Category Archives: France

The Three Castles

A short trail through the woods leads to the ruins of the Three Castles—more like three towers, really—that are perched on a ridge above Eguisheim, Alsace, France. The structures date to the 1200s, and they were “destroyed in 1466 in the ‘Six Deniers War'” [according to the signage]. Memo to self: look up the Six Deniers War, it sounds very Game of Thrones-like.

Ruins of the Three Castles © Harold Davis


Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Arriving in Strasbourg

I got some decent sleep on the long-haul flight over to Paris, and at the airport caught the train to Strasbourg. Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace, a region of France on the border with Germany. I had to change trains once. My hotel in Strasbourg is in an area known as La Petite France—notable for canals, picturesque and very old buildings, and the tourist trade.

La Petite France © Harold Davis

I wakened to thunder and lightening the first morning, in my room perched high above the old city. As the day slowly dawned, I watched the dark clouds scuttle across the sky. Very dramatic.

Stormy Morning in Strasbourg (Color Version) © Harold Davis

The tower of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg was the highest building in Europe until the nineteenth century, and a marvelous Gothic spire it is! I climbed three hundred steps to the platform below the spire, where in olden times guards lived 24/7 to watch the city for fires, and the horizon for enemies.  Strasbourgians, if that is the right term, came up here for picnics on holidays. Today, it is a perfect location for photographing the rooftops of ancient Strasbourg from above.

Rooftop © Harold Davis

There’s plenty to see and photograph in Strasbourg without climbing towards the sky. Wandering the twisting streets a few blocks from my hotel I was intrigued by the optical pattern made by the wood design in an antique door.

Op Door © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Spine of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia

From the exterior, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia in Albi, France intentionally connotes the overwhelming power of a fortress rather than the spiritually of a place of worship (see image at bottom). Built in the aftermath of the bloody Albigensian crusade, the reference to the military might of the church is no accident. The surprise is the lavish and beautiful interior of the church, decorated largely with abstract paintings.

For a somewhat related story involving the historical Catholic church in France using architecture as part of a power play, see Sacré Coeur Passage.

Spine of the Albi Cathedral © Harold Davis

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia – Painted Niches © Harold Davis

Albi Cathedral © Harold Davis

Albi Trompe L’oeil © Harold Davis

Albi Cathedral Exterior © Harold Davis

Cordes-sur-Ciel at Sunset

Thanks to methodical planning, good luck with the weather, and helpful guides my photography group was able to photograph the ancient town of Cordes-sur-Ciel from across the valley at sunset. Thanks everyone for your patience and understanding!

I made a photograph from the same viewpoint many years ago at sunrise (it is shown beneath the recent vista).

Cordes-sur-Ciel at Sunset © Harold Davis

Cordes sur Ciel at Dawn © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape

Coming into Toulouse

Dreamlike, the landscape of France sped past at high speeds, as I viewed the earth from the windows of the TGV (the high speed train). Dreamlike in feeling, and what better time to create a soft composition of landscape and clouds using a bit of motion blur. Then onward to the bustle of Toulouse, and the hubbub of the nearly perpetual marketplace in the Place du Capitole (shown below from a window in my hotel).

Landscape © Harold Davis

Place du Capitole, Toulouse © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Under the Pont de Grenelle

Since I am jet lagged I am going to keep this short and sweet: What great fun to be back in Paris with my camera! Just now, after dinner at the Brasserie Le Franklin, Julian K and I stumbled down to the Seine and photographed bridges, the Eiffel Tower, and more.

Under the Pont de Grenelle © Harold Davis

Also posted in Paris

Rooftops of Paris Redux

The appeal of a 2016 Rooftops of Paris image—besides the wonderful patterns of chimneys, dormer windows, and Mansard roofs—is an intentional, and vaguely anachronistic, antique look. In contrast, the 2018 Rooftops of Paris shown below, is a post-film digital high-dynamic range (HDR) image that is very modern in its aesthetic intentions. 

This was a tricky image to make from a garret window high on the Montmartre Hill, and time-consuming to process as well (see below). This perhaps explains why I only got around to processing the RAW files (the digital analog to developing and printing) just now.

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

The captures for this image were made from a small window, with my tripod awkwardly perched to take advantage of the setting sun receding behind a cloud bank. There were seven exposures, with each exposure using a 28mm moderate wide-angle focal-length lens at f/22 and ISO 64 on my Nikon D850. Exposure times varied from 1.3 seconds (lightest, for the foreground) to 1/80 of a second (darkest, for the sun burst). I used a combination of automated HDR, manual RAW processing, and layers and masking to create the final image.

For another recently processed view of Paris as landscape, click here.

My hope is to get back to Paris as soon as possible for more photography. For that, of course, we need vaccinations to beat the virus—and we need to stay thoughtful and vigilant.

Also posted in HDR, Paris, Photography

Farewell to After-Hours Access at Giverny

Giverny Afternoon © Harold Davis

Giverny Afternoon © Harold Davis

Sadly, the Monet gardens at Giverny have ended their program allowing artists, photographers, and writers to access the gardens before and after the public admission hours. I don’t know why this decision was made. All things must pass, and the only thing constant is change.

If you have been with me and my Photograph Paris in the Spring groups over the years, wasn’t it wonderful to wander and photograph in these gardens without the crowds? This is an opportunity that will not easily come again, so it is important to savor the time we did have, the photographs we made, and the memories.

