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Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

July is World Watercolor Month, a month-long challenge in which watercolor painters of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to paint daily and post their work on-line. I have joined this challenge and am trying to paint something every day using the daily prompts at worldwatercolormonth.com. So far, I have managed to paint something every single day, generally following the daily prompt. Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement as I have taken this little artistic detour on my photography journey.

If you want to see the first two installments of my painting efforts this month, check out my previous postings ‘More fun with watercolor‘ and ‘World Watercolor Month 2020—part 2.’ This third installment highlights my painting efforts of the past six days in reverse chronological order.

The prompt for 16 July was “machine.” I recalled an old mill with a waterwheel that I photographed in July 2012 that hinted at all kinds of machinery inside the mill building and did today’s little painting using one of my photos as inspiration. Here is a link to the original posting called ‘Stepping outside of the box.’ What I had forgotten, though, is that I had converted the images to black and white for the posting and I have no idea of the original colors of the structure, so I just made them up. My sketching skill are pretty weak still, so I printed a copy of the blog photo, rubbed a pencil on the back of it, and transferred a simplified version of it to the watercolor paper.

The prompt for 15 July was “forgotten.” Nothing came to mind, so instead I attempted to paint some Black-eyed Susans like the ones that I had seen while hunting for dragonflies earlier that day.

The prompt for 14 July was “green,” which made me think of flowers. So I painted a little patch of wildflowers, mostly by spattering paint—it turns out that it is a lot of fun to throw paint at paper in a somewhat controlled way.

The prompt for 13 July was “twisted.” Herons have such long necks that they often seem to be twisted, so I painted this little sumi-e style scene with three herons, some cattails, and a disproportionately large dragonfly.

The prompt for 12 July was “favorite place.” It is hard to represent Paris in a single image, so I chose to depict it with this view of the Eiffel Tower looking upwards from one of its “feet,” using one of my photos from last November as the the inspiration for this little painting —about 5″ x 7″ (127mm x 177mm). If you would like to see my original posting, check out ‘Eiffel Tower perspectives.’ I used the same transfer method for the sketch that I described above for 16 July.

The prompt for 11 July was “round,” so I did a little painting of a bicycle, loosely based on an artsy photo I took in Paris last November. If you would like to see my original posting, check out ‘Bicycle in Paris.”

I am experimenting with a number of different styles and subjects as I play with watercolor painting, but a few things are already clear. First, my greatest creative inspiration continues to come from my memories of Paris—three of the sixteen paintings I have completed so far were based on my experiences in the ‘La Ville Lumière’ (‘the city of light’).

Style-wise I continue to be drawn to the minimalist East Asian brush painting style known more commonly as sumi-e and have used this approach in three paintings already. Technically this is the freestyle version of sumi-e (xieyi) that tries to capture the essence of a subject in a