong, warm, tungsten lighting from the street has created a very colourful image with the deep blue sky offset by the warm building. Canon EOS 5DMKIII 17mm TSE lens, 2 secs, f8 ISO 200.
This building reminds me of the Flatiron building in New york, for obvious reasons, and without a tilt/shift lens it would be impossible to capture it from this viewpoint as I am so close to it that, ordinarily I'd have to point my camera up and cause the verticals to converge, an effect which can look awkward unless it's exaggerated as in my London shot.
As I finished up with the twilight approaching I did wonder where I stood on the fence of Margate’s redevelopment and I have to say I’m all for it. To leave it to rot would be to admit defeat and entirely unprogressive and unoptimistic. The waterfront and the old town are fantastic places to experience-as good as any I’ve been to on all my travels and the fish and chips at Peter’s on the water front is simply the finest in the world!