Photographing Paris – Part One

DSCF3469-Edit(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

I recently returned from a 9 day trip to Paris with my lovely wife, where I shot actively every day:  beautiful sunrises, street photography during the day, going out every night to catch sunsets and the blue hour light… it was an amazing trip.

It has taken a while for me to decide how to organize my Paris photographs, and even longer to find the right words to describe the city.  To be honest, I still can’t.  Paris is beautiful, the people are amazing, and the lifestyle is so very different than the hustle and bustle I find myself in, here in Vancouver.  I fell in love instantly.  I need to go back.

This post is part one of a five part series, which is going to break down as follows:

This first post, The Beauty of Paris,  is going to show you some of my favourite photographs from the trip.  Consider it a conscious stream of thought… a lot of  photographs, a little historical background, and some links where you can learn more about the places I shot.

If you are curious about my gear pack for this trip, everything was shot on Fuji gear as always.  You can read more about my gear selection here:

Alright, let’s talk about some photos…

The photo at the top of this post is of the Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa, shortly after sunset and deep into blue hour.  It was pouring rain on this night, and when I saw the rain I grabbed an umbrella, a plastic bag for my camera, my travel tripod, and I ran to the Louvre.  I knew the lights and the reflections on the wet ground would combine to make a gorgeous image… and the rain drove away the crowds of people that normally would have been there.

As beautiful as blue hour is in Paris, I think dawn is even better.  This is a shot of my favourite bridge, Pont Neuf, shot from the Pont Des Arts bridge:

DSCF3060-HDR(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

 It isn’t just the morning light that is so beautiful in Paris, it is watching the city come to life.  Before  I left on this trip I reached out to Official Fuji X and Vancouver based fashion photographer Kale Friesen, who lived in Paris for several years.  One of the things that Kale told me was how exciting it was to be out early and feel the city come to life in the morning.  As early as 5:30am I was out amongst the street cleaners, the bakers getting ready for the day,  the owners getting their cafes ready.  Like many cities Paris has a soul, and you can feel it early in the morning.

Beauty is everywhere in Paris.  From the image above I literally just turned 90 degrees to my right and saw this:

DSCF3063(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

This is Le Institut de France.  It is a beautiful building, made even more beautiful by the golden morning light hitting it.  The black walls with the writing on them used to hold the famous love locks, which were removed this year due to the damage they were causing the bridge.

Let’s get back to Pont Neuf for a second and look at it from a different angle.  Construction on Point Neuf began in 1578, and was completed in 1607.  The bridge has a beautiful and timeless look which drew me in:

DSCF3070(Fuji X100t)

As you walk through the streets of Paris you are struck by how well they have melded today’s world with years gone by.  Sure the modern businesses are there, but you’d never know it as you walk down the tiny streets that curve and twist:

DSCF2905-Edit(Fuji X100t)

Paris offers many opportunities to shoot the city from places other than street level.  In The Traveling Photographer David Hobby has a segment on the Montparnasse Tower, where you can go to the 59th floor and shoot from an observation deck.  Here is a shot of Les Invalides from that observation deck:

DSCF3095(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 55-200mm lens)

I have many gorgeous sunset and blue hour photographs from here, which I will be sharing in the blog post on Paris at night.

In the heart of downtown Paris you will find the tiny but beautiful Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg), a fenced and gated park that houses the Luxembourg Palace,  home of the French Senate:

DSCF3300-Edit(Fuji X100t)

No first time visit to Paris would be complete without a trip to the Palace of Versailles, the former  royal residence.  The court of Versailles was the centre of power in France from 1682 until 1789 and the French Revolution, which brought the royal family back to Paris.  If you have never been in the Palace before you are instantly struck by the detail that the builders put in:

DSCF3593-HDR-Edit(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

It can be difficult shooting inside the Palace due to the large throngs of people that are also visiting, but thankfully they curate the experience a little by blocking off certain areas:

DSCF3501-HDR(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

The grounds of the Palace are vast, taking hours to walk if you want to see the whole thing.  For my wife and I one of the most beautiful parts  was the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen’s Hamlet), a small hamlet tucked away in the back of the grounds where the queen, Marie Antoinette, could go to escape palace life:

DSCF3614(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

Every day it felt like each new location we visited in Paris was more beautiful than the previous one.   We visited Le Palais Garner,  the Paris Opera House, where I made this photograph of Le Grand Foyer.  Patience was key here, as it took many requests to other visitors to stand behind me so I could get a proper shot of this beautiful hall:

DSCF3875-HDR(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

There is something so compelling and beautiful about these places.  It was never just “click the shutter and go”… you linger, you look, you take the time to breath it in.

By fluke of planning we ended up having a “day of death”, which started with a morning visit to the Paris Catacombs (Catacombes de Paris):

DSCF3161(Fuji X100t)

If you aren’t familiar with the Catacombs:  Up until the 18th century many of the cemeteries in Paris were in largely populated, central areas of the city.  This led to overcrowding and health risks.  Beginning in 1810, the bones of 6,000,000 people (yes, 6 million) were relocated into the series of tunnels that ran under Paris.  It is a solemn, yet strangely beautiful, place to walk through.

Following our trip to the Catacombs, we took the Metro to the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

DSCF3229(Fuji X100t)

Père Lachaise Cemetery, established in 1804, is the largest cemetery in Paris and was the final resting place for Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison and countless other famous people.  According to official records over 1,000,000 people have been interned there.

DSCF3246(Fuji X100t)

The grounds are beautiful and well kept, yet at the same time many memorials are crumbling and broken.  We had a peaceful afternoon walking there for a few hours, and I have to give a shout out to Kale for recommending a visit… it was well worth it.

Finally for this post, here is a sunset behind Notre Dame from my first night in the city:

DSCF2943-HDR-Edit(Fuji X-T10 and the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens)

In my life I have had so many amazing experiences as a photographer and traveler.  I’ve met new  people, photographed people in love, captured moments on the street, visited beautiful places… but nothing has compared to the night I spent on that bridge watching the sun go down behind Notre Dame.  The bridge was packed, but I was alone in my own world.  I can’t wait to share 4 more blog posts with you and talk more about Paris, a city that has captured my heart as an artist.



17 thoughts on “Photographing Paris – Part One

  1. tedgoudie says:

    Love that last shot! The color is kind of flat except for that blaze of orange/yellow at the horizon, so it’s very easy to feel what it was like standing there at that moment.

  2. David says:

    I bought an X-E2, 18-55mm and 10-24mm for my travel kit this year – the 18-55 spent most of the time on the camera as a general walkabout lens but the 10-24 came in handy, especially for church interiors. Sometimes wonder though if I should just have gone even lighter and got the X100t and conversion lenses – or do I need both? 🙂

    • Ian says:

      I am so not the right one to answer that question as I love my X100t, but use my X-T1 when the time calls.

      My experience though from traveling to Seattle and San Francisco with just the X100t? It can totally be done, and be done well. You will lose a few long photos, you might need to stitch a couple together to get your wide angle, but the trade off is traveling ultra light with an amazing camera!

      • David says:

        Thanks Ian – I suspect I might find the fixed lens restrictive at some point but they do have the conversion lens kits which might be a consideration – they’ve had good offers on those in the past. The other thought was to get the 23mm for the X-E2 – slightly bulkier than the X100 but more flexible I guess.

      • Ian says:

        Here is how it breaks down for me usually:

        1) For all of my portraiture work I prefer fast primes, namely the 56mm, the 35mm, and I have a review copy of the 90mm right now which is amazing.

        2) For all street and general photography I just leave home with the X100t.

        3) For travel, if you want the best range of options, I think the ideal 3 lens kit would be the 10-24, the 35mm f/1.4, and the 55-200. This would give you wide angle, tele, and a beautiful fast 35mm for street, portraits, and when you need something for low light situations. You’d be totally covered from 10mm to 200mm. And, if you need to travel ultra light for a day, just put the 35mm on your body and you are good to go!

      • David says:

        Thanks for the advice Ian – I actually just borrowed a 35mm lens from Calumet at the weekend as they’re doing a free ‘test drive’ offer on Fuji kit at the moment and I really liked it – definitely on my wish list now along with the 55-200 🙂

  3. Ian says:

    There are rebates on right now, at least here in Canada. Always watch for Fuji lens rebates, they usually offer $100 – $200 off the lenses and come out several times per year!

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