A couple sheltering at a bus stop on a freezing Winter night at Place de l’Opera captured my imagination as I wandered down Avenue de l’Opera. In fact I only saw this because I was practicing my habit of turning round every so often to see the view I had just passed in reverse. I was touched by the juxtaposition of their huddled figures with the cool, gorgeous couple embracing in a commercially idealized world.
What’s The Story?
So many scenarios would seem to fit the image. They stand separately, stiff and cold, gazing longingly at their dream of romance and relationship. They seem modestly dressed, perhaps aspiring to the world of the chic and the rich? Or maybe they are more revolutionary spirits, declining to be impressed by temptations offered to dull the masses into a materialistic torpor? This is Paris, after all!
Staring intently at the image on-screen in order to draw the best from the raw files, another, very prosaic story comes to mind. Is he consulting his cellphone? Its light seems to shine in his hand and he might just be showing it to her. Could it just be the excellent Paris transport app telling them when the next one is due to arrive at this bus stop? I prefer to imagine the romantic versions.
My friend Eric Bontemps is a master of candid street photography and is particularly skilled at getting behind the eyes of his subjects and right to the heart. See: www.ericbontemps.fr
I, on the other hand, am an opportunistic capturer of moments, more interested in graphic images and silhouettes than identifiable human portraits. This started off as a reaction to draconian laws in many countries protecting privacy and commercialization of identified individuals. Since I cannot obtain releases from these subjects, I choose to render them non-identifiable.
To that end I shoot most often at night, or in “contre jour” silhouette. When seeking to hide people in daytime landscape or architectural photography, longer exposures come in handy to render passers by as ghosts, blurs or even completely invisible.
Also, I am unfortunately more shy than Eric Bontemps and do not approach subjects from up close, as demonstrated by the 190mm utilization of the zoom.
My camera was set up for general night-time use with a high ISO, “fast” zoom (i.e. with the capacity to open the aperture out to f2.8) and aperture priority to impose the widest setting. I therefore had to stay aware of the resultant very slow speed generated by the other settings. Given that the principal light-metered target in the subject was the advertising poster and that the consequent treatment of the figures as dark silhouettes was intentional, a speed of 1/25th s was generated.
Although slow for a hand-held capture, I was assisted by the fact that the subject was static and that the zoom had vibration reduction activated. I don’t recall if I also used street furniture to stabilize myself, but if there were a lamppost handy, I would certainly have used it.
Finally, I dialed down exposure compensation a little to handle the bright advertising screen. I also had to reduce brightness on that section of the image in post-processing in order to achieve some definition of the woman’s face.
Truthfully, I don’t know why I set Auto Focus-Area Mode at Dynamic 51 points (3D tracking). I think that I probably made a wrong adjustment due to the darkness.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G
Focal Length: 190mm
Focus Mode: AF-C
Shutter Speed: 1/25s
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Dynamic 51 points (3D tracking)
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 2000
This is a serendipitous image for me. It represents “my” Paris in a genuine way. It has truly been for me “The City of Love”. I hope that it is, or will be so for you.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015