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"A Question Of Balance"


Paris is full of these strange buildings that look like extremely thin tall wedges of camembert, and I often wonder what it must be like to be in one of those little rooms way up high hemmed in between the windows at an angle of about 30˚.

This one inhabits a corner, if we can grace it with that name (a spike would be more appropriate), on one of my favourite crossroads, the Carrefour de Buci, in between the Latin Quarter and St. Germain des Prs. This is its story...


Key points
 
Curiosity value
 
It's a weird building, and although that can't carry the photo in itself, it's a good starting point. How many pics have you seen where the subject either doesn't exist or is primordially boring? A lot.
 
Composition
 
What is vital with something like this is not to lose the reason it's interesting in the first place. A badly composed shot stemming from a poorly chosen vantage point can completely negate what you can see with the naked eye.
 
Don't forget when you take the shot that your eyes don't have four little lines called the frame chopping everything else out of the picture. Which is why you sometimes see people holding their hands up in a little rectangular shape and looking through them. It can seem a bit precious but has a real practical use.
 
The easiest way of emphasising something long and thin is to make sure you use a portrait composition, not landscape, and you can even make it narrower later if you want to increase this effect.
 
Finally, keep an eye open for complementary effects or elements. Here, there are balancing bits of red from the awnings on both sides which stabilise the image. These are crowned by identical lamps which also add interest.
 
I could have tried to make the shot perfectly symmetrical: almost a mirror image if you drew a line down the middle from top to bottom (apart from the words, of course). But this only works sometimes, and can seem a little artificial, so I went for the slightly off-keel angle.
 
Post processing
 
The shot was pretty dull, so I bumped everything up a bit, which has added some texture to the wall in the form of the peeling paint or erosion in particular. The sky is mind-blowingly boring, but never mind - a stunning deeply saturated blue backdrop with puffy white clouds added later just wouldn't have been honest. In the end this is just a simple shot of a typically curious Parisian building and nothing more. But taken straight on, rather than grovelling around on the ground on my knees it would have been much less.
 

 
Photo Ideas
 
  • The angle chosen is vital when taking pictures of buildings. Experiment with a curiously shaped building you like, taking some shots straight on and others at wacky angles and see which you like best.
     
  • Play with the effect of those vertical lines zooming away into the distance - the closer in you get and the more you tilt your lens in relation to the face of the building, the more exaggerated this effect will be.
     
  • Try to add an external element to give the building itself some context, such as a lone lamppost or bird flying past.
Then comment on this lesson with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!
 

 
Summary
  • curiosity value - starting with an unusual subject is a great way to start!
     
  • composition - match the composition to the subject, or contrast them, but don't forget about it
     
  • post-processing - some subjects need bumping up, and boring, monotone, textureless grey buildings often fall into this category

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