Sunday, 7 September 2014

Paris Through the Viewfinder - La Tour Eiffel

Paris is known for many things, from its beautiful architecture to its delicious cuisine. I visited Paris in 2011 with my wife and was shocked by the unlimited opportunities to capture great images through the viewfinder of my camera. While wandering around Paris with my wife, my camera never left my eye. This blog will showcase some of the most amazing sites from a photographer's standpoint. Although most of the attractions here are the typical cliche touristy hotspots, I tried to capture the sites from unique vantage points.

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I'll start with the most-visited and most cliché attraction in Paris. When I told people I was going to Paris, about half of them told me I had to see the tower and the other half told me not to bother. I honestly could't care what people told me...I had every intention of seeing the tower. Having studied engineering in university, I see the tower as an amazing engineering and architectural feat. 

I visited the tower almost every day of our vacation, trying to see it from all different angles and in all different kinds of light. At first, I thought that I had to go right to the tower's location to see it. So my wife and I walked all the way from our apartment near Notre Dame to Trocadero, the plaza that looks straight down past the tower and the Champ de Mars park, where loads of people hang out on the grass to nap, picnic, or play games. The view from Trocadero in the middle of the day gives the typical view of the tower, straight-on, in the sunlight. You can see all the people hanging around the tower, and it's amazing how small they all look in its shadow. However, the middle of a sunny day is never a crazy exciting time to take photos, so I figured I would come back to the tower another time.

I made my wife go to see the Eiffel Tower again near sunset one night. Although the walk to the tower was long, there is so much to see and do along the way that it's totally worth it. All the little shops and streets are so beautiful, you could spend almost an entire day getting to the tower if you wanted to.

We stopped for dinner along the way and then made our way to the tower as the light started to fade, but sadly the sunset wasn't too exciting. I started up at Trocadero before the sunlight faded. Every night at 9pm and 10pm, tons of little lights on the tower start to sparkle. Maybe it's a bit touristy, but it's neat to be standing at Trocadero and hear the "ahhh" come from the hundreds of people looking at the tower. 
From Trocadero, there are lots of angles from which to view the tower. The is a large park with pools, fountains, and grass, so you can find some neat vantage points, like viewing the tower from across some water with its reflection. You can also capture the whole tower or just part of it. Walking down from Trocadero, I made my way closer to the tower, and I got some photos from the road looking straight at the tower. I like photos tom the road at night because I like seeing the trails from the cars' tail lights passing by the camera. Then I got really close to the tower, and with my wide-angle lens, I took some cool shots from right below the tower. 

You can see the Eiffel Tower from a lot of different places in Paris. It stands high above the buildings surrounding it, so you can see it from some of the streets and bridges of Paris, given that you aren't too close to other buildings. You can see it from the bridge with locks all over it, Pont des Arts, and as you get near to the park surrounding it, you can see it sneak into view as you look down some of the side streets. It's pretty cool how it just pops out of nowhere, and some of the best photos of the tower are the ones that put it in context of another area of the city. It's great to capture the tower in all its glory in the park or from Trocadero, but I enjoyed getting pictures of it with some cool old French buildings surrounding it and the odd French car in the foreground. If you can get to the Pont des Arts, it is a cool photo to get the tower peaking out from above the buildings, with the River Seine in the foreground.

If you can get up high, you can get some really great vantage points from which to view the tower. There are lots of opportunities to do this; some apartments have great views of the city, but ours did not. You can look for hotels or restaurants that have rooftop terraces, and try to catch a view of the tower from there. Since I was travelling with my wife, I didn't seek out too many different places to get photos from above the city, but there were three places I visited that allowed me to do so.

If you tour the Notre Dame tower, you can walk all the way to to the top of the tower, where you can see most of the city from its terrace. It can be quite a long wait in line to climb the stairs on a busy day, but the view is more then worth it. We went up the tower mid-morning, which doesn't offer the best lighting to view the city, but you can try to go up at different times to catch the city in a better light. Regardless of the time of day or the lighting, the view from the Notre Dame tower is beautiful. You can see over the entire city, with the Eiffel Tower in the distance, and the River Seine cutting through the buildings below. 

You can walk to the top of the Arc de Triomphe as well. This doesn't get you very high above the city, as the Arc isn't that tall, but it gets you high enough to see down Champs Elysees and to see the Eiffel Tower over some nearby buildings. Although you don't get as high as Notre Dame, the tower seems so much closer from atop the Arc de Triomphe. You can go up the Arc until about 10pm, so you can try to catch the Eiffel Tower from this vantage point at sunset. Looking over the beautiful old French buildings and seeing that tower in the distance at sunset would make for a wonderful photo.

The last place from which I viewed the tower was Montparnasse Tower, which is a very tall office building across the city from all of the historic attractions. Montparnasse Tower isn't much too see, as it is a modern office building, but you can take the elevator to the top of the tower, and from here there is an excellent view of the city. I got to the tower too late to catch the sunset, but the view of the city all lit up was incredible. I was able to see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and many of Paris' streets and buildings from atop this tower. I waited until 10pm to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, and even took a picture of the tower out of focus, which was kind of cool.

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