On-Line Digital Photography Course
in the Spotlight"
[listen to the lesson]
the 21st of June in Paris everyone fills the streets to enjoy
the melodies, and sometimes god-awful racket, flowing from every
street corner as part of the Fête de
la Musique, our annual free music extravaganza.
Well, not everyone. Just
off the beaten track of boulevard St. Michel, in the Jardin du
Luxembourg, we find plenty of laid-back Parisians enjoying the
warming rays of the longest day. It's always strange to think
that the nights will get longer from now on, when you don't
really feel that summer has even begun yet.
But there it is. The
legendary Jardin du Luxembourg, inspiration for countless
monochrome photos of weathered gents leaning on walking sticks
and solitary iron chairs contemplating still lakes and life.
These days there's always a
bunch of weird sculptures round by the orangery, and I'm quickly
itching to get my camera out whenever I go there...
Shadows & Light
thing that caught my eye immediately as I strolled down one of
the gorgeous tree-lined avenues from the RER entrance down to
the lake in front of the Sénat, was the contrast between this
brightly lit lady and the dark shady greenery behind her. She
stood out like a solitary flower in a field.
Unfortunately, she was way away in the distance and also I try
not to obviously snap people so I was a bit wary of simply
stopping and shooting. So I grabbed three furtive shots, two of
which were unusable, and was left with this one, with her a
little speck in the distance (see the original here before I
cropped it). Indeed, the entire bottom half of the picture is a
complete waste of pixels! Never mind, that's when hi-res cameras
actually show some utility for once instead of just clogging up
your hard disc with enormous redundant images!
great about this was the way the low-lying sun was highlighting
her pale skin and a part of the light-coloured sand at her feet,
while not penetrating the dense shadow behind. The lighting
could hardly have been better. Without going on about it, this
is something to look out for when you have an acute light source
and the lie of the land lends itself to creating areas of deep
shadow and bright spots. If you can get an interesting subject
into one of those light areas they will be literally thrown into
the spotlight in stark contrast to the muted areas all around.
cropping was called for here. But once I had done this the
result is actually a pleasantly balanced composition.
The bench is almost dead
centre with the woman on one end and the upright support
balancing her on the other. She's also ideally placed in the
bottom right section of the shot, looking into the picture, and
rather wonderfully framed by those two nicely side-lit tree
Not to mention (oh, all
right, I'll mention it) the cute framing from those little
umbrella-like leaf canopies up above and the subtle sliver of
shadow down below. Which brings us to her rather original
believe she has an itch. Either that, or she's lost something
down the back of her top, or just likes sitting like that!
whatever the explanation, I rather like the angles of her limbs
going all over the place, highlighted by that sunlight hitting
her from the side. I've actually accentuated the contrast and
warmed the colours slightly and to be honest there isn't really
any detail left in her skin and skirt which have completely
burnt out. But this isn't necessarily a problem in this kind of
'mood' shot, where the harsh skin tones remind us of when the
sun is so bright you can't look at light-coloured things for too
long or they make your eyes go funny.
The 'V' of
her left arm is actually an echo of the upside down 'V' made by
her crossed legs, and hey, why shouldn't the lady have an itch
anyways? I get them all the time, although I don't believe any
of mine have yet been immortalised on any photo blog I've ever
Then comment on this
lesson in the
Photo Blog with a link to your best result - we all want to see
- Go out on a bright day as the
sun is getting low in the sky and look for areas of
harsh sunlight next to deep shadow. Try and get
something interesting in the spotlight and snap away!
- Purposely shoot a crowd at a
far wider angle than you need. Then look for interesting
interactions between individuals later on the computer
as you zoom in. You can often find some interesting
expressions or happy coincidences you didn't notice at
- Capture someone doing something
personal and not particularly sexy or flattering, such
as yawning, adjusting a shoe strap or blowing their nose
as they wait to cross a busy road. In an interesting
context this can produce a photo which has a bit more to
say than the average run-of-the-mill city street scene.
- shadows &
light - apart from being a great old live album from
Joni, without shadows and light, what have you got?!
Zilch! The extreme would be only pure black and white,
which is an option you can try from one of those funny
menus in your favourite photo manipulation program. But
without going mad, the difference between light and dark
is one of the photographer's most powerful tools.
- cropping - although I
try to take the ideal shot before I press the
button, there are times when you either have to shoot
wide because you're not sure where the subject's going
to be and you want a bit of room for error, or as here
when I simply didn't have time to do anything. In any
case, the need to crop opens up a whole new opportunity
for creativity... and error - use it wisely!
- human element - so she
had an itch! Well, to be honest, how exciting is someone
lounging motionless on a sunny bench anyway? An
unexpected, and very human, gesture could be what it
takes to make your shot just a little bit special, or
funny, or unusual.
~ Comment on this lesson in the Photo Blog