Summer is one of my favorite times to photograph sunsets. Sunrise is too early and not always my cup of tea being the late sleeper that I am. But, summer sunsets are a different story altogether.
The golden hour lasts for more than 2 hours and there is still colour in the sky after that, going way into the blue hour, which when combined with the city lights can create absolute magic.
In the summer of 2017 we spent 5 days photographing in Paris, trying to capture the beauty of this “City of lights”. Aim was not to capture the traditional cityscape shots with the city all lit up, but to give the pictures a landscapy touch (I am sure that’s not a word, but what the hell, I claim ownership of a new genre of photography – “Landscapy Cityscape”).
The Louvre is one of the must photograph locations in Paris. It was our first location due to the fact that by the time we finished checking in to our hotel, we were well in the later half of the Golden hour and The Louvre was a 10 min walk from our hotel. Perfect location to welcome us to Paris and to salvage whatever light was left in the day.
An evening at Louvre – Paris, France – 16mm | f/16 | 20s | ISO 100
As dusk turned into the blue hour, moon rose right over the Louvre and all the city lights came on. One can clearly see why Paris is refered to as the city of lights. Blue hour is another time I love to shoot cityscapes, specially with the city lights. Traditionally most city nightscapes are shot when the sky is black. This can cause the picture to lose depth and look kind of two-dimensional. A little blue in the sky adds depth to the image and brings out the contrast in the lights without loosing too much detail in the architecture itself.
We continued to shoot at the Louvre for the night. The place has photo opportunities lurking around every corner.
Symmetry – Pyramide du Louvre, Paris – 16mm | f/11 | 30s | ISO 100
The sky finally went black and lost all colour, so I decided to shoot closer to the subject and minimise the amount of sky in the frame.
When you get up close to the main Louvre pyramid, it is then that you realise how big it really is. And the reflection of the pyramid in the still pool next to it is to die for. certainly too big to fit in the frame especially with the reflection, even with a 16 mm lens. So what do you do? Take a panorama of course.
City of Love – The Louvre, Paris – 5-shot Pano | 16mm | f/9 | 5s | ISO 100
Top of the Eiffel Tower
The next day we had tickets to climb the Eiffel tower. A must do if it’s your first time visiting Paris, but not much to be had in terms of photography. You do get some pretty amazing aerial views of the city, especially if you take the lift to the very top (the summit) and its a marvellous piece of engineering. But what makes a true Paris cityscape is having the Eiffel tower in the frame, which of course cannot be done if you are on the tower itself.
I did get a good shot of Montmartre from the second level of the tower with the Sacré-Cœur standing above the Parisian neighbourhood of Montmartre. Using a long lens to compress the image, I managed to replicate a shot I had seen a while back on one of the Paris postcards.
Looking Over – Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, Paris – 300 mm | f/11 | 1/400 s | ISO 250
Bridges of Paris
Paris is full of extremely ornate bridges which go across the river Seine. The city shares a beautiful relationship with its bridges where the bridges act as small tourist centres with the best restaurants, bars and shops built around them. They also offers some of the best views in the city and hence make excellent photographic subjects giving you the opportunity of combining city lights with beautiful reflections in the river.
And, you always have the option to keep the Eiffel tower in your frame to give the shot that Parisian feeling.
All Lit Up – Pont Alexandre III, Paris, France – 35 mm | f/9 | 8 s | ISO 100
Or, photograph the bridge up-close to show the beautiful and intricate decorative work done on it. Combine it with a long exposure during sunset and you get simplistic and colourful composition.
Pont Alexandre III at Sunset, Paris, France – 16 mm | f/8 | 30 s | ISO 100
Pont Alexandre III has these lamps on either side along the bridge which apart from being extremely beautiful, are a great compositional element to use as leading lines or for framing your subject like I have done in the picture below. Adding a human element helps in showing the scale of the place and make the picture more relatable for your viewers.
The Parisian Dream – Paris, France – 16 mm | f/11 | 1/200 s | ISO 100
Pont Neuf is another marvellous bridge with some rather scary faces carved on either side of it. The architect or the artist responsible for the faces was certainly a little troubled in life. Just my opinion, not a historical fact. Nonetheless, the bridge is beautiful, really old and has a mystical feeling to it. Maybe that’s what the architect had in mind while designing it.
Under the Bridge – Pont Neuf, Paris – 80 mm | f/20 | 8 s | ISO 100
Standing on one of these bridges also offers some breathtaking views of the city. In the summer months, the sun sets very close to the river, at least in the central part of Paris. If you are lucky enough to not have a thick cloud cover on the horizon, you are sure to be rewarded with a golden sunset which reflects in the river turning the Seine into liquid gold. Combine that with the beautiful historic buildings on the bank of the river and you can create a beautiful golden cityscape.
Golden Paris! – Le Conciergerie from Pont Notre Dame – 16 mm | f/11 | 15 s | ISO 100
This concludes part 1 of the “Summer photography in Paris” blog. Stay tuned for part 2 where we explore the fabled Notre-Dame and some roof tops of Paris which offer panoramic views of the city for those iconic sweeping shots of Paris (aka the best spots to photograph Paris with the Eiffel tower as part of your cityscape.)
- Canon EOS 6D Mark II - My Full Frame DSLR for Landscape Shots
- Canon EOS 80D - My Crop Sensor DSLR for Wildlife and Backup
- Canon Lens EF 16-35 mm f/2.8L Mk III USM - Super Sharp. My Ultra wide angle and Astrophotography lens
- Canon EF 24-70 mm f/4 L IS USM - My primary Landscape lens
- Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 - My Wildlife lens. Great range and sharpness.
- Tamron AF 16-300 mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro - Great lens for its versatility
- NiSi 100mm System V5 Filter Holder with CPL - Filter system with built in CPL. Simply Brilliant.
- NiSi 6-Stop ND Filter - Great for slowing down the stutter. No colour cast.
- NiSi 10-Stop ND Filter - My Big Stopper. No colour cast at all.
- Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter - Extremely versatile ND filter for 2 to 8 Stops
- Manfrotto Befree Tripod - Light but sturdy. Very compact.
- Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head - Brilliant Tripod head. Great for Pano shots.
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