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The Story Behind That Picture: "Hello Paris"

By: Thorsten Overgaard. August 23, 2015.


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Hello Paris

It is always interesting when you walk around a city casually, how you see stories and compositions. You walk by an open door, and in the moment you turn your head, you see a picture.


It's hard to tell if this expression is because he is being photographed by me or because he has to endure another day in the city of Paris. Leica M 246 Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0


People think they need to go to exotic places to find good pictures, but walking anywhere for any or no reason you bring about surprising things. The good pictures happens unexpected.

That’s why any excuse to walk to the bakery to buy bread, or decide to go for a walk and an ice cream is a possibility to open your eyes for a picture.


In my hometown Aarhus we went to get an ice cream and walked up the street. Two guys were leaving for one of the summer music festivals in Denmark and was dressed in 1970's clothing and with their 1970's Puch Maxi scooters. A very unlikely and unexpected event, but it happened and I got a few photos of it. When I think of it, something always happens when you get out and about with a camera. Leica M 246 with Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4.


When I say walk, that’s one possibility. Driving is also a way to do it, but you have to get out of the car and often the perspective looks different when out of the car. I tried so many times stopping the car and get out, just to realize that I couldn't get the same frame as I saw from the car (so often I have more success with taking the photo from inside the car when I see it).

Some people have drivers and may feel they are locked inside a car in heavy traffic every day. I know, some will find this an odd problem, but there are actually parts of the world where having a driver is the way to deal with transportation (in Bangkok a drivers salary is $200 a month). Interesting problem. But you have the freedom to stop the car and walk out if you sense there is something to see. If the traffic isn't moving, then why sit and wait in the car if you can step out and enjoy the freedom for a moment? Take a walk with the camera.

We all have difficult life's that prevent us from taking pictures and makes it so much easier for everybody else. Right? The person forced to take the New York Subway every day and nothing ever happens, or the person who sail on the same boring ferry across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul every morning and evening to work. Nothing to see, nothing to take photographs of.

Pavel Bukhtiychuk
Another uneventful day in Istanbul. Not really, but it helps to be a stranger who isn't used to the exotic architecture and the exiting light. Here it is Pavel Bukhtiychuk from Moscow, Russia in my Istanbul workshop.


It just isn't true that nothing ever happens. But it is true that if you look but don't actually see, it will be a repetition. If you feel you are experiencing the same every day, then bring a camera and try to imagine what someone from another part of the world would notice. That should stop the complaining that it's always the war photographer who goes to Africa who gets the good pictures.

It's true that traveling opens your eyes. Not because the surroundings necessarily becomes more interesting, but because you become more interested in seeing.

Walking in Paris I can feel I've seen it all after a few days, but I keep walking. Suddenly you turn a corner and the light changes or you see an interesting person approaching you on the street. I have tried it so many times; you are getting tired and it just isn't your day today. But then two seconds later you see something that inspires you, and there you go!

Some times you just imagine a picture. You see the framework to a picture or sense that a story is unfolding down the street. It requires some more elements to be there. You somehow already have envisioned the composition and what should be in place for it to work. So you hang back and wait for the element that will complete the vision.

When I walked through Paris I visited some familiar places, and one led to the next one, but then suddenly, just a few hundred meters from an area I know well, I was in a completely new area I hadn't seen before. Or maybe I had seen it before, I just hadn't noticed.


Some times I will take a picture of a space like this because I know there is something about it. It becomes obvious very quickly that something is missing, but also that something is there. I will do one more to establish how the light and depth of field will look if I have an imagined subject in the front somewhere. It's the same I do when I prepare a location for a portrait. Will the frame work with the imagined subject in front? Leica M 246 Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0


It was late afternoon and the light had begun to look interesting. Soft light with a low sun creating some sparkling edges on the buildings and in the faces of people.

I found myself in a small crossing of four streets and I decided for a frame with a statue at the end of the road and with good backlight. I spent what felt like half an hour there, but i actual fact it was only 8 minutes. I was waiting for something interesting to come into my frame. I liked the frame, but I needed a person of some sort in it.

