Friday, November 30, 2007

Photo Critique - Guitarist & Lamppost


Title
Guitarist & Lamppost, Montmartre, Paris
Photo © 2007 Marsha Reed Nall

Intro
This shot was taken on a chilly but bright Saturday morning in Montmartre just round the corner from Sacré Coeur on my "Paris Set Me Free ~ Montmartre" photo tour

Great Things !
The best thing about this shot, in my opinion, is the shadow of the lamppost on the wall! It adds an important element of repetition, which strengthens the photo. Not only that, but the two lamppost 'lights' are at a nice angle to each other, and diagonals are always pleasing to the eye.

The invisible diagonal between the two lamppost lights draws a sort of protecting covering over the old guy playing his guitar, and it is always nice when you can imagine a relationship between different parts of the picture, especially inanimate ones.

It was terribly difficult to get this shot, with the sun going in and out and people constantly crossing in front of the camera, and you've done really well to get this shot Marsha! The placing of the lamppost and its shadow is excellent - you haven't chopped off the bottom or the top of the original, and the shadow is nicely placed along the right-hand side of the shot, smaller than the real lamppost, of course, which adds an impression of depth.

Ideas To Consider...
One thing to think about is: what, exactly, is the subject of this shot? If it's the lamppost, then fine. If it's the guitarist, then you have to try and focus attention on him somehow. Here, he, or at least the equipment on his right, merge into the lamppost, and I feel this makes him more difficult to distinguish. I'd try to separate him from the lamppost somehow, probably by walking to the right slightly, to place him nicely between the 'two' lampposts.

I minor point is that he is 'looking' (i.e. facing) 'out of' the shot. It was difficult to rectify this here but in general it is more pleasing to the eye when someone has somewhere to 'look'. In other words, more space in front of them than behind. Here, of course, the major interest was the shadow so this consideration is less important.

The final point is that I would 'bump up' the photo a bit. What I mean by that is play around just a little on the computer afterwards to increase contrast and maybe sharpness to make the photo a bit punchier, but this is a secondary consideration - the most important is what you do just before clicking the button, and you've done a great job Marsha - well done! All it needs now is a title!

See you again in Paris soon!

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Self - Leafless


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(View Flickr Slide Show - Self-Portraits 2007)
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What Else?


Hey, it's George Clooney time again! Who needs Christmas lights on the Galeries Lafayette when you can have gorgeous George instead?

There seems to be something of an obsession with his, but what is it with this guy? I just don't get it. I guess he's supposed to be smooth, and I quite like him as an actor, but you can have too much of a good thing, and I think we just have.

Photographically, you've got a pretty dark panel next to a mass of bright light bulbs which fade on and off continuously into the bargain to make it even trickier to get a good shot.

Basically, you just have to make sure you have some detail in both the lights and the poster, not too dark so you can't see George, and not too dark so that the lights are burnt out into one big bright blob.

What's more, there's a big bit of light blue sky in the middle which could trick the unwary's camera into underexposing on something that isn't very interesting at all - result: an average sky, dull festive lights and a mean 'n' muddy Gorgeous G. Careful!

P.S. I like the coffee, but smoothy George hasn't sold me on it yet...

RER Dusk


The very near suburbs of Paris, where I currently live, is a hotch potch of horrible tower blocks of the sort people who sometimes think about burning cars live in, and little houses behind black grills and reasonably pleasant tree-lined streets with just the odd lump of dog poo and hardly any guys lying on top of drain covers to trip over.

And just occasionally, on popping out of the transport system, a pleasant sight such as this one hits you straight between the pixels and warms you right to the bottom of your Extreme III 4 Giga memory card.

A little technical note here, and I think it's an interesting one. When I looked at this view the gorgeous rich colours knocked me out. When I looked at the pic on the computer I was disappointed because it had all got mushed down into some sort of overall orangey mess. So yes, I enhanced the colours, but in fact I only tried to get it back to what I remember. So there!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Taken For Idiots


This was a grabbed shot, almost literally, as I was waiting for a metro which was arriving at a rate of knots and I just managed to snatch this before turning to jump into the carriage and nearly tripping over one of those trailing-behind-doggy-style suitcases which would have been pretty spectacular, I can tell you.

It's just a poster of course and, unusually for me, you can't see anything in this shot but the poster. BUT... it's more interesting than that!

First of all, it's an ad for the snobby Galeries Lafayette just round the corner from the Opéra. Their trademark signature is some slogan or other slashed across the ad in edgy graffiti-style handwriting. In this case we can see the 'HOM' of 'HOMME', complete with said monsieur.

