Archive for septembre, 2010

Evil forces nearing

jeudi, septembre 30th, 2010

In front of the Hotel Crillon, a man and woman tenderly hug. Suddenly the man raises his eyes and stares into the night anxiously. Did  he catch a glimpse of evil forces nearing by ? I hope that his bat outfit was in the car.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/45, ISO800

The Frenglish

mercredi, septembre 29th, 2010

Paired umbrellas and a touch of stoicism under a light rain at a yard sale on Place Baudoyer. Definitely a feel of London, if it wasn’t for the missing tea thermos flask. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux asph at F1.4, 1/2000, ISO200

On gear / equipment

mardi, septembre 28th, 2010

I have noticed that quite a few comments and emails I receive are questions about gear and equipment. I have therefore added a page dedicated to this topic. Click here to discover it.

Nevertheless, let’s not forget that equipment is only a part of the equation.  Indeed, a small compact camera such as one used by this girl can do the job. As long as you arrange the subjects in an orderly manner in front of creative background such as the Arch of Triumph, you’ll be fine, right ? ;)  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 24mm Elmarit at F2.8, 1/4000, ISO200

Last one before the wild ride

lundi, septembre 27th, 2010

Riding a scooter in Paris is a tough challenge as danger can be at every corner. Like a cowboy before riding his horse, a last cigarette and the scooter driver will race to the battle field.


Leica M9 with 60mm Hexanon at F1.4, 1/350, ISO200

The Amerifrench

dimanche, septembre 26th, 2010

Get on the plane, fly to Paris. Leave the luggage at the hotel and head to a shop to buy a beret. Ready for a nice meal at a good restaurant. Ah la vie en rose ! ……. Damned, menus are in French in Paris. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/1000, ISO200


samedi, septembre 25th, 2010

Candids are the ultimate goal of street photography. Grab an instant of time, an expression, a look or a smile without altering it with your presence. You see it but you are not part of it. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/250, ISO200

Last good-bye to the Summer

vendredi, septembre 24th, 2010

On the Passerelle Debilly, a girl contemplates the sunset over the Seine River on the last day of Summer. And today the rain hit Paris. Autumn is here.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/500, ISO200

The War of Roses

jeudi, septembre 23rd, 2010

In fashion, any trick counts. But Roses usually win.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/500, ISO200

Five in a Fiat 500

mercredi, septembre 22nd, 2010

The mythic Fiat 500. The jewel of a whole generation. A trip to the sea or a girlfriend in the back seat, I am sure it will bring great memories to many of you. One would joke that you could fit 10 people in that sardine can. Yet with five people, I believe this family I encountered in the middle of the Iena Bridge already attained quite a challenge. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/2000, ISO200

But wait, I said five right …. one is missing  ?  No simply hiding in the back …  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/1500, ISO200

On stories – From Montmartre to Brazil

mardi, septembre 21st, 2010

On yesterday’s picture, a very interesting comment was posted by Konstantin. He raised the question whether pictures should be accompanied by a story that describes or explains them. As he stated, I often read about street photographers refusing to comment their pictures as they think they should be self-explanatory. In other words, all the necessary information should be in the picture. That is indeed a very good debate and I do not think there is an absolute answer. In my opinion, it depends not only on the picture itself but also on what you are trying to achieve through photography.

To illustrate, let’s look at these two pictures I took over the last three days. Same city, same weather, but different hours and subjects. The first one is probably self-explanatory but it requires a close inspection. Indeed, at first sight it is about a man walking down the street at sunset. A second look will provide other clues such as his tired look, the guitar he is carrying, the moon, a hilly neighborhood and the illuminated cross of a drugstore. Provided the viewer is aware that it was taken in Paris (he should on this blog), he should be able to identify the neighborhood as Montmartre by recouping the downhill streets and musician. I guess that at this point, the pieces of the puzzle are in place to make a final interpretation of the picture: a tired musician goes home after a long day work in the Montmartre of “La vie en rose”. The cross of the drugstore probably emphasizes the impression of tiredness and adds to the atmosphere. All in all, I believe this pictures is self-explanatory to the scrutinizing eye,  eventually adding a title such as “Montmartre – back from work” to help the viewer start the interpretation. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/250, ISO400

