Friday, 16 November 2012

Fabulous Destiny

Nikon D700  F/5.6  1/40s  ISO-400  PrAP  EV +0.7  62mm
Amélie has a lot to answer for, and not least on  my most popular Paris photo tour, Mysterious Montmartre, no less.

This is the grocery store which featured in the movie, and ever since it's been overrun by happy snappers hoping, for all I know, to catch a glimpse of Amélie doing her weekly shopping.

Evidence of her passing can be seen in the postcards outside, the posters and the window display of old newspaper clippings. The famous gnomes are also in evidence.

The original of the picture above
This is all well and good, but here comes the hard part; getting a good shot of the thing. And as on many of my photo tours my attention was more on my clients than my own photography with the result that I don't have what I would consider a great shot to work from. So be it.

This gives us the chance to see what can be rescued from the handful of shots I did take which can be seen in this post.

The shot I chose has the postcards nice and sharp and cheeky Amélie fuzzy. In contrast I also had a murky one of things the other way round; a sharp Amélie and a fuzzy set of postcards. In the end, and perhaps counter-intuitively, I went with fuzzy Amélie and sharp cards.

Why? Because the cards were too prominent and bright in the pic to be so blurred. Amélie is much darker and it's more logical for her to also be blurred than the contrary. Coupled with that is the fact that she is still perfectly recognisable, whilst the fuzzy grocery store postcards were way too out of focus to be the main subject of the shot.

There's a kind of unwritten rule that says our brain is attracted to things which are near, sharp and bright. If you confuse it by mixing these elements it's not sure where to look and doesn't perceive the image as being as coherent as it could be.

In the second Amélie image here, we're torn between looking at the sharp (but dark) girl and the bright (but fuzzy) postcards, and consequently can't decide which is closer. In reality the postcards are in the foreground but sharp Amélie is competing for foreground attraction, as it were, making our eyes hurt.

Anothe contender is this vertical composition which would have worked OK for the same reasons as the first picture above. There is this niggling feeling in all these shots though that Amélie should actually be sharp, near and bright, as opposed to here where she's all the opposite. But as I said, that's what I had to work with so I'm making the best of a bad job.

This shot includes her name, legibly, at the bottom of the poster, which is an additional identifying element. The problem is still this big bank of bright postcards which tend to dominate and throw the starlet into a secondary role which she's not very happy about.

Another option I tried was shooting across the fruit but Amélie ended up being far too insignificant just after the grapes. Considering she's the reason the place is famous in the first place this doesn't really work.

If I were doing a classic grocery store fruit display shot without the Amélie factor I'd have done it a lot differently to this, with far more fruit and more careful focusing (i.e. more in focus probably). Again, there's a problem with the brightness, well, darkness, of Amélie, which causes problems all over the place.

In this final shot you get an idea of the shooting conditions, including dull dull day. Hey, one of these days I'm going to have to analyse a photo in bright sunlight, methinks. I'm getting fed up always making excuses for the lack of brightness!

I've achieved the fuzzy effect by getting in close to the postcards with a fairly wide aperture (F/5.6) which is good enough for this purpose. Keeping the ISO at 400, I was getting dangerously close to a shaky shutter speed.

The basic rule is to have a shutter speed which is at least the same as the length of the lens. In other words, at 62mm here the shutter speed should be at least 1/60 of a second. With a 250mm lens it should be at least 1/250th of a second. This rule of thumb is fairly reliable but of course you still have to do your best to hold the camera as still as possible, it goes without saying...


* 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.

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