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...

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

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