Category Archives: Travel Photography

Oradour-sur-Glane

Do you remember?

While on a photo workshop in France, we were taken to a location for a morning shoot, Oradour-sur-Glane.Sign

Translation:  “Here a group of men were massacred and burned by the Nazis. Do you remember?”

On June 10, 1944, everyone in this French village, 642 men, women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company. Rather than rebuilding the town after the war, the French government decided to leave things as a memorial to the martyrs. It was such an emotional experience just walking through the entrance and seeing photos of what happened that day and pictures of children who are now gone. Outside there was a whole town with  a burned out bike, a stove, sewing machines, a melted church bell, what was left of a café, a bakery, a garage and many homes. This was a place where real people sewed and cooked and played and worked and had families. It hit home.

I didn’t think I could take pictures there, but I picked up my camera anyway, just to have something else to think about. Putting these photos together for this was hard because I remembered. And it felt important. They are here only as a humble tribute and out of respect for the martyrs of Oradour and for those who have suffered war in their home countries.  I came away from the experience with a deeper understanding than the kinds of memorials I’ve seen in this country, memorials of brick and mortar and eternal flames.  I feel blessed, too, that in my lifetime, I haven’t had the machines of war in my own back yard.

Street SceneCarGarage BusinessSewing MachineStairway to NowhereOld CimetiereStreet Car LinesTown SquareChurchChurch InteriorMelted Church BellThree Crosses in the New Cemetery
Here is more information about Oradour.

A Moment in Time

When I look at pictures that I’ve taken it brings back all the details of when they were shot. I remember exactly where I was, who I was with, what I was thinking about, what I wanted to capture, the weather, the kind of light present, the smells, the sounds, everything.  Do other photographers have the same kind of recall? If so, it’s a great gift.Little Girl

This photo captured a special moment in time for this little girl and for me. The setting was Luxemburg Gardens in Paris, while I was taking a workshop in street photography. I never got comfortable taking pictures of strangers without first asking permission, but in the spirit of the workshop I felt compelled to try. While sitting on a wall, this little girl and her father came into view. The father was twenty or thirty paces in front of her and kept calling out for her to keep up with him. He also saw me watching and I made sure to give him a smile, a message that I was no threat. She was about the same age as my grandson doing what all kids of that age would do to explore their world. First she stopped and picked a little weed flower in the grass that she held tightly in her right hand. Occasionally her dad would turn around to check on her and to prod her along, but soon she would be distracted again. Shortly after she picked up a ticket of some sort her dad had his back to us and I took the shot.

While in Paris I knew I hadn’t taken any award-winning photos but was content with the travel experience and capturing memories of a wonderful time and place. My local photo club had a topic one month on street photography and so I sent in this photo for a monthly competition. It received a decent score, but not especially high. Much to my surprise this photo was selected recently as the “Image of the Year” for my club. The judge commented that the mystery of what she was so enthralled with brought interest to the image and that the emotion it evoked moved it to the top.

It was really a lucky shot.  I was ready to take advantage of an opportunity, and the father turned his back at just the right time. In the whole wide world of photography this is just a little ripple in a very small puddle, but still I’m happy about the honor.

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How Do You Photograph an Icon?

First view of the Eiffel Tower

First view of the Eiffel Tower

TEiffel Tower Keychainhe Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 and was intended to serve as an entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair and then be dismantled. At over 1,000 feet in height, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years. Today, it is one of the most recognizable structures in the world, having over seven million visitors a year, and a person can barely walk 50 paces in Paris without passing a souvenir shop with Eiffel Tower trinkets to take home.

How do you photograph an icon, something that has been done so many times before?

My reflex after getting off the bus and seeing this marvel for the first time  was to pull my camera up and take a shot, like millions of other tourists.  I couldn’t resist and, yes, I put it right smack dab in the middle of the frame.

After getting that out of the way, I took some shots of the supports and details of the lattice-work as suggested by our workshop leader, Valerie Jardin.

Base of the Eiffel Tower

Base of the Tower

 

Eiffel Tower Lattice Work

Eiffel Tower Lattice Work

Following lunch on the second level inside, I walked the grounds surrounding the tower on my own so that I would not be influenced by the other photographers in the workshop. I made a shot that I thought would be distinctive from the millions of other photos of the tower, then gave it a split tone in Lightroom.

