Category Archives: Paris

Looking back and thinking forward

I’ve been looking through my archives from last year in Paris—and finding many images that I want to process! Looking back at the crop from the spring of last year helps me to understand what I did right, and what I didn’t get to do. I am using the inventory to check plan my photography this year. Both the images below are essentially unmodified (other than RAW processing) from the straight shots—these were about being there and getting it right in the exposure, not about post-production.

Paris Carousel © Harold Davis

Paris Carousel © Harold Davis

About the image: I used a moderate wide angle focal length, and stopped down enough (to f/18) to get both the carousel and the Eiffel tower in focus. Since this was at night, a moderately long exposure was required (3 seconds) to be able to stop the lens down and get the depth-of-field I needed.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 18mm, 3 seconds at f/18 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Arc de Triomphe © Harold Davis

Arc de Triomphe © Harold Davis

About the image: Cars, trucks and busses whiz around the Arc de Triomphe endlessly. I wanted to show these cars as streaks, but with the sunset in the sky there was insufficient light for a long enough exposure. I added a polarizer and a +4 ND filter to cut down the light reaching the sensor so I could adjust the exposure proportionately to allow a longish (30 second) shutter speed.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 18mm, polarizer and neutral density filter, 30 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Apartments on the Boulevard Haussman

I was struck by the regularity in this apartment building. Nobody had planters out, no bikes were stored, and old shoes weren’t resting in the window embrasures.  This kind of tidiness is what you might expect from the haute bourgeoisie along the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. I photographed the facade to emphasize its evident symmetry, and processed it using the same set of techniques I used with Room with a View (where there were old sneakers outside the windows!) to make the image look as much like an etching as a black & white photo.

Apartments on the Boulevard Haussmann © Harold Davis

Apartments on the Boulevard Haussmann © Harold Davis

With the image I had pre-visualized, and in this kind of situation, in both shooting and processing I am very glad to have the monochromatic HDR toolkit at my beck and call!

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 130mm, five combined exposures at shutter speeds between 1/13 of a second and 1/800 of a second, each exposure at f/8 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Banks of the Seine

Using the same lens (my Zeiss 35mm) and the same camera-in-motion technique as In a Paris Park creates a moody and atmospheric image in monochrome of the banks of the Seine River and the Ile St-Louis in Paris. This could be an image from the dawn of photography—when long exposures were the norm, and it was difficult to get a crisp image in twilight—rather than a capture made with a state-of-the-art sophisticated DSLR.

Banks of the Seine © Harold Davis

Banks of the Seine © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D800, Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 at f/8, 4 seconds at ISO 50, hand held.
Related image: Ile de la Cite from Ile St-Louis.

Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George. “George” in this case was my Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens. The park is Square Jean XXIII, just behind Notre Dame in Paris, on a cold November day near twilight.

In a Paris Park © Harold Davis

In a Paris Park © Harold Davis

The most typical goal of photography is to render crisp images where camera motion is not an issue. This can be achieved by using a fast shutter speed—usually a shorter duration of time than 1/125 of a second—or by putting the camera on a solid support, such as a tripod.

What fun to turn this on its head by intentionally moving the camera during exposure. The results often don’t look very photographic, and it takes a good bit of trial and error to find the right exposure combination. It’s also easier when there is some light, but not too much light. Try this technique in the middle of the day, and even with loads of neutral density filters it is hard to get decent results.

As with the light, so with the motion—you want to move the camera in a consistent way, with enough movement to create an attractive effect but not so much as to turn the image to mush! In this case, “George” and I consistently panned slowly from left to right, pausing on the couple on the bench briefly, and going up and down at the right end of the exposure.

I feel lucky when shooting this way to get one out of a hundred shots turning out decently. Even a few seconds can seem like a very long time when one does it over and over again!

Exposure data: Nikon D800, Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 at f/4.5, 4 seconds at ISO 50, hand held.

Louvre Reflection

I shot this image last year during a night photography session with my Paris photography workshop. Paris is a great city to photograph at night, with many opportunities for dramatic image making!

Louvre Refections © Harold Davis

Louvre Refections © Harold Davis

You KNOW You’ve Always Wanted to Photograph Paris

Wanted: A few good photographers! 

Can you handle photographing Paris in April? Are you serious about your photography and looking to have fun with it in an environment that has nurtured artists over the centuries? Are you ready for a great learning experience in the company of a master photographer and educator in a group of dedicated colleagues? Are you ready to have fun with your photography??

I am looking for a few photographers to join me and my wonderful group in Paris this year from
April 26 – May 4, 2014. Click here to register now!

Photography begins with the medium of light, which the artist captures and applies to the canvas in endlessly surprising ways. And what better place to explore this medium than in Paris, the City of Light, and one of the birthplaces of photography?

