I should probably give my brother, Mickael, more credit for his positive influence on my life. I am the younger brother, being three and a half years his junior. Like any younger sibling, I can more easily remember the torment, the losses, the “that’s unfair,” than I can the good. Boys will be boys. Though, as more time passes, my brother is a confidant and friend and I am thankful for him.
But seriously though, when we were younger…
How does this relate to Paris, France?
I think it’s only natural to rebel, or to desire to set yourself apart from a sibling, in particular an older sibling. If you get enough “hand-me-down” clothes and toys, you start to desire to be your own individual. I may have chosen to go left when he went right, or chose blue when he chose red, but to my recollection, no moment was greater than innocuous. Life would keep us on similar trains, and no matter how much I tried, I was always in a car that was on the same track but three and a half years behind.
However, a moment finally arrived. I was presented with a much more pivotal choice, one that allowed me to unhook my car and head towards a slightly different destination. My brother and I were raised in the safe suburb of Stamford, Connecticut. It turned out that the city’s public school system had an idea about the 7th grade curriculum: let’s introduce foreign language studies. (you are nodding your head “yes”, because you already see where this is going…)
In the Fall of 1993, my brother entered the seventh grade. I was only nine years old that year, an energetic fourth grader, but I remember him coming home from school one day, most likely the first day of school, telling our parents that he was going to be studying Spanish. I thought it was pretty cool. Over the years, he became pretty good and I remember him speaking and practicing around the house from time to time.
Fast forward to the Fall of 1996, and again, most likely our first day of school, there was a quick moment where two teachers came into our homeroom in the middle of the day. I can’t remember if they had come in to our class together or separately at different times of the day, but they were certainly the two foreign language teachers at our school. They were there to give us a choice…Yes. A choice. What foreign language would you like to study for the year? Spanish…or French?
I lit up internally. There was not a hint of hesitation in my mind. I can’t say that I remembered that this moment was coming for three years, or that I had circled my calendar, but I already knew. The second they started presenting, saying that we had to choose a lang…French. Done.
Purely motivated, 100% because my brother had chosen Spanish three years prior. Is that normal? Or sick? This is no time for therapy…I had made my choice. I wanted to learn something different than my older brother, to have something in my life that identified me uniquely, so I chose French. It turned out to be an incredible experience.
In middle school, we learned with Madame Milstein, and in my opinion she was a great teacher to introduce us to the French language. (shout out to any TOR friend reading this) She came up with songs and rubrics to help us remember verb conjugations. It was unreal. I could sing them right now if you ask me.
From what I recall, Stamford Public Schools only made foreign language a requirement for middle school: 7th and 8th grade. However, it was available in high school as an elective. I would choose to study French during all four years of high school. Since I’m name dropping, I studied under Madame Cahill, for two years, Madame Anderson, and finally Doctor, you had to address her as “Doctor,” Steele. There were actually a lot of hilarious moments that would happen in those classes. (again, hello to any friend reading this).
I really enjoy(ed) the language. If you’re speaking it correctly, it’s a beautiful sound. Most people don’t like rolling their R’s or tightening and loosing their mouth for correct enunciation, but I love(d) it. I even chose to study French for two semesters in college at the University of Tennessee. Though I don’t remember those professors names, it was a worthwhile experience. I remember getting to the point of starting to learn further verb tenses like the imperative and past perfect.
Fast forward to the present. Well, to about the middle of 2014. I had moved to Los Angeles, CA from Connecticut to further pursue my love of Photography, and it kept hitting me that I had yet to travel abroad. I had opportunities to study abroad in college, but I guess I wasn’t quite ready for it, so I passed on the opportunity. I know everything happens for a reason, but upon settling into LA, I was already thinking about all the places I wished to travel. I thought a good first international trip would be to go to Europe. I just saw it so clearly in my mind: go for a week. I would spend two days in London, three days in Paris, and two more days back in London. I don’t know why (God’s why), but I imagined it panning out that way, well before ever booking a single flight or hotel room.
This is the part where I go back and thank my brother for indirectly having a positive effect on my life. Because I chose French, I was comfortable and confident in the idea of traveling to the wonderful city of Paris. I was not afraid of the language barrier. If my older brother had chosen to take French, and not Spanish, you could easily be reading a page entitled “Madrid” or “Barcelona” right now. (Stay tuned, you will read pages entitled Madrid and Barcelona on this website one day.)
After talking and thinking about it for over a year, I finally booked my trip to Europe and it came to be exactly as I described it a moment ago. I spent two days in London, and on my third day I took a train down to Paris. In three days, I knew I would not see it all, but I knew I would get a taste. I wanted to experience the art, architecture, sights, sounds, and have the opportunity to use the language I had learned in my youth, where it really mattered, the country where it was born.
I implored the advice of many before going to Europe and taking the Eurostar from London to Paris kept emerging as a great idea/option for travel. I can officially say I’ve traveled across the Chunnel, though I was told by a friend in London that’s not a cool term anymore. You just say "the train" or "Eurostar;" no big deal. It was about a two and a half hour journey from St. Pancras International in London to Paris’ Gare Du Nord.
Though you pass through English countryside, some of which is very picturesque, I took the opportunity to sleep as I had been on foot and shooting a lot in the first two days in London. I was happy to get to work once I arrived. This following video clip is from the interior of Gare Du Nord. I could see a French flag waving outside of the station through the terminal window. It was a subtle welcome sign from Paris. I thought I had captured a still image of the moment either on my phone or DSLR, but alas, just the video:
Outside was the welcomed site of more French flags and a very bustling street in Place Napoleon III. I did not want to expose myself to be a mark and scream out that I was a tourist by taking too many photographs. I was also focused on getting my bearings and finding my hotel, so I only snapped a few and moved on.
But I can remember how it felt arriving on the streets of Paris. Just a few days prior, I had a set of “wow” moments being in Europe/London for the first time, and to now be in Paris….more amazement. I had a sense of confidence. “Look at me, traveling Europe, alone, making it to another city…” The air felt different in Paris; it was warmer. Honestly, I could immediately smell cigarette smoke in the air. Paris was a bit rougher around the edges. Among the people walking the streets, there was a vaster array of ethnicities than in London, and above all, I could already hear French.
My hotel was not very far from the train station, though I would intentionally take a circuitous route to find it. I eventually located the Square d’Anvers where my hotel of the same name was located. If you are traveling alone to Paris, or are a couple not looking to spend much time in your room, Hotel du Square Anvers…It’s quaint and affordable and located in a great area of the 9th Arrondissement.
It was time to put my French to the test as I checked in. I’ve been to Canada and used some French there, but this felt special. I had heard it many times before traveling to Paris, all of the adages of how the French don’t like Americans because of tourists and the language barrier, though if you make an effort to speak French, Parisians will warm to you. This is completely true. Beginning a conversation with “Bonjour, comment ça va?” was the icebreaker that said, “I know a little French and I’m going to try to use it.”
I stayed strong through about three exchanges during the check-in, then with shrugged shoulders and a confession, in French, that I only know a little French, the front desk manager took pity on me, with a grin, and continued the conversation in English. I boarded the elevator and went up to my room.
I’m sorry I don’t have a ton of images to go along with everything that happened as I’m describing it in words, but the room was quaint, again, perfect for one or a couple not looking to lavish in their hotel for many hours. I do have one interior shot to share:
One of the first things I did in the room was clean my camera lenses. I had noticed a smudge on all the images (photographer OCD) from earlier while walking the streets from the train station so I wanted to take care of that ASAP. I took a test shot to make sure it was clean. It’s a silly detail, just a window railing, but it turned out to be one of my favorite images from the trip:
Afterward, I was excited to get outside and walk around a bit. I didn’t start tackling the tourist destinations immediately, but just went outside. I was still on a “I’m in Paris,” high. I wanted to find food. All of that sleeping on the train made me hungry, I guess. :) Was I ready to step into a restaurant and order a meal in French? Not yet.
