How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?
Answer: “Plan! Plan! Plan!”
Well, the correct answer is “Practice! Practice! Practice!”, but I am not a violinist, I am a photographer. So, in 2010, when I decided to photograph the air component of the 14 July parade in Paris, I wondered how I might place myself under the flight line, without being invited by the President of the Republic to set up my equipment on his reviewing platform at Place de la Concorde.
As a second option, I also felt it unlikely that I would be allowed to join the special forces spotters, police snipers and air traffic controllers who take over the top of the Arc de Triomphe on the same occasion. But that thought is the hint which led to a genius solution – the flight line down the Champs Elysees is a straight line at the eastern end of a geometric continuation of the Avenue de la Grande Armee, the Avenue Charles de Gaulle in Neuilly and the Esplanade de la Defense in Courbevoie.
While I would be unlikely to be left in peace by pedestrians or the police, were I to try and work in the centre of one of the main roads, even if I were on a pedestrian crossing, the Esplanade is pedestrianised, wide and has clear sight lines for the airshow. Here was my Eureka moment to solve the problem. I need not be anywhere near the crowds on the Champs, nor in the middle of a road, I just had to move myself a few miles to the West, which placed me only a few seconds ahead of the arrival of the aircraft over the President and his guests.
A second Eureka, was the fantastic opportunity to combine the airshow with the remarkable architecture over which the aircraft pass, i.e. the Arche de la Defense. Making the most of the architecture and the flypast nevertheless posed some technical problems.
No Problems, Only solutions?
First problem, how to capture both the distant, approaching aircraft “under” the Arche at the same time as imaging the formations in tighter groups as they swept overhead? First decision: use two cameras, one fixed on a tripod with a wide, fixed aperture lens covering the Arche and a second camera, hand-held, with a vibration reduction zoom.
Second problem, how to maintain a clear working space and line of sight, given that the Esplanade might also be full of spectators. Second decision: arrive early and make a space for myself where I would protect my angle on the Arche from passers by. This necessitated being on the edge of a raised structure, where no one could walk past the camera.
Third problem, how to operate two cameras nearly simultaneously. While sophisticated wireless solutions do exist, I did not want to spend the money on hiring them. So, my third decision was to “fire” the fixed, wide, prime lens aimed at the Arche on rapid exposures, using a manual cable release, then dropping the cable release and swinging the zoom up to hand-hold images of the aircraft in the sky above and heading east towards the waiting crowds on the Champs Elysees.
Images 1 and 2 were the hand-held option, while image 3 is from the tripod option. The weather that day was unusually bad for July, being overcast and showery. Given the poor light, I upped ISO from my usual preferred range and took the risk of not maximising speed, given that the aircrafts’ apparent motion was reduced during their approach. Those choices still produced wide apertures, which deteriorated the depth of field.
In retrospect, there was room to push ISO higher to allow use of higher shutter speed. On a future occasion, there are likely to be blue skies, Global Warming permitting.
I look forward to seeing you on the Esplanade on some future Fete Nationale.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2017 All Rights Reserved
Keywords: AMDG, Art, Nikon, Nikon 70-200mm VR zoom, Nikon D300, Nikon D70, Paris, Paul Grayson, Photeinos, Quatorze Juillet, φωτεινος
Très intéressante histoire sur la préparation et la réalisation de cette série. Point fort de ton blog.
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