Project 46: choosing the moment

Task: Find a landscape location with a fairly definite subject that will catch the sunlight. Start an 1 hour 30 mins before sunset. Consider what the ideal moment will be for the image. Take a photo at the start and then each time you notice a change in the light. Make notes about each shot.

 Living in the North East of England, this project was an ideal opportunity to photograph Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North, in Gateshead. The steel structure stands 20 metres tall, with wings measuring 54 metres across, overlooking Tyneside.

The Angel of the North has a very disnctive orange/brown colouring which I wanted to capture in this project, as well as it’s shape and form.

The sculpture stands on a hill on the southern edge of Low Fell. Before setting off I checked the sun set time, which was 9.30 pm. I arrived there just after 8 pm. I took some shots around the Angel first to help me to decide where the best position would be to set up my tripod. The sun was in line with the right wing of the sculpture. Since the sun would be setting in the west I didn’t want to be in a position where the subject would be backlit and silhouetted for the majority of the shoot. I wanted to investigate how the change in sunlight interacted with colour and shadow.

Taking Michael Freeman’s advice that:

There are…two directions to consider at the same time: the sun’s angle to the camera, and it’s angle to the subject.

Freeman (2004, p. 20)

I positioned my camera at the bottom of the hill, with my back to the sun and facing the rear of the Angel of the North. This meant I would be able to photograph the side facing the sun.I also needed to use a wide-angled lens in order to capture the entire wingspan within the frame.

Below is my photographic record of the change in sunlight and it’s affect on the Angel of the North.

1) 8.17 pm

8.17 pm – Lit from the side, the orange brown contrasts well against the clear blue sky. The shadows in the foreground have been cast by the bushes and trees behind the camera.

2) 8:34 pm

8.34 pm – The main change in this image is that the grass in the foreground is in more shadow as the sun’s position in the sky is getting lower and the bushes behind the camera are blocking the light. There is very little difference in the Angel’s colour, other than it is very slightly darker.

3) 8.41 pm

8.41 pm – The colours are darkening. There is more shadow on the Angel’s legs and the bands of shadow are slightly wider on the wings, due to the movement of the sun. Meanwhile there has been little change in the colour of the blue sky.

4) 8.49 pm

8.49 pm – The sun is much lower now which has darkened the lower right-hand corner of the frame. The sculpture’s legs are becoming darker as well as the color. As the sun is getting lower there is less direct light shining on the Angel of the North. There is now very little light shining on the grass.

5) 8.59 pm

8.59 pm – The brilliance of the sculpture’s colour is gradually getting darker. The lower part of the figure is also becoming more shaded, with shadowed areas more pronounced. The wing nearest to the camera is still quite light in comparison because of the sheer height of the statue.

6) 9.20 pm

9.20 pm – After waiting much longer, the sun is now only 10 minutes from setting. It’s low level has meant that only a hint of the colour and ribbed structure can be seen. The hue of the sky is also much darker, but still lighter than the figure to show it’s shape.


It’s not very often that I spend time concentrating on one subject in one position. This project has taught me that understanding how the movement of the sun can have a dramatic affect on color and shadow. I would rarely be going out to take photos at this time, but this project has helped me to see the value of timing photo taking. My favourite image was taken at 8.41 pm. Enough of the Angel of the North is illuminated to show it’s iconic colour but there is also enough shadow to emphasize it’s ribbed structure.

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