Photo Essay: Silhouetted Scenes at Dusk

EYEWITNESS 2015 blog by Aidan O'Rourke

Wellington Grove off the A6 in south Stockport, silhouetted rooftops and street lamp at dusk

I love the effect of dusk light, when street lights, buildings are cast into shadow and appear silhouetted against the sky.

In the urban landscape of northern England, many of these buildings remind us of the past. Modern elements such as cars and fashions are excluded. We can only imagine what is in the black areas, it could be from the present or from our memories of the past. The sky is full of atmosphere, enhancing the nostalgic effect.

In this photo, taken from bus stop near where we live, a 50s style street lamp appears on the left, whilst the rooftops slope down from the corner of the picture. The chimney stacks look mostly as they did 100 years ago, except that there is no smoke.

Aerials are pointed north towards Winter Hill. Cables stretched over the street carry phone and internet communications. In a few minutes time the pink sky will have turned dark.

When photographing for silhouettes, it may be necessary to reduce the exposure compensation to minus one or possibly two. Here, there was an area of sky in the centre of the picture, so it wasn’t necessary. If the are had been dark, the camera would have tried to lighten the picture.

Silhouetted shapes generally look better when sharp, and so a narrower aperture will be better. This photo was taken at aperture f11, shutter speed 125th of a second, ISO800.

Atmospheric sky with street lamp and telegraph pole, Cheadle Heath, Stockport

The light in this photo was especially atmospheric, with dark clouds above and bright sunlight peeping below the clouds behind the house.

Even in the age of satellites, wireless hotspots and fiber-optic cables, 19th century telegraph poles continue in use. The street lamp almost looks as if it has already switched on, but it’s just a trick of the light.

This photo is taken in Cheadle Heath, on Kensington Road, near where I grew up as a child.

Stockport Edgeley spire of St Matthews church silhouetted against a rainy sky

This is the view from Platform 4 at Stockport’s Edgeley Station. I took the photo of the spire of St Matthew’s church, Edgeley after a heavy shower.

The spire of St Georges Church south Stockport silhouetted against a dusk sky

When silhouetted against the dusk sky, the spire of St George’s Church, Heaviley, Stockport looks exactly the same as when it was completed, in 1897. The angle emphasises the flying buttresses at the base of the spire. At the very top, the weather cock faces to the west. The spire is 238 feet high.

The tower of Birkenhead town hall silhouetted at dusk

Birkenhead Town Hall ahs a distinctive shape with a dome at the top. Nearby are the rooftops of the houses on Hamilton Square, and there is a flag, though it’s impossible to make out what flag is is. A visually fascinating element of the clock tower is the clock face, lit from behind. The time is 6.20pm.

Capture details: 1/125s f5.6 ISO800, 31 Dec 2005, 18:11:26.

Liverpool Municipal Buildings and the Unity Building silhouetted at dusk, seen from St John's Gardens

The view from St Johns Gardens, Liverpool faces towards the west and often the skyline is silhouetted. Here the tower of the Municipal Buildings on Dale Street points up into the dusk sky. On the right, a modern element is introduced.

It’s the Unity Building, the prestigious residential building, completed 2007. In the middle one of the high level lights illuminating the entrance to the Kingsway Tunnel.

Manchester Holy Name Church, Oxford Road seen against a dusk sky with tree branches

Manchester’s Holy Name church is seen here through trees and silhouetted against a reddish-purple dusk sky. The tree branches look like lace. The outline of the church is similar to a French cathedral.

I added a black border to enhance the silhouetted effect. It recaptures the excitement of viewing Kodachrome transparencies against the light. On the reverse side it was possible to see the imprint of shapes in the picture, caused by unevenness of the emulsion. This photo was taken on a digital camera, probably the Nikon Coolpix 990, on 22 March 2003.

It is impossible to take this view now. University buildings were constructed on the car park behind the trees.

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