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:
- Part 1 – The Beauty of Paris
- Part 2 – The People of Paris
- Part 3 – Paris at Night
- Part 4 – A Study of Notre Dame
- Part 5 – Shoot the Details
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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):
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.
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.
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:
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.