Monday, March 12, 2012

Les Femmes Sont Très Jolies

“Is this woman ever going to move? She’s got to see me here – I’ve been kneeling like this for like five minutes with my camera. How does she not see me? Is she just being rude? That’s gotta be it – she’s Parisian, I’m a tourist, gotta be that. Seriously lady, just move already.”

Finally, I could take it no more.

Pardon madame” I said as I nodded to my camera. She looked genuinely surprised and her eyes got just a little wider when she saw my camera and realized she’d been blocking my shot. “Desole monsieur” she said as she quickly sidestepped out of the fame. I ripped off a couple of HDR brackets, chimped, stood up and with a smile: “Merci beaucoup madame”. “Je vous en pris monsuier” with a smile of her own. I walked away.

So that was how my encounter with une femme d’un age certain ended in Paris, but it’s not how it began.

While in Paris, I knew that I’d be shooting all the famous landmarks. I didn’t know that if I’d be able to make any original images of them going in (though in retrospect, I think I did) but you have to shoot those things, so why not? But I didn’t want to stop there – I wanted to find a way to create something unusual, something less photographed and ideally, something that spoke to Parisian history. And all this without ever having set foot in the city.

Online research led me to discover the passages however – old, indoor arcades or markets, preserved and updated. Some of the photos I saw showed off wrought iron and glass so I figured that might be a good place to start. With even more luck, my maps actually had the passages indicated on them and a couple of them lined up well with one of my planned walking routes.

My initial impressions were not favorable. It was easy to see how these places would have been magnificent in decades past but years of modernization had left them as bland and soulless – albeit nice – as any other indoor mall. I honestly didn’t feel that different in them as I did in the Crystal City mall in DC to be honest. Or, at least that was case until I got to the Hotel Chopin. As soon as I saw it – more properly, the excellent period advertisements you see on the left side of the frame – I knew I’d found what I was looking for. I didn’t want to break out a tripod here, but with a fast lens and a low angle I thought I’d be able to make a good image. Fortunately, pedestrian traffic was light – I didn’t even want blurred people in my shot. It wasn’t non-existent though, and I was crouched for a while waiting for a gap in the traffic to open up. Fortunately, it was a long one since there was just this one Parisian dame who just wouldn’t get out of the way…

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Pantheon?

How do you shoot a subject that’s been shot ad infinitum? I mean, you can take your happy snaps just to say ‘I was there’ but that just doesn’t really appeal to me although I guess I do it too. There’s also the argument that you can never have too many photos of a given subject – wouldn’t we all want to have a few more photos of the World Trade Center for example? But then again, happy snaps usually ain’t art and well isn’t that kind of the point?

Anyway, I walked past the Pantheon from this angle every day I was in Paris as I moved from my hotel to a British Pub to kill an hour or so before the Golden Hour. I think I might have made a shot every day too since I felt like I had to shoot the Pantheon (not sure why – there were plenty of Parisian landmarks I didn’t shoot) but none of them were really getting at what I wanted. Part of the problem was trying to shoot a building of this size from a limited viewpoint – it was hard to really get a good angle and do anything with it. The other problem is that I really didn’t know what I was going for which is, well, always sort of a problem or at least the start of one. Finally, my last day there I had what you see below: direct golden light on the front, nice deep blue skies and wispy clouds to keep things from getting too boring up there. Slap the polarizer on the 16mm, take a knee, and Bob’s your uncle.

Like I said, I never really did figure out what approach I wanted to take with this but felt like I had to do something and came up with this.

And that’s how you shoot the Pantheon.

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