Tuesday, January 10, 2012

At the Red Mill

As soon as I had finished shooting off my last HDR bracket the Arc d’Triomphe, I was eager to get moving. While I thought I might have gotten some decent shots, I didn’t fully know exactly what I had. I did know that une grève française had thrown off my planned shoot for that night and that I was wasting a great sunset. What now lieutenant?

I broke out my map (lieutenant) and looked around for something interesting and something nearby. A quick consult of the Metro lines showed that I could probably make it up to Pigalle pretty quickly. I had walked around there earlier in the day and figured that the neighborhood might be, well, interesting at night. Besides, the Moulin Rouge was up there – surely that’s worth a shot or two, right?

Well, the Metro did its job and got me up there quickly or, if not quick enough to catch the rest of the sunset, at least in time to catch the blue hour. I was able to quickly get to the Red Mill, but getting a shot would be a little more challenging – it was a beautiful Paris spring night and the crowds were out. I managed to elbow my way onto an island in the middle of the street but there was no way I could fully set up my tripod in this mess. That actually wasn’t so bad – man cannot live by eye-level shots alone and I thought a low angle shot might work well here. I set my tripod on the ground and ripped off a bracket as calibration.

There were two problems that presented themselves. The first was traffic. I don’t mind light trails in certain shots, but usually I think they’re distracting. Fortunately, if you’re patient, you can usually just time your shots between the stoplights. If your bracket has longer exposures, it might take you a few cycles, but as long as the ambient light isn’t changing too fast - and if you’re patient – you can make it work. The second problem was motion, as it usually – though certainly not always – ruins multiple exposure HDR shots. I didn’t want the windmill arms to show up three different times in the final image, although my initial brackets were shot at larger apertures and therefore quicker shutter speeds which would have caused this effect. But – once those safety shots were out of the way – I was ready to experiment a little more. I set my camera so that my middle exposure was eight seconds (I forget offhand what the f/stop was) and fired off another bracket. I chimped after I was done and saw that I had one frame with the windmill arms having completed a full revolution. I didn’t know if this would work once I started the editing, but it was the effect I was going for.

Having been crouched down in an unusual (and somewhat painful) position to avoid the crowds and the traffic – and having been holding that position for a while to time my shots between the stoplights – I almost fell over when I stood up. I grabbed my tripod and slowly – very slowly – made my way down the Boulevard de Clichy.

Paris Sera Toujours Paris 027


  1. DH,
    I was wondering just where this shot was taken from. It almost looks like you were shooting from under a manhole cover or a storm drain. I like the windmill... looks sorta like a bullseye on a dart board. Great pic once again!

  2. Navs,

    Thanks. Shot this from an island in the middle of the road - it was one of those that's too wide to cross in one traffic light so there's a place to wait for the next half. I had my tripod collapsed as far as it would go so my camera is only about 18 inches off ground here - which is why I almost blew my knee out trying to line up this shot.

    - CtGR