Meanwhile the second picture below will leave the viewer completely clueless on what is going on. There is obviously a high chance that it took place in Paris since it is on this blog. Yet, the exotic dancer is not quite a typical illustration of Parisian folklore. So here an explanatory text or title is in my opinion necessary. The picture might be aesthetically pleasing regardless of the setting but I definitely think that some text adds to the viewer experience. It would be in that case “A Brazilian Queen celebrates the Carnival parade in Paris and contemplates her beauty in a wooden mirror”. I am sure that this picture becomes instantly much easier to interpret. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux at F1.4, 1/4000, ISO200, ND filter

As a closing comment, the answer to Konstantin can only be “it depends”. It depends on the photographer and what he tries to achieve. My blog is about Paris and photography. Sometimes the pictures stand on their own, and other times I like to provide side stories that I feel might result interesting. But yes, occasionally there are pictures where I feel that no text is needed. So next time you see a picture with no comment, you’ll know why.

On Inspiration – Saul Leiter

lundi, septembre 20th, 2010

Each month, I try to purchase a photography book, mostly on street photography. I think it is also part of the learning of a photographer to look at others work. Obviously, some images attract me more than others, some I will forget straight away and some are recorded forever. It is therefore not unusual for me to have an image pop up in my mind as I am in the street taking pictures. I guess this can be called inspiration or even sometimes ‘déjà vu’. One of my favourite street photographers is Saul Leiter. He mastered both color and B&W mediums and knew how to depict atmospheres in a given place. His pictures give the impression that time stopped for a second and will never resume. He probably was a shy photographer as he very rarely shot people facing them, preferring reflections or hints of their presence. His reds were special, muted and strong at the same time. I can say that he has been an inspiration to my photography.

The picture below was shot in the Menilmontant neighbourhood. I had spotted the colors of this store front and was waiting for something to happen. This is when I noticed this man walking towards me and, all of a sudden, one of Saul Leiter’s most famous picture came to my mind (It is actually the cover of his most recent book which I highly recommend). As the man got closer, I hit the trigger automatically, inspired by the memory of Saul’s shot.  It wasn’t an attempt to mimick him, Saul Leiter’s shot is so perfect, but  just another interpretation of a similar moment, in different times and in a different place.


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F2.8, 1/4000, ISO200

Loulou’s breakfast

dimanche, septembre 19th, 2010

Dogs are allowed in most restaurants in France, obviously as long as they stay under the table. Exept for this dog that braved the proscription, being trying to bring the attention of the waiter and speed up the breakfast order process. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F8, 1/500, ISO200

Between Barbès and Jaurès …

samedi, septembre 18th, 2010

… a woman contemplates the city unfolding under the metro elevated track.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/2000, ISO200

Under the roofs of Paris

vendredi, septembre 17th, 2010

« As the moon rose over the Eiffel Tower on a late Summer night, I noticed a lamp lit up in the apartment across the street. Suddenly …. »

Wouldn’t that be a great start for a novel ? Love, adventure, drama …..  your choice. Yet « Under the roofs of Paris » would be its name.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/125, ISO400

The Saint-Lazare Triptych

jeudi, septembre 16th, 2010

Between dreams of escape and of glamourous love, flows the daily routine of Parisians.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Sigma DP2 at F7.1, 1/80, ISO100

There is always light at the end of the tunnel …

mercredi, septembre 15th, 2010

… but also at the front, right ? Paris readies for its numerous fairs, girls dress up with the Fall collection and even tunnels are decorated with red carpets. The City of Glamour.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 50mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/500, ISO200

Manual focus series V : Hail Mary focusing

mardi, septembre 14th, 2010

Skill : for gamblers only
Hit rate : 20%
Picture style : Out of focus mainly …

I always liked the term Hail Mary pass commonly used in American Football. It refers to a long forward pass as an attempt to win the game as time expires. Success rate is less than 5%, but at least the losing team gives it a try. Same happens in street photography when a great potential scene suddenly unfolds quickly in front of you. Unluckily, your focus ring will often be in the wrong position. Therefore, in a desperate attempt to get the shot, rotate the focus ring blindly and … pray for the best. With time and practice, you’ll get a feel of which direction to turn the focus ring to and get some success now and then. To help in that matter, I do recommend lenses with a lever since it will give you a feel of where you focus is and where you are repositioning it to.

