<<< o >>>on the margins 58 comments + add yours

I was taking photographs of this guy for a couple of minutes before he noticed me: it was busy, and I was on the opposite side of a pedestrianised area, so I wasn't immediately obvious to him. When he did notice me he put his arm in front of his face and stayed that way until I walked over to him. He explained that he didn't want his picture in the local paper, because he'd been photographed by them before and hadn't liked what they'd written. When I explained that I wasn't with the paper he relaxed, and we chatted for a while.

In the meanwhile, the people who would normally walk past and ignore him, continued to walk past; ignoring both of us – at least that's what they wanted us to think.

On a technical note: this is an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image constructed from a single RAW file - the normal exposure, another, 1.2 stops overexposed, and the final one overexposed by 2.4 stops. I wanted to bring back some detail in the shadow areas of the shot and to level off the detail in the texture of his clothes.

focal length
shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter
2.20pm on 29/4/06
Canon 20D
EF 70-200 f/4L USM
126mm (202mm equiv.)
aperture priority
C1 Pro
3x2 + HDR + people [portraiture] + urban
comment by Gavin at 07:42 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

Wow. I dont know how you get the confidence to take photographs like this. This is fantastic. I love the composition, this is a very powerful shot.

comment by Jamey at 07:54 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

I'm a big fan of your people shots and I'm glad you've found time to take some more. I like the muted colours on this and for the most part the HDR works quite well but there's a patch in the guy's shadow, just next to (and below) his knee where the blue of the shop's shutter suddenly gets much brighter. It looks a little odd to me.

Otherwise I like it. Just finished an eight-day run of people shots myself but I've run out of steam now. Will have to get out this week and meet some folks.

comment by James Darling at 08:00 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

I subscribe to your feed and look at your photos every day for the occasional stunner you pull off that I really like.

This is one of them.

Just to let you know.

comment by Robert at 08:14 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

It's a great use of HDR to enhance instead of plasticize an image. Perhaps a little too much highlight on the metal in his shadow?

His big toe coming out of the shoe is the clincher on how desperate his situation has become.

comment by Napfisk at 08:27 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

Great photograph, great social photography (if you could say that). The blue and gold streaks give it a glamouresque feel, contrasting heavily of course with the subject. I can't help thinking about how far removed this man is from us with our digital cameras, blogs and tech savvy. But please go on with the portraiture; it comes very naturally to you it seems.

comment by M at 08:37 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

This is easily one of the best photos you've ever taken, IMO.

comment by Moodahlic at 09:04 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

This is a very good photo.

comment by djn1 at 09:36 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

Jamey: I've toned down the brightness a bit in the shadow area you mentioned. You're right, it did look a bit inconsistent.

comment by Fellow Eskimo at 09:37 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

I really wish I could do the HDR photo thing...I just cannot get it to work! Anyway, this is a nice shot, and I dont blame him for not wanting to be the paper. He is the poster of poverty.

comment by Karl at 09:42 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

Wow, great shot! Did you ask him to take this picture? It looks so natural, no posing.

comment by Karl at 09:44 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

OK, I just read your comment now, sorry :-)

comment by Juliån at 09:50 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

This man could know ignorance of the others in life,
I think this silent evening gives him in a sense a beautiful tribute.
Nowadays, its humanism that we miss..

Good evening!

comment by shaped at 10:19 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

a very impressive hdr shot! the composition is great! like his expression.

comment by Jamey at 10:20 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

Nice one. The updated version looks great.

comment by Paul at 10:26 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

Very nice shot. At first I thought it was Steve Buscemi! I think I would have preffered it a little darker/moodier/depressing though.

comment by Andres at 10:51 PM (GMT) on 30 April, 2006

Oh, oh! what a shot! It makes me think about photography. the way we can see suffering in a beautiful and well done image. it is ironic.
Exellent photos...

comment by rambohoho at 12:04 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

u r great, man!

comment by Timothy Gray at 12:07 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Really nice shot here. How'd you manage top pull off an HDR using just a single source image? Normally PS gives you an error.

comment by Rachel at 12:08 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

This shot is gorgeous.

comment by Rui at 12:13 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

awesome picture! of a tough reality.

comment by Ben at 12:51 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Absolutely amazing. Nothing more, nothing less.

comment by Ashish Sidapara at 01:39 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Lovely shot!

comment by Kristyn at 01:57 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

well captured. quite an effective representation of a typical human society.

comment by Bria at 02:08 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

I have been a huge fan of your work for a while now, but this picture is nothing short of moving. I love the composition, and muted coloring. Keep doing what you do so well!

