The “Waters” of Versailles
The Greek god Apollo drives his chariot up from the sea in a cauldron of pulverized water.
This was a fortuitous visit today to this most enchanting place, now a World Heritage Site, where I had spent many hours in the gardens during an earlier time in my life, but never experiencing at that time the enchantment of seeing the fountains dance, as they used to do in its heyday. I wandered in a happy daze from “bosquet” to “bosquet”, but only after I had first captured this iconic monument, the Fountain of Apollo, a masterwork by Charles le Brun.
Choosing a vantage point
I circled the fountain to choose the angle of view that appealed to me most in terms of the dynamic of the group of figures. I settled on this side angle, slightly behind the main figure, in order to emphasise the forward thrust of the composition, but also to use the impending curtain of water to hide the crowds of onlookers assembled around the “bassin”.
I wanted to have as “flat” a view as possible of the scene across the surface of the water, so I layed down flat on my stomach with my legs splayed out, like a sniper, with my camera bag under my chest and my chin resting on it, creating a tripod between my head and elbows. This worked perfectly.
Deciding the crop
This version of the original photograph is about 40% of the original view, cut horizontally to emphasise the directional thrust of the horses and chariot. Otherwise, there would be a curtain of water above and a still surface of water below, which would both dilute the impact of the group as well as create a jarring contrast between movement and stillness. For me, the crop both avoids potential visual dilution, as well as emphasizing the focused energy of the statuary group.
Capturing water in movement
I have no idea at what speed this vast amount of water shoots from the nozzles under high pressure, but it is very, very fast. I could have chosen to optimize image quality through lower ISO and greater depth of field, but this would have delivered a blurred, washed out, effect of the water. I preferred to target the dynamic, scattered effect of water being shattered by powerful hydraulic forces.
I therefore set the camera to shutter priority at 1/5000s and an ISO of 800, even though there was relatively good light, in order to ensure an aperture that would not create too shallow a depth of field. Since vibration reduction only works up to about 1/500s, this was turned off, in order to not create any unwanted, ancillary sharpness effect.
Secondly, in my experience, water frequently creates a dynamic range issue that can “blow out” the lighter area of image, particularly on a sunny day, such as this, so I applied a -1 OEV exposure reduction.
Other settings were as follows:
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G
Focal Length: 200mm
Focus Mode: AF-C
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/5000s
Exposure Mode: Shutter Priority
Exposure Compensation : -1 OEV
ISO Sensitivity: 800
Capturing this fountain in action was an ambition realized for me. I am so happy to have been there today. I wish you such a joyful visit someday, if you have not already had the experience.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2014
Keywords: AMDG, Art, Fine Art, Nikon, Nikon 70-200mm VR zoom, Nikon Capture NX2, Nikon D800, Paris, Paul Grayson, Photeinos, φωτεινος
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