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Please note: RPS House is closed for our exhibition install. We will be open again from 10am on Friday 9th August 2024.

Flinders Street Shadows
CREDIT: Ted Richards ARPS

Twenty Minutes In The Sun

Ted Richards ARPS documents the changing shadows on the facade of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne


The story so far:


Many years ago, as a young sprog photographer I read an instruction book titled “Taking photographs for Dummies” or some similar title.

The author made a point that I have remembered ever since.  It was that when taking outdoor photographs you must bear in mind that the sunlight falling on your subject will change slightly every twenty minutes.

I repeat he said, “.  .  .  will change slightly every twenty minutes”.


Now read on:


This submission to International Members Projects shows ten very similar photographs showing some not especially interesting shadows on a nondescript looking building*.  Why did I bother submitting them?

To answer that I have to start by reminding you that the biggest, brightest and best outdoor photography light source we have is the sun. 

It is 147,000,000 kilometres away from us and is continuously sending millions of photons of light hurtling out into space, travelling at almost 300,000 kilometres every second.  Meanwhile, and as if that wasn’t enough, we are rocketing round and around the sun at 30 kilometres every second (Disclaimer:  I have checked all these numbers in Wikipedia).


It takes an earth-bound photon just eight minutes to get here.  On arrival some of the unlucky ones come to a sudden stop by crashing into one of the spires of St Paul’s Cathedral in Flinders Street, Melbourne, thus casting a spire-shaped shadow on Flinders Street Railway Station, handily situated for our purposes just across the street. 

Bearing all that in mind, why photograph the shadows?  Perhaps it was just a passing fancy after I noticed the shadow one day and decided to return the next day with a camera, tripod and a handy little plug-in intervalometer that was a bargain at about twenty-five Australian dollars, including postage, sent from somewhere in China.


I set everything up on the Cathedral forecourt, programmed the intervalometer and then hung about for an hour and a bit while the camera clicked off an exposure every ten seconds.

Occasionally an innocent passer-by photo-bombed into an exposure but, as it turned out, the occasional silhouetted photo-bomber added something to the series.

I have submitted just ten of the 378 exposures I made of this free daily event and it was later when I was looking at them that I remembered the comment “sunlight  .  .  .  will change slightly every twenty minutes”. 


The time difference between each exposure here is just two minutes (in which our planet, by the way, travelled 3600 kilometres) and the difference between the first and tenth shadow is twenty minutes.

In a way the author was correct except that sunlight doesn’t just change, slightly or not, every twenty minutes, it changes every second, all day, non-stop.

So why did I bother submitting them?  Draw whatever lessons you like from them but I’m showing them to illustrate how a few photographs can help illustrate the amazing workings of our universe, and also as a reminder not to believe everything you read in photography manuals.  Work things out for yourself.

*PS: my apologies to Victoria Railways. Flinders Street Station isn’t nondescript at all; it’s really quite exciting.