November 18, 2011
You’d think that as a travel photographer who’s endlessly enamored of Paris, finding infinite inspiration for things to shoot in the City of Light would be proverbial cake. Well, you’d be wrong. At least where this Francophile photog is concerned!
My problem with Paris (and what a wonderful challenge to have) is that after so many visits, what was once a mysterious new wonderland to discover and dissect through the lens is now a favorite, intimately familiar old haunt. So when I found myself “stuck” in Paris for two weeks last spring per that little volcanic kerfuffle in Iceland instead of down south in new-to-me Nice, I was actually un peu perturbed.
After settling into the reality that I’d be in Paris awhile — and potentially a really long while if that blasted Eyjafjallajökull didn’t pipe down already, I finally began to relax and reflect on how best to start a fresh relationship with this city I had captured through my lens so many times before. In the end, I don’t know what I was so worried about! With a few simple adjustments to my habitual Paris routines, seeing the city anew was easy.
Even though you’re not in Venice, go ahead and get lost.
Armed with my trusty copy of Michelin’s Paris par Arrondissement, I wandered sans worry. One of the most important things I learned was to take the time to explore and absorb at a leisurely clip – day or night. Rather than defaulting to the subway, the bus became my primary mode of public transportation. Better to survey large, unfamiliar chunks of the city that way, and scout new nooks and crannies to tackle à pied. Similarly, if I did ride the metro, I used it to reach pockets of Paris that I’d never seen or strolled before. It was fantastique.
Get up early, or stay out late.
As on any trip, I set my alarm to rise and shine before the sun and the city. I love doing this and particularly in a place like Paris, both for the dreamy photo opps and for the priceless experience of watching timeless cityscapes come to life. Plus it’s just about the only way you’re going to score some private time with landmarks like La Tour Eiffel. Unless you’re willing to stay out way after dark, which isn’t really my thing, but man — talk about interesting photo opportunities.
Make your own photo scavenger hunt.
Paris is so much more than its famous landmarks, and I had a blast reminding myself of this simple fact. Architectural elements are a favorite focus of my photos, and on this trip I found myself obsessed with collecting as many of the city’s old ornate doors as my camera’s SD card would hold. And if you have a love of street art as I do, Paris is a jackpot; so many stellar examples and such a fun theme to hunt, especially if you hone in on one or two artists. On this trip I discovered the work of Leo & Pipo and enjoyed keeping my eyes peeled for their quirky installations all over town.
Take another look at the landmarks.
I thought about skipping the city’s typically touristed suspects, having enjoyed them already over multiple trips past. In compromise, I picked a few and made a point to see them anew, too. I tried to compose my shots from a variety of vantage points and distances from the subject. Mixing it up this way and folding in additional variations like time of day can make for spectacular shots. A stroll through Paris at either the Golden Hour (the hour just after sunrise and before sunset) or the Blue Hour (also known as twilight, this is the hour just before sunrise or after sundown) can also turn up some brilliant, original light combinations. And one night at the Louvre, I really did see something for the first time — the Mona Lisa!
- Didier Gauducheau, one of Haven in Paris’ favorite photogs, also offers guided photography tours of Paris
- Europa Photogenica also offers photo tours throughout Europe
- Do you have pictures of Paris you’d like to share and maybe see featured on this blog? Check out the HiP Paris flickr group! We would love to hear from you.
Written by Marisa Williams
A self-taught photographer, Marisa was born in the San Francisco Bay Area where she continues to live, work, and plan annual escapes from. Her travel images have appeared in advertising, print and online publications, and grace the walls of high-end hotels and private homes around the world.
Website: Marisa Williams