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Paris, Photographically

I spent two nights in Paris this past weekend with a few chums. Theoretically, the reason was to see the conclusion of the Tour de France, but actually it was an excuse to drink and take photos, although not at the same time, and not necessarily in that order.

At the last minute I decided to leave my MP at home and take the Hexar AF instead as my street shooter.  This proved wise.  Waking up on Saturday after stumbling around brain-dead drunk for three hours in the early hours of the morning trying to get home was bad enough, but that pain would have been tenfold if I had lost or damaged a Leica in the process.  I’ve learnt my lesson from a similar lads trip to Stockholm three years ago.  On that occasion it was my Leica M8 and three lenses that I thought it was a good idea to take out with me when drinking.  The M8 survived, but the original Leica cap and hood for my 40mm summicron were lost, as was the Voigtlander VH-1 hood for my 21mm lens.  Could have been worse.

The other gear I took was aimed at the cycling: Sony A900, 28/2.8, 50/1.4, 100-200/4.5.  As I tweeted before I left, Paris deserves film.  But 5fps digitial shooting just seemed to make more sense for bikes whizzing past at serious speeds. Let’s just say I was left with a far greater appreciation for sports photographers. It turns out that autofocus isn’t foolproof, isolating subjects against busy backgrounds isn’t trivial, and positioning oneself is far more important than framerates or buffer sizes or lens selection.  I didn’t really get any keepers of the race.  We were situated on the ChampsÉlysées where they complete several laps.  I spent the first few whizz-pasts desperately firing away, trying to get anything, before allowing my self to actually enjoy the cycling for a couple of laps, and then falling back behind the main scrum to get some crowd shots.  If I’d come all this way solely to get some good photos of Cavendish and company, I would have found the experience frustrating.

Green jersey winner Mark Cavendish shows off by winning the last stage on a Vélib hire bike.

Shooting the city, however, was a joy.  I had two periods of an hour or so to follow my nose.  I didn’t shoot heavily – a few rolls – but I did fall easily into that photo-walk-see-feel trance that proves one of the strongest appeals of practicing street photography.  I shot with BW400CN film, an orange filter, and a silent shutter, usually setting the Hexar’s wonderful programme-priority mode at f4.  These will be the keepers (he says, confidently, even though seeing the negatives will probably be a couple of months away).

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