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.


* 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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