Friday, August 31, 2007

More Amélie

Couldn't resist.

Was tossing up between these two shots - one with the Big Amélie, and the one with the lots of Little Amélies, and in the end I had to get both of them out there. You don't always have to make compromises, although very often forcing yourself to choose ONE from a whole group of ten or twenty shots of the same thing will produce the very best results.

Discipline. A tough but vital taskmaster!
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Au Marché d'Amélie

One of the sweetest, kookiest and simply adorablest films of the last decade, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain has become part of the locations featured in the movie.

This shot was taken in front of the grocer from one of the scenes in the film, and oh how the times they have-a-changed. From a three minute straw poll I'd reckon that half the business they do nowadays is from tourists following the 'Amélie Poulain Paris Walkabout'. Gotta love 'em.

No photo technique commentary today - I'm in too much of a snidey/cynically social observation mode. Work it out for yourselves, suckers! You're grown up and vaccinated, as I discovered the French say the other day - quite a snidey-cute expression in fact...
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Thistle Power, Och Aye!

This is from a cute little garden which features on one of my Paris photo tours - more than that I am not at liberty to divulge. I could inform you of its whereabouts, but then I would be obliged to kill you, which would obviously be a regretable outcome of your innocent reading of this anodyne little photo blog, so best leave it there, eh?

The thistle is also, of course, for the benefit of you non-internationally minded types (tutt-tutt, sigh, head-shake, mutter-mutter, you should know this...) the national flower of Scotland, the country of my birth (strictly speaking only a region of the UK now, but my compatriots would linch me for saying so).

In any case, it's a simple flower shot - hand-held, so slightly fuzzy - obviously employing the limited depth of field necessary to throw all that horrible background noise out of focus and allow the plant's beauty to come through.
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They Shoot Policemen, Don't They?

Well, no, not too often, but yes, it has happened...

They burn cars in Paris, don't they? Yes, they do, and this is the sort of place it happens, spied on the train rolling back into Gare du Nord. The suburbs of many big cities have their darker areas, and Paris is no exception. You couldn't start to imagine the sort of smouldering resentment and frustration such an edifice could contain, couldn't begin to understand...
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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Moan On

Taken just round the corner from Montmartre, you know, the Sacré Coeur and all that, the ponderously famous artists' Mecca, where the Mona Lisa, the world's best-known painting was, in fact, almost 500 years TO THE DAY, actually, err, not painted, but never mind, Madonna L is everywhere in Paris, including painted-being-painted in a kind of cartoony style on the side of a carousel hoarding, and why not?

Aesthetically, I'm really not sure about this shot. The two items, the painting and the merry-go-round, seem rather disparate and it's not a good idea to have two opposing elements in the same frame, but eliminating one of them here would have left a blandish scene with no context.

So, while not being convinced that they particularly complement each other, the green pole in the middle seeming to delineate two entirely different photos, that was the scene that was, and so it shall remain.
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Self - Horny

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Secret Passages

Step off the platform and into the hinterland that lies beneath Paris between consciousness and and dreamtime...

The Paris underground system is truly astonishing; I saw a map once of the tunnels and 'spaces' of various types which riddle and undermine the capital and I was amazed. Between the metro, RER and SNCF train systems, the hundreds of passenger corridors linking them all, sunken roads and carparks, the sewage system, the electricity and gas infrastructure, the maintenance tunnels, the spooky Catacombes, secret underground lakes and reservoirs, old dried up river courses, the water supply system, ancient hidden passages linking the old heart of the city to... who knows where?!

And the people who inhabit them...
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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not Even Raining

Another image from Paris Gay Pride 2007. I've got lots! I had a slight compositional conundrum with this one. Usually a photo looks best when somebody is moving to have more of the frame to go into than there is behind them. In this case it would have meant chopping out everything behind the umbrella including the corner of the RER (train station) sign, which is so typically Parisian and helps give the photo a sense of place.

I could also have chopped the left and got rid of the slightly messy crowd, but this didn't look to good either and both options would have produced an extremely square photo, which can be ok if you like it but wasn't what I wanted here.

In the end I decided not to crop at all, leaving the background elements on both left and right, the drabness of which sets off the bright colours beautifully.
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Besoin d'Amour

Another image from Paris Gay Pride.
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Self - Angel God Me

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Flag This

Another from Gay Pride, simply soaking up the colours with no pretentions to do anything else. The glimpse of typical Parisian Haussemanian architecture between the flags situates the image and highlights the rainbows.
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Time Travel

The 'other' cool sculpture in front of the Gare St. Lazare, a tower of cases and bags, oozing the most delicious folds and fixtures, all in rock solid metal - marvellous.
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Self - Shadowy

