A diversion from writing fiction or reviews for me, this time. I thought I’d share some photos with you as part of a project I am doing as a guest blogger on another site.
Paris in the springtime … it’s the stuff of lovers, of movies, of songs, of writers. Of photographers.
If Paris doesn’t lift your creative heart, you’re a lost cause. Sorry.
I was lucky enough to visit Paris in June 2016, in late spring. The chestnut trees had finished flowering, but the summer heat hadn’t started. Window boxes across the city had been newly planted with pelargoniums in a riot of colour, or hydrangeas with nodding heads of every colour of the rainbow. Women had started exchanging their heavy winter scarves for lighter summerweight versions – heaven forbid that any true Parisienne would be seen without a scarf!
Paris is a terrific city for street photography. Whether your chosen theme is street art (as it was for me when I visited in 2014), dogs, people or architecture you’ll sate yourself here.
It took me a day to realise what my photographic theme for this visit would be: Perfect Strangers. People going about their business, whether they were anglers on the Ile St Louis, couples kissing by a bridge, shopkeepers, dog walkers or cyclists, it seemed all I had to do was swing my camera around and someone interesting would appear.
If you’re going to be relatively surreptitious about photographing people as part of your street or urban scene, leave the big lenses at home. Discretion is your watchword.I took my Olympus PEN EP-5 Micro 4/3 camera, and predominantly used my 12-50mm (24-100mm in SLR terms) f3.5-6.3 zoom or my 17mm (35mm) f1.8 prime lens. This is a gorgeous little camera, and I’ve been delighted with the clarity and quality I can capture, particularly with the little prime lens, even in low light. The camera has a built in image stabiliser so I didn’t even bother with a tripod or monopod. For night shots I steadied myself against a wall, and held my breath.
A lovely feature of this camera is the flip up display on the back which allows you to literally shoot from the hip. You can take a photo while it looks like you’re simply reviewing stuff you’ve taken (chimping, to use the technical term 🙂 ).
Yes, I did use my phone occasionally. But experience has shown that phone photos, if the light isn’t perfect, aren’t fantastic. I prefer to use a camera. I’m old school. If the light was dodgy I didn’t want to risk not getting a photo I was happy with.
For many of my Perfect Strangers photos I converted to black and white, and added filters post-production, in Photoshop. The EP-5 has a monochrome option for shooting (in fact it has a range of filters and ‘scenes’ you can use if you want to leave a fair bit of control to the camera rather than yourself), but I prefer to shoot in colour and make a monochrome copy afterwards.
These are some of the results of my week in Paris (and a little selection of Brittany as an extra), and they are as much Paris as photos of Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
But of course, everyone wants to see the Eiffel Tower. So here’s one of my versions, suitably chastened by grey skies, so much so that the colour image looked almost monochrome. During my week in Paris I didn’t see many sunny days – clouds scudded across the sky and rain poured without warning.
Here’s a little story about this photo before you scroll to look. This photo was taken at the highly popular Trocadero, where you have to jostle for elbow room to get to the front with your camera (Pro tip: during business hours head to the Museum next door where they have an outdoor cafe with a stunning view of the Tower as well as lovely statues you can use in the foreground while you sip a rosè; I did that in 2014).
Twenty five minutes before I had been at the base of the Eiffel Tower itself, with wide skies brilliantly blue. I shot some from different areas around the base and through fences, and decided to hop on a Metro and try my luck at the Trocadero.
By the time I’d reached the Trocadero clouds were hurtling across the sky, the wind had come up and the weather had done a 180. I took a few photos and dashed back onto the Metro as the first raindrops fell.
But that’s Paris in spring. Capricious. Beautiful. Intriguing. Whether it’s in black and white or colour.