The guy is topless, for some reason best left to somebody else's conjecture, and he's rather perplexedly holding a book called 'The Consumption Society'. I haven't the slightest idea what point they are trying to make, but the best bit is what some wag has scrawled across the book cover, extending the title to read 'The Consumption Society takes you for idiots'! Marvellous.

I'm a Gargoyle, Get Me Outta Here


An anachronistically gothic touch for a church started in 1875 and completed at the beginning of the second world war in 1914. But thanks to this fact, these Sacré Coeur gargoyles are in much better condition than some of their cohorts on older Parisian edifices.

There are plenty of opportunities to take great shots but you have to be creative and think hard or it will just be a greyish sticking out thing against a similarly grey wall.

This shot is a combination of seeing a striking shadow across a stepped wall, and a strong treatment afterwards to really make the image jump out with a sinister gothic feel.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pushed ? EIFFEL !!!


I fell in love with Lady Eiffel years ago but alas our love is doomed. For she is eternal, and I am but flesh and bone, and she'll be here long after I'm pushing up fag-ends under the gravel between her toes...

I've written a few poems about the Eiffel Tower, and I was reminded of one of them recently by a great guy who came on one of my photo tours, and he even inspired me to put all my old poems and whacky self-portraits up on the new site, which is what I'm in the process of doing.

Hey, you can click here to read it and see an even weirder photo than the one above!

Talking of which, my attempts to take interesting photos of the symbol of Paris continue, and will for many years to come, I expect. Don't forget, the subject isn't the limitation - your imagination is! Happy spinning...

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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Paris Set Me Free - The Ultimate Paris Photography Website

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Cat Shooting - Season Opens Today!


It must be "Paris Set Me Free - Shoot An Innocent Animal Today" month, there seem to be so many of them creeping up on me and jumping into my lens!

This is Montmartre, with a semi-wild cat taking a devilish stroll up one of the typically steep flights of steps which surround the hill.

This is an excellent shot to illustrate two or three important photographic principles, even if I do say so myself!

First of all, the low wintery sun behind the kitty shines through its fur creating a gorgeous halo effect which is so much nicer than flat in your face lighting.

Secondly, for the same reason (the backlighting), there's a marvellously devilish shadow on the textured Parisian paving, with the horns (ok, ears) accentuated by the low angle of the sun elongating the cat's stoney double.

And finally, a point which is not obvious just by looking at the photo, but which can be guessed by deduction... this wasn't the only shot I took of kurious kitty! Oh no! But, with typical professionalism/controlled panic I shot from the moment I saw him/her/it coming towards me and didn't stop until he disappeared behind a bin. The result was that I got the shot (one a was really happy with from fifteen taken) and my companion for the afternoon, who took... a total of one shot, didn't.

Now go shoot some animals - today!

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Self - Magnify Life


Moon Walking


This is the 'périphérique' or the notorious Paris ring road which encircles the city. Normally people take it to get from one part of the city or suburbs to another fast. At the moment, which the transport strikes in full swing, it's more like a parking lot and if the road rage phonomenon is ever going to hit France then it's going to happen here and now.

There's a perverse satisfaction to be had by those who have chosen to walk by the light of a silver moon as they pass all of these little metal boxes full of grimaces and ire hustling and bustling for the slightest bit of free road ahead.

I've had to walk into Paris from the suburbs about four or five times in the last ten days, and although it's a pain there are positive sides to it - time to think, the odd photo op, a bit of exercise (forgetting the horrendous pollution, that is...).

Technique~wise, again very tricky. The overall cast of the shot was, as you have probably guessed... orange, thanks to the street lights. I didn't want it to be quite as orange, wanted my whites to be whiter and the sky blacker, so I played around a bit with settings on the computer and edged towards a better result, I think. A touch of strengthened blue helped add interest but lightening up the shot meant the row of white headlights bottom left just burnt out. And you know I can't be bothered messing around with individual bits of the pic on the computer (personal choice/lack of time) so there you have it.

But with every click you learn, so click away in any situation. And don't forget the true photographer's number one tip: always have your camera with you, because the best shots can't be predicted and won't wait for anyone! Happy snapping.

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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What a Whore House!


Or 'Quel bordel', which is the emotive French expression which means 'what a total mess' which is exactly what the Parisian public transport system is at the moment.

Even though we are admittedly in the striking high season, this looks like it's going to be a vintage year. Yesterday it wasn't only the transport people who were protesting, but a whole bunch of others too. Hence scenes such as the one above, where we can see the Porte d'Orleans metro cowering under a hideous pile of festering rubbish. Everywhere people were trudging resignedly (but more and more angrily) to and from work along the filthy pavements. And motorists were getting even more frustrated as their greatest irritation was realised: hoards of pedestrians moving faster than the cars.

