Category Archives: Paris

Patterns in Paris

The common theme in these three monochromatic images taken in Paris is that they are about patterns—as seen in three dimensional architectural objects, but reduced to two apparent planes. And also where the patterns end, and where they do not extend.

Musee Picasso © Harold Davis

The image in the courtyard of the palace that houses the Musee Picasso (above) contrasts the regular patterns of windows in the background with the odd shape of the white ball thing in the foreground. Actually, there’s no way to know the scale of the white ball, which is interesting. Photography can render size as an illusion.

Below, the glorification-of-war frieze can be found in the Place Vendome on the very three dimensional Colonne Vendome—a sort of obelisk thing clad in cast-metal, three dimensions attempting to be two dimensions.

The Clash © Harold Davis

Finally, the spectacular colonnade that encompasses the Catholic church of the Madeleine (below) is inherently patterned, and three dimensional. But amid the op-art effect of the recession of the pillars, would you visually understand the three dimensional nature of the scene without the break in the pattern on the upper right? 

Madeleine © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Patterns, Photography

Goodbye Paris

It is with some degree of melancholy that I say goodbye to Paris for this time, as I have “sailed” to warmer climes. The Maltese Islands are a different universe, and I write from my desk overlooking the ramparts of Valletta. But for now one last look over my shoulder at Paris Paris.

Paris Paris © Harold Davis

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 France, 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 France, 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 France, Monochrome

View of Paris from my room

My garret room in Montmartre is part way up the hill to Sacré-Cœur.  Under the hotel eaves, the room is on the sixth floor (fifth floor by European reckoning), and small. There’s barely room for the bed and my computer, and the wifi is pretty thin (so I am in the hotel common room writing this where connectivity is a bit better).

The room isn’t fancy, and neither is the hotel. But the location is fun, and oh that wonderful view over Paris in the ever-changing light—which makes it all worthwhile!

Paris from Montmartre © Harold Davis

Another view, made with my iPhone, is shown below!

View from my room © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Saint-Sulpice at Dusk

This is an image I made earlier this year outside the wonderful Saint-Sulpice in Paris as day faded to night (see this earlier story, also this one, and also this one for the inside of Saint-Sulpice). I used my 16mm Nikkor rectolinear fisheye lens, with the camera on tripod.

Saint-Sulpice at Dusk © Harold Davis

Saint-Sulpice at Dusk © Harold Davis

I am headed to Italy in the coming week, and hope to be blogging about my adventures in photography while I am there—unless I am having so much fun, and taking so many photos, that I don’t get the chance! In which possible case, TTFN.

Also posted in Digital Night, Photography

Rooftops of the 5th arrondissement

You’ve got to love the roofs of Paris for their variety, antiquity, and the sheer wackiness of the patterns they create!

I made this pair of images, shown here in color and black & white, in Paris this spring on a bright day with my Zeiss 135mm telephoto shooting hand held at a very fast shutter speed (1/8000 of a second) and intentionally underexposed by about 3 EVs to get more contrast. When I enlarge the images and zoom in, I can see an incredible array of details!

Some related stories and images: Rooftops of Paris (Split Toned); Manarola and the Rooftops of Paris.

Rooftops of the 5th arrondissement © Harold Davis

Rooftops of the 5th arrondissement © Harold Davis

Also posted in Patterns

Handsome Gargoyle Devil and the Pinhole Effect

A gargoyle is a carved grotesque, with (sometimes) the practical function of serving as a down spout for rain, and often the emotional purpose of warding off evil spirits. The world’s most famous gargoyles are those on the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris—which, however, are probably as much due to the Gothic romanticist architect Viollet-le-Duc as they are to historical veracity and antiquity. When Viollet-le-Duc reconstructed Notre Dame in the 1860s, it was tumbling down and virtually abandoned. Violett-le-Duc’s renovation was strongly inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame—a work of romantic fiction not particularly based in historical realities.

Gargoyle © Harold Davis

Gargoyle © Harold Davis

Whatever the historical authenticity of the Notre Dame gargoyles, they are a marvelous subject for photography, and a “must see” on any first visit to Paris, particularly if you have kids with you (my fourteen-year-old son Nicky joined me for my last visit to Paris in the spring, so I got a refresher in all things gargoyle, and hot chocolate as well!).

The first cameras were pinhole cameras. Pinhole cameras don’t have a lens.  Instead of a lens, light passes through a tiny hole; the light passing through this hole forms the image inside the camera. A camera obscura is a large pinhole camera where light passes through a tiny hole—the smaller the hole, or aperture, the sharper the image—and is projected on the back wall of an otherwise dark room.

The projected image is upside down, but perspective and other characteristics are preserved, so a camera obscura can be used to create detailed drawings that are accurate representations of scenes.

