On day 14 of my Paris photography adventure, my main focus was to tour the city at night by bus. I’m a big fan of night photography, and I wanted to see if there were any major shots I had missed.
I had some time in the afternoon, so I headed to the Eiffel Tower to try to get a shot of it reflecting in the pool by the Trocadero gardens.
When I was first getting serious about my photography, I had read about how the pros always brought two camera bodies along. I used to think that was excessive, but this was one time I was really happy I had followed that advice. I got everything setup to take the shot and realized that I had left my battery pack at home. What a relief it was to have a backup.
This was another perfect opportunity to use my ND filter, which I talked about yesterday. As you can see in this picture taken with my iPhone, with an exposure time of 1/150 sec, the water in the pool is ripply.
Using long exposures on water can smooth out these ripples, giving a nice smooth look. This is also useful when imaging waterfalls. With my ND filter and a 30 sec exposures, I got this:
This has been processed with HDR, and one of the problems I find sometimes with HDR is you get a “halo” effect around some of the objects. If you look closely at the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can hopefully see what I’m talking about. I used the healing brush in Photoshop to clean this up, giving me this final image:
If you want to get this shot, you need to wait until the fountains are off, and then stand here:
It’s a long drop down the other side, so be extremely careful! I was tempted to move even further to left, but I don’t think that’s a very good idea, plus the surface is wet. Also, if the fountains turn on when you are out there, you are going to get drenched. The fountains turn on and off intermittently, so wait for the fountains to turn off, step out carefully to take your shot, then come back to dry ground.
Trocadero Plaza was absolutely jam-packed with people watching street performers.
For my night bus tour I chose Big Bus. I’m endorsing them, but they are a well-known name, they have an English-speaking tour, and they have a tour specifically for nighttime, so it served my purposes. Almost everyone on the tour wants to be on the top level, which I highly recommend, and that didn’t seem to be a problem, since they run 4 buses.
The difficulty taking night shots on a bus is the movement. This is a problem for night photography, since you need to take long exposures, and any movement whatsoever is going to give you blurry pictures. I used the fastest lens I had (i.e. the one with the widest aperture, the lowest f-stop number) and increased my ISO until I could take pictures with a shutter speed of at least 1/100 sec.
The tour started at the Arc de Triomphe, and the sun was setting while I was waiting in line, giving me this photo opportunity. The edge of the Arc de Triomphe is on the left side of the image.
I don’t know if it’s me or if there are lanterns everywhere, but they do seem to show up in a lot of my images. I’m definitely attracted to light sources.
Although I had already taken some nice views during this trip looking up Champs d’Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe, there were exceptional views from the top of the bus looking back the other way. Bear in mind that none of the following shots are particularly sharp due the aforementioned exposure challenges. If nothing else, they can at least serve as “rough drafts” to come back and attempt later with a tripod.
All of my shots were taken roughly at f/2.8, ISO 3200, 1/125 sec.
The downside of having to shoot with a wide open aperture is I wasn’t able to keep everything in focus, as you can see above. I’m hoping to try this shot again later in the week from the Arc de Triomphe, where I can use a tripod and close down my aperture.
The one area where the bus lingered for a few minutes was at the Eiffel Tower. It was truly gorgeous at the blue hour. The colors in this shot are one of my favorites of all my Eiffel Tower shots.
The roof of the Hôtel des Invalides looked absolutely beautiful at night, and I definitely want to try to go back there again. If you can believe it, the entire roof is made of solid gold. (In case you were wondering, this is not a hotel for invalids!) This is a technically inferior image that doesn’t do it justice, but it will at least give you an idea of how it looks at night.
Here are a few of the other images I took:
One final tip: if you take this tour and ride on the top: wear a warm jacket!
I think I’ll visit the Centre Georges Pompidou tomorrow.