Saturday, January 14, 2012

Getting the Shot VIII

I don’t normally take pictures of people. I sure don’t shoot no portraits. When it comes to people, my interests in photography lean much more towards the interaction – or lack – of them in an environment. But sometimes you just can’t resist.

So there, I was. Sunday in Paris, hiking all over the frackin’ place. For this particular leg, I had hiked up the length of the Canal St. Martin from the Seine all the way to the Place de Stalingrad by way of Gare de L’Est and Gare du Nord. I’m not sure how long this all was but by the time I’d made it up north, my feet were telling me it had been long enough. For my final act of the day, I had planned on walking from Gare du Nord to Place de Stalingrad (a longer hike than I’d have thought – or maybe I was just tired) and then catching the Metro back to my hotel. As it happens, (as it always seems to happen) as I took one last look at my map, I saw something that looked interesting – another canal to the north east of Place de Stalingrad. Huh. Well, that might be kinda cool, let’s check it out. Honetement, the area around the canal actually could have been pretty cool but by the time I dragged myself over there, the light wasn’t great and I was just way too tired to try to find a good angle. I popped some happy snaps just to justify the hike and started to head vers the Metro.

As I got back to the entrance to the plaza, the combination of the sun and the elevated Metro made what I thought would be a compelling composition (turned out I was wrong). To get the shot, I hopped up into a slightly elevated lawn area to get my shots. Now, there were quite a few people out enjoying the afternoon, mostly in small groups, and I really didn’t pay them any mind. As it happened however, I had set up shop next to several Parisian, uh, gentlemen enjoying what was almost certainly not their first bottle of wine of the afternoon, and who knows what else.

They immediately took interest in me and my camera to a degree that I don’t always find healthy and started chatting quite animatedly amongst themselves. My French was nowhere near good enough to keep up, but I did catch something about paparazzi. After talking for a minute or so, one gentleman stood up and asked me to take his photo. I’m always leery when this sort of thing happens. It seems that this is never that simple – it’s always a hook. Invariably money will be demanded or confrontation will ensue (or maybe I just need to stop basing these conclusions on my experiences on the South and West sides of Chicago). At any rate, there didn’t seem to be any good way of begging off, so I lined up my camera and took one of those portrait things I’ve heard so much about.

And that was it. He thanked me – didn’t even ask to see the shot - and sat back down and went back to talking and drinking with his friends. I turned on my heels and made for the Metro. I really didn’t expect anything to come of this photo – I shot hundreds of frames while in Paris and I really just expected to delete this one when I got back to my computer. But a funny thing happened on the way to the recycling bin. I started to play around with in Photoshop: Black and White, crop it down a little and what do you know, a perfectly good (albeit posed) street portrait. Honestly, looking at a photo that I never planned on keeping, a few things start to stand out at me. I don’t like how the column behind the guy intersects his head, I’d have liked to have gotten a tighter crop on his face (although I did want to get that shirt in the frame) and I think I’d like to have blown out the background more – maybe even use my 50mm all the way open. Ultimately, for a photo that I took only get out of a situation: I wish I’d done a better job.

Paris Sera Toujours Paris 034

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