When I say wait, I mean being ready to photograph when something like a bicycle, an interesting car or a scooter comes approaching. I set my focus for one spot, hold onto the frame I have decided and wait for the subject to arrive in the area where I set the focus. Then I take 2-3 photos and hope one of them captured the subject with an interesting expression or gesture in focus.



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My photo required that I was standing on the street which may or may not be a wise decision in parisian rush-hour traffic. Motorized traffic in Paris already seem like a modern way of horseback jousting fight with lances, and even on a relatively quiet street another person obstructing the road seemingly was very provocative to some!

As I recall the day, I waited a long time for my subject. But in retrospect, looking at the time stamps on the files in Lightroom, it only took two minutes before a man arrived and waved to the other photographers who had placed them self on a more secure location on the sidewalk.


Hello Paris! Leica M 246 Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0


That's the sort of unexpected bonus you can't calculate. And that is one reason to be ready for the subject. You never know if it will be an elegant lady with a grand Dior hat or a Hells Angels motorbike who is the next subject in your frame.

Before he arrived, a scooter with two guys had actually tried to torpedo me, so I was already in the process of calculating the risk versus award for waiting around longer.

It's interesting to analyze my image strip now, four months later. I realize my concept of time and what I remembered is different than what actually happened.


Another possible subject. You don't know till after how the balance will be, the expression of the subject or if something interesting is happening in the background. Leica M 246 Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.


Some times I revisit a location again and again if I was lucky with it, or if I had only partly luck but feel I didn't utilize the full potential of the scene. Some time I am right to do so, at other times it just doesn't get better.

Just around the corner from this location we found a church and an interesting square we spend another half hour exploring, but that's another story for another day.

Let me finish with a quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson who spent a life in Paris:

"The only correction is to make the next picture if you are not satisfied. You try another solution. That’s why a contact sheet is so interesting because you see how a man has been thinking photographically, with his brain, with his eyes, his feet and everything with himself." - HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON



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I hope you enjoyed today's Story Behind That Picture. As always, feel free to mail me at with comments, suggestions and questions.


Another one. As you can tell I am just waiting for the right one. You can't know if the background is going to be filled with a ugly car or a classic Ford T. Leica M 246 Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.


One more before we leave. Leica M 246 Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.



