Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth. Now I can see how that statement may be controversial, so to those who disagree, I concede the following: Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth. With that off my chest, I should also clarify that the word ‘gloomy’ here is used in the context of weather only. Paris is always alive, always upbeat. But in the winter months, it can be gray, cloudy and rainy and it can stay like that for many many days. In the absence of clear blue or partly cloudy skies, taking interesting cityscapes becomes challenging. In this essay, I discuss some of ways I tried to overcome these challenges and come up with (what I hope are) interesting shots.
I started at the Place du Trocadero, which on account being directly across from the Eiffel Tower and at a slight elevation, is an obvious choice for photography. I arrived there at around sunset, with the forecast for the clouds breaking and the possibility of some color and drama. Alas, the forecast was wrong.
I improvised by doing an unconventional composition that includes the tower but focuses on some of the beautiful Parisian architecture around it.
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1/25, f/8.0
I did another, slightly different take, that reminded me of travel brochures and guide book covers.
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 130mm, ISO 100, 1/30, f/8.0
Then I started walking around hoping to find interesting subjects with the tower in the background. This vintage Renault seemed perfect. In processing, I experimented with split toning and playing with the tone curve to give the shot a slightly faded, aged look.
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 320, 1/125, f/8.0
The Trocadero offers sweeping views of the city. A photographer does not have to limit themselves to the Eiffel Tower.
NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1/50, f/8.0
Another great way to capture interesting photos is on and around the various bridges that connect the two banks of the city separated by the river Seine.
Pont de Bir-Hakeim
NIKON D810 + 35mm f/1.8 @ 35mm, ISO 320, 1/80, f/5.6
Pont d’lena — NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 28mm, ISO 160, 1/80, f/8.0
Even if cityscape opportunities are limited, there are always the streets of Paris, brimming with interesting scenes and characters.
GR II + GR LENS @ 18.3mm, ISO 800, 1/2500, f/2.8
I saw this gentleman playing the Accordion behind the Sacre Coeur in Montparnasse.
GR II + GR LENS @ 18.3mm, ISO 800, 1/500, f/2.8
If nothing else, I would visit Paris just for the Patisseries. No one makes pastries and sweets like the French.
GR II + GR LENS @ 18.3mm, ISO 800, 1/1000, f/2.8
Here’s a quintessential Parisian view, taken from steps behind the Sacre Coeur.
GR II + GR LENS @ 18.3mm, ISO 800, 1/350, f/2.8
The rest of the images are from around the Latin Quarter, taken as dusk. I was able to overcome some of the gloom either by processing in B&W or waiting for the city lights to come on and add some life to the images.
Here’s one of the crowds headed towards the Institut de France on the Pont des Arts.
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 120mm, ISO 8000, 1/125, f/4.0
Another image from the Pont des Arts, this time of Pont Neuf (Paris’s famous skyscraper, the Montmartre is visible in the back).
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 125, 1/50, f/4.0
Same view, different perspective. This time the Notre Dame de Paris can be seen in the back.
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 100mm, ISO 64, 1/25, f/4.0
One of the entrances of the Louvre — NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 82mm, ISO 10000, 1/100, f/4.0
Yet another shot of Pont Neuf as seen from Pont des Artes.
NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 86mm, ISO 64, 16/10, f/8.0
To conclude, I made the most of my photography in cloudy, gloomy Paris by doing unconventional compositions, looking for interesting subjects, playing with effects, incorporating street scenes and processing in B&W. I hope that this will be helpful to others who find themselves in this beautiful city (or any city for that matter) in similar, uninspiring weather conditions. Happy shooting!
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