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Fly By Fright

A spooky image taken from (recognise that lamppost, faithful readers?)... my street, as a whole bunch of perfectly formationed helicopters chug by overhead. I've abstractisized the shot (yes, it's a new word, and it's copyrighted) due to its rather bizarre content, and I'm pleased with the way that all corners of the image are accounted for by the buildings (also corners, you will notice) frowning over the choppers, almost as if they want to close in and crush them...
And all because the photographer was armed to the teeth with an itchy trigger finger to boot. You know what I'm saying...
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Sell Out

It took a while for me to work out what 'soldes' actually meant, because logically you would think it meant, well, 'sold'. But no! It actually means 'sale' as in cheaper than usual. So now you know. One for the Rainbows collection.
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Lean On Me

As you know, I agonise over taking pictures of Lady Eiffel because I'm petrified they'll be just another crappy tourist shot of this incredible icon. So I'm always happy to snap her, but I'm extremely aware that I have to do something different or it'll be worth practically nothing in creative terms and will impress nobody more that a postcard sold under the arch in one of those unfolding packs of 12 for a euro by one of those African guys who run away when the police come cycling by would! And we don't want that now, do we?

So the challenge is always there and this is what happened on a being-a-tourist-guide-for-friends trip to the Trocadero the other week.

The little lights you see on the tower actually sparkle - i.e. go on and off very quickly - but with the long exposure needed at night (without flash!) the shutter stays open long enough to record them. I've done a very small amount of post-processing, but thanks to Nikki and her super-stable floating lens or whatever I was able to hand-hold a reasonably sharp pic.

It's always funny to see tourists snapping things like the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower from a few hundred metres away and their little built-in flashes popping away as though their meagre few watts is going to light up the whole building. Not that they are chosing - it's the camera that does that, but it's amusing nevertheless. About the only use flash is at night is to light up someone in the foreground, but what normally happens is that they become ghostly white and the background is hopelessly dark. If you're lucky your camera will let you reduce the amount of flash you use and in combination with a slow shutter speed for the background you can get a good shot, but it's not for the faint-hearted! More on that one day.
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Self - I See What You Mean

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Chair 'n' Back


The effect I've used has added a kind of halo to the chair, which some purists would balk at, but I rather like it, as it gives it a rather supernatural feeling, and seems to be being lit up by the Eiffel Tower which is conveniently pointing its beam at it.

Taken from such a low angle (groveling on the ground if you must know - chair-leg-level in any case) the camera is tilted up slightly, which leads tall think objects like the Eiffel Tower and the Obelisk to lean into the photo. This can easily be corrected by software if you want to but I didn't bother. Actually, even the water seems to be sloping rather unnaturally but hey, you know what? I just don't care!

Another aspect of this pic is that it is very dark. The sky is a deep grey-blue, and the trick is to get the chair dark enough for it to still be a significant silhouette against the heavy clouds, whilst still having bright highlights in the form of the lights and spotlit structures. This picture just about manages it. Taken in the Tuileries gardens, by the way.
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Self - Stoopidad

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Disgusting Habits


It amuses me just how close the French 'dégustation', which means 'tasting' or 'sampling', is to the English 'disgusting'.

The beer in question is called 'Pelforth' and is a tasty brown brew extremely popular in the capital. The bench in question is called 'bench' and is a bunch of soggy green planks serving to support said beer and photographer. The photographer in question is called 'The Photographer' and is simultaneously serving to mop up said soggy bench, taste aforementioned tipple and digitally sample its distinctive container.

Main photographic components: parallel diagonal stripes contrasting with a cylindrical curve : green contrasting with red : planks wet on the outside constasting with can wet on the inside

More disgusting habits coming soon on Paris Set Me Free !
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Tripping Over Trash

The poignancy of this photo, which struck me as much more powerful than another shot I had of the same lady delving elbow-deep into one of the rubbish bins on the right, is that she is just standing there. There's no reason for her to have halted, no-one called her name, nothing is blocking her path, the empty bench doesn't seem to interest her... she.. just.. stopped.

The nowhere-to-go syndrome, as regular readers of this blog will know, is one of the saddest aspects of this famously romantic city. The yellow litter bag is a recent addition to the city's streets, designed for recycling items such as cans, plastic bottles and cardboard. Unfortunately there isn't a third colour for rescuing used-up lives. But I reckon it would be purple...

'Tati' is a big store in one of the poorest areas of the city famous for the cheapest clothes in town. Its big strong bags are also a favourite among the down-and-outs due to their near indestructibility.

The left-hand edge of the shot serves as a metaphor for the invisible gap between her and the world of the wealthy and homeful, while the grim green and yellow reality of her scavenging life silently awaits her shuffling return.
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Self - Rambling On

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Big Wheels of My Mind


She seems singularly unmoved by the fact that I've just plonked a seriously blingy halo around her head. Never mind, she's probably seen worse in her time, sitting serenely in the lovely Tuileries Gardens. Not that she can tell us about it though... shame.

I'm back, by the way, after my summer break, and just trawling through some recent shots to bring you the best of the rest before setting off on more intrepid photographic exploits!

