Interview of ‘Chartres en Lumières’ event photographer

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François Delauney is a French photographer based in Chartres, not far from the famous cathedral. He deals with several photography fields: architecture, industry, decors, and studio shots. He is the author of the photos published in the book ‘Chartres en Lumières 2007’, shot during the annual colored floodlight of the city monuments, last September.

Chartres en Lumières Théâtre

For how long have you been a professional photographer?

I am a professional photographer since 1987; I ‘fell’ into the developing bath very early, at the age of 10 or 12. I had the chance to be able to transform my hobby into an occupation.

How do you work while you take your shots?

I am going to talk about the outside work only, because 70% of my activity is for studio work, both for catalogues and advertising. I am convinced that strictness, astuteness and sense of light are essential, no matter if it is about studio shots or reports.
I always try to analyze the place or the subject to be shot, in an artistic way (to transcribe the reality not necessarily as it actually is, but as I feel it). This is particularly true for panorama stitching, because it is hard to imagine a preview of the final image, on the contrary of a traditional dedicated device, like the Fuji 6X17 or the Hasselblad Xpan.
But the artistic side shouldn’t hide the technical side: the client’s demands, the feasibility, the choice of the best moment… I usually try to get exhaustive information on the weather, the environment, the diverse authorizations, etc.

How did you get to the panoramic photography?

Oddly enough, I got to the panoramic photography by necessity, not by personal research.
In 2000, a business client asked me to make architectural shots of a recently built secondary school, conceived like a rotunda of an ancient train station, with a magnificent zinc rooftop. When I began to shoot, I quickly felt frustrated. Therefore I used the Photomerge feature of Photoshop and I quickly discovered its limits. Then I looked at another dedicated program: Realviz Stitcher; Autopano Pro was not born yet…

What were your first contacts with panoramic photography?

I was fascinated, but it was arduous at the same time. This formidable vision was fascinating; it enabled me to rediscover places. But it was arduous at the beginning because I did a lot of attempts (research of the nodal point, correction of optical distortions…). This was before I discover Autopano Pro.

Do you use a panoramic head?

Yes, I bought the Manfrotto system in 2000. It is very performing, very expensive, and very, very heavy… The problem is, sometimes you have to react very quickly to shoot a panorama (furtive light, instable position, temporary scene…). Moreover, there is the weight, which is photographer’s first enemy when walking, even with today’s photo bags. 400 grammas less are worth it at the end of the day!
In 2003/2004, I began to work for the book ‘Chartres en Lumières’, with the scenographer Xavier de Richemont. All photos were shots during two nights, with an average of 15 panoramic images. It quickly began hard to work like this.

One day, I was wondering about the nodal point of my new box camera on the Manfrotto head, and I realized that the traditional head that I was using could be a panoramic head. Here is a photo, which is better than words:


All you have to add is a fast adaptor and an ‘elbow bracket’. It runs very well with a Canon EOS 5D and a 17-40mm lens!

Therefore my only extra device is the panoramic base, which I still find too heavy. I know other manufacturers produce such panoramic bases, but I didn’t find a small notched tray (very useful when working fast in the dark). For example: those that are sold with the Nodalninja heads, which seem to have a very good price/quality/weight rate. I don’t make QTVR panoramas.
If someone has an idea on how to get a light notched tray, please let me know!
Let me add that with Autopano Pro, I also create panoramas without any head.

How did you discover Autopano Pro?

In an article published in the specialized press in 2004 or 2005, or maybe in a forum on the Internet, I can’t remember.

What do you think of Autopano Pro?

Sincerely: exceptional, not to say brilliant.
Stitching images of a grandiose landscape, many stitching programs can do it well.
Stitching a panorama of the inside of a castle, or other places with sculptured ceiling, frescos, convoluted carpets, etc. is another type of job, and Autopano Pro copes with it very well.
Before using Autopano Pro, I had to manually adjust all my images to correct the optical distortions with the Panotools plug-in, which was helpful but not in all cases.
Then I discovered Autopano Pro and it really impressed me. At first, I hardly understand how it was possible to make such fast, perfect stitching, without monopolizing the entire computer’s power (my computer was a bi-processor Mac G4).
Seriously, I am a photographer, not a graphic designer. I think it is best to spend most the time on shooting. I can understand my colleagues who touch up a lot their images, but it is not my own.
For me, Autopano Pro represents this philosophy. The only retouches that I do are purely photographic: colorimetry (I am very exigent on this point, because of my studio background), contrast, saturation, luminosity, curves, sharpness, etc.
I am going to stop my compliments; otherwise it will be an ad!

Do you have ideas for the next version of Autopano Pro?

Honestly, with the latest version, coming with the blending feature and the Photoshop export, I am fulfilled. I am still loyal to my favorite program to deal with RAW files, and then I stitch with Autopano Pro. I didn’t try a lot the HDR feature, but I will have a look on it very shortly. The only thing that misses is a book dealing with all the potential of the program and tips of other users; but I think it is underway.
A magnifying glass tool should be interesting to implement. It enables to see a part of the image at a 100% zoom, to verify the stitching for example. I use this kind of tool in the program of my ‘Leaf’ digital back and it is really useful.
I think I use only 70% of Autopano Pro resources.

You sent us the book ‘Chartres en Lumières’, for which you shot all the photographs. Can you tell us a bit more about this project?

Chartres en Lumière Médiathèque

This project is a narrow collaboration between the scenographer and me. First of all, I have to respect the work of the artist, the unity of the project. I have to be careful on the colors and the crops. Panoramic photography is ideal for this type of work, because the scenographies are often very wide, grandiose. The panoramic format is perfect to restitute some atmospheres.
‘Chartres en Lumières’ enables Xavier to show his talent over the world. We went to Canada, Mexico, Scotland, Spain… and we created scenographies there. The book is like a catalogue of our work.

My only frustration about this book is that I couldn’t shot panoramic images just before the sun sets, which I find is an extraordinary moment with superb skies, because the lightening of the city monuments began later in the evening.

What about your next projects?

I work essentially in business photography; this lets me live (and make my family live) and not just survive.
I couldn’t really involve myself in personal project, because I lack time, but since 2 or 3 years I rediscover the pleasure to make photos intended just for oneself.
I live in a city which has an exceptional architectural patrimony, and I begin to shoot panoramic images almost everywhere and specially from and into the cathedral, to make people discover unknown places or sublime lights. Last year, the city of Chartres proposed me to make an exhibition on the event of ‘Chartres en Lumières’. I printed panoramic images in a very large format (2m x 70cm). This gave me new ideas… maybe another expo or a book.

Visit François Delauney’s website

Chartres en Lumière Cathédrale Peguy

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