One faces many challenges as a professional photographer. Adventure, narrow escapes, and near-starvation all test a photographer’s mettle as he or she pursues the perfect image. Or so the audience might think. But those breathtaking photographs are not the most difficult to make. It is by far more challenging to photograph the commonplace. Certain subject matter is so familiar that it is nearly invisible. How does one make an interesting photograph of the ordinary?
For this assignment I was asked to photograph a Zagster Bike Share bike rack. Bike racks are like ubiquitous furniture, relevant only when one needs their service. Next time you pass a bike rack, look closely at where it is placed. Bike racks are sited for discretion and convenience, not aesthetic beauty.
Completion of this assignment required a two-stage approach. First I scouted the available options and nixed obvious failures. One was adjacent to a dumpster. Another lay in a distracting setting. A third was too close to a building. Only one location held any promise, but even that scene was not inspiring. The prize, I realized, would have to be mined with patience and lighting.
I studied the location to determine (if and) when the sun would illuminate the bike rack, and from where. Checking the forecast, I returned before sunrise. The particulars of creeping shadows are unpredictable. The only way to find a shadow’s optimum placement is to observe movement throughout its range. In this case, I found it at 6:25 AM.
This particular bike rack may not be blessed with sculptural elegance, but I do think it shares a certain grace. Finding that beauty was this photographer’s challenge.