Saturday, October 22, 2005

Une Fresque Parisienne No.3

This shot was taken without looking in the viewfinder nor at the little screen, which was off. But the camera was on so as I earnestly studied the map I subtly tilted the camera up from my waist and 'click'!

What's educational about this shot is probably a couple of things. One is, you NEVER know when a great shot will come your way, so you should be prepared for it. I don't say that smugly, because the ratio of great unexpected shots I've got to times I've cursed myself is probably about a one to a hundred!

The other lesson is, maybe, not to be scared to take the shot. Often I am too scared and there are certainly many times when you shouldn't take a shot, but sometimes there's really no excuse for not trying, in case you get something good, and I believe it worked here. If there's really no way you can line it up and it's basically a shot in the dark, then at least use the widest angle lens you can (quickly and discretely zoom out, for example) and crop later to get rid of extraneous detail. And I'll just reiterate my oft-repeated incitation to photographic greatness: don't forget... if you don't have your camera with you, you won't get the shot. It's as simple as that.

The things I particularly like about this photo are the fact that you've got the name of the district, the number 15 (for the 15th arrondissement) twice, and the human element of course - the guy checking out the map. And whilst the map itself is at a jaunty angle, adding interest and dynamism to the picture, the guy himself doesn't look like he's falling over backwards, just tilting his neck slightly.

When roaming the back streets of the capital you often come upon a strange sort of hinterland of sinister tall buildings, very dark, surrounding spooky courtyards, mysteriously menacing iron structures and snaking leaky pipes. Here is an example, where you can only imagine what the enclosure behind that imposing wall must be like, facades darkened by damp and dust. The trellis is lifeless and only the spindly branches of a nervous young tree break the bleakness of the bare brick towers. Gormenghast revisited, almost.

Talking of towering... towers, tucked away into a little corner between two opposing monsters was a sweet little garden, complete with a couple of flowers, sheltering behind an imposing shiny black grill, nevertheless. I could have reached in and grabbed the flower of course, but that's not really the point.

No, what's great about this shot is... what, in your opinion? I'm fed up with blabbering on, so let me know what you think about the picture on the right, right? I shall remain mum. My lips are sealed. But it's terribly difficult!

Turning to seasonal signals, autumn's definitely here in Paris, and what better way to represent that than with the eternal symbol for the saddest season, fallen leaves.

People aren't necessarily sad in autumn, it's more psychological and sybolic, and many of us are busy with thoughts of the new school year, or the Hallowe'en festival or Guy Falkes night in Britain or Thanksgiving or even Christmas. But nevertheless, it is a time for reflection as the year draws to a close and the winter winds and darker nights draw in. We become aware of another year passing, and the fact that we're not getting any younger.

The wind and rain battered flyer shoved under the windscreen wiper echoes the shrivelled leaves and alludes to chilly days ahead, as does the passer-by already wrapped up in her winter woolies and cozy hat.

You can vaguely see children playing in the park behind the car, a colourful reminder of summer's brighter days, but the other most striking, and essential part of this composition is the leafless branches reflected starkly in the wan grey-blue windscreen.

Reflections are a superb way of including elements in a picture in an original way, which would otherwise be impossible to do.

Here we can zoom in on the main area of interest, the dead, shed foliage on the car bonnet, whilst offering a wistful view of the forlorn parent that spawned them, and finally had to let them go. Even the downward direction of the branches in the glass hints at sadness and loss, as well as indicating the leaves' inevitable gravity-dragged flight path. Like ourselves.

And on that cheerful note... let's all commit collective suicide and have done with it! Actually, autumn is my favourite season, and always has been. I think it's the poignancy of it all, but there's also the feeling of drawing together with family and friends, to protect against the bitter days ahead, with chocolatey wafts from warm mugs and hot water bottles and cuddles in front of a fire, which make it easier to live.

Only parts 4 and 5 to get through, folks, and then it's all over! Phew, what a journey so far, eh? See you shortly.

All images & words copyright © Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free 2005


dev said...

That picture of the garden is cool. Limit your field of vision and you can find something nice almost everywhere. Most of us don't pay attention to the small stuff. Were you lying on the pavement when you took that picture? Ant's view of the world ?

Paris Set Me Free said...

"Ant's view of the world" - I like that! You know, that could be the basis of a photo assignment: you're not allowed to take any picture with the camera more than 25cm off the ground! What a challenge, and I bet you'd get some of your best-ever pics!

In fact, it's very interesting, because one of the things I'm very strong on is dragging the damn camera away from the traditional boring-oh-so-boring in front of eye position, and so few people do it. The moment you do, everything changes...

Thanks for your interesting comment, Dev.

P.S. No, not lying on the pavement, just crouching down low...

dev said...

become a string theorist Sab...10 perspectives ;)

Anonymous said...

Having the camera with you is great advice. Twice this year my cameras were in the truck and wildlife shots were missed. I now have my video and still around my neck and fishing pole in my hand...



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