Thorsten Overgaard, August 23, 2015







Thorsten Overgaard's Leica Article Index
Leica M cameras:   Small Leica cameras:
Leica M10   Leica Q full-frame mirrorless
Leica M10-P   Leica CL
Leica M Type 240 and M-P Typ240   Leica TL2
Leica M-D Typ 262 and Leica M60   Leica Digilux 2 vintage digital rangefinder
Leica M Monochrom Typ246 digital rangefinder   Leica Digilux 1
Leica M Monochrom MM digital rangefinder   Leica Sofort instant camera
Leica M9 and Leica M-E digital rangefinder   Leica Minilux 35mm film camera
Leica M9-Professional digital rangefinder   Leica CM 35mm film camera
Leica M4 35mm film rangefinder    
Leica M lenses:   Leica SLR cameras:
Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica SL 2015 Type 601 mirrorless fullframe
Leica 21mm Leica Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4   Leica R8/R9/DMR film & digital 35mm dSLR cameras
Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4   Leica R10 [cancelled]
Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica R4 35mm film SLR
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH FLE f/1.4 and f/1.4 AA   Leica R3 electronic 35mm film SLR
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leicaflex SL/SL mot 35mm film SLR
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95    
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0 and f/1.2   Leica SL and TL lenses:
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f//1.4    
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0    
Leitz 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 "rigid" Series II   Leica R lenses:
Leica 75mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/1.25   Leica 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4   Leica 35mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 75mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 50mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit f/2.8
Leica 90mm Summarit-M f/2.5   Leica 80mm Summilux-F f/1.4
Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8   Leica 90mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leitz 90mm Thambar f/2.2   Leica 180mm R lenses
    Leica 400mm Telyt-R f/6.8
Leica Cine Lenses:   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica Cine lenses from CW Sonderoptic   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/4.0
History and overview:   Leica S:
Leica History   Leica S1 digital scan camera
Leica Definitions   Leica S2 digital medium format
Leica Lens Compendium   Leica S digital medium format
Leica Camera Compendium    
The Solms factory and Leica Wetzlar Campus   "Magic of Light" Television Channel
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Calibrating computer screen for photographers   Thorsten Overgaard Masterclasses & Workshops
Which Computer for Photographers?   Lightroom Survival Kit (Classic)
What is Copyright? Advice for Photogarphers   Lightroom Presets
Synchronizing Large Photo Archive with iPhone   Capture One Survival Kit
Quality of Light   "Finding the Magic of Light" eBook (English)
Lightmeters   "Die Magie des Lichts Finden" eBook (German)
Color meters for accurate colors (White Balance)   "The Moment of Impact in Photography" eBook
White Balance & WhiBal   "Freedom of Photographic Expression" eBook
Film in Digital Age   "Composition in Photography" eBook
Dodge and Burn   "A Little Book on Photography" eBook
All You Need is Love   "After the Tsunami" Free eBook
How to shoot Rock'n'Roll   The Overgaard New Inspiration Extension Course I
X-Rite   The Overgaard Photography Extension Course
The Origin of Photography    
Hasselblad/Imacon Flextight 35mm and 6x6 scanner   Leica M9 Masterclass (video course)
Leica OSX folder icons   Leica M10 Masterclass (video course)
    Leica M240 Masterclass (video course)
    Leica Q Masterclass (video course)
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"The Von" travel camera bag   Street Photography Masterclass (video course)
"Messenger" walkabout bag    
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"The Von Backup" camera backpack   "Finding the Magic of Light"
Leica Photographers:    
Jan Grarup   Riccis Valladares
Henri Cartier-Bresson   Christopher Tribble
Birgit Krippner   Martin Munkácsi
John Botte   Jose Galhoz
Douglas Herr   Milan Swolf
Vivian Maier  
Morten Albek    
Byron Prukston   Richard Avedon
The Story Behind That Picture:   Thorsten Overgaard on Instagram
More than 200 articles by Thorsten Overgaard   Join the Thorsten Overgaard Mailing List
Thorsten Overgaard Workshop Schedule   Thorsten Overgaard on Twitter
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Leica Forums and Blogs:    
Leica M10 / M240 / M246 User Forum on Facebook   Heinz Richter's Leica Barnack Berek Blog
Jono Slack   Leica Camera AG
Steve Huff Photos (reviews)   Leica Fotopark
Erwin Puts (reviews)   The Leica Pool on Flickr (blog)   Eric Kim (blog)
Luminous Landscape (reviews)   Adam Marelli (blog)
Sean Reid Review (reviews)   The Leica User Forum
Ken Rockwell (reviews)   Shoot Tokyo (blog)
John Thawley (blog)   I-Shot-It photo competition
The Von Overgaard Gallery Store:    
Hardware for Photography   Von Overgaard Ventilated lens shades:
Bespoke Camera Bags and Luxury Travel Bags   Ventilated Shade for Current 35mm Summilux FLE
Software for Photography   Ventilated Shade E46 for old Leica 35mm/1.4 lens
Signed Prints   Ventilated Shade for Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH
Mega Size Signed Prints   Ventilated Shade E43 for older 50mm Summilux
Mega Size Signed Limited Prints   Ventilated Shade for 35mm Summicron-M ASPH
Medium Size Signed Limited Prints   Ventilated Shade for older 35mm/f2 lenses
Small Size Signed Limited Prints   Ventilated Shade E39 for 50mm Summicron lenses
Commisioning Thorsten Overgaard Worldwide   Ventilated Shade for Leica 28mm Summilux
Thorsten Overgaard Archive Licencing   Ventilated Shade for current 28mm Elmarit-M
Video Masterclasses   Ventilated Shade for older 28mm Elmarti-M
Photography Books by Thorsten Overgaard   Ventilated Shade E49 for 75mm Summicron
Home School Photography Extension Courses   ventilated Shade E55 for 90mm Summicron
Overgaard Workshops & Masterclasses   Ventilated Shade for 28mm Summaron
Artists Nights   Ventilated Shade for 24mm Elmarit
Gallery Store Specials   Ventilated Shade E60 for 50mm Noctilux and 75/1.4

Above: My contact sheet from 8 minutes hanging around the corner of Rue la Feuilade and Rue des Petits Peres in Paris. © 2015 Thorsten von Overgaard.









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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

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