Paris City of Light © Harold davis

Paris City of Light © Harold Davis

When we work together to photograph Paris, you’ll experience firsthand the places and sights that have inspired artists for centuries, and find new creative and unusual ways to make photos of the City of Light!

We’ll focus our lenses on Paris in bloom, Paris at night, and Paris in black & white, reinterpreting for ourselves some of the images that have been captured in paint and on film by many great artists, including Daguerre, Monet, Atget, Picasso, and Erwitt. We’ll have a grand time photographing and we’ll return home with many priceless shots to treasure!

White Chrysanthemums Japonicum at Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

We’ve included many of the highlights from previous workshops, such as the visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny with after hours access (a personal favorite!), as well as new places to explore.

If you check out the itinerary, I think you’ll find many wonderful locations, such as the view from the top of the Tour Montparnasse at night, Père Lachaise, and Vaux-le-Vicomte.

As one of the participants in last year’s workshop said, “Put Paris on your bucket list ‘cause you may not see this in Heaven.” Another workshop participant added, “I already admired Harold Davis, and had confidence that he would lead us to fantastic places – and he did!”

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre © Harold DavisThe workshop cost is $5,639.00, excluding airfare. The workshop fee includes eight nights in a delightful 4-star hotel as well as numerous excursions and extras. We’ve got great deals on the hotel and excursions—if you reserved these on your own you’d pay more—even without Harold’s teaching fee for eight days and nights!

Click here for the complete itineraryterms and conditions, and online registration.

Bonus offer: Sign up to be part of the Paris photography group before Friday, January 10, and I will spend a private hour with you in Paris, coaching you on any photographic topic that interests you. You decide how to spend the time–it is my way to say “thanks for photographing Paris with us!”

Negative Space

Negative space is often defined as the space around and between the subject of an image. From a formal design perspective, learning to see negative space helps one to visualize the impact of the positive, or actual, subject of a photo. Taking this towards its limit, in some imagery the design and composition can become more about the formalism of the negative space than the positive subject matter depicted. In a black and white photo, depending upon the context, negative space is generally rendered as either all-black or all-white.

Structure to Noise © Harold Davis

Final Tier © Harold Davis

It’s possible to walk up to the second deck (about 65 floors up) on the Eiffel Tower. From there, if you want to go to the very top, you need to buy a supplemental ticket and ride the elevator. Walking up as far as one can has some visual interest, and of course avoids the lines at the bottom for the elevators.

Looking up from the second deck, I composed this off-center composition. Exposing to render detail in the structure of the Eiffel Tower made the sky on this overcast day become essentially white. It was clear to me that I was looking at a photo where interaction between positive space (presumably the Eiffel Tower) and negative space (preemptively the all-white background) would be crucial (see image above).

Negative Space © Harold Davis

Negative Space © Harold Davis

But wait! Which space is actually negative, and which is positive? White space—the sky—seems like the absence of the subject and should therefore be the negative space. It’s easy to test this presumption by swapping the L-channel values using the LAB color space. Black becomes white and white becomes black, as you can see in the version of the image immediately above.

Clearly, the inverted Eiffel Tower is spread out against the sky, which still seems like the negative space, even though it is black rather than white. But also newly made black are elements such as the night lights of the Eiffel Tower, appearing as small “chocolate-kiss” structures on many of the girders. In addition, the underbelly of the top platform now shows details as opposed to the stark negative space aspect of this underside in the original image.

These image variations show the interplay of positive and negative space—and are a good illustration of both the usefulness of looking at the world with negative space in mind, and also of how complex this interrelationship can be in the real world.

Photographing the Unusual in Paris

I am looking for a few select photographic souls who are Parisian at heart to join my wonderful group of photographers in Paris in April and May of 2014. Click here for details, or drop me an email.

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre © Harold Davis

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur © Harold Davis

One of my goals in traveling with my camera is to seek out views that are off-beat and seldom photographed, such as this somewhat unusual image of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica dominating Montmartre, the highest hill in Paris.

Click here to see more photos of Paris!

As time goes by

At first glance, this image has been mistaken for an iPhone shot (after the pattern of the special effects iPhone photos in my iPhonographie de Paris). The banks of the Seine River are shown just after sunset. Selective lamplight shines downward, illuminating the river and a couple in the distance embracing (it is Paris, after all!).

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

Look closer, and you will see that this is really a high resolution image. It was shot with my Nikon D800 with its 36MP sensor. I used my top-of-the-line Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens. The impressionism of the image comes from the handheld long exposure (4 seconds at f/11 and ISO 50) and deliberate up-and-down camera motion.

Islands in the Seine

I woke to a foggy autumn morning in Paris. No matter what the weather, there is always something to photograph in Paris—so I headed out to the islands in the Seine to photograph the mood of the day.

Ile de la Cite from Ile St-Louis © Harold Davis

Ile de la Cite from Ile St-Louis © Harold Davis

Please consider joining me on the 2014 Photograph Paris with Harold Davis Workshop, from April 26-May 4, 2014. Click here for the complete itineraryterms and conditions, and online registration.

