As a travel photographer, I am always inspired to take candid shots of the places and the locations I visit. In contrast with the fashion photography arena, where usually everything should be just perfect and beautiful, and in contrast with the documentary photography arena, where everything is so honest, bold and sometimes "in your face," I juggle between the desire to show the reality around me while also making it pretty and aesthetic. I'm driven by the wish to create "A Portrait of a City" and its various layers, with a tendency for aesthetic and interesting.
Ask any artist, and he or she will tell you that one of the things they are always looking for is inspiration; the inspiration to create. And inspiration can come in so many different ways. In my latest visit to Paris, I was quite inspired by the permanent collection of various Impressionist painters in the Musee d'Orsay, also known as the Temple of Impressionism.
After paying a visit to Musee d'Orsay, it was very natural for me to continue and visit the Claude Monet foundation in Giverny (where he lived from 1886 till his death in 1926) and see with my own eyes the water lilies, the garden and the Japanese bridge which all played an important role in his later paintings. Since I was inspired by the exhibit I saw and the beautiful brushstrokes techniques -- and although I don't usually photograph flowers or plants -- it was quite obvious for me that I was going to shoot Monet's garden in an unconventional way. I wanted to photograph the garden in a way that would relate to Monet and his art, a way that would "talk" in the language of Impressionism, in brushstrokes. Therefore, I chose to use the Lensbaby SLR lens with a pre-cut star-shaped aperture disk to create a sort of brushstroke affect in the photos.
The Lensbaby is a creative effects SLR lens that creates a sweet spot of focus surrounded by a graduated blur. A swivel ball allows tilting the lens depending on the effect you want to create. The aperture is controlled by a set of disks that come with the optics, and they are held in place by shielded magnets and can be easily changed. The wider the aperture in the Lensbaby, the more blur the photo has -- and the smaller the sweet spot of sharp focus. The exposure is easily controlled with shutter speed and ISO adjustments in the camera. It can also be balanced by swapping out aperture disks.
As pictures might often be too honest, using the Lensbaby allowed me to deconstruct the image, to shape it in order to create a new truth, a new reality, a truly Impressionistic photo.
If you visit Giverny, I highly recommend -- besides visiting Claude Monet's house and gardens, of course -- spending some time walking around the village, seeing the churches from the Middle Ages, visiting the mills that can be found in Monet's paintings or spending the night at one of the châteaux for the feeling that you're living in one of Claude Monet's Impressionistic pictures.
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