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"Xperimental Xtras"

The story's strange, but then again, so are many librarians. I should know, I'm the progeny of two.

A long time ago, the Biblioteque Nationale de France was in a tricky position. Dedicated to obtaining and archiving every publication in the land, it was frequently embarrassed by some of the racier titles. It placed these 'brown paper bag' items in a special, secret area of the library and merrily named it 'Hell'.

The sinister 'X' which chillingly adorns one side of the new BNF (you know, that horrible building which is supposed to look like four open books... good grief) symbolically tells any passing devils that Enfer is now back in business, at least for the duration of the exhibition, where you can admire all manner of naughties from the past.

Key points
Curiosity Value
There's no doubting it: it's got it! And this sort of thing doesn't last. I have often cursed myself for not getting off my backside soon enough only to find that yet another unique happening and unrepeatable photo opportunity had slipped away.
I read the newspapers constantly, because Paris, and I'm sure plenty of other big cities, is constantly offering up these rare and wondrous objects of artistic desire.
I left the house this evening with the sole aim of shooting the beast and bringing it back alive, and this is the result. Welcome to Hell, as they say on the poster.
As I'm not a big fan of tripods, especially at night (when they are most recommended, along with flash) I was tripodless when I arrived at the BNF.
Even when bumping up the ISO to 1600 or more I was still getting slight camera shake and was not totally convinced by the results. So I decided to take things in hand and start swinging the camera about a bit.

When you do this, you have to make sure that there is still something identifiable and not just a bunch of blurred lines. Here you can see I used a circular motion as I squeezed the shutter button. I got loads of unusable shots, but a couple more or less as I intended, as you see here (click for a larger image, as always).


There is a nice tilt to the shot, and the 'X' respects the good old rule of thirds, up there in the top left.
Another reason I chose this is that a light just above the 'X' has turned into a kind of bird (a harbinger of doom, perhaps?)which is intriguing.
You can see about three of the edges of the buildings, which is important for those who know what this building looks like to relate to, otherwise it could just be anywhere.
And the 'X' is still X-like enough to inspire interest and surprise. I was hoping for a rather spooky shot, and I'm not convinced I've succeeded, but you don't lose marks for trying.

Photo Ideas

  • Skim the local papers for unusual happenings, especially outside where an everyday place or monument is being temporarily tampered with in some way.
  • Throw your camera around a bit when taking shots outside at night! I mean, move it in any direction you like as you press the shutter button, and the slow shutter speed needed will take care of the rest
  • Make sure your camera isn't automatically adding flash, or put it on a 'night-time' setting if you have one, which generally gives you a bit of flash then stays open for a while. This can give some very interesting results.
Then comment on this lesson with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!

  • curiosity value - look out for normal buildings or places in your town being transformed for a limited period - this will intrigue and amuse people
  • technique - night time is a great time to experiment - with flash or without, hand-held or tripod, moving the camera or lens around, etc. There are no rules!
  • composition - remember the two zooms: your lens and your legs. Even if doing strange things as you take the pic, still remember what the final result could look like and try to leave your options open (by shooting with a wider angle lens than necessary in order to be able to crop later

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