Getting the exposure right on this shot was a nightmare. For a start, I wanted the big pile of black bags to dominate the shot, or at least be very prominent. But black comes out as, well, black in shots and isn't easy to see. So I had to lighten it up with a longer exposure.

Unfortunately this meant that the bright metro sign burnt out and you can't see the map at all. A long exposure, handheld, at night also equates with one thing - blur! So combining a high ISO (1600) with as steady a hand as I could muster I did my best.

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Self - Shattered


Pink Sari Blues


Another whacky bit of Montmartre fun. Stuck on a wall in a little passage next to the Abbesses metro station and surrounded by typical street signs, this is a curious and fascinating bit of 'found' photography.

In fact, I believe there's a term, something like 'found photo', which I'm not at all found of. It may be that it means you take a shot of something else and in the photo you realise later that there's something more interesting than the original subject. Well, whatever the case, you should always just keep your eyes open and walk around a lot and snap snap away - no excuses!

The sign says that it's forbidden to dump rubbish (trash-US!), by the way. You sometimes see large black bags of junk or other filthy items abandoned beneath such notices...

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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Sax Bomb


This guy is often playing his sax just outside the strange and arresting red-brick St. Jean-de-Montmartre church. I don't know if his playing is inspired from above, but he plays pleasant enough standards no-doubt like Moondance or I forget what.

He's one of those chaps, though, that you wouldn't really want to take front on, I don't know, it's just a feeling I get and I may be wrong, but he generally has a can of some sort of strong beer and his slightly unkempt appearance just smacks of 'don't-piss-me-off', which is fair enough.

Hence, one reason for this shot being taken from 'behind bars', the other reason being that it gives me a chance to add another photo to the sadly neglected 'Trapped' section of Paris Set Me Free!

Apart from that, I'll just make one artistic comment. I had the option of a shot of him tilted slightly backwards and this one where he's leaning forward a tad. I went with this one because I thought it actioned-up the image a bit.

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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Paris Set Me Free - The Ultimate Paris Photography Website

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Self - Handwhizzz


Headless in Montmartre


Got a funny feeling I've already posted this one, but never mind. Can you spot this chap's rather serious problem?

He's called St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris, who died around 273 of the modern era.

Apparently, the Romans were already sick of fighting the natives and when this guy started getting up their noses too they decided to torture him and finally chop his head off on the slopes of Montmartre.

'Denis l'Ennemi' (Dennis the Menace, in English), as he was known at the time, was having none of it though. Unperturbed and undaunted, with a faith as strong as his (so the fable goes), he calmly picked his head up and sauntered off to a town a few miles north of Paris which is now named after him.

Almost all of my shots were straight up and down, or horizontal, (i.e. no tilting) but the subject was tricky. I wanted to clearly show the fact that his head wasn't attached to his body, which isn't actually extremely obvious when looking at the statue in real life. I also wanted to keep the cross on his tunic, which is an important element in the story, but his head being well ahead of his body made the composition an unusual challenge.

In the end I went with the only shot I took at an angle. I both helped the composition, still giving him some space to gaze wistfully into, and adding a little drama because the head now looks as though it might be falling having just been chopped off. That's my take on it anyway.

=> (View Flickr Slide Show - November 2007)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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Windmills of my Mind


Hey, would you believe it? A rare shot of the last working windmill on old Montmartre Hill!

Actually... not.

For a start, the sails should have canvas on them to actually get pushed round by the wind. And secondly, there are only a couple of windmills left in Montmartre (if you don't count the Moulin Rouge) and they're either restaurants or hotels, or both - I've forgotten!

No, what you see here, of course, is a simple but striking effect produced by choosing a slowish shutter speed and actually rotating the camera around the lens' axis as you take the shot. If you're lucky and you point the centre of the lens at the centre of the sails, you should get an effect which makes the sails look as though they are rotating, at least at their extremities.

The things closer to the centre of rotation will be relatively less effected, but of course will still be well blurred so hey! why not got for the atmospheric artsy feel and have done with it. You can still see it's a windmill tho', can't you?! Orangey tinting is optional...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Self - Do I See What You Don't ?


Adventures In Perspective

A pure lesson in here-and-there, this one.

Get in really close to that leaf (there is a bright red leaf on your deep green bench, isn't there folks...?) so that it's nice and big, dominating the bottom third of the shot. Then, and this is important... watch what happens to the bench as it zooms off into the distance! I didn't want to chop the ends of it off so made sure the seat and the back made a nice 'V' shape thanks to a bit of jaunty camera tilt, or was that stagger...

Red and green are always fabulous together, yellow lies between both of them on the chromatic scale too, so the smaller bright lemony splashes of colour add another pleasing element for the eye to ponder over.