comment by ROB at 02:41 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Powerful shot, almost looks like its staged and he is not really in that situation. Great use of HDR as its not obvious at all.

comment by andrea at 02:57 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

I really like the composition and the lighting

comment by miklos at 04:18 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006


I've always wondered why HDR is used in some of your shots where it doesn't seem to be quite necessary.. To recover shadow detail you can just as easily go to Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight and play around with the shadow or highlight amount sliders until you get the desired effect. You can even check the "show more options" checkbox to really gain control of the tool. What I have found myself doing (instead of dicking around with saving 3 versions of the same file, and then letting an HDR program take its sweet time building a composite -- although I generally just use CS2's "merge to HDR" option when I want to try this crazy technique) is that I just create a duplicate of the original image, apply Shadow/Highlight, that way if I don't like it I can always just revert, and try again. If you become efficient with the tool, I think it saves time. I personally think Shadow/Highlight is a faster, more efficient alternate to (some) HDR image creating tools, especially ones where the desired end result is as simple and subtle as recovered shadow detail. To each his own though :) I'm not an expert. Just a bit lazy. Thought I'd throw in my two cents.

comment by miklos at 04:23 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

When I said "create a duplicate of the original image" I meant on a new layer, within the same .psd

comment by Philippe at 06:18 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Stunning Work...both on the human aspect and photographic aspect.
The expression on his face sold me...

comment by Tomasz at 07:49 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006


comment by Victoria at 08:12 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Wonderful shot with the bright sunlight,he is so tired and thirsty! Brilliant capture!

comment by Jennifer at 08:37 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Andres comment sums up my thoughts exactly - it does seem very ironic to find beauty in the portrayal of someone's suffering - however it is just that - a beautiful portrait.

comment by KPK at 09:43 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Great shot. Subject, background info, and use of HDR technique fits together to an impressive presentation!

comment by Sysagent at 10:32 AM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Nice shot and great processing, ignore Jamey he is always a perfectionist he does the same with my blog shots ;-)

I hope you bunged him a £1 in his plastic cup for the shot David?

I also like the colours on this shot it all seems to fit nicely and the added vignetting just finishes it off.

comment by Carol at 12:13 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Wow, just reaches in and grabs your heart!
A poignant reminder of how lucky I am, with my internet access and home around me... thanks for this shot

comment by Vidya at 12:27 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Lovely photo! The colors are so nice !

comment by bruno at 01:34 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

nice but very sad shot man :(

comment by Toby at 02:32 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Unlike so many who have commented on this shot, I find it trite and banal. How many of this type of shot do we have out there? The theme is always the same - we wouldn't notice this person because he/she is part of the ignored underclass. Ergo, the portrait becomes more significant.

This is so shamelessly self-indulgent it drives me crazy. Sorry, we all notice this person - we just hope that if we ignore he or she, he or she will go away. Or not make eye contact with me. Or worse, have to speak to me.

I got news for you. Walk down a street in any major city these days and what is going on is we all ignore each other! We walk around in self-isolating bubbles created by commuting, iPods, cell phones. The irony is we are more isolated from the person we walk down the street next to than we are from this homeless person. At least we, in an uncomfortable way, notice him or her.

Here's a challenge for you. Go photograph the theme of the self-insulated. You have done it before in some of your reflections series. Go put yourself in face of someone who is getting through the day, oblivious to their surroundings, except for the person they are trying to step around.

While I do not like this shot, for a number of reasons, I love your work.

comment by micki at 02:41 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

A very strong photo. It was quite respectful of you to go over and talk to him after he noticed you.

comment by lee at 02:46 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

dont like the vignette at all, its really obvious it wasnt there when you shot it, so why add it? is it because you have a habit of adding one? i do think it would look much better without. on the other hand the colours are perfect:-)

comment by Scott at 02:56 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

One of the very first things I noticed about this image is how the man is virtually camouflaged with his background. The colour of his clothes almost perfectly match the roller door behind him. If we didn't know better it could almost be arranged that way.

A perfect metaphor for the fact that society so often blocks the homeless from their collective consciousness. He may as well just blend right into the background!

A sad indictment on society, but hopefully there are voluneteers in his area to look after the homeless.

Thanks for such a moving image David!

comment by Graceful Decadence at 03:16 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Fantastic human and social portrait.....

comment by PlasticTV at 03:24 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

He wasn't on the margin... he's way below it...

comment by owen-b at 04:18 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

I find that I agree with the poster above, that images of the homeless can be manipulative and come across as the photographer saying how caring and thoughtful he/she is to spot something so beautiful in something so ugly blah blah blah. I've read enough of Dave's comments on his own shots to believe that this isn't the entire reason why he took this particular photo, but I do suspect that there was a part of it in there, deep down. Personally I avoid taking such shots because I don't want the subject to spot me and think he's being taken advantage of by some 'art poseur'. On the other hand, portraits work best when there's something interesting in the face or the situation or the expression, and just because this person is homeless why should one neglect from taking a good portrait of them if it interests or engages? It's no worse than people who only take portraits of craggy old East End gangsters, or craggy old gypsies or whatever.

I'm cursed in that I find myself arguing both sides of the coin!

On another note - Dave, do you use Photomatix for your HDRs? I've only ever had one photo work out using that app - even when I use actual multiple exposures, I find that unless each one was utterly rock solid static, the app totally screws up the alignment, and also I just can't get the tone mapping to work. I can't zoom in to see if I'm creating nasty colour errors, and the images always look grainy and nasty. The controls seem hopelessly vague to me, and even the manual doesn't seem to help. What am I doing wrong!?

comment by f at 04:48 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Love the colours. Love how everything and anything about this picture falls right into place. :]

comment by JD at 04:57 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Its nice. The vignetting is a little obvious... creating a vision of isolation/seperation from what we know/call the real word!

I'm not sure about the HDR (then I have never been), I guess I would only be able to tell its merits with this shot if I was able to compare it to the original...

Did you use the HDR as you didn't want the guy to look darker (with the shadows) and thus not allow it to portray any type of evil or dark image of him???

comment by m at 05:31 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

He looks like a pleasant fellow, nice shot.

comment by Don at 06:40 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Just curious, do you have or are you willing to create a section about your 'process in processing' your able to really punch these photographs so well! I just want to really pick your brain and see your ideas when you bring an image into PS?

..very clean shot, and im loving the pattern behind him. great !!!

comment by Matthew Greco at 07:40 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Nice. I like the color range in this shot. He really blends in with the wall.

comment by sniper at 07:55 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

as always very good shot my master, i'd like to invite you to look at my pictures

comment by Peter - Wait-A-Second.de at 08:02 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Man, your photos are great. But beeing posted on a photo doesn't definietly not help him!!

comment by djn1 at 08:14 PM (GMT) on 1 May, 2006

Thanks everyone.

Timothy: I use Photomatix for HDR images.

miklos: I guess I've got the hang of using Photomatix and could have got a similar result any number of ways. The good thing about the HDR route though is that it introduces 'local' contrast into an image in a way that I suspect can't be achieved with the Shadow/Highlight tool. I'll look into it though.

Sysagent: yes, I gave him some money.

Toby: part of the reason I produce these shots is to challenge the attitude you express; to demonstrate that they are as human and as worthy of attention as you are.

lee: I add a vignette to a lot of my shots, mostly because I think it looks better. I can see that it wouldn't be to everyone's taste.

owen-b: drop me an email telling me the steps you go through with Photomatix and I'll see what I can advise.

JD: this was shot in harsh sunligh, with very strong shadows. I wasn't so much worried about how he would be perceived, but I did want to capture the full range of textures and colours in the scene.

Don: all my images are pretty much a combination of the same set of actions: Curves for contrast, various different ways of manipulating colour (Channel Mixer, Hue/Saturation) and so on; but there isn't a set procedure I could outline.

comment by pasokon at 02:18 AM (GMT) on 2 May, 2006


tough world.

we cannot escape from it!

too bad....

comment by L Poulter at 05:40 AM (GMT) on 2 May, 2006

Is it just me or does this guy look a lot like Tom Cruise?

comment by Navin Harish at 07:18 AM (GMT) on 2 May, 2006

Nice photos. The bright colours in the background are in complete contrast to his mood.

comment by Lautreamont at 07:32 PM (GMT) on 2 May, 2006

An unordered life in an ordered world.

comment by Tseng Fu at 03:05 AM (GMT) on 7 May, 2006

A handsome begger.
I think I should get a bigger camera to shoot beggers in our country~

comment by Andrew at 05:21 AM (GMT) on 27 May, 2006

Great shot, I always liked the picture of the person that does not know their picture is being taken, very natural. I hoped you thanked the guy and contributed to his 'cause' a bit. It would be the least you could do right? After all, he is the "Star" of this excellent photo. Nice going. You have talent.