If you are considering joining our group in Paris in the spring of 2021, don’t worry: there are many wonderful gardens and excursions in and near Paris, and we will find our way into some wonderful gardens and photographic adventures.

And keep in mind (in life as well as in photography) that since all things change, it makes huge sense to carpe diem.

Flowers at Giverny © Harold Davis

Flowers at Giverny © Harold Davis

Willow Reflections, Giverny © Harold Davis

Willow Reflections, Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Paris, Photography

Our Lady of Chartres

I recently was privileged to visit Chartres Cathedral with my group of Paris photographers. The upper two images were made inside Our Lady of Chartres with a fisheye lens and the camera on a tripod. You can see that the inside has been cleaned and looks almost new. On my previous visit, in 2013, some parts had been cleaned but the ceiling was untouched, and scaffolding was still up for cleaning and restoring the rest (as shown in the bottom image).

Our Lady of Chartres (color) © Harold Davis

Our Lady of Chartres (color) © Harold Davis

Our Lady of Chartres (b&w) © Harold Davis

Our Lady of Chartres (b&w) © Harold Davis

Chartres © Harold Davis

Chartres (2013) © Harold Davis

Click here for the blog story from my 2013 visit to Chartres.

Also posted in Photography

Giverny Afternoon

Flowers at Giverny © Harold Davis

I visited Monet’s wonderful garden at Giverny with my small group of photographers. In the late afternoon, we had the garden mostly to ourselves and were able to photograph in the golden light.

Giverny Afternoon © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Paris Landscape

With the storm receding, from the top of the Tour Montparnasse near sunset, Paris looked like it could be any other rain-wracked landscape (of course, it is not, there is only one Paris), with La Défense clustered behind the almost-toy Eiffel Tower.

Paris Landscape © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Paris

Notre Dame

How very, very sad to learn that Notre Dame is on fire. Here are some images I’ve made over the years with the thought that it is okay to remember the good things, and the hope that Notre Dame will be rebuilt to match. Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris is a 501(c)3 charity accepting donations to help to rebuild Notre Dame. This is a reminder that all things pass, so with good faith as one world let us join in the rebuilding—so we can help to make things better, not worse.

Crown of Thorns © Harold Davis

Crown of Notre Dame © Harold Davis

Spire © Harold Davis

Gargoyle © Harold Davis

Gargoyle © Harold Davis

Gargoyle © Harold Davis

Notre Dame © Harold Davis

Notre Dame © Harold Davis

Doors of Notre Dame © Harold Davis

Also posted in Paris

Last Day in Paris

This is my last day in Paris until the spring. I took the Metro into Concorde, walked over to the Orangerie, and sat for a while and marveled at the wonderful installation of Monet’s mammoth water lilies, abstractions created based on his ponds at Giverny

La Tour Eiffel © Harold Davis

Next, I wandered across the Tuileries to the Jeu de Paume. The most interesting exhibition there (at least to me) showed the work related to social injustice of Dorothea Lange. While not always the greatest photographer from a technical perspective (e.g. framing, composition, and exposure) she certainly had an eye for faces and telling details, and she cared. The caring may matter more than the technical considerations.

Manzanar diorama via iPhone capture © Harold Davis

What does a diorama of the World War II era Japanese-American internment camp at Manazar have to do with this? In a museum in Paris, looking at the contemporaneous photos of the camp by Lange, I was solipsistically struck with the thought that I had just been (a little more than a month ago) to the memorial museum on the site of Manazar in the arid Eastern Sierra. What a small world we live in, where one thing has consequences for other things, and there are no coincidences!

After I left the museum I wandered the banks of the Seine with my camera until it started to rain. Then I stopped into a restaurant for a late lunch, and made my way back to the hotel.

The car picks me up early tomorrow to get to Malta. I have enjoyed my relatively short visit to Paris, but I am also hoping for a bit warmer weather in the southern Mediterranean.

Also posted in Paris, Photography

Rainy Day in Paris

Last night as a lay under my quilt in my garret room I heard the wind in a racing howl across Paris. I fell asleep to the rhythm of the rain playing percussion on the roof.

Rainy Day in Paris © Harold Davis

Sure enough, in the morning it was indeed a rainy day in Paris, and the water drops danced on the glass of my window facing the Eiffel Tower. Yet somehow the new day brought light and promise beyond the storm, which washed the city at least a bit cleaner.

By midday the storm had broken, although the wind was still strong. Everyone seemed fresher and fortified in the new light from beyond the rain, even in the depths of the Metro where the music was more original and less lip-synched to Piaf. It’s hard not to admire Paris, although I have no real clue about what accounts for the existential magic.

Also posted in Paris, Water Drops

Abstracting Sacré-Cœur

High atop the hill of Montmartre sits the cathedral of Sacré-Cœur—which, as I’ve pointed out before, is emblematic (when constructed) of a hard-right quasi-fascism as encouraged by the Church. From a visual standpoint, it is kitsch and rococo, and just a bit weird.

Knocks against its politics of origin and the kitsch aesthetic aside, it is a hecka fun monument to photograph on the exterior (the interior not so much). The rear of the Sacré-Cœur exterior is shown here in an abstraction of wheels-within-wheels (arched arcades over arched arcades), and processed to look as much like a lithograph as a black and white photo.

Sacré-Cœur, exterior detail © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Paris