I wandered by two small cafes, thinking “I’ll come back later.” I saw a small fruit and vegetable shop across the way on Avenue Trudaine. Perfect. I hovered around looking at the prices of the produce. I had a few French phrases/words in mind ready to go. The shop owner, a middle-aged man with dark hair approached me as I looked at strawberries.
He said hello in French and I replied. “Don’t shrug this time and act like the American who doesn’t know any French. Come on.” I thought. The following all happened in French:
He asked if I wanted the strawberries. I said yes. Though the prices were clearly marked, I asked him how much they were. He told me the price marked on the sign. Pretty straightforward. Then probably noticing my French wasn’t entirely…French, he asked where I was from. I replied, “The United States.” He then welcomed me to Paris. Again, this was all in French.
Before I walked away he joked, “Say hi to Obama for me.” I said I would. Then he asked me, “What do you think of Hillary Clinton?” Keep in mind this was early June though I am writing this in December. I responded, “I don’t know. The next president.” He laughed…(though it’s not so funny now. Moving on…)
[Before I left for Gard Du Nord on my way out of Paris, I stopped by the same vendor and bought a single apple from him. I thanked him again, and exchanged goodbyes with him in French. It felt like a nice way to bookend the trip.]
I walked back across the street to Square d’Anvers/Parc d’Anvers and found a place to sit. “Living the good life” is a relative term, but sitting here, finally having a moment to pause in all the travel and way-finding, it hit me; this was a pretty good moment in life. Here I was, sitting in Paris, without much of a care in the world, in Square D'Anvers, eating strawberries and listening to the joy, chatter and laughter of children (in French). Was this a dream?
On my smal, but calculated list of Paris attractions to see was the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. “The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris” as it’s known in English is a Roman Catholic minor basilica completed in 1914, and sits on the Butte Montmartre, which I admit, I did not know until doing my homework for this blog post, is the highest point in the city of Paris.
Very fortunately, Hotel du Square d’Anvers in located within walking distance of the Sacra-Coeur. In fact, if you walk to the end of Place d’Anvers to Boulevard de Rochechouart and hook around the corner slightly, and look up Rue de Steinkerque, this is your view:
Pretty cool. I grabbed my camera bag and hit the streets noticing the life and bustle of it all, very similar to London. Maybe I’ve become a bit jaded with the car culture of Los Angeles, because I loved seeing so many people walking around on city streets in Europe. Along the way to the Sacré-Coeur, heading up hills, there were busy streets, only wide enough for pedestrians. Store fronts and vendors faced the people as they walked by. It was delightful overload, too much to take in. I felt pulled in every direction, looking into shops and store fronts but inevitably heading towards my destination. One sight stopped me however, and I had to walk inside: chocolates.
There are bakeries and pastry shops in the US, sure, but again, it just felt different because it was Paris. Maison Georges Larnicol was more amazing to behold than the couple of images I grabbed on my cell phone. There were just so many things to choose from; cookies, macaroons, fudge, just everything. I would forego dinner, and have chocolates instead. I finished my little bag of treats before reaching the Sacré-Coeur. So good:
I would eventually reach Place Saint-Pierre and start to take in the beautiful basilica:
I could not get enough of the carousels around Paris. They were just out in the open as an everyday part of life. It's little things like that, that make Paris such a romantic city:
The view from Square Louis Michel:
I need to take a second and acknowledge the ability and power of neutral density filters. I usually mention them anytime I use them, but they are a fun accessory that I purchased a couple of years ago, and in short, they act as a pair of sunglasses for your camera lens. They block light in a way that reduces highlights in your final image. The images created while using a neutral density filter usually end up having a dramatic and very different look than others in a set, so I feel the need to point them out. This shot from the base of the Sacré-Coeur, with the dramatic difference between light and shadow is courtesy of a neutral density filter:
Before photographing the church close up, I was able to grab a nice panorama from the overlook on the steps . My heart kept wishing for the Eiffel Tower to be present in the shot but it was just too far to the west. (Next time in Paris: I will go the roof of everything) Talk about almost perfect. Still very thankful for the moment:
Again, I really enjoyed all the life and interaction of the public spaces. A guitarist serenades locals and tourists who enjoy the steps and the sunshine:
Hello, Joan of Arc:
I would enter for my first time inside a Parisienne church/cathedral/basilica. Breathtaking, of course, but what the images can’t capture was the sound. (I’ll talk more about that later):
Back to the exterior where I could not stop shooting. All angles:
I’ll take a moment to mention one of my favorite travel urges during this year (2016): photographing birds. I mention it at least once on the pages/posts about London, New Orleans and Seattle. At the beginning of 2016, I made a personal declaration to travel more and I’m very thankful for all the opportunities I ended up having to venture to new places. I started to realize along the way that I kept gravitating towards capturing birds. I then started to intentionally capture them in every location I visited. I would wait for them to fly in front of or around architecture, or sometimes it would be unintentional (another thing I’ll point out later), but birds became a part of my visual narrative. Repeating myself from other pages, but I likened it to the very overt symbolism; the bird representing flight and freedom much in the way my travels infused my spirit throughout the year.
The details, the beauty:
I stayed and would circle the church about two and a half times, and took many shots from many angles. With the sun starting to set, a few silhouette and moody opportunities started to emerge:
I would eventually pull myself away and walk a few of the streets nearby. One of my favorite things about Paris is the Eiffel Tower, but more specifically, how it's centralized and gives you some bearing. It seems as if you can always find it somewhere in your view:
I ventured away from the Sacré-Coeur near the northwest edge of Butte Montmartre near the Clignancourt neighborhood and just walked the streets, absorbing the energy of Paris. Mopeds. So many mopeds and cobblestone streets:
A few friends enjoying a few drinks (Spoiler alert: I will write a post soon about candid street photography. Stay tuned.):
One particular street lit my dreams afire. I loved all the Parisienne apartments (or are they condos?). Either way, I want one. Not often am I that worldly about things. A particular camera, or something like that, yes, I “want” it. But usually when it comes to owning things and wealth, real estate or possessions, I refer to God and feel like all things are blessings and are earned. It was something about those windows and balconies though, I could easily see myself here or somewhere like here in the future. Just, you know, for some nice weekend getaways:
The Trocadéro + Eiffel Tower
After a few posts to IG revealing that I had arrived safely in Paris, the sister of one of my previous wedding clients, rightfully blasted me exclaiming that I needed to get over to the Trocadéro and view the Eiffel Tower. She was right, and I was on my way.
Let’s stop for a second to talk about light and sunset in Europe, though. I was psyched. I was in Paris and you couldn’t get me to go to sleep if you tried. But when I got back to my hotel after checking out the Sacré-Coeur, I looked at the clock and said, “what the…?” It was 9:00PM. What?! I edit my images, sure, but take a look again at that image of my future Paris apartment above. Pretty bright isn’t it? That shot was at around 8:45PM! What?!
I noticed something similar in London a few days prior but this was ridiculous. It was almost perfect daylight at a relatively late time of day. I reconciled it:
Latitude. Northern Hemisphere. The way the sun tracks across the sky.
I remember once hearing a random bit of trivia that New York City is roughly along the same latitudinal line as…Rome, Italy. That sounds crazy at first doesn’t it? But look it up. New York is far north in the US, but compared to Europe, it’s pretty far south. Therefore, London and Paris would be further north on the globe.
Then, I thought about that funny little fact about Alaska in summertime. Have you heard how the sun acts in Alaska in the summer? It barely ever sets. It just sort of swirls around in the sky, leaving it light out at incredibly late hours of the night.
So, if London and Paris are much farther north than I realize, and if the sun takes longer to set on the Northern Hemisphere during summer (or late spring in this example)….then it would actually make a lot of sense that it would still be light out at 9:00PM in Paris, in June. But still, it was throwing me off.
