[Update: By popular demand I cropped the original image (which is now at the bottom of the post) to remove the railing. Once I did that crop, I really felt like the fountain was too close to the edge of the frame so I cropped that out too. Hated to lose it, but it needed to go. I also used Lightroom's healing brush to get rid of a few heads and such which were on the edge of the frame due to the crop. Finally, I cropped out the top of the sky to get an aspect ratio I liked and added a touch of vignette. If I were reworking this image I'd probably do some cloning in the sky to make it "fit" better on the edges of the frame but I'm not going to go through that effort for this shot. Thanks everyone for the input!]
My wife and I are planning a trip this summer with three of our older girls. We haven’t settled on a destination yet but in the process of thinking about the upcoming trip I couldn’t help but reminisce about our trip to Paris two years ago. I would happily go to Paris again — so many things I didn’t get to see last time (and so many I’d like to see again).
I took the shot above (an HDR processed from three handheld exposures) on our first day in Paris. This one is almost impressionist in feel. The edges are soft and I only partially masked in some of the ghosted people from the various exposure. It would be unacceptable as a print but makes a nice, moody image when viewed at the appropriate size (smallish).
There’s something mysterious behind that door. Through the translucent window it appears that someone is going to pop out at any moment. Or maybe there’s a crime being committed — it’s a perfect doorway in which to film a Hollywood crime scene.
This photo was taken last spring in Paris in the general area of Rue Cler (I can’t remember exactly where except that it was between Rue Cler and Champ de Mars). On every street there were very cool doorways like this and I could have filled an entire memory card with pics of them. Add a model to this scene and you could do an entire photoshoot. The architecture in Paris was absolutely amazing. Ranging from huge structures like the Louvre to “simple” doorways like this there is seemingly no end to these displays of design and craftsmanship. So cool.
Processing of this image was very simple – basic curves adjustment, slight vignette, clarity, and vibrance adjustment — all done in Lightroom.
For the last 4+ years, my main drive (or “sled” as a former neighbor used to say) has been a 2000 BMW 540i. Awesome V8, 6-speed manual transmission, sport package, and sport suspension . One note of trivia is that it’s one of the few cars where you actually had to pay *extra* for the stick. At 10 years old with over 150,000 miles it still runs perfectly and handles like a dream. The car is tight. However, the maintenance is getting to be a real headache. I generally like to do my own maintenance when I can (water pumps, radiators, alternators and such) and BMWs — at least the three that I’ve had over the years — are quite easy to work on. There are so many resources available in print and on the internet which can tell you what every last bolt on the car is for. These days it’s really hard to find the time so “maintenance” has degraded into “take it to the shop”. I haven’t even done my own oil changes lately. My 6 year old loves to change the oil and I’m robbing him of a great chance to learn to work on cars…
A couple of months ago I bought a truck to replace the one I gave my oldest daughter when she got married. That truck has become my daily drive for various reasons (maybe someday I’ll write a post about trucks, 4-wheeling at the beach, and just being manly). Occasionally I’ll drive the 540 and I still enjoy it, but it’s time to sell it (anyone in the market?).
As I prepped to sell the car, I thought back to this image taken on the streets of Paris last spring. I was poking around with the camera and spotted a Mini Cooper speeding toward me. I was fairly fresh off a workshop taught by Raul Touzon and one of the things he had taught us was his method for capturing motion like this (see this post). I attempted a panning shot of the Mini and this 5 series followed soon after…grabbed it too. The shot of the car headed away symbolizes my 5 series leaving the family (sniff). Just kidding, how sappy would that be? — it’s actually just a cool shot IMO! No symbolism in this one It would have been great if the entire car was sharp but I can live with the look here — it gives an additional sense of speed like the car is just headed into some sort of a time warp.
I started with a single exposure and I tonemapped it in Photomax. Then I blended it at about 50% opacity with the original exposure. I used overlay mode for the blending. Topaz Adjust, curves, sharpening, and Noiseware were used selectively in the image. I left in lots of the noise to give the motion-blurred portions a bit of grain and texture. Finally I brought it into Lightroom and touched up a few things before exporting.
I hope you think this is a cool scene too.
(HDR from 3 handheld exposures)
In my old age I’ve come to love classical music over anything else. If I *had* to pick, I’d say that Vivaldi’s cello concertos are my favorite in the genre. Another favorite piece is Handel’s Organ Concerto #13.
I think pipe organs are pretty cool and I love to here them in person. A few years back we attended a wedding in a huge San Antonio church and the beautiful organ was used for preludes as guests arrived. Quite enjoyable…
My wife and I were fortunate enough to listen to an organ recital at Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris (organ is pictured above). There are regular Sunday afternoon recitals which are typically performed by an American organist named Daniel Roth. There is another organist who occasionally plays and we never did find out who was playing that day. The organ is approximately 150 years old and is nearly the same now as when it was first installed (an electric blower being the most significant addition).
The church itself is quite amazing. The current building was mostly constructed in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. However, even the today the church is technically not finished as one tower was replaced in the late 18th century but its planned twin was never built (an old mismatching tower remains). Saint-Sulpice is comparable in size to Notre Dame Cathedral (barely smaller) and we found it just as interesting inside. The image below gives a view of one small portion of the interior.
In my last post I extolled the virtues of my Canon 70-200 f2/8 L IS lens. Today I’ll point out one of the few positive things about my old Sigma 18-200 non-IS (or whatever Sigma calls their stabilization). What is that virtue? It’s so old and worn out that I don’t mind setting it down in a puddle in the middle of the Champs Elysee in Paris on a rainy night.
I ran out to the little bitty concrete island in the middle of the street and set the camera on the ground for some shots while traffic zoomed by. I added my folded-up camera strap under the lens to adjust the framing (I couldn’t look through the viewfinder b/c the camera was sitting right in front of a pole…and I didn’t want to get wet anyway). With a tripod and more time I would have framed this shot a little differently but I like it well enough. The water on the lens adds a nice effect too. Post-processing mostly amounted to the “punch” develop preset in Lightroom and some “recovery” slider action.
My not-quite-10-minute excursion to this concrete island was pretty much the extent of my “doing photography stuff” when I was with my wife during our Paris trip (I took one short photowalk while she was crashed in the hotel one evening). It was kind of nice not feeling the pressure of trying to work every shot, find the best angles, etc.
Did I mention we had an awesome time in Paris???
One of the important shots from Paris…my wife and I on a bridge over the Seine.
Paris is amazing. Almost everything was more impressive than my expectations. The Louvre — to my wife and I the building itself was more impressive than the art itself. Even though I had read many times how big the place was it still exceeded my expectations. Notre Dame — bigger and more impressive (inside and out) than pictures can possibly convey. We were really impressed by the architecture of Les Invalides (where Napoleon’s tomb is) which was a place we’d never really heard of before. The average building along any street might have sculptures and immense, impressive doorways. Etc, etc, etc. As much as we like Washington D.C. we’ve decided that Paris makes D.C. look like a kiddie park.
Here’s a shot of my wife in one of the rooms of the Louvre. Very cool.
We ended up in Paris by planning a trip to Italy. Paris wasn’t even on the list of places that I necessarily planned to visit in my lifetime. Long story short we found out that flying to Paris would use 40k frequent flyer miles each vs 120k each to fly to Rome. Then the plan became “fly to Paris, spend a day or two, then night train to Milan to begin our Italy adventure”. As we planned the “day or two” in Paris we discovered a couple month’s worth of stuff we wanted to see and do there…it became a Paris trip at that point. No regrets. Lord willing, an Italy trip will happen at a later date.
As I mentioned in a previous post this was *not* a photo trip. I took plenty of photos (probably 1000-ish) but only a handful were thought-out shots. Shot mostly jpeg. Never once used a tripod. In reality this made it a much better trip because in “photography mode” I could have spent hours at about every street corner. I found that I used my 10-20mm about 90% of the time…getting pretty addicted to that lens (Raul Touzon’s doing) but I wish it were far sharper.
The shot below is the entrance to the Paris Opera (or Palais Garnier or a host of other names). This was taken after we got off the bus from the airport — great place to start hitting the streets of Paris. The people on the balcony give a sense of size. Inside Musee d’Orsay there’s a cutaway view of this building which is really cool to see.
We had an incredible time together visiting the sights, walking the streets, hanging out at cafes. Worth every penny we spent. We found the French very friendly and willing to suffer through our pathetic French phrases before they answered in (usually) excellent English. It was a positive experience all around and I can’t wait to go back.
Off to Paris this morning with my wife. We never really had a honeymoon so this is it — after 23+ years of marriage. We’re pretty excited about it.
This is NOT a photo trip. Of course I’m taking the camera but only a bare minimum of gear. None of my ‘L’ lenses are in my bag (going with the lighter options). The tripod is going along just in case but I’m not carrying it with me everywhere. I’ve got 32Gb worth of memory cards to last me a week — not taking a laptop to empty the cards. I typically shoot in RAW format but I’ll make the switch to jpeg if I get short on space. Bracketing for HDRs? I’ll do a few but with limited card space I can’t go crazy.
Sometimes I have a brief panic about the fact that I’m going to Paris (and spending a day in London) and will not be making the most of the photo opportunities. However, I quickly am reminded that my relationship with my wife is far-and-away the more important thing…and I’m fine with that.
See you in a week or two!