Losing my Canon SLR this week made me realise how attached I'd become to my worn-out, cantankerous, travel-battered old camera.
That camera and I had seen a lot of miles. It had been with me through bitter winters in Paris, beaches on the Great Barrier Reef (sadly, usually on my own because I was always working), snowstorms in New York and even a small hurricane in the Bahamas. It had stayed faithful all through the drops and knocks and falls and it had continued to work even when I cracked its shell against the elegant but unforgiving stonework of the Louvre.
And so here, in a tribute to ancient cameras everywhere, is a post on modern photography. I'm not the best photographer. I'm simply a journalist who was forced to shoot her own books for budget reasons. But this is what my faithful Canon has taught me...
SHOOT FROM THE HEART
If you shoot scenes that bring you pleasure, they will always gladden your heart when you look back on them. This is true for family photos but it's also true for Paris. Don't think you always have to shoot the Louvre, or the Eiffel Tower or the other cliched sights. Just shoot what moves you. I love seeing Parisians at play. Look at this little boy with his fabulous glitter hat kicking a ball around. The photo makes me smile. Every single time.
LOOK FOR THE LIGHT
All photographers have their little favourites. Some photographers love shooting people. Others like fashion. Others adore snapping travel scenes. I have a passion for light. I love it. I love the way it changes during the day, and how it moves across buildings, and streets, and scenes. This shot was taken in the late afternoon. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. But you don't need to be in a colonnade such as this to take a shot of lovely light. Just observe the light wherever you are. You'll soon notice how it enhances things.
LOOK FOR PATTERNS
Pattern is another subject that's dear to my photographer's heart. I love any kind of repeating pattern, but particularly graphic stripes, which always look gorgeous, whether they're in Miami or the Marais.
LET THE CAMERA DO THE WORK
An ex-boyfriend taught me this trick. Instead of looking through the viewfinder, lower the camera and simply click. That is, let the camera take the photo on its own. (Set it on automatic rather than manual first.) More often than not, you'll get an unexpectedly beautiful shot. It works best when you hold it against something, such as a wall – like this wall of 'love' padlocks on the Pont des Arts. My ex used to drop his camera down low whenever he walked along a beach, so he'd capture vast expanses of sky. His images were beautiful. Far more beautiful than mine.
LOOK FOR CONTRAST
These windows at Guerlain's store on the Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honore were begging to be photographed.
Timing is everything in photography. Unfortunately, I don't have the patience to wait for the perfect shot (which is perhaps why I'm not the greatest photographer). But I do realise that timing is crucial in this business. The really good photographers wait for the right light, the right moment, the right scene. They'll wait for ages. That's how they get the best shots.
I snapped this woman and her cute Jack Russells crossing the Palais-Royal at just the right moment. (Look at how the trees frame her.) But I was lucky. I had good timing. The Photography Gods were shining down that day.
DO SOME RESEARCH BEFOREHAND
I've been wanting to photograph this Parisian patisserie for years. It's one of the city's most beautiful shopfronts. But I could never find it. So I researched it on the Internet. (There are conflicting addresses, and nobody seems to know where it is.) It was well worth the hike up to Montmartre last week. If you want to shoot particular things, find out where they are and write up a Shot List.
These shots were taken at Versailles last week. I was on an old bike I'd hired to ride to the Petit Trianon. (Be kind: I'd already walked all around the gardens for 6 hours!) I literally snapped these pix as I was wobbling by on two wheels! To me, they epitomise Versailles. But that's because of the scale.
REMEMBER THE RULE OF THIRDS
Don't centre things in your photos. Break the scene into thirds (either horizontally or vertically) and position the focal point on one of these lines. (For example, the sky in this shot, above, now takes up two-thirds of the photo.) It creates a more interesting, more dynamic shot.
LOOK FOR THE LOVE IN LIFE
I love shooting people in love. I'm always shooting my parents because their love is so lovely to watch. This gorgeous, just-married couple walked onto the Pont des Arts bridge and, ignoring everyone, leaned together for a just-married kiss. It was so tender and beautiful, I almost felt as though I shouldn't be watching. They were so in love. That's what life's about. Moments such as these.