Lighting conditions could certainly have been better, as it was rather a dull day, but with a slight bump-up on the computer it's a reasonable shot which might make a nice postcard or a pretty addition to a fridge door or office wall somewhere. Hey, maybe mine! I'm far too lazy when it comes to printing out some of my pics and letting real human being enjoy them as opposed to just you lot! Think about it, and make today the day you actually print out a pic, on paper, and give it someone... you know they'll love you for it.

=> (View November Slide Show)
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© 2007 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free

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Black & White, Love

This is a great example of contrast from hell, technically speaking, of course. Artistically speaking, it's exactly this great contrast which makes the photo so interesting!

The pic is of the 'I Love You' wall in Montmartre which you've probably seen here before where there's a flipping great black wall covered in 'I love you' written in white in about a hundred languages. I'm pleased with this, though, because I was wondering on one of my photo tours how on earth to take an original shot of this oft-visited edifice! And then I found it - marvellous!

It's a wonderful marriage of scratchy black lines (the gaps between the shutters) on a pure white building right next to scratcy white lines (the 'I-love-you's) on a pure black wall. Yikes! A real challenge to get the exposure right but not one you should shy away from.

What you're aiming for is detail in the highlights and in the shadows. In normal English, this means that you mustn't completely white-out the building or black-out the wall so that you've got something to play with later. My advice for digi-users is simply take a lot of shots, checking the image after each shot to see if it looks ok.

For non-digi-users it's more difficult. The potential for under or over exposure is great, unless by some luck the camera's meters are 50% influenced by the white and 50% by the black and it all evens out! One of the simplest ways is to set your exposure by pointing the camera at something mid-way between black and white, such as grass, light grey concrete or even your hand (but only if you're a reasonably tanned whitey, or pretty pale darkie... good grief, this is complicated, isn't it?!).

In the end I managed to expose it pretty well on this shot in any case, and contented myself with playing around a bit with a couple of tricks on the computer to arrive at what you see here. I love changing the photo over all if it doesn't make it look too artificial, but I'm not keen on separating parts of photos and processing them separately. That moves just over to the wrong side of nerdy as far as I'm concerned and I reckon you might as well have taken two separate photos and stuck them together if you want to do that. But that's just my opinion and if you like fiddling to that extent, have fun!

Finally, composition-wise, I decided to cut the photo exactly down the middle with this thickish band of grey to create what I hope is a striking image. No 'rule of thirds' for this shot, folks (unless you count the dash of red)! Here I wanted to achieve a sort of mirror effect, where the mirror represented by the grey strip of wall converts black to white and vice versa.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wall Flowers (Metaphorical Ones)


On my Montmartre photo tour we often come across funny things on walls, and here's an example. It's marvellous really, because you have this amazing wonky symmetry with the two rectangles of women on each side of the horizontal line. They are also separated or set off by the vertical pipe above the line and the crack-type thing above it. To again play with all of these horizontal and vertical lines interacting nicely with each other I tilted the camera to use the edges of the picture creatively and accentuate the lines even more. Finally I played with the colours a bit and ended with a light orangey tint, as there wasn't much colour in the original shot and it was a bit dull.

What you can't see here is how high up they are and you have to wonder who put them up there! But that's for another shot. Keep your eyes lifted - there are many surprises up there!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Self - Feeting Moments


=> (View 2007 Self-Portraits)
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Potty Mouth


This cluster of cooking pots is the trademark of a restaurant chain called 'Chez Clément' and it makes for some great photos if you play with the angles and surroundings.

The main 'clever' thing about this pic is that the lamppost perfectly mimics the pots jutting out at all angles, or is it the other way round. I don't claim that this is a great shot, but where I do think it's good is in illustrating the principle of making the different unrelated elements of the picture talk to each other in some way. Visually, of course.

I always look for this in a shot although it's not necessary to include this creative technique in every shot - there are many others. But is is a nice thing to do, and observant people will get satisfaction from spotting the link and if you are lucky will appreciate your photo all the more for it.

=> (View November Slide Show)
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NEW FEATURE:
Send in your best pic for a friendly photo critique on this blog!___________________________
© 2007
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If you like this blog, you might appreciate this..!
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Self - Mirror Men Me

=> (View 2007 Self-Portraits)
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Spot The Dog

I just liked this image for the way the dog's nose and his/her master's shoe were pointing in exactly the same direction, as seen from above, nothing less and nothing more than that.

A pretty banal Paris street occurrence but no less Parisian for all that.

=> (View November Slide Show)
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NEW FEATURE:
Send in your best pic for a friendly photo critique on this blog!___________________________
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