Sunday, 7 September 2014

Paris Through the Viewfinder - L'Arc de Triomphe

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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There is something about the Arc de Triomphe that I just love. It's just a huge concrete archway, but it's more than that. Part of it is the history behind it, but more than that is the atmosphere surrounding the monument.

It starts with Champs Elysees, the long, wide, tree-lined street that leads to the huge round-about encircling the Arc de Triomphe. Champs Elysees is lined with car dealerships built right into the old French architecture running up the entire street, mixed with restaurants and stores of all sorts.

There is a lot of great shopping on Champs Elysees, and my favourite thing about it is that the Arc de Triomphe is a tiny dot in the background when you first hit Champs Elysees, and as you shop your way up the street, it gets larger and larger until it's right there, in your face. You can step out from any point along the street and see the gorgeous concrete archway centred on the roadway, with cars flying up and down Champs Elysees.

While you are walking on Champs Elysees, the photos of the Arc de Triomphe are fairly limited to the pictures of it looming over the street. You can take some with it centred on Champs Elysees as you cross the street to visit stores on the other side, or you can step out from the sidewalk and capture the monument from an angle, with some trees and French cars in the foreground. I waited until the sun had set and then stood directly in front of one of the street lights in the centre of Champs Elysees. I set up my tripod and took a few photos of the Arc de Triomphe with the traffic flying by. This was difficult from where I was standing for two reasons. The first is that I had to time the exposure right. If the light went red in the middle of the exposure, I would get bright headlights and tail lights in the camera and the shot would be overexposed and there would be no light trails. I needed the cars to be moving for the majority of the exposure. The second reason was tourists. When people saw that I had a cool view of the Arc de Triopmhe, they wanted the same picture. Countless people stood directly in front of my camera, since it looked like I wasn't doing anything during the long exposure, and so I have 50 or so photos of random tourists in front of the Arc de Triomphe. It took a while before I could get a shot of just the monument, with the right amount of cars driving by.

I also went right to the round-about at the end of Champs Elysees. This is a huge, busy round-about with cars and buses constantly flying around and honking their horns at each other. The view of the Arc de Triomphe from the edge of the roundabout is great. You can get some great photos from here, unobstructed by trees and cars if you time your shot right. The other thing I liked about the photos from here was the texture given by the cobblestones in the foreground. The detail of the cobblestones seems to lead you into the picture, right to the amazing monument in the centre of the frame.

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