Friday, 18 January 2013

Kiosk des Noctambules


The Kiosk des Noctambules in Paris is extremely tricky to photograph. If you try to take it from a distance it's competing with trees, buildings, lamp posts and of course the omnipresent traffic, tourists and litter bins for attention. And it loses.

Believe it or not this second shot, here below, is one of my best taken from this position. So be it. So what can we do about it?

The answer, as you'll no doubt have guessed by looking at my other shots here on this page, is to get in close and look up. But this brings with it other problems.

When you point your camera into the sky with just some transparent glass balls to constrast with the white what you get is... silhouettes. At best very dull shots indeed.

What was worse here was that the day itself was miserably overcast, so the sky was a uniform grey, imparting very little sparkle to this wonderful structure which veritably scintillates in the sun when there is some.

So I'll tell you straight away that I brightened up all of these shots with the exception of the second shot above. They're still not as sparkly-shiny as they would have been on a sunny day, but there are less potentially jarring (and blown out) highlights too. This can be a problem on shiny metal surfaces so it's a case of swings and roundabouts in the end.


The shots above and below are great examples of how looking up can pay dividends but they were massively underexposed so I had to conpensate for that. As you can see in the lower figure of eight / infinity composition, I only just managed to save enough colour for the shot not to be a complete silhouette. Unfortunately, what happens when you brighten photos up like this is that the white sky area 'grows' and starts to take over and blow out the coloured bits. You've just got to experiment until you get something that's half acceptable.

In retrospect here, too, I should have taken just a tiny bit more time to align the two sides of the '8' so I didn't chop off the left-hand side and maybe have tilted it so it crossed the shot at a diagonal. Hindsight, as ever, is a beautiful thing.


The following three shots show attempts at isolating some of the beautiful details and are a good argument for getting up close and personal to the thing.


Here the legs in the gap add a bit of humanity to what might otherwise be a rather cold shot. The narrowish depth of field has brought the near hoops up nice and sharply with the background fairly fuzzy, which is pleasant to look at. Although I added a blip of saturation I couldn't do anything with the blue blobs - they were literally un-saturable, or at least not without doing strange things to other parts of the image.


The big coloured blobs are one of the nicest things about this creation and you owe it to yourself and your viewers / readers to highlight them, which is what I've tried to do here, above and below.


Finally, this shot, along with a couple of the first ones, is an attempt to show the wonderful 'drippy-droopiness' of the thing. Especially for a shot like the very first one above, a wide-angle lens works wonders in allowing you to get really close to a couple of the 'drips' whilst still including some of the rest of the dome to give it context.


To sum up, this article talks about tricky subjects and lighting conditions, the need to isolate parts (details) of a complicated structure to better portray and flatter it, and the use of interesting points of view and intelligent choice of lenses and depths of field to work with the piece and add some personality of your own.

I'm under no illusions - there are many other ways and techniques I could have used to capture this more or less artistically but given a very short space of time during a photo tour I did my best to get at least three or four useable shots - enough for an article at least demonstrating two or three different ideas which is all I can hope for.

In 12 years I don't think I've yet seen perfect lighting conditions for this darned Kiosk des Noctambules so you just have to make do with what you've got in front of you at any given moment, which is often the way.



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* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

                        
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Eyeful of Eiffel


Nikon D800  F/5  1/13s  ISO-6400  PrPR  EV 0  62mm
Thought I'd treat you to a little trip I took down Eiffel Lane a couple of days ago. And my biggest challenge.

"My biggest challenge?" you ask? "But surely you've been photographing Lady Eiffel for the last 20 years..."

How can there be a challenge with such a familiar subject? Well, that's just it, you see. The Eiffel Tower is such an incredible monument, photographed by so many people from every conceivable angle, the challenge is how to take a picture that doesn't resemble a million others.

Tricky. So I don't claim that any of the following pictures are particularly original, and many of them are pretty standard, but they do give an idea of what you can get from a stroll past a terribly well-known icon.

I'll make a brief comment on each one, like this one here on the right. I thought it would be pretty cool to do a double exposure with the tower both sharp and fuzzy, and I've managed to get the two versions pretty much side by side.

It's a straightforward double exposure with the camera held as still as possible for one and moving for the second, and the effect is interesting, to say the least!



Here are two standard tourist shots, one with a sparkling Eiffel, one not. As a matter of interest, because you are almost always tilting the camera up to shoot the Eiffel Tower, if it's not dead centre in the shot it's almost always going to be tilting in to the centre. So you either need a very wide angle lens which allows you to not tilt the camera up at all, or you have to place the tower dead centre, as I've tried to do here.

It doesn't lead to a more creative photo but at least it shows the 'centre' of your attention pretty well.


This one is similar, a standard lift-camera-to-eye shot with one major difference: at least it's framed reasonably well by the trees. That's some thing to watch out for; what can be a rather lonely image like in the two above can be made more intimate and cozy by wrapping the tower up in branches and leaves (but not at this time of year!).


Here's another example of double exposure fun. As you can see, both images are as sharp as I could manage (hand-held at night, ISO 6400!) but carefully positioned in the two upper corners of the shot. The other major difference is the size, one image being larger than the other, which provides an interesting contrast and avoids a 'mirror-image' effect.


This one uses a zoom effect whilst taking the shot to produce a highly dynamic image with the tower itself still relatively sharp. It's an effect to be used sparingly, or you'll get a reputation as 'the zappy zoom guy' but from time to time the results can be remarkable.



In this shot I wanted to shatter the romantic myth of the tower and show it in its true environment - the Champs de Mars, with the colour-coded rubbish bins and all. Of all my shots I think this one may be the most original, as I can't imagine many people purposely combining the sacret tower with a trash can - he he!


Here is one of those impressive shots you can get as you approach the base of the tower. The trick lies in playing with the legs and the sides of the frame. I haven't done anything special here - you can get far more radical shots, but you get the idea. Remember that with a wide angle lens, the closer you get to one element, such as one of the legs, the more crazy the shot becomes, with a tiny peak disappearing off into the distance behind it.



This one is an attempt to work with an external element - here a lamp post - to add something original to an otherwise jaded shot. By placing the four lights in the middle of the 'hole' between the first and second floors, I've created a slightly less common image which wouldn't make it into the guidebooks, but might interest someone who likes to take a second look at things.


I wanted to try a more dynamic version of the very first shot above, and this is it. A multiple exposure combined with a zoom effect on one of the images and wow, it's dynamic alright! It's important when doing this sort of thing not to lose the shape - i.e. the identity - of the zoomed object or building. If you do you get the beautiful coloured mess syndrome, which doesn't do anything for anybody. In this shot, if you took away the sharp Eiffel, you could still guess what it was, and that's important for the reinforcing power of the picture. Two times the same thing but different. Which makes all the difference.


This last shot is me on my way over to the Champs Elysées, saying goodbye to the tower but still looking for interesting shots. In this case including a bit of local context with the sign post, but look at how the tower tilts into the shot as the camera is tilted up - dodgy!

I haven't treated any of these shots - they are fresh out of the camera and then reduced in size once with a blip of sharpness. So you can see that the D800 on ISO 6400 is doing a pretty good job at night, and most of the exposures were using the Program setting and an auto (not spot) focusing and metering option, so I'm pretty pleased with that.

As you might imagine, after an evening shoot of the Eiffel Tower over two hours, I took an awful lot more shots than I'm sharing here, and you might be thinking, well, if that's the best you've got I'd hate to see the bad ones!! But seriously, there were some I'd also love to have shared and there were also many I'd never share in a million years except for purely educational purposes on what not to do! But that's what it's all about - getting out there and getting some shots in.

The fact that I was able to get the above eleven shots out there excites me now, and the potential for doing so, and yet not knowing what I'd get, excited me before the shoot. So choose a subject, get out there, and take as many different shots as you can. And let us know about it - leave a link in the comments if you want. I'd love to see your experiments. As you are seeing mine. The challenge has been met for another year or so!



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* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

                        
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Give Me A Hand


Nikon D700  F/3.5  1/500s  ISO-400  PrAP  EV +2.3  24mm
Help me out in analysing this pic, will you?

The challenge is to find three things that are good about it, and three things which could be improved.

But first of all, let's look at some typical touristy shots, below.

The temptation with such a curious item is to take lots of grinning pictures, mimicking the posture of the guy, holding his hand and so on. This is all well and good (and fun) but it probably ain't art.

The gloomy, contrasty original shot
It comes down once again to adding a personal touch to someone else's work and not just taking a straightforward, head on shot, and I'll repeat what I often say: if you want to take a tourist shot, when you see something interesting, stop dead, lift camera to eye, and click. For a snap that's fine, but there's lots of potential here to do better than that.

In one of the shots below you can see people shooting from the side, and that's basically what you have to do here. But be careful. If you just shoot from the side any old how, it won't necessarily be any better than a head on shot.

Having typical tourist fun
The thing is to work with the sculpture. You've got this amazing downward-pointing hand which has been rubbed back to its (presumably) original gold colour by enthusiastic Montmartre meanderers. This lends itself admirably to being the main focus of the shot, and I'll get back to focus in a minute!

So, three things I like about the final image above. Firstly, the shiny hand is prominent (i.e. large) in the shot, thanks to getting in really close under it with a wide angle lens.

Secondly the focus is on that hand and not the man's head, which is logical if the shot is to be harder-hitting and the hand the main feature of the photo.

Thirdly, I like the sharp angles of the wall and the building in relation to the sides of the picture - a strong dynamic composition.

And three things I think would make it better. One, the focus is on the golden hand, which is good. However, and it's a big one, the fingertips are not sharp. This is a major fault in my opinion.

The problem was I had a wide aperture (F/3.5) and was very close to the subject, which gave me a very narrow depth of field. And then I must have focused on the plam of the hand and not the fingers and unfortunately the latter went fuzzy. I probably thought I'd get away with it but the result proves otherwise. I could have used my depth of field preview button and maybe I did, but I obviously didn't get it right.

Check out every possible angle
The second thing that could be better is the exposure. Shooting into the sky, as I was, meant I had to compensate by at least +2 to avoid the sculpture becoming a silhouette and the underside of his upper arm is still practically black.

This of course means that the top of the building and the edge of the tree has completely blown out (been totally over-exposed). This gives the shot quite a nice atmosphere though but still it's a tricky image to light properly. A reflector or even a blip of flash could have helped reduce the contrast but introducing additional evils might have made the image seem unnatural and I rarely use tricks like those in the street if I can help it.

Shooting off the beaten track
Finally, the angle from which I took this shot wasn't necessarily the best one. I've taken more interesting shots of this sculpture where you can see the fingernails and the back of the hand, a bit like in one of the shots here but in the end you just have to crawl and scurry around looking pretty silly trying to get the most striking result possible.

One of the best ways to do this is to place the two hands in diagonally opposite corners, as I've almost done above. You could focus on the guy's head and have the hand a big blur - that's a personal choice. Or you can do something completely different I haven't even thought of. That's the fun of the (af)fair, folks!



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* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

                        
_________________________________________________________________________________
© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.