I've got a few Paris photo tours coming up, which should be great, and an excellent source of inspiration so I'm looking forward to that. It's funny, but every time I do a tour I learn something new from the participants, whatever their experience. Just the very act of wandering around a magnificent city looking for photo ops in the company of new and interesting people really sets the creative juices flowing. I never come away from a photo tour without some great new shots no matter how often I've walked the same streets in the past.

So, if you're coming on one of my tours shortly I look forward to meeting you, and if you're a regular reader of this blog I simply look forward to offering you some of the results with a few comments designed to help you take better shots and make the most of your cameras, whatever they may be. Happy snapping!
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Friday, August 03, 2007

Cut It Out


A silhouette cutter was one of my first significant pictures in France, so this image is dear to me. You should see his concentration - it's no laughing matter!
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Sketch Me Paris


Place du Tertre is, perhaps, the eighth wonder of the world. Artists scribbling and enscribing away like there's no tomorrow... it's marvellous to behold, I assure you.

Personally, I've never had my portrait painted, and as I grow older, to be quite honest, I think that occurrence is becoming less and less likely. Maybe I don't want to see what I see in the mirror! Even if I have an entire section on my site devoted to self portraits! Weird.

This is a lovely shot of a girl having her portrait drawn under heavy incandescent (street) lights (which you may want to compensate for on your camera setting, but I don't).

I love the moment captured. This moment will never happen again. It's a beautiful soft look she's giving the artist or her family or the on-lookers... You can imagine what sort of person she is. And then there is the artist, present in two ways, by his hand and by his creation, immortalising this young girl by his craft.

Don't forget your camera!
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Blue, Blanco, Rouge


Anyone who lives in Paris will recognise this image - it's one of the trains that thunders into train stations in and around the capital and zooms around the place much faster than the metro, which, on the contrary, stops almost everywhere and is exceptionally convenient.

I'm a fan of both - the metro which is infinitely more pleasant than in London, my point of reference, thanks to its airiness and shorter distances between stations - and the RER, as the big train is known, for its rapidity and reach out to the suburbs which is very convenient in many cases.

This photo itself really struck me, and wasn't entirely intentional, but then again, if I hadn't been squeezing the trigger it wouldn't have existed, so I do take some credit..!

It was a soft mush of a thing before I hardened it up, but the funniest thing is that... it's the French flag, and I never realised! Maybe it's the merging of colours, maybe just something in my head, but the fact that something so 'everyday' can conjure up something so universal is either a staggering coincidence or maybe there's some logic there. Subliminal messages from the French government coming through my camera lens..?!

At the risk of going on about it, there's also a sublime lopsided symmetry between the blue and the red, top left and bottom right, seared through and separated by that vicious horizontal slash.
Never stop shooting..!
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Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...


Free bikes (well, almost) roll into Paris, and judging by the number of smiley cyclists I am seeing around the place, they are a roaring success. I haven't yet got my yearly pass, but I surely will do. It's only about €30 for a year and the first half hour is free. I haven't worked out yet if you can just swap bikes at one of the bike parks and carry on forever without paying more, but the principle is that people use them to get from A to B, replacing the metro or the car, not use them as tourists, hence the half hour limit.

This photo has almost no merit whatsoever, but I saw it amongst my latest shots and thought, well, it gives a sense of the subject, very subjective, and probably better for it. The LAST thing I want my photos to do is mechanically record the facts. I want to add some sort of mystery or intrigue, and this photo goes some way towards this: blurry, no head, weird angle, what more could you want?!
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Slated


The view from the steps of Montmartre is one of the nicest in Paris, which is free of course. You can have fun identifying Notre Dame, Beaubourg, Père Lachaise cemetary and plenty of other things.

It's a good one for texture, because Paris roofs are all very uniform so you get a pleasantly impressing picture of building-tops almost completely filling the frame. Well, you can fill the frame with them if you want, but I like to leave a little sliver of sky to give some sense of scale and there's a couple of chimneys pumping away on the horizon too so a bit more interest there.

Because there's so much detail you need a tripod to be sure everything is sharp if you intend blowing the photo up at all. I of course didn't have one - I just had to do my best, with a little help from Nikki's anti-vibro lens. I must admit I'm still learning about all the buttons and dials on this camera - it's quite amazing how many there are! Expect many failures along the way, but that's all part of the fun.

Off on holiday (to Barcelona) very soon for a few weeks, so won't be sending in much stuff in August. Have great holidays if you are, otherwise... keep snapping!
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Red Dress Revolutions

So there I was, quietly minding other people's businesses, when what should pour out of St. Sulpice church but about twenty or thirty red-clad girlies, some of whom spontaneously started doing red-clad twirly-whirlies in a surreal silky flowing display.

This was one of the results, which I like. Obviously the treatment won't be to everyone's taste, and I could have left it much softer, but I like the harsher treatment which gives it more punch and doesn't kill the inherent movement, which is also enhanced by the ghosting effect.
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