Monday, 26 November 2012

Too Blue To Be True

Nikon D700  F/13  1/15s  ISO-400  PrSH  EV +0.3  38mm
Grey rainy days do happen in the city of light and this was a good example.

What didn't help matters was that I'd forgotten to change the camera's white balance settings back from tungsten which I'd been using for the inside of a café you can see in the digital 'contact sheet' below, just before the blue series kicks in! It happens. But what's interesting here is to see if we can recuperate anything useable.

The original shot
To cut a long story short the rescue operation was reasonably successful, giving a much brighter and less blue image to tell a story of a rainy day in Paris.

There's nothing spectacular about this shot, nothing hilarious happening, and nothing particularly memorable even. So why do I like it? Well if nothing else it does give a feeling of wetness, with all those umbrellas and people scuttling and the shine of the wet pavements and roads.

Another thing which emphasises this feeling of precipitation is that we are looking out from the dryness and warmth, presumably, of a cozy café and there's a definite feeling of being cocooned by the chairs and tables, the awning and the other clients, protected from the elements as we are.

As you can see from the original shot I chose, above, it needed a lot of brightening and de-bluing in order to produce something acceptable. The row of flags, including the Japanese one showing through the transparent umbrella, have come up nicely. As has the awning which was far too dull and miserable in the original pic.

In order to get the feeling of movement I chose shutter speed priority at 1/15th of a second, shown clearly in the blurry passers-by in the centre and right of the shot. This is far more atmospheric than with the people sharp and I often use this technique when I want people but not real ones, as it were - just symbolic ones in the form of shadows and blurs.

I've included all the shots I took in this series so you can see, although not very well, how I might shoot any given scene.

Here I was just hoping for some nice combination of umbrellas and hurrying citizens and it's not so easy, I can tell you. Some people are surprised that I use the secret professional technique, now easily accessible to anyone with a digital camera, of shooting a ton of shots. But it really increases your chances of getting a useable picture.

As I said, I don't think any of them are great, but the one I chose at least had three people nicely distributed across the view, with other people in the back ground between them, and at least a part of someone on the terrace to give that feeling of three planes in fact: in the café, on the pavement in front of it, and across the road, which gives the shot a feeling of depth.

The last two shots in the minipics above show the moment I realised I'd left it on tungsten lighting and set it back to normal. You can see the building change magically from blue back to building-coloured - great! But as you can see, rescue operations can be carried out in extremis with some success.


* 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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