Life here as a metro commuter is not unlike any other major city. The trains are overcrowded, the people are cranky and in a never ending rush to get somewhere very important. The trains stall during rush hour and when the doors open, people fly out in a mad dash, while refusing to move on the escalators. In the train cars, everyone is a suspect for the mystery odor that has just contaminated the air, the handlebars are a teeming petri dish of various diseases that will eventually infect you. And on the rare occasion that you manage to get a seat, its next to someone, too loud, to sleepy or too young to know about personal space.
Yes, this is the life of all metro people and a system I've used daily for as long as I can remember. I understand this world, and know its rules well. Keep your right at all times, always stand behind the yellow line, don't make eye contact and most importantly trust your instincts, if you think someone is going to be bad news, they probably will be.
Then theres the uniform that metro people put on everyday; consisting of black, gray or dark blue. The color selection I can only image is supposed to make one blend into the crowd in hopes that you can have a nice peaceful commute with no one harassing you. It, doesn't work, a hassle free commute is about as rare as a rainbow. A small few realize this and on rare occasions you'll see someone that boldly stands out.
I live near the Gare St. Lazare, a busy train hub with many lines crossing through. The entrance to the subterranean platforms are covered with a giant clear dome allowing light to follow behind as you descend into the world of the metro.
Decorating the floor, about 2 levels down, directly underneath the dome opening is a working clock. A clock that I have marched on many times, before taking notice of it one day and immediately knew that there would be a photo to be had there.
On a day when I had a bit of time to focus on creating this image, I went with my camera, tripod and shutter remote. I choose a time when I knew the station would be relatively calm, I entered through the dome and started descending down the escalator. I took my time and watched the clock on the floor as I did. I wanted to see what it looked like as I went down and see what was happening around it.
None of the people walking over it seemed to notice that they were hurriedly passing to their destination while marching over a giant clock. After doing some reconnaissance, I ended up choosing a quiet corner on the level just overhead where I would go unnoticed in such a large structure.
For the most part the people passing over the clock were sparse, until a train came and you would have a bust of people passing by, giving me a window of about 1-2 minutes to catch something interesting. I didn't have a wide angle lens at the time, so I framed my image as best I could to incorporate the clock and the people. I found a framing that I liked and took out my shutter remote. It was a manual one that, someone had given me; to use it I had to plug it into the side on my camera and be extra careful not to accidently tug on the connected cord and mistakenly shake my camera in the process after I had hit the trigger. Since I was going to be using a long shutter speed any movement to the camera would have made the background blurry and I wanted only to capture the movement of the people passing over time.
The first few frames were spent experimenting, to find the right amount of blur that I wanted as the people ran through my frame. I wanted just enough for the viewer to be able to identify the blurs as people. I settled on a speed of ⅕ seconds as it offered the perfect balance, to still understand the forms as human shapes. Now I was ready to see when my moment of strike would be. I watched as a few trains came in and saw the results of the people that would run past and decided that I would wait for the end burst as the people started to dissipate, this would give the image more impact and feel more controlled.
The first part of the rush didn't appeal to me because they were people who were super fast walkers or metro sprinters, mostly the people who had youth and impatients on their side and walking just a bit too fast to get the amount of blur I had set my camera to. The 2nd half were people still rushing but had the burden of luggage slowing them down, the luggage would also give them a different shape. Still, may have been recognizable as luggage but not the story I wanted to capture. The 3rd was my sweet spot, people still wanting to get to their destination, but not in as much of a rush where they cared to be trampled on and bumped into, yet faster still then the end stragglers, who would not be rushed for anything.
After a few practices, I was able to get a good feeling for the ebb and flow of the current of the trains. Since, I was using a slow shutter I would not have many chances to capture my image during each burst, the crowd would fade away as fast as they came.
I ended up staying longer than I had wanted to, but I just didn't have "the" shot yet, there was something missing from the images I had captured and I couldn't really put my finger on what it was, as I was getting ready for the next rush I could see the crowd approaching and I could see something interesting – some one dressed in a beautiful red cape and I perked up and readied myself to hit the shutter. It was just what was missing an interesting burst of color that would stand out amongst the greys and dark blues.
In post I enhanced this impact and made that area slightly lighter by dodging the area around and just in front to keep the view in the scene and traveling to see what other delights might be hiding in this image. I also brought up the vibrancy of the red to further exaggerate the impact, finishing by adding a slight vignette to the edges as I like to do. Keeping the viewer looking and observing as the people literally, figuratively and metaphorically move over time, forever captured in this moment.
Focal Length: 25mm
Time: 1/5 sec