The first camera obscura was created by Arab physicist Ibn al-Haytham in the eleventh century. In the west, the optics of the pinhole effect were imported from the Arab world, and understood as early as the fifteenth century Renaissance (they were described by Leonardo da Vinci and others). The use of the optical pinhole effect in the camera obscura was one of the key discoveries leading up to the invention of photography; if you get the chance, don’t miss the opportunity to visit a large camera obscura, found in public parks in a number of major cities (adjacent to Seal Rocks in San Francisco).

I processed my image of this gargoyle as a demonstration of the post-production pinhole effect (adding the pinhole look-and-feel in the Photoshop darkroom rather than in the camera) for my forthcoming book The Photographers Black and White Handbook. The result is a blend of the Nik Silver Efex Pinhole preset (70%) and the Topaz B&W Effects Pinhole (30%).

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Kira in a Cafe

For the demonstration of how to add a post-production selective soft focus using an Iris Blur for my forthcoming book from Monacelli Press, The Photographer’s Black and White Handbook, I used this portrait of Kira, photographed in a café near the Eiffel Tower in the City of Light.

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Rooftops of Paris—Split-Toned Version

I used my image of the Rooftops of Paris as a demonstration image for my new book, The Photographer’s Black and White Handbook. In my book, I use the image to show how to accomplish split-toning via a color range that selection that is converted to a layer mask. Using the layer mask, whatever tone is desired can be applied to the image. With the layer mask inverted, a different tone can be applied to the portions of the image that weren’t toned the first time.

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Exposure and processing info: 90mm, 1/320 of a second at f/9 and ISO 200, hand held; processed in ACR and Photoshop; converted to black and white using a Photoshop adjustment; toning added for mid-tones to dark-tones using Nik Silver Efex High Contrast Preset with Cyanotype and to light-tones using Full Dynamic Preset with Sepia (both toning effects at partial opacity).

Click here to see the color version. I’ve been surprised to find the color version reproduced without authorization or licensing, which makes me glad to have Pixsy on my side.

Also posted in Monochrome

As Time Goes By

On a late November wet afternoon, as dusk turned to sodden night, I wandered the banks of the Seine River with my camera. My idea was to render the street lights as an important graphic element of the scene, so I intentionally used a long exposure and introduced camera motion into the composition, then processed to exaggerate the impact of this lighting. Note the couple doing the romantic Paris kissing thing in the light of one of the street lamps.

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

This image was originally presented in color in December 2013. As part of the Black & White photography book I am working on fro Monacelli Press, the chapter on special effects is set in Paris. I’ve reprocessed the image as part of a technique demonstration in my book.

Exposure and processing info: Nikon D800, Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, 4 seconds at ISO 50, hand held; processed in ACR and Photoshop, special effect added in Nik Analog Efex, converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex High Contrast and Antique Plate presets.

Also posted in Monochrome

Three Cranes in Paris

This is a photograph of the Paris skyline from May, 2016 I recently processed for a current project. I like the way it shows Paris as a city always in transition, with the old buildings, the Eiffel Tower, and construction cranes all in the same breath. I used the same textures in combination to process this image as I did in Florence and the Arno River, for a romantic look, almost like that of a Renaissance-era painting, but here a little more crisply than in the Italian image.

For all you lovers of things Parisian out there: Can you identify the location from which this image was photographed?

Three Cranes in Paris © Harold Davis

Three Cranes in Paris © Harold Davis

Exposure and processing info: Nikon D800, Zeiss Distagon 135mm f/2, 1/6,400 of a second at f/4 and ISO 100, hand held; multi-RAW process in ACR and Photoshop; finished using Photoshop, Nik Creative Efex Pro and Nik Viveza, Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Simplify; three texture files added.

Also posted in France

Diamonds and Contrails

The group went to the court of the Louvre to photograph the Pyramide, with the idea being to start with sunset and see how it went. I was a little skeptical that I could best previous results (check out this one, and this more recent example too!). But I enjoyed the scene, and the girl from Russia in a red dress who asked me to take her photo with the Pyramide in the background. Then as the sun set I saw a new viewpoint on the diamonds of the Pyramide, contrails and all, and aimed my 16mm rectangular fisheye lens at scene and reflections!

Diamonds and Comtrails © Harold Davis

Diamonds and Contrails © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Looking Up

Sometimes a view from underneath looking up is a great way to present an unusual composition, and interesting light. People don’t look up nearly enough! Some cases in point: Here are two views from underneath, one looking up at the Eiffel tower and the other from beneath a weeping willow at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.

Underneath La Tour Eiffel © Harold Davis

Underneath La Tour Eiffel © Harold Davis

Under the Weeping Willow at Giverny © Harold Davis

Under the Weeping Willow at Giverny © Harold Davis

Also posted in France, Landscape, Photography