Eiffel Tower

My take on the Eiffel Tower

That night, a bridge with a view of the tower was a stop  on a night shooting adventure. This was taken with my versatile 24-105 mm lens at 75 mm, 100 ISO at f/11 and on a tripod.  I probably didn’t need an f/11 aperture for the depth of field, but I wanted to get that star effect on the highlights.  Multiple exposures ranging from 4-30 seconds were used to create a high dynamic range image that was then tone mapped with Photomatix Pro. I have learned from experience that you need to underexpose night shots to darken the sky and avoid over-exposures. It was about an hour after sunset and the sky still looked blue. The horizon was lit by the city lights and the atmosphere around the tower glowed with its light.

Eiffel Tower from Bridge

Eiffel Tower from Bridge

At the late hour we moved closer to the Tower, I was surprised there were still so many people waiting in line to go in.  While there, the lights on the tower shimmered and sparkled for a short time and a roar of approval and cheers came up from the crowd.  Being so close, this was all of the tower I could fit into the frame at 24 mm.

Base of the Eiffel Tower at night

Base of the Eiffel Tower at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other posts about photography in Paris:

Place de la Concorde

Street Photography in Paris

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

 

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Place de la Concorde

A Little History of Place de la Concorde

Covering over 20 acres, Place de la Concorde is the largest public square in Paris. It was completed in 1772 and has experienced many historic events since then. During the French Revolution, a guillotine was erected and here King Louis XV, Marie Antoinette and thousands of others met their end during the Reign of Terror. In World War II, the German High Command had their headquarters in one of the buildings.

We visited this site on the first stop of a night shooting adventure, with six of us traveling in a chauffeured Mercedes, a treat that was funded by one of the other workshop participants. When walking through here at the end of the day, it’s difficult to reconcile its history with the placid atmosphere.

The fountains of Place de la Concorde

In the center of the square is an obelisk with hieroglyphic carvings that was a gift of the Egyptian government in the 19th century, but dates back to the time of Ramses II. On either side of the obelisk are two magnificent fountains, completed in 1840, and based on the theme of rivers and streams. Both fountains contain six figures holding fish spouting water, six seated figures, and four supporting the upper basin from which the water spills down. All of the figures are larger than life. Twelve different sculptors worked on the statuary of the fountains and the major figures were made of cast iron, and painted with bronze and gold paint. The smaller figures were made of bronze. For me, these fountains were the features of the square that I was most drawn to.  The north fountain was photographed with the setting sun backlighting the fountain and gave the whole scene warmer colors than the south fountain.We stayed for the sunset and after that we sat on the sidewalk looking down the boulevard towards the Arch de Triomphe waiting for the street lamps to light.  We left before that happened, though.  We had more places to go.

South FountainSouth Fountain Detail.North FountainNorth Fountain DetailSunset at Place de la ConcordeLooking to the Arch de Triomphe

 

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Street Photography in Paris

I was privileged to take a week-long photography workshop in Paris with Valerie Jardin, an internationally recognized street photographer. This genre of photography was the primary learning experience of the workshop.  Valerie, who was born in France, follows in the footsteps of fellow countryman Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer who helped develop the style that resulted in the coined term, “The Decisive Moment”.  Some say there are no rules to this genre, but my understanding is that it should be candid (not posed) and should chronicle the contemporary culture.  It would have a close relationship to photojournalism (with very limited editing, if any) and the best street photography would tell a story.

I found this very difficult to do.  When I had traveled before,  I felt that people got in the way, and this was a different way of thinking.  It was hard to point my camera at someone without first asking permission. It was much easier for me to strike up a conversation with a friendly stranger.  When I came home with over a thousand photos from the workshop, I didn’t think I would have any street photography images that were compelling enough to keep.  Those below are ones that I thought, if not compelling, at least worthwhile because they either fit my definition of “street photography”, or they seemed to capture memories of a wonderful trip.  A few of them were posed, for instance the man with the red umbrella was staged by a clever workshop participant.  I struck up a conversation with one of the street musicians and there was an implied understanding with others that “you can take my picture if you will drop a Euro in the basket”.  Most of the images were converted to black and white.  That is in the tradition of photojournalism and gives a timeless, authentic feeling.  Some of these have color or touches of color because it fit those images the best.

Cafe MenuLady at Luxemburg GardensLovers at Luxemburg GardensLittle Girl at Luxemburg GardensLovers on the BridgeStreet Musician Place des VosgesMusician at Place des VosgesLovers in the Eiffel TowerScissors Artist at MontmarteVictory Day ParadeGirl at Cafe

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