Clement Mesnier

Urban and landscape photography
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The Umbrella

Every year in Paris happens a cultural event known as Nuit Blanche (literally White Night) in October. As its name suggests, the event takes place at night and is a mix of artistic performances in various districts of Paris. Most shows are free and outdoor, the few indoor ones are often very crowded with long waits of one hour and more.

This year the Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya used the Place de la République (North of Paris) for its "Fog Square" installation. The principle is simple: fog machines create a dense area of mist where people can walk and go by freely. Participants can't see more than a few feets away, it creates a surrealistic experience as you don't recognize the place and see strangers coming in and out unexpectedly.

Photography wise, it provides great opportunities for street scenes and Halloween like ambiance. However it is very difficult for the camera to focus in these conditions (almost no contrast) so the photographer has to rely on manual focus often. For the lens, in my case I had chosen the trusty 35mm f1.8 (for APS-C sensors, not full frame) which is ideal for low light conditions (definitively the case here) and street photography in general with a natural field of view.

So I was there around 8pm with another photographer when we noticed a little boy playing around with an umbrella. Quickly, I grabbed the shot below (without any post-production).

The quick reaction was welcome because a few moments later the boy was surrounded by people taking photos with smartphones and it was difficult to get clear shots of him. For the post-production (the final edit is at the top of the article) I decided for a black and white look (there was almost no color so it was a natural choice) with strong blacks for the silhouette look and a square crop to center the umbrella in the frame. It also helps the viewer read the image quickly. There is also a sense of depth with the boy being the furthest element from the camera, giving him a stronger place in the frame.

This image was published in the fine art photography magazine Stark in its 19th issue (november 2013).