If you have the pleasure of visiting France, particularly one of the villages outside the main cities, I can make no stronger recommendation than to visit the outdoor markets. There are few experiences more French than strolling from stall to stall, enjoying small bites of food and purchasing only as many groceries as you can carry. It’s a very simple pleasure, and the French are reliably spectacular at squeezing as much joy as possible out of the simple things.
This image was taken at just such a market, outside the very small village of Saint Martin Le-Redon. We were visiting the area with friends and spent half of the final day of that leg of the trip at the market.
It was a wet day, and with rain still dropping listlessly from the gray sky, I was looking for bright colors that popped and would dominate an image, negating the homogenizing, grimy effect of rain on concrete and cardboard. Remember, also, that those gray skies are boring—don’t take pictures of them.
To be fair, I wasn’t sure that dark purple in these onions was going to do, but I liked the position of the sign and the brussel sprouts behind. Once I pulled it into Lightroom, I found a major flaw—my focal point was actually on the sign and not the onions. I took this with a 16-35/2.8, so with the aperture set at 2.8, even those few inches resulted in a noticeable bokeh on the onions.
Instead of focusing on the color of the onions, I focused on creating a lot of contrast throughout the image. I wanted to give it something of an aged look, warming it up and overemphasizing the highlights and shadows. In doing so, I discovered the contrast made the onions stand out, emphasized their color and brought them back into the foreground. The adjustments had less of an effect on the rest of the image, but essentially support the overall tone.
As I’ve said, a French market is an exercise in relaxation. Check out some of the other images from that trip: