During a recent trip to Oxford, I wanted a typical shot of a student on a bicycle, but with an unusual background. After walking round the old city centre a dozen times, I found a building that didn't scream 'Hogwarts' but was somehow unique. 'How to photograph it?'
I pondered. I could capture the building in one swoop with a lone cyclist. This was okay, but it's not the kind of image that holds your gaze.
Clearly, I had to focus on one part of the building and hope that a cyclist would glide past my lens. This was harder than I thought. I don't want to bore you with details, but there were pedestrians on both sides of the street, plus lots of cars and double-decker busses. There were two traffic lights at either end that messed up the flow of the traffic. I also realised that some cyclists reached the first traffic lights, then dismounted and walked to a college behind me. The ones who cycled past were either dressed in drab boring clothes, or would be obscured by traffic. It was driving me crazy. I sat down on a cold public bench and waited... And waited....
Eventually, after 15 minutes, I found a student who likes to stand out from the crowd.
Almost perfect. There's a touch of free spirit about this. But I wanted something more. So I waited another 10 minutes. I was close to giving up. Suddenly I noticed a father with 3 kids walking towards the building from a direction I hadn't considered. 'Please please'
, I thought... 'don't let a bus drive in front of them'
. It was nerve-racking. An old lady walked slowly towards them from the other direction. Would she get past in time? Mercifully, she only just made it. But then one of the kids stopped to tie his shoelace. I almost lowered my camera. The kid stood up and suddenly, as if by magic, all four walked past in formation. 'Click'
The lesson? If you want a cool photo, bring a cup of tea.