Photography begins with the medium of light, which the artist captures and applies to the canvas in endlessly surprising ways. And what better place to explore this medium than Paris, the City of Light, and one of the birthplaces of photography?

When we work together to photograph Paris, you’ll experience firsthand the places and sights that have inspired artists for centuries, and find new creative and unusual ways to make photos of the City of Light!

We’ll focus our lenses on Paris in bloom, Paris at night, and Paris in black & white, reinterpreting for ourselves some of the images that have been captured in paint and on film by many great artists, including Daguerre, Monet, Atget, Picasso, and Erwitt. We’ll have a grand time photographing and we’ll return home with many priceless shots to treasure!

We’ve included many of the highlights from previous workshops, such as the visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny with after hours access (one of my personal favorites), as well as new places to explore. If you check out the itinerary, I think you’ll find many wonderful locations, such as the view from the top of the Tour Montparnasse at night, Père Lachaise, and Vaux-le-Vicomte.

As one of the participants in last year’s workshop said, put Paris “on your bucket list ‘cause you may not see this in Heaven.” Another workshop participant added, “I already admired Harold Davis, and had confidence that he would lead us to fantastic places – and he did!”

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

Millions of visitors crowd into the Île de la Cité in Paris to visit tourist attractions such as Notre Dame Cathedral and Saint-Chappelle. Just a few blocks away from the crowds, on the southeastern tip of the island, surrounded by the flowing, muddy waters of the Seine, is the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation.

Deportation Memorial © Harold Davis

Deportation Memorial © Harold Davis

Scarcely visited, The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation is a memorial to the roughly 200,000 people deported from France to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II with the collaboration of the French government. The bulk of these 200,000 people were Jewish, and of course most of them were murdered and never returned. It is estimated that 60,000 to 70,000 were children.

The photo shows the crypt, with a lit star for each of the 200,000 deported, with a raised platform in front containing the ashes of a few unknown victims from the concentration camps.

Behind the Clock

This is a shot from behind the clock on the top floor of the Musée d’Orsay looking at the Louvre across the Seine River. The Musée d’Orsay is converted from a railway station, hence the clock tower. I shot through plexiglass with my Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 wide open (at f/1.4) for absolute minimum depth-of-field so the landscape would be in focus but the foreground—the somewhat dirty plexi—would be out of focus and unobtrusive.

Louvre from Musee d'Orsay © Harold Davis

Louvre from Musee d’Orsay © Harold Davis

Crowds near Pigalle

As dusk turned to night on an evening of gathering clouds, for some reason crowds started to form near the Pigalle metro stop. Wandering, I paused and shot this image of the massed people and a police car with sirens blazing. I used a five second exposure, and intentionally moved the camera slightly during the exposure to add to the expressionistic effect.

Crowds near Pigalle © Harold Davis

Crowds near Pigalle © Harold Davis

La Défense

On the outskirts of Paris, at the last stop in the #1 Metro line, lies La Défense, the largest special-purpose business district in Europe. Fifteen of the world’s fifty largest companies are headquartered here. New skyscraper construction is ongoing. Anyone who thinks that France is a cute, cuddly and archaic country should check out La Défense—where the architectural homage to aggrandizement, capitalism and perhaps crypto-fascism is unabashed.

Stairs at La Défense © Harold Davis

Stairs at La Défense © Harold Davis

In the direct line of sight of the distant Arc de Triomphe, the giant cubist arch at La Défense not so much complements the Arc de Triomphe as attempts to trivialize it. The white marble steps climb abruptly upwards towards the government offices within the vast space enclosed by the hollow cube. They are slippery when wet, as it was when I visited in a light, cold rain.

To make the image shown above, I exposed for the very white stairs, intentionally selected an aperture for shallow depth-of-field (f/5.6), and focused closely on the stairs in the extreme foreground, allowing the businessman climbing the stairs in the background to appear out of focus and silhouetted.

Photographing a model in Paris

Yesterday I photographed a model in Paris. Kira is an American professional model, but she could pass for Parisian (and indeed has some French ancestry). We met in the morning, and started with some shots with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I was looking for backgrounds that said “Paris,” but more of everyday life and not so much the Eiffel Tower, so we got on to the Metro.

Kira on the Metro © Harold Davis

Kira on the Metro © Harold Davis

At the Passy Metro station, just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, Kira’s natural elegance was on display. But in the court at the Louvre in the front of the equestrian statue of Louis X IV, I made her loudly proclaim “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” as though she were heading to the barricades (the tourists in the background seemed unmoved, as did the statue).

To the barricades! © Harold Davis

To the barricades! © Harold Davis

After some time photographing (and posing) we were both eager to get out of the chill wind. So we retired to a cafe (where of course the photography and posing continued).

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis