Night Photography: People Watching at Union Station

LA’s Union Station is a great spot to shoot architecture at night. But it’s equally good for photographing people. There are two elements I look for, someone who’s immersed in a personal moment and the way the person gets woven into the environment.

Union Station is the busiest train station in the West. And there’s something about folks who are traveling that makes them interesting as character studies.

Waiting for the Train, Union Station

This shot could have been taken almost anywhere. And I like it just because the two are so engaged in the moment. But I’m not sure if this image is anything special except to their friends. The thing that Union Station adds to the composition is how it helps me as a photographer — people tend not to notice me working. There’s just too much happening.

Waiting for the Train

With this shot I went formal — by aligning myself with the couple and the two rows of seats. That pulls the setting in and the station’s layout becomes an equally important aspect of the photo. On the other hand, the moment is only OK. This is certainly the feeling of a train station but it’s not anything extraordinary. Just folks waiting. Here’s another shot where the station environment makes a difference:

Hallway to the Trains, Union Station

There’s a human story here that’s subtle but I like it. Mom shepharding her two kids home. These kinds of images are harder to make work than they look. I wanted to have a formal composition of this hallway leading to the trains. Rule of Thirds and all. But there are a couple of million folks who walk this hallway every month. And out of the ten or so images I took here, only one showed a human moment without too much busyness.  To me that’s the secret sauce for any character study, an interesting composition that has some emotional depth.

Waiting for the Train

Union Station at night. It’s eternal. It’s Waiting for Godot. Except that these days, Godot is whatever’s on your phone.

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