The shot below was taken on Place Clichy in front of a movie theater. I was looking at the « Be Bad » movie poster and had focused on it in search of a shot. Suddenly two girls appeared on my right. I had no time to pre-set my focus so went for my Hail Mary focus technique. I just pulled blindly on the lever with the intend to bring the focus distance to 1 meter. And obviously in this instance, I failed. Indeed the girls were not in focus as the ring actually ended up on 1.2 meters. I still like the shot, but it does illustrate the very low hit rate of such a technique.  (click on picture to enlarge)

This concludes this series on manual focus of wide open lenses. In the coming weeks, I will follow up with a new series on exposure. Thanks for reading.


Leica M8 with 35mm Summicron IV at F2, 1/1000, ISO160

Manual focus series IV : Collision path

lundi, septembre 13th, 2010

Skill : advanced
In focus rate : 50%
Picture style : subjects walking towards you

As you walk in a street, many of your potential subjects will be headed in your direction and pass by very close. That is especially true in towns with narrow sidewalks or tiny streets like one often encounters in Europe. With that method, you will set the focus on your lens at a given distance depending on how close you anticipate/want to get to your subject. Almost on a collision path, reason for the new found name for this technique. In my case, I usually set my 35mm lens at 2 meters and the 60mm at 3 meters. When I spot a potential subject coming towards me, I then raise the camera to my eyes in advance and aim the rangefinder center patch toward the face of the person. Then I let the subject near (on a collision path … reason for the name of this technique) until the two images are about to coincide in the viewfinder. At that moment, I’ll quickly reframe to the wanted composition and hit the trigger. Now make no mistake, and remember that this series is about focusing lenses at full aperture, this technique is not a very reliable one and one does need to practice a lot to get a good timing. Nevertheless, I find it a bit more effective then trying to estimate the distance to your subjects while both of you are moving. As a side note, one could argue that this technique will get you spotted easily by subjects. It is true in some cases, yet most people don’t really understand what is about to happen as you raise your camera. Therefore if your timing is good, you’ll still get a high rate of candids.

The picture below was taken next to the Mouling Rouge. I saw that girl in the distance coming towards me and also spotted the red color of the Moulin Rouge in the back. As she came close to me, I raised my camera and aimed the rangefinder patch towards her face until the images were about to coincide. At that point I slightly reframed to the right and hit the trigger. The focus ended up not 100% accurate nevertheless I believe it did not impact too negatively on the overall feel of the picture. Also notice the out of focus background, result of the lens opened at F1.2.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M9 with 60mm Hexanon at F1.2, 1/4000, ISO640

Manual focus series III : Focus by anticipation

dimanche, septembre 12th, 2010

Skill : advanced
In focus rate : 80%
Shot style : Moving subjects, preset compositions

Yesterday I wrote about how to preset your focus and then move into position to frame and trigger. Today’s focus technique is a variation of zone focus, yet in this case you will first position yourself, set the focus then wait for your subject to enter your frame. This method is most useful when facing fast moving subjects (bikes, cars, joggers… ) or whenever you have identified a specific background and wait for a subject to enter it. But let’s go directly to the pictures to illustrate that method.In the first picture taken on a bridge of the Canal St-Martin, I spotted this lady on her bike as she was stopped at a traffic light on the other side of the Canal. I therefore quickly identified the best composition possible from my position as moving around was not an option due to the imminence of her arrival. I then set the focus on one of the white stains on the ground (chewing gum residue I suppose) where I expected her to ride by. As she progressed towards me, I had to slightly modify my focus point as her path was different from the one I had expected initially. Yet as she entered my viewfinder, I was ready and only had to click. As you can tell from her dress, she was riding quite fast so a manual focus as she moved in the viewfinder would have resulted impossible, especially since my lens was wide open at F1.4. (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M8 with 50mm Summilux asph at F1.4, 1/1000, ISO160

