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The art of seeing #7: Sometimes you have to look behind the scenes... literally

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine. 

www.benedictbrain.com

Bath is one of the most photographed cities in the UK – perhaps even the world. I recently created a map of the city for photographers with tips on where, when and how to take photos. I wanted to suggest new ways of looking at and capturing Bath from fresh new angles without being too prescriptive. The essence of the map is in the art of seeing and creative exploration so – in addition to the chance for a shameless plug – the idea is perfect for this column.

This image is of Number One, The Royal Crescent. It’s not the Royal Crescent as it’s most often seen in the postcards and brochures. I was keen to explore this structure in a fresh and original way – and what better way to subvert the classic postcard view than by photographing it from behind?

I actually walked past this shot for years on my way to work (to edit this very magazine), and must have taken it a thousand times in my mind’s eye.

It’s a fairly simple image. Despite its simplicity, there is harmony and balance in the composition, which relies as much on what’s not in the frame as what’s in it. The negative space between the buildings is vital, and I worked hard to get this just right. The tension between the two chimney stacks reinforces the grandeur of the crescent, with its ornate stack dominating the more humble trio of chimney pots to the left.

When I shoot buildings, I strive to keep my verticals straight. I use a combination of camera position and focal length, and I’m not averse to a few tweaks in Camera Raw to ensure everything is standing up straight. I converted the image to mono to focus on shape, tone and texture. BB

• Other articles in the Art of Seeing series

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