Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sacred Opportunity

Nikon D700  F/5.6  1/1250s  ISO-800  PrAP  EV +1  24mm
There's a tendency when wandering around a big city to think there's not much going on, and feel a bit disappointed, and often that's true. Then again, that can depend on what your definition of 'going on' happens to be.

In terms of street photography, going on needs to be based on a visual definition, not necessarily one based on noise or movement. I'm one for details. And one of the best ways of making 'something go on' is to zoom in on curious little nicknacks and whatnots that wouldn't normally attract the attention but which can be interesting nevertheless.

Nikon D700  F/5.6  1/200s  ISO-800  PrAP  EV +1  120mm
That's what I've done here. You see, I collect plaques. I was going to suggest that that might sound like a strange thing to do, but on reflection, now that we've got to know each other a bit, it probably doesn't. I'll just remind you of my personal definition of street photography - it's photos, unplanned for the most part, taken in the street.

A lot of people don't think this is what street photography is, and expect to see people in street photography shots, for example. That's fine, absolutely fine, but my definition isn't as narrow as that and includes graffiti, drainpipe and manhole covers, cigarette butts, old bottles and, you guessed it, wall plaques.

And Paris has a lot of interesting wall plaques. I was delighted when I saw this little hand with its finger pointing around the corner to where, I presume, resideth number 8! It's a proper blue enamel Paris plaque and everything... just extremely small. So small, in fact, that you could easily overlook it and if you do see it probably wouldn't consider it worth the time of day.

The original image
But I did. This is where 'collecting' things can come in handy. It makes you see things you wouldn't normally notice. Because you've tuned your brain to whatever it is, your subconscious is, err, subconsciously looking out for them on your behalf. Of course I don't really 'collect' them in the sense of wrenching them off the walls and lining my bedroom with the things - my collection is a pictorial one.

I actually have a large number of these collections, which means I have a lot to look out for as I wander the streets and am always being surprised by what turns up.

So, if the first shot above didn't exactly highlight our little pointing hand, what will? Above you can see a closer shot I took and I'll now consider just how close in you should go to make sure people know what most interests you in the photo. After all, if you don't know, there's very little chance they will either.

Zooming, zooming...
The shot above shows the little hand quite clearly, but because of the lamp and the street sign people might not immediately 'get' the fact that this is what's most interesting, at least to me anyway (because this hand is very rare in the city).

Zooming in more you can lose the lamp and even start to cut into the street name itself, as I've done here on the left. Now the little hand is really starting to stand out as a significant and curious part of the photo.

The question of whether and where to chop the street sign is a delicate one. You can see an even closer (and brightened up) version of the same shot below.

The thing is, if you zoom in too much, and only show the '8' and the hand and a corner of the sign, you're starting to lose that wonderful feeling of place (here literally) which the Paris street signs exude upon their surroundings.

More zoomed and brightened...
In the end I've stopped zooming at the final photo you can see here, but might well use the second last one if I was only going to publish one shot.

Now we're getting very subtle and you'll just have to use your best judgement as to how much you should zoom and chop, just don't lose the atmosphere of the thing; an '8' and a hand says much less than the same with a Paris street sign with atmospheric style and name to embellish the shot.

You might be wondering what some of my 'collections' of Paris curiosities are, and the best place to find out is over on my Paris If You Please blog, where I'm in the process of publishing rather generous (i.e. more than 10) Top 10s of many of them.

Some of the most obvious things are statues, bridges, sculptures, fountains, door knobs and knockers (ooh err missus!), and you can get really worrying like I do and collect draincovers, railway cuttings and stuff I daren't even mention here! The imagination's the limit and if you think you're lacking in that department, well, err, keep reading and hopefully you'll get some inspiration from Nikon and Me, even if you're not a Nikon user, of course ;~S


* 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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