The second picture illustrates a variation of this technique, more adapted to situations where the subject will enter your frame close to you. Indeed in this case, it is less effective to pre-focus on a ground pattern since you will always re-frame significantly afterwards, which will in turn result in an overshoot of the real focus point (as stated by the laws of geometry). In this situation, it is best to simply estimate the distance at which your subject will be located in your composition and adjust the focus distance on your lens accordingly. In the picture below, I spotted this musician at a pedestrian crossing in front of the Saint-Augustin Church. I identified a potential composition with the church in the background and estimated that the boy would be in focus about 2 meters in front of me. I therefore set the focus distance on my lens and kept the aperture at F1.4 for a strong out of focus effect in the background. As this young musician finally entered my viewfinder, all I had to do was to remain steady and click. Obviously, this technique is not always successful as it relies a lot on your capacity to guess the path of your subjects. And often, your subjects will actually alter their paths unexpectedly and get out of your in focus zone resulting in a misfocused shot. Obviously, you could stop down your lens (smaller aperture such as F8) for a longer zone of focus, but remember that this series is all about wide open shots! (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M8 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/350, ISO160

Manual focus series II : Zone focus

samedi, septembre 11th, 2010

Skill : normal
In focus rate : 90%
Picture style : candids

Zone focus is a very effective way to shoot with a rangefinder. Indeed, you manually chose the plane that want in focus by setting the distance and aperture on your lens. For example, set your 35mm lens (on full format camera) on 3 meters and an aperture of 5.6 and you’ll know by looking at the distance scale that the plane between 2 meters and 5 meters will be in focus (often referred to as the depth of field). So where does it lead us to ? To the point that you can set the focus by estimating the distance to your subject before actually bringing the camera to your eyes. No more need to focus in the viewfinder and a very valuable gain of time to take your shot, especially useful if you are after candids. Actually, you could spend a whole day without any need to focus your camera by setting the focus ring on 3 meters and the aperture on F11. Then everything between 1.8 and 7 meters would be in focus and would cover about any situations you will encounter in street photography. Easy isn’t it ? Apart from the loss of speed that would happen at F11, it also gets more complex when you like to shoot wide open as I do (with large apertures such a F1.4). Inded, the focus plane becomes very thin. For example, take the same 35mm lens at 3 meters with an aperture of F1.4 and your plane of focus now only ranges from 2.7 to 3.3 meters. This will create great blur effects in the background nevertheless your focus zone will be of only 60 centimeters and a wrong estimation of distance will fatally lead to a misfocused picture. Therefore if you are going to use zone focus with wide open lenses, you better learn to estimate distances very accurately.

Enough theory and here are two shots taken today to illustrate this technique. The first one portrays a young man in a relaxed position enjoying the sun in Rue St-Honoré. I wanted to get a candid shot and knew I would have to be quick before he reacted to my presence. Thus I mentally pre-framed the picture and located where I would position myself. I then estimated the distance that would separate him from me, that is 3 meters, and set the aperture to F2.8. Given there was no background and no blur opportunity, F2.8 would give me a plane of sharpness of 1 meter in a static situation, safe enough. Then all I had to do was to go to the postion I had previously identified, kneel down, frame and hit the trigger. By zone focusing, I gained a lot of time by not having to focus in the viewfinder. The man did see me, yet he did not have time to adjust his behaviour to my presence. The definition of a candid shot.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M8 with 35mm Summilux at F2.8, 1/4000, ISO160

The second shot shows a man smoking in front of a large fashion ad a bit further on Rue St-Honoré. This was a bit trickier since closing the lens to a smaller aperture would have meant a significant loss of speed and a risk of blurred shot. I therefore left the aperture at F1.4, positioned myself at 3 meters, quickly rose the camera to my eye and triggered. Again, the man did see me but did not have time to alter his expression and gesture. Another candid shot even if not fully in focus. 2.5 meters would probably have been a better distance estimate, yet I would say it did not impact too much on the shot.  (click on picture to enlarge)


Leica M8 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F1.4, 1/1000, ISO160