Again, I was in my hotel room and noticed the time and thought about trekking on the metro over to the Trocadéro. “It’s still light out. Should I go? Will it still be light when I get there?” Then reality kicked in, “Who cares? You’re in Paris. Go.”
After a few metro lines and stops, I arrived at the Trocadéro rounded a corner and…
Really. Welcome to Paris.
That was a panorama from my iPhone6S, with a little help from the app Snapseed and later a few touches from Adobe Camera Raw. But to finalize this talk about natural light and the late hour, here is an unedited shot from the iPhone, and the time stamp on it was 9:38PM. Crazy:
I've mentioned it a few times now by name, but this straight-on, uninterrupted view of the Eiffel Tower is from across the Seine River at the Trocadéro. The site is now a public plaza and garden, and home to the Palais de Chaillot which houses a number of museums. The site was originally built for the 1867 World's Fair. I would eventually ascend the Eiffel tower and you will see much clearer views of the exterior space later on.
Over the years, I've developed an affinity for photographing statues and sculptures. I would come across La Jeunesse or "The Youth" by Pierre Poisson:
The following image is one of my favorite images of all time. Not "of all time," like in the history of photography. That'd be crazy for me to say. I mean, all time for my portfolio, and it ends up having a nice story behind it.
I have a dear friend from Knoxville, Tennessee whom I met in 2006 while I was in the College of Architecture and Design (CoAD). She was actually not an Art or Architecture student, but was a grad student whom was studying French. She had landed a job in the CoAD office, assisting the Dean or the Admissions Director, really anyone, and she was quickly beloved by the department. We would befriend one another and hang out during the Fall of 2006. Her story was/is incredible. As mentioned before she studied French and had actually lived in Paris for a few years. She was/is fluent in the language and she mentioned being a jazz singer in Paris for a while. *swoon. Paris is one of her favorite cities, if not her favorite place in the world. As the years went by we stayed in touch via social media, and saw each other a couple of times when I would visit Knoxville. I'm always humbled to call her a friend.
Early in the year (2016), I excitedly let her know that I had planned this trip to Europe, and in particular, would be visiting Paris. Naturally, I asked her for any and all recommendations for places to go, things to see, experience to feel. She responded with more than I could have imagined (and I will mention one of the locations she recommended a little later on). She really helped set a pleasant mood for Paris and I could feel the ambiance of the place in her words before ever experiencing it. It created wonderful expectations, and what's more incredible is that Paris met and exceeded those expectations. (She also helped me during the trip when I had a little snafu with the Metro, but that's a story I'll leave out.)
I was at the Trocadéro on this afternoon and noticed, again, the statues that were nearby. I came across one entitled, "Waiting Woman." I found a nice vantage point, and with the help of some kneeling, I was able to include the top of the Eiffel Tower along with the statue below at the bottom. I thought the shot was "okay" in the moment and just kept moving and experiencing the area.
When I came back to Los Angeles, I had an abundance of images to go through from Europe and would edit a few here or there each day and share them to social media. I've spoken about it before, a few other places on this site/blog, that Photography really is a spiritually guided experience or calling for my life. Sometimes images are more important and meaningful than I can originally see them being and it takes the touch of God to reveal it to me. I was scrolling through these images from the Trocadéro and something (God) really took over.
I came to the image described above (the one below) and froze. I really could feel something saying, "this one is for Emily." Without much effort, but with much divine guidance, I started to edit the photo. It had a powerful effect on me when I changed it to black and white. I played with contrast and shadow until the Waiting Woman was in silhouette and then I knew something amazing was happening. I would tweak it here and there, but it was clear, this image was meant to be a gift for Emily:
I let her know how much this image was speaking to me and I asked her if it would be okay to send it to her as a gift, as a thank you for all of her help and recommendations. A week later it was framed and on its way to Knoxville, Tennessee. Emily was touched and I'm glad she has the image. Not that I've made much of a business of selling art prints, but I already know if I ever do, that particular image will not be for sale. It will always be Emily's.
Everyone's usually so fascinated by the Tower, here's actually a look in the opposite direction, up the fountains at the Trocadéro with Palais de Chaillot in the background:
After walking the grounds for a few moments, I could not help but notice the nice surrounding gardens. Seriously though, we need more carousels in parks around the US...
Very rarely do I get to play as a photographer. I really need to work on that. I often lose and forget the joy and gift God has given me in Photography. Here in Paris, I could let go and play. I decided to capture a few long exposure images of the carousel at the Trocadéro:
I guess it was instincts, or muscle memory, I couldn't help it. It's good to see that my wedding photography skills are still there just in case. A cute set of newlyweds enjoying the carousel at the Trocadéro:
I looked nearby and saw a small food stand. Coincidentally, I became hungry :) This was another one of those, "is this real life?" kind of moments. Watching crepes being made in a French food stand with the Eiffel Tower just a look away:
If you'd like, check out this link to my Instagram of a time lapse video of the Eiffel Tower. They call Paris the City of Lights for a reason:
I decided it was time to head back to the hotel and call it an evening. Before getting on the metro, I came across an image that satisfied my appreciation for both silhouettes and statues. A figure outside the window of the Cité de l'Architecture & du Patrimoine:
The Seine River
The following morning I woke up knowing it would be one of the fullest days of my life. Friday, June 10th, 2016. It was nothing but me, a few cameras and the city of Paris. Let's go. Checking and rechecking my map, I realized that a lot of the landmarks I wished to see were near or along the Seine River. By about 9AM, I arrived and just went to work, taking in the ambiance of the River and walking amongst locals starting their day.
A long distance shot of the Equestrian Statue of Henry IV:
I really enjoyed the sculptures on the pedestrian bridge, Pont des Arts. A series of sculptures were created for the bridge by artist Daniel Hourdé for an installation entitled Le Passerelle Enchantée (The Enchanted Bridge). This following image is of a piece, when translated, "Go Away, Go Away, My Sweet Satan:"
The simple beauty of lamp posts along the Pont Neuf, with the Hôtel de Ville peeking in the background:
A wonderful sculpture sitting high above the Fontaine de la Victoire:
I could not help but come across Tour Saint-Jaques as it ascends to the sky (later making for a great silhouette):
Seriously, how romantic? The Calife River Cruise boat waiting, preparing for the day. Wish I had a date...
The Republic, a statue by Jean-François Soitoux would eventually say hello as I made my way toward the Académie Des Beaux-Arts:
Eventually I stood in front of the famed fine arts school responsible for the likes of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Hubert de Givenchy. As an architecture student, the name “École Des Beaux-Arts” was constantly mentioned. There is an entire, influential style and movement of architecture that is derived from the Académie of Beaux-Arts in Paris France. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s numerous architects would study there and subsequently leave their imprint on the DNA of American cities prior to the Great Depression. Among the many alumni, I’m probably most fond of H.H. Richardson (that Trinity Church in Boston is a thing of beauty).
You probably can’t go to any major city in the US without encountering a building in the style of “Beaux-Arts.” Usually a train station or library will have the look; heavily adorned and ornamented, Greek and Roman columns and arches and heavy masonry. All in all, it was pretty cool to stand in front of the actual school after hearing it’s name for so many years:
...and again, mopeds:
I really enjoyed this view of the Greffe du Tribunal de Commerce de Paris (The Paris Commercial Court) and I almost left it out because of the very visible graffiti and white commercial truck in front of it. But I thought otherwise because a theme I really enjoyed in London was the idea of chronological juxtaposition. In Europe, I had a chance, more than ever, to view history and modernity all together in a single moment. The old and the new. It was fascinating. While I wished the graffiti wasn’t there or the truck was out of view, that wouldn’t be realistic. This is Paris, now, in 2016, and that means graffiti and bulky trucks:
One more of Henry IV on his steed, for good measure:
This nice building is actually a police station with the spire of the Sainte-Chapelle hovering in the background:
I'll end this section about the Seine River with this one. Nothing too particular about this building, I just loved the texture and the ambiance of the image:
The Notre Dame Cathedral
If you ask me what my favorite Disney movie is, I will immediately ask you a question in return:
“Pixar or hand-animated?” That’s very important because, in my opinion, you are allowed to have two favorite Disney movies based on that delineation. If you’d like to get picky, I guess you could add “live action” and “Disney Animation Studios” to the categories as well, giving you a total of four choices of a favorite Disney movie. I mean since you asked, my answers are:
Live Action: Miracle - the inspiring true story of the 1980 US National Hockey Team’s victory over Russia at Lake Placid.
Pixar: It’s a tie between Finding Nemo and Inside Out (still figuring out the top spot).
WD Animated: I guess I’ll say Frozen. Not my favorite overall, but Josh Gad as Olaf was pretty great.
Lastly, and pretty obviously, my favorite hand-animated: (why else would I waste the time talking about this?) The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I didn’t come to the Notre Dame Cathedral this day because of a cartoon Disney movie. I came because it’s the Notre Dame Cathedral and it’d be like not going to the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. The 14th Century French Gothic beauty was everything I could have hoped for in person:
Very quickly, on the fences outside of the church, I noticed love locks. I’ve since traveled to a few other cities since being in Paris and have noticed this recurring phenomenon, but it was here at the Notre Dame that I first saw them. Actually the most fervent placement and celebration of love locks in Paris was located a short distance away, back on the Seine River. Parisiennes and tourists alike used to decorate the Pont des Arts bridge with padlocks until it weighed down the bridge to the point of being structurally unsound. Wow.
Hello again, my feathered friend:
Speaking of birds, the following two images were my favorite in this somewhat side project I had been developing during my travels. A statue of Charlemagne sits outside of The Notre Dame and had an unmissable axe. I tracked a bird as it flew across the sky and made its way towards the axe:
The gentleness of the bird resting on the aggressive weapon of war symbolized something sweet in my opinion about the notion of peace over war, and became one of my favorite images of the trip.:
A full view of the Louis Rochet creation, "Charlemagne et ses Leudes:"
This one was not on purpose. A bird flies into the frame while I tried to catch a detail of the cathedral:
The entrance at the west facade was a tremendous visual playground for a statue and sculpture fan. Numerous French royalty and religion figures depicted:
John the Baptist...
The infamous rose window at the west facade of the crowned Virgin:
Naturally, I would enter and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life:
Back on the exterior, I made my way down Rue de Cloture Notre Dame towards the “back” or east facade of the church. I was along the north facade and captured what I thought would be a throwaway shot as it was overexposed and had a “terrible lens flare” in it. As always, after a moment in Camera Raw it revealed itself to be a keeper:
Let me leave my naive world of speaking about Disney movies and come into the real world for a moment.
Again, I made this voyage in early June of 2016. There was not a particular reason for that choice. Possibly I wanted to have decent weather in Europe, not too hot or too cold. There was a brief time in 2015 where I was pushing the idea of trying to get to Europe before the end of the calendar year, but the money and timing would not come together. I thought of possibly going in early December and braving the cold. Again, it was not at all a reality. But then, other and more important events would transpire to cancel my plans altogether. Tragedy struck Paris on the night of November 13th, 2015 in the way of horrific shootings. Like many, like mostly everyone, my heart went out to the city and its people, and despised the cruel reminder of the evil in our world.
I admit, the attacks left me slightly shaken. “Should I still go to Paris?” But I quickly shook off those thoughts as a person of faith. God has my days planned from beginning to end. I have nothing to fear, anywhere. Also, I thought of the spirit of evil and the spirit of terrorism. To hesitate, to not enjoy the world and travel for fear of danger would be a victory for terrorism. I obviously came and enjoyed the city. However…
This walk along Rue de Cloître Notre Dame would be a brief snap into reality and real world connection with the tragedy that had taken place seven months prior. Walking west, up the street in the opposite direction, I saw four armed French military personnel. They were dressed in full fatigue and carrying assault rifles. Maybe at an airport at some point in life, maybe, but I cannot recall a moment where I was so close to anyone carrying a fully automatic assault rifle.
Photography pushes me. On the scale of safe to adventurous, I’m still pretty suburban and safe with my photography and how I shoot. I’m not in the curl of the wave with a waterproof casing, I’m on the beach getting the wide shot of the whole wave. I’m not running with the bulls, getting blurry motion of the runners as they flee, I’m in an apartment with a balcony overlooking it. I want to slide up that scale and be more adventurous. I like how photography challenges me in that way, but I can safely say that I will never go to the most extreme end, and do any war photography. I don’t have a desire to be that deep. I’ve read the story of the Bang Bang Club and I don’t want to go down the path of what happened to them during or in the aftermath of their work.
All that said, my instincts pulled me to capture an image of these military officers, but I was not sure if it would be safe/okay to do so. On the one hand it was reassuring that they were interested in keeping the tourist areas safe, but again, assault rifles were in plain sight, loaded and ready to be fired.
I’m stepping on a fun story of how I did street photography in London (like I said, a blog post coming very soon), but I kept the camera low and to my chest, as if I was just holding it with the strap around my neck and it was at rest, and casually snapped a shot of them in stride. After much cropping you get a slight sense of the moment:
The east side of the Notre Dame lead to a few nice detail images and walks over Pont de l'Archevêché and Quai de Montebello lead to the full views of the Cathedral that you’ve seen before:
city streets and the pompidou
After the Notre Dame, I decided to sweep by the Pompidou Centre, but it required a short stroll through the streets. In particular, I walked over Pont d’Arcole, catching the glimpse of a saxophonist…
..and eventually running directly into the Hôtel de Ville. Unfortunately it is not a functioning hotel. The gorgeous Renaissance Revival structure is actually the Paris city hall. Thanks to King Francis, in 1533, the Hotel de Ville was completed as the place which would house the administrative operations of city. So no suites available, but the mayor of Paris might have been inside:
At the opposite edge of the Place de Hôtel de Ville was yet another public carousel. This was the third carousel I saw in two days. Normal part of life for Paris. Beautiful:
I couldn’t seem to find the origin of this sticker. But the easy, powerful translation made it worth capturing: I exist.
Before reaching the Pompidou Centre, I came across the Stravinsky Fountain which sits in a nice public square off of the Rue Saint-Merri. It is bordered on the south side by the Église Saint-Merry and contains colorful sculptures and the life of city dwellers as they play or rest:
I love Paris. A street artist creating chalk art on the sidewalk. You can even see the chalk on his hat:
I turned around and faced the Pompidou Centre. The 1970’s post-modern giant was too cool. I had heard of it years ago in Architecture school and much like the Academie des Beaux-Arts, it was great to see it in person. It’s look was unique and it’s exposed steel and glass happily stuck out in contrast to the Renaissance brick and stone of the area:
The reason I had heard about the Pompidou in Architecture school was because the Centre in Paris had something in particular in detail with the Art and Architecture building at the University of Tennessee. Here is the lobby of the Pompidou Centre:
and here is an image from the interior of the UT Art and Architecture building:
Maybe not a perfect example, but it pretty much speaks for itself. The idea of exposed, colorful ductwork is something shared by the structures. Furthermore they are both steel superstructures with reinforced concrete flooring.
I would start at the top and work my way down, enjoying exhibits and little details like semicircular exterior hallways:
This museum was massive. I mean, massive. I won’t even say the number of square feet or anything like that. I’ll just say it from my heart: it was a huge museum. It would take days to properly examine each floor and exhibit. I had to leave so many things behind and just keep moving, but I was starting to fall in love with Paris. It was here that I recognized and fully started to appreciate Paris’ priorities: this city honored religion and art. The museums and churches are large and plentiful. They sit hit upon hills and take up entire city blocks. I loved it.
A unique sculpture space that further revealed the modernist feel of the Pompidou:
The Louvre and magic
I had to save time and leave the Pompidou earlier than I wanted to, in favor of another little museum in the city: the Louvre. I would walk down Rue Berger and run into The Fontaine Des Innocents along the way:
I was excited to see the Louvre and the walk in the 1st Arrondissement would take me down Rue de Rivoli. I was making great progress and was close. I was walking in a small arcade on the sidewalk and my affection for statues took hold again. To my right, behind an iron fence was a glorious one. I did not realize it, but I was walking by the l'Oratoire du Louvre, a protestant temple from 1611 and within it’s court was a great statue of the French nobleman, Gaspard II De Coligny:
The walk down Rue de Rivoli continued:
I admit, I was a bit anxious and I turned a little too early towards the museum and entered the Palais du Louvre. That is the courtyard that sits directly to the east of the more famed courtyard that contains the familiar glass pyramid.
I like “accidents” though, because just inside, there were two string players echoing off the stone and I would not have seem them had I not been so eager:
Look at how bare it was inside. EVERYONE (minus myself and a few souls nearby) was one courtyard over at the Pyramid:
I walked around the Cour Carrée and came to a fenced opening where I could see the Pyramid through gates. How torturous! It was right in front of me, but blocked. I restrained myself from photographing it. “No. I don’t want the first images of the Pyramid to be from the other side of iron bars. Wait.” I left the Palais court, back to Rue de Rivoli, up the street a bit further, turned left again and this time…
Talk about anticipation...
Hello, Louvre :)
I can safely say that I was maxed out on surreal moments and pinching myself. I would take my time and saunter through the court capturing whatever details and statues I gravitated towards. Was this one wearing a fur coat?
I could not help but be fascinated by the Louis XIV Equestrian Statue, by Bernini, which sits proudly and prominently within shouting distance of the Pyramid:
It was time to head inside and enjoy the geometric beauty designed by I.M. Pei:
You’ll notice that not all four sides of the Pyramid look the same. One is not fully transparent, preventing light to completely enter as it does on the other sides.
The fourth side of the Pyramid was covered by large black and white photograph print of the Renaissance facade of the Louvre. This was done by French photographer and artist, JR. He is known for optical illusion art where he (and a crew I’m sure) will mount a large black and white photo print to the surface of a building, street or wall to create the effect of a two dimensional image or moment.
I’m being a bit of a jerk , and really not showing too many images of his work because…I waited for this moment for a long time, I had always envisioned the Louvre Pyramid in its purest form: clean, smooth metal and glass against the ornamented stone Renaissance facades of the museum, and on my first trip to Paris, a local artist, who has seen the Louvre hundreds of times, was allowed to cover the glass for his own project. *Sigh…
It’s okay, it’s okay. I really do respect his work, and I had seen it before for a really great project he did at Ellis Island. For the Louvre, the intention was to create an optical illusion where, if standing at the correct angle, it looks like the Pyramid has disappeared. Instead a black and white triangle shape appears in the facade of the building behind the Pyramid. I was so subconsciously distraught in the moment, I did not make an effort to create an image of the illusion. In exchange for that, I will include links to all of this so you can see it. Not like JR needs my help for publicity, I mean, who am I to him? But here are the links:
All of that said, I still enjoyed the beauty of the space’s interior:
Oh, the Louvre.
I’m really working on it with God, truly, every day, but for some reason, I’ve adopted an unsettled and anxious spirit and personality. It’s not cute. It’s really not. I’m getting too old to act that way. It’s comical to some of my friends and not so bad that it drives people away (well…sometimes, anyway…) I can’t explain it, and again it’s a real conversation with God. “I’m supposed to have peace…”I don’t think it’s health or money driven. I think it’s journey driven. I think I’m supposed to move and explore the world, though most of the time I wish to be still and settled.
The reason I think it’s journey driven, or destiny driven is because for the first time in a long time, when I was standing in the lobby of the Louvre an incredible peace washed over me. I was home. I was comfortable in my own body and in my own spirit. I was at peace. Without a doubt, I was supposed to see the Louvre, at some point in my life and it was today. I felt very comfortable there. Not rushed, not worried. Just…present. What I’d give to understand God better and feel that way every day of my life. Maybe just live at the Louvre... hmm...
If I thought the Pompidou Centre was large, the Louvre matched it every bit. Halls upon halls, upon more halls.
Though I was not feeling rushed, I knew there were a handful of attractions I still needed to see during this day in Paris, so I could not spend very much time at the museum. I planned to hit the superstars. Three pieces were to be seen: The Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.
First one down. The Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Hellenistic marble gem, was splendid. It was really cool to later look up a few interpretations of what it may have originally looked like. Overall though, it is believed to be a triumphant and celebratory statue of the Goddess of Victory, Nike (you see where they got the name now):
It was on to Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous portrait. Never before had I seen anything like this. Before standing in line to view her, I took a moment to capture the immense crowd that was waiting to view the painting:
I also took a moment to study how the painting was secured. For years, I knew that Ron Howard’s film, based on Dan Brown’s novel, "The Da Vinci Code" was inaccurate. In the book and film they just…walk up to the painting and tamper with it. It’s obviously not on the wall like the others. It’s part of a constructed wall, suspended in the middle of the room. You can circle around its casing. Then it is behind a plane of bulletproof glass. Secured.
After a few moments of standing in the amoebic “line”, (it was more of blob that would push closer and closer as people to the front leaked away), I finally got to the front…and took a lovely off-center image of the Mona Lisa:
Eh, it’s okay. I was there and that’s all that mattered. We’ve all seen it a thousand times so a perfect image of it was not a high priority. I just needed proof that I was there.
Lastly, I found my way to the Venus De Milo:
The marble wall behind her was a terrific backdrop, if I say so myself, and I was thankful for the timing as no one was in front of me or behind the marble masterpiece by Alexandros of Antioch.
I unfortunately had to make my way towards the exit afterward but I found a few more images along the way:
A moment at La Pyramide Inversée or The Inverted Pyramid a pretty cool sculpture at the front of the museum:
Upon exiting, and back in the main courtyard, I savored a final few moments, making a final lap, capturing the scene. Little did I know a special shot was coming:
When it comes to art and photography, I live for "magic." I like watching interviews with motion picture directors, actors, any kind of artist. I read articles or blog posts from time to time and I really enjoy learning what other creative professionals have to say about creativity, and the process by which they express themselves in the world of art. One common theme that surfaces is "discovering" or coming across moments serendipitously. In other words, I love when other creatives speak about "magic." I, myself, love magic. If you've actually been reading all of this post, you know that I am a man of faith and certainly believe in God. I have experienced many moments and images over the years where I know that He is controlling and allowing for some magic.
Magic is when all the elements are in perfect alignment. It's when your preparation, desire, thought, passion, experience, and presence in a moment all come together and you create, or more fairly, discover something in your art that's damn near perfect. Whether that's an image, a take, a passage of writing/dialogue, a series of brushstrokes, a melody, it's a one of a kind moment and you couldn't capture it again if you tried. It was just one of those special instances and you ended up with something very unique.
All that said, I better be careful. I don't want to puff up the following image too much.
At the Louvre, I had a moment of magic. Like I said, I circled the glass Pyramid one last time and just captured every single angle that I possibly could. I made my way to the most interior part of the courtyard and I faced towards the Pyramid once more. Something (aka God) told me to try to take a panoramic shot of the courtyard from this vantage point. Okay, cell phone back out, and we sweep across for a pano shot. Terrible. Ugh. I'll just toss it later. I can't tell you how many times I've said that about an image. "Ugh, that one's gone later."
I finished my final loop of the courtyard and finally bid adieu to the Louvre. I believe it was much later, back in my hotel room that I took a moment to breathe after a lot of walking. I opened up the great photo editing app, Snapseed, and then God took over. Magic was coming... I opened up a few images to see what I might edit and nothing really clicked. I then opened my "terrible, God awful" pano shot from the back edge of the Louvre courtyard from earlier in the day.
First, there was the crop (99% of the time if I don't like a shot immediately, it's because I didn't compose or crop it well when shooting), and then I started to see it... "Oh my God." I had a nice composition, something very wide and cinematic feeling. Then there was the lighting, the brightness. "Ohhh my God." Then it was adding an HDR (high dynamic range) filter....then we killed the highlights to bring out the clouds...then a little structure to bring out the details in the building...
I think it's the people in the image. I love that you can see the activity and use of the courtyard. That's what completes the magic in this one for me. My favorite part: If you look to the left of the image, you can see a man standing on a small pillar with his leg up and his friend kneeling capturing an image of him. Most likely it's a forced perspective shot of him looking like he's stepping on the Pyramid. I love this image so much and it's probably not too unfair to say it's my favorite moment of magic of all time. How plain and touristy; a bad cell phone pano shot in the Louvre courtyard turned into a beauty.
All that said, I would create a DSLR panorama from the opposite side of the courtyard before leaving. Nope. No crazy magic this time, but likable in the end:
Not too far outside the gates of the Louvre was a very nice tribute in honor of the Paris attack victims from November of 2015:
The Eiffel Tower - Part II
If you feel like this is a long blog post, I’ll tell you, it was a long day. But easily one of the best days of my life.
Inevitably, the next stop was to return to the Eiffel Tower with the intention of ascending its viewing deck. After a short metro ride I arrived. I can’t remember the stop exactly, but I remember walking the streets and eventually reaching a bit of a clearing near the River at Quai Branly.
I looked to my left and saw a few pedestrians and bikers on a bridge. I love God and how He pushes us and pulls us. I had that feeling to walk over to the bridge to check it out, though the Eiffel Tower was incredibly visible on my right. Why am I going this way? I reached the bridge and stood underneath it. I immediately laughed, shook my head and smiled:
The columns were unmistakable. I knew exactly where I was.
Christopher Nolan has wowed me since 2008 with The Dark Knight. I have yet to get into his earlier stuff, like Momento, but I know he’s been a solid Hollywood director for many years. I randomly saw him at Arclight Hollywood one day in late 2015 but that’s another story for another post, I’m sure. Even with my great fandom of The Dark Knight, I must have been asleep in 2010 because I absolutely missed Inception when it was in theaters. It took me well over a year to watch it. I remember buying the DVD for it without hesitation, having not even seen it. I knew it would be good. I wasn’t disappointed, as it is safely one of my favorite movies.
I mean, come on, it’s about Architecture and dreams. It has a very structured, layered concept and set of rules within the story. I once watched a behind the scenes documentary about the film and one of the actors, I believe it was Joesph Gordon-Levitt, described Inception by saying, “it’s Architecture, as a movie.” Bingo. I agreed.
[Side thought: for a moment after watching Pixar’s Inside Out (how did I mention that movie twice in one post?) my mind immediately drew parallels to Inception. Crazy, but it made sense (I’ll get back to that idea in another post some day. I love having a blog).]
One of the best things about Inception is the global hopping the story does, and a very important location in the film is Paris. I shook my head and smiled because the moment I set foot under the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, I knew I was at an Inception filming location. The columns immediately take you to the film. They are so unique. A very short description of the scene, where this bridge is featured: Marion Cotillard’s character stabs Ellen Page’s character in the stomach under this bridge. If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it, and it’s not as brutal as it sounds.
I made sure to capture a few images that showed the rhythm of architect Jean-Camille Formigé’s design:
Do I follow weddings or do they just follow me? You can tell that’s a bride and groom portrait session going on down at the end:
After my impromptu movie moment, it was on to Paris’ beloved icon and landmark, Gustave Eiffel’s creation for the 1889 World’s Fair, a structure that doesn’t really need all this build up or introduction because you know exactly what it is:
The wrought iron, lattice was incredible up close, in person, and this is one of those moments were I’m not sorry for sharing a plethora of images of one particular thing:
This one slightly reminded me of an image I created in San Francisco back in 2014 under the Golden Gate Bridge (the one from San Fran is better, more dramatic):
The suspended soccer ball was in honor of the UEFA European Championships matches that were taking place that weekend. France had a match that day against Romania (but more about that later):
This is from inside of the elevator looking downward through one of the support legs of the Tower. What a mess of steel. Loved it:
Once I was on the viewing deck…
(admittedly, I was not at the top viewing deck but the 2nd Floor viewing deck. There was a mix-up at the bottom when purchasing the tickets. An employee told a group of us that our tickets would be valid for both viewing decks, but it turned out they were not. The top viewing deck was closed and would not be open for another 45 minutes. Wait? or move on to more attractions? Aww, sad travel stories. It’s okay, something to add to the “next time” list)
…I was able to capture a few nice images from above. As mentioned earlier, here is an overview of the Trocadéro Gardens, with the Palais de Chaillot, and even modern downtown Paris in the background:
It was then just a matter of getting every direction possible. Looking southwest over the River and AFAC Sport stadium:
A bit further north and wider, a look over the River:
Looking northeast, back to where I began, was the Sacré-Coeur on the Butte Montmartre, again the highest point in Paris:
Such an incredible experience. I decided against the 45 minute wait to ascend higher and would head down to the street in search of a Seine River boat tour. I could not help but grab a quick shot of the Roman Warrior statue at the end of Pont d’Iéna:
The Seine River - Part II
It was time to get on the water. I purchased a ticket with Vedettes de Paris and enjoyed a pretty nice, one hour, guided cruise. The only hiccup, and it was not their fault at all, is that the tour had to stop shorter than it normally would. There was intense flooding of the River just a week prior and they took every precaution by turning the boat around much earlier on the easter leg of the tour than normal.
Other than that, it was great to get views of the Tower and a few other landmarks from River level:
Paris is for lovers on boat tours...
...it's also for single photographers on the trip of a lifetime, but whatever...
I really like how Photography has encouraged me to people-watch. I’m writing this post very retroactively, almost six months later. Between this trip and now, writing this post, I have travelled to Chicago, IL. Something absolutely bizarre/wonderful happened in Chicago and it actually relates back to people watching on this very boat tour on the Seine River. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve already heard the story, but I look forward to writing a few blog posts about what happened in Chicago and relating it back to this page. Stay tuned…
I really enjoyed passing by this sailboat and catching the spire of the American Church in Paris on one side and the Eiffel Tower in the distance on the other. A nice vertical rhythm happening from left to right. I didn’t even notice that it happened until much later. I just thought I was getting a nice shot of a boat:
I gave myself another tease and item on the “next time” list: The Grand Palais exhibition hall:
Eventually we would pass by the Statue of Liberty Replica which sits at the edge of Pont de Grenelle:
These images may be a bit out of order, but one of the things that caught my eye the most during the tour were the sculptures that sat underneath the bridges along the Seine. They represent the “Republic Française” very well:
The “Iron Riveters” and the “Boatmen” were both designed by sculptor, Gustave Michel in the early 1900’s:
At Pont Mirabeau, we passed by Jean Antoine Injalbert’s four allegorical statues dedicated to Paris (in 1896). I was able to get clear shots of “Navigation” (left) and “The City of Paris” (right):
On our way back, a metro train crossing over the Pont Bir-Hakeim:
A look at the back of Holger Wederkinch's sculpture, “La France Renaissante” as the tour came to a close:
The Champs Elysees
After returning to my hotel, grabbing a quick shower and nap, it was nightfall. The Champs Elysees was on my to-do list and I hesitated at first, but realized that night photography might be awesome there.
It was back to the streets and remember the view of the Sacré-Coeur I mentioned in the beginning? The one from Rue de Steinkerque? It was even better at night:
Again, a few metro stops later and I arrived. At first glance, I knew the nighttime trip to Champs Elysees would be worthwhile. I met the Arc De Triomphe and it glowed magnificently:
And then I went for it…
It just hit me. I stood on the sidewalk at the edge of the road. There was so much traffic and I thought, “Let’s do it. Long exposure shot.” I wanted to get a shot of the Arc in stillness, but with some streaking car lights to show the traffic on the street. What was I thinking? There was no way it would end up in focus. It was too dark, I did not have a tripod with me in Europe. How could I possibly keep the camera still long enough to create any kind of decent long exposure shot under these circumstances? I improvised.
Along the Place Charles De Gaulle there are many lamp posts, as the earlier images show, and the design of some of these lamp posts involve steep curvatures in the metal work as the post widens to form its base closer to the ground. I saw this angle, that forms the base, as a place to be able to set the camera. It was my improvised tripod. These were the best images I could come up with to try to show you what I’m talking about:
That’s it. That's all I had: those little ridges and edges of the base of the lamp post. There was barely enough of an edge or lip to rest my D700’s base on. I ended up pressing the camera against the lip/edge of the base, almost perpendicularly and then wrapping my neck strap around the lamp post for little extra stability, and holding it all very tightly together. I would press the shutter and hold the camera to the lamp post tightly for a few seconds and then look to see what I was getting.
It only took two attempts to get this:
Once I saw that I thought, “Oh, we’re doing this. We’re gonna get it.” I had the Arc in focus and saw the slightest streak of taillights, so I knew it could happen. Now it was a matter of waiting for more traffic. A few minor adjustments, five more attempts and:
Done. I don’t usually get techy, but the information behind this shot:
Nikon D700 | AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 24mm | ISO 200 | Aperture f/16 | Shutter - 5 seconds | White Balance - 3550K | Processed in Adobe Camera RAW v.9.0
Afterward, I had the whole of the Champs Elysees to walk down. It was very cool. Storefronts and hotels, restaurants and night clubs. Above all, the commotion on the street was incredible. Here’s where the European Championships game impacted my night. France had won its match over Romania! 2-1. Car after car was honking as they drove up the Champs. French flags waved out of windows and the cheering was nonstop. National pride.
I made an effort to capture the joy of a few young men on the street:
Halfway down the street, I turned back to enjoy the view back towards the Arc. I was actually standing in the middle of the Champs Elysees on a traffic island for this shot. A few other photographers in a group were capturing the same moment:
Towards the end of the road, the Big Wheel at the Place de la Concorde was impossible to miss:
Feeling confident from earlier, I immediately knew this was about to be another opportunity for a long exposure image. Slowing the rotation of the Big Wheel for it to appear as a circle of light was the goal.
This time, my improvised tripod was my camera bag. It’s nothing fancy, just a simple shoulder strap bag with enough space for about 2 DSLRs and 2 lenses. I took off my sweater, rolled it up and placed it in the bag for some bulk, dedicated myself to the craft, and lied down on the ground on the Place de la Concorde. I leaned the camera against the bag, which was allowing the camera to tilt upward slightly. I pressed the camera down firmly onto the bag to reduce shake and knew I had the right composition:
Now it was just a matter of getting the right settings to "speed up" the Wheel and allow for the appearance of more light:
Nikon D700 | AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 44mm | ISO 200 | Aperture f/22 | Shutter - 20 seconds | White Balance - 4500K | Processed in Adobe Camera RAW v.9.0
Nearby the Fontaines de la Concorde grabbed my attention, and apparently my long exposure magic had run out, but I did enjoy getting a few images of Jacques Ignace Hittorff’s 1840 creation:
The Eiffel Tower continued to do what it does best: be visible from just about everywhere in Paris. Having grabbed night shots of it the evening before at the Trocadéro, I wasn’t afraid to see what a black and white interpretation might feel like. Liked it:
To end my night, I thought a nice view/reward for a long day of Paris exploration would be to actually ride the Big Wheel.
I have a friend from my hometown that I went to Disneyland with once…and she travels to California for work relatively often. We’ve done a good job of catching up, sharing a meal and chatting about life. A topic that came up in one of our conversations; we were eating lunch down at the Santa Monica Pier and somehow the idea of riding the ferris wheel came up, and she immediately said, ”absolutely not. I was surprized by her very quick shutdown of the idea and very overt fear of heights. But she was not having it. I teased her for a bit, and try to goad her into trying it, to no avail. It floats out there as a thing: she does not like heights. Okay, no big deal, maybe next time.
As I write this post and come to this moment of describing riding the Big Wheel in Paris I have to admit and be honest: this thing…was frickin’ scary. Oh my goodness. I don’t normally have a fear of heights, or ferris wheels, but this one got to me. It’s really…really high first of all. Higher than any ferris wheel I can remember in the States. Secondly, the cars….are so dang small, and sway ridiculously, especially, “coincidentally” at the top.
What on earth? Let me down. It was really late at night (just about midnight) and it was about to close, so the operators were in that, “ehhh, let ‘em go around a few times for free,” kind of mindset. “No. I’m good. I’m done, thanks.” But they would send us around four times. Geez.
(Gin, if you’re reading this, I hope you enjoyed that confession.)
I managed to stomach my fear of impending death to capture a shot from the tiny, unsafe, car back up the Champs Elysees:
Final Day - The Latin Quarter
All good things must come to an end.
Saturday June11th spelled the final day in Paris and I made the most of it. My friend, Emily, who I mentioned earlier, the girl from Tennessee who lived in Paris for a few years gave me a recommendation that set the tone for my morning. I would head to the Latin Quarter in search of the place she said was always her first stop when arriving in Paris: Saint Sulpice Church.
Again the metro was my mode of transport and I would find my friend’s beloved church. I too was a fan on sight. The 1870 Roman Catholic church was pleasing to the eye from the outside with it’s unique, mis-matched circular towers. Geez. Don’t you just hate it when the French Revolution halts the redesign of your south tower?
Inside the church…I had a moment.
The Saint Sulpice touched my heart in a deeper way than did the Notre Dame or the Sacré-Coeur. When it’s a tourist destination, some of the ambiance can be lost because of the crowd, but Saint Sulpice is off the beaten path. Recommendations from friends are key. Get the small, unnoticed spaces, places and moments.
I put my DSLR away, and walked in to the sound of silence. A few people were near the entrance, some kneeling in prayer, others just sitting silently. I needed to reduce my eager tourist energy right away. I almost looked around to the people for confirmation that it was okay to view the church if not there for service, prayer or anything sacred. No one paid me any mind. There were there for the Almighty.
A few small prayer candles burned to the side of the entrance and I began to walk around the sanctuary.
I will never forget the following moment, and I’m not trying to be too romantic, but I closed my eyes while typing this and I could feel it enter my body again:
I took a few silent steps towards the center of the space and absolutely out of nowhere, in the midst of the stillness and silence, a voice sliced through the air. It was fluent French. It was prayer. It was holy, reverent and confident, yet gentle. It echoed off of the walls in the most transcendent way.
Out of my view, in a small radiating chapel, a mass was being held, and the priest was praying in front of his congregation. I could not see it, but I heard it. That's why it shook me. It was a surprise. There is an analogy here about the nature of faith, of being moved by hearing, without seeing.
St. Sulpice won my heart. It was so authentic and real. So removed from the tourism of everything I had seen the day prior. This was real, everyday Paris; a small mass in a local church, a priest’s prayers in French. I rounded the ambulatory to see the mass. I did not walk by or stand and view it, I just turned around and continued to view the details of the church. Upon viewing the angel below, I could not contain myself and started to cry. Tears of joy, or respect and reverence, I did not know, but something had moved within me.
Outside I composed myself and continued onward, catching a few details before walking towards my next destination:
JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG
After a few trips in the year, including two days in London before Paris, I was getting much better at navigating foreign cities. The Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) were my next stop and they were literally down the street from the St. Sulpice. Walking down Rue Férou, I ran right into another small attraction. The French Poet, Authur Rimbaud’s 100 line poem, “Le Bateau Ivre” or “The Drunken Boat” had been inscribed on a wall on the street. My French was not good enough to read and understand all in the moment, but I still captured a few images of it:
I went back later and found an English translation online and it’s pretty good. It’s a very passionate poem, and I immediately likened it to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
A few more paces and I had reach the Luxembourg Museum. Initially established in 1750, it was the city’s first public art gallery and museum. I made my way through and around a few gates to properly enter the garden:
"L'Effort" by sculptor, Pierre Roche:
Approaching the Garden’s center was yet other dream-like moments. Just such a romantic feeling. The gardens, statues, water basin, and Palace combined perfectly.
In the distance I could see the Pantheon and it foreshadowed my journey of the day:
I saw an opportunity to create an interesting semi-silhouette with the top of a statue and the top of the Pantheon in the distance. Forced perspective, foreground, background:
Minerve a la Chouette or, Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom set the tone for the Garden upon entry:
A striking focal point of the gardens is the Luxembourg Palace. The 1645 Salomon de Brosse design currently houses the French Senate, but was originally designed as the residence of the widow of King Henry IV. It’s perfectly manicured lawn and surrounding flowerbeds made you feel, well…very proper and humbled to be there:
A quick look at the monument of Auguste Scheurer-Kestner, a French politician who opposed Napoleon III:
The perfectly trimmed tree-lined promenade made for fun panorama image:
[Confessions: I’m the guy who went to the Luxembourg Gardens and missed the Medici Fountain. Some things I was okay to just put on the, you guessed it, the “next time” list, but that one hurt. I was right there. Yards away. *smh]
Continuing through the Gardens I came to a path that would lead to a few more statues. First was the bronze likeness of French engineer, Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play:
A bit out of order, since it’s on the other side of the Gardens, but a long distance shot of the Velleda statue by Hippolyte Maindron:
..and eventually the second replica of the Statue of Liberty:
Starting to head south, out of the Gardens, I crossed Rue Auguste Comte into the Jardin des Grand Explorateurs. It was a gardens created in 1867 to honor Marco Polo and Rober Cavelier de la Salle. I was immediately met with more passionate allegorical statues. “Night” by Charles Gumery (featuring, "bird"):
"Twilight" by Gustave Crauck:
“the Day” by Jean Perraud:
and “Dawn” by Francis Jouffroy:
at the end of the garden is a spectacular Jean-Baptiste Carpeux fountain: Fontaine de l’Observatoire or Fountain of the Observatory:
The 1874 statue is again, an allegoric statue, and shows four women holding a sphere. They are meant to represent the four directions of north, south, east and west as well as present different regions of the world: Africa, America, Asia and Europe:
Afterward, it was another stroll through the streets on my way to the Pantheon. French Architecture wowed me yet again as I wondered just how much it would cost to own one of these spaces:
A look at the Paris Sorbonne University and the statue of French philosopher, August Comte in the Place de la Sorbonne:
The next major attraction on my now dwindling to-do list due to time constraints was The Panthéon. After a short stop at a local pastry for some macaroons (mmm), it was on to the 18th Century Neoclassic mausoleum:
Beautiful Corinthian columns:
I was in awe of the interior:
Just so you know, similar to the Eiffel Tower, this will be a moment where I am not sorry for a plethora of images of one subject. Jacques-Germain Soufflot’s design, with its innately detailed, ceilings and dome kept me in place and in wonder. Light bounced and played so wonderfully in the space:
Among the famed French figures interred/buried within: Marie Curie, Victor Hugo (Hunchback of Notre Dame, again) Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Voltaire. Alexander Dumas author of the Three Musketeers was moved here 132 years after his death.
I could not help but love François Sicard’s National Convention sculpture. More allegories, “Liberty” stands in the middle, with a sword, to commemorate those whom overthrew the monarch in the French Revolution:
Back on the exterior, things felt right in sepia:
An image of French playwright, Pierre Corneille with the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont Catholic Church in the background. I have looked at this image for months, and I am absolutely convinced that the bell tower on Saint-Étienne is leaning…but I could not find any information to support my theory. What do you think upon first glance?
After turning away from the Panthéon, I looked down Rue Soufflot and saw the Eiffel Tower, again, performing its best magic trick: being visible from just about everywhere in Paris:
Rodin museum and les invalides
Though I admit missing quite a few nice landmarks in Paris, which was to be expected, I wanted to make sure and see the famed “Thinker” sculpture by Rodin, which naturally meant a short metro ride over to the Rodin Museum in the 7th Arrondissement:
After a short introduction inside, with a few nice exhibits, it was out to the Gardens where he sat:
The gardens of the Musee Rodin were pretty cool in the fact that Paris’ knack for views and sight lines, with respect to its city planning, emerged in a very bold way. As I walked away from the Thinker, I could not help but notice the golden dome of Les Invalides in the sky:
The museum’s garden stretches into a lawn to the south with a small water basin at the end. Statues greet you all along the way. My iPhone won another award for “Outstanding Panorama Image” as I swept the phone across the garden capturing the basin and museum in the distance:
As I made my way back to the garden and Museum’s entrance, Les Invalides was not to be ignored. The dome of the baroque monument, museum dedicated to French military history, hospital (“invalide” translates to “disabled” in English), and retirement home made a valiant statement in the sky, bursting through the foliage of the Rodin Museum gardens:
Again, I don’t know wh, but I was really enjoying the visual information, the depth that was possible from this vantage point. The Shade sculpture in the foreground with Les Invalides in the background:
The Eiffel joined the moment as well:
I think you get it, it’s a bit of overkill now, but I liked this last one because of not only the detail of the clouds, but the strong suggestions of pyramids or triangles throughout: the hedges are trimmed to a triangular peak and if you track the edge of the foliage that is directly in front of Les Invalides, you can see the shape of a triangle form using the foliage, going up the dome to the top of Les Invalides and then back down the other side:
Those words apply not only to my time in Paris winding down, but this blog post as well. Thanks if you’ve actually stay with this and read all the stories along the way.
After the Rodin Museum, I was relentlessly watching the clock as I had to return to my hotel, to retrieve my bag and be on time for my train from Gare du Nord back to St. Pancras in London. I was ambitious and thought that I may have enough time to see Musee D’Orsay, so the final trek began.
An image from Rue de Grenelle of cannon sculptures at the Invalides Gardens:
Heading down Rue Saint-Dominique I came across:
I could not help but spend a few moments at the Basilique Sainte-Clotilde:
I’m getting sloppy at the end here. The follow image was a gem from my iPhone, but I cannot remember where the heck it was taken. Possible near the Rodin Museum earlier. Either way, I loved it. People watching and more mopeds:
A weathered door, a moped parked on the street. Oh Paris, I was going to miss you:
Upon arriving at the former Beaux-Arts railway station, now famous museum, Musee D’Orsay, I immediately realized that I was out of time and would have to come back later in life. It was time to head back to Square d’Anvers. But I spent a few moments capturing the exterior and grabbed a couple of shots of the last allegoric statues I would see on the trip, figures representing the world’s different continents:
A few last details on Boulevard Saint-Germain, like the clock on the tower of the Ministry of Defense and then it was on the metro:
I cannot believe, it took me to the end of my Paris visit to capture an image of the imfafous “Metropolitain” sign that sit outside of just about every metro stop in Paris. That image is imprinted in my mind from long ago as one of my French texts books form school featured it prominently. That sign is on the same wavelength as a red phone booth in London (something else it took a while for me to stop and get an image of). Classic:
I grabbed my bags and said goodbye to my vendor friend across the street from my hotel in Square d’Anvers, purchasing “une pomme” from him. I made the walk back to Gare Du Nord, grabbing a small roasted chicken pizza before boarding the train.
One of the final images I would capture was intentionally a repeat of an arrival image, and it bookended my visual documentation of beloved Paris, now one of my favorite places on Earth: