Early Thursday Morning, Cambridge Road, Hastings

For some time I have been fascinated by the graphic possibilities in this row of old houses along Cambridge Road, coming up out of Hastings. In their blocky simplicity and strong colours they remind of Edward Hopper’s Sunday Morning (1930) and as a Hopper fan I have tried several times to photograph them with a figure of a cyclist – myself – in silhouette, pedalling up the street. Although I have posted a couple of these efforts in the past I was never really satisfied with them. The technical aspects of creating the image I had in mind were just too tricky for a solo operator, too many variables to juggle: getting a moving cyclist in sharp focus, in low light, with fine grain and with sufficient contrast to make the figure of the cyclist stand out against the dark facades of the houses. So I decided to try it without the cyclist, letting the moodiness of the desolate street speak for itself, as it does in Hopper’s painting. Straight away I could see this was the way to go. I made three visits in all to the location, an hour before dawn each time, and was fortunate on my third visit to find a lighted upstairs window in one of the houses injecting a note of intrigue and urban solitude. Freed for once from the tricky logistics of trying to capture a moving cyclist in frame, I used a manual focus 21mm Zeiss lens – a gorgeous lens! – and a four-second exposure, letting the light of a street lamp illuminate the scene from the right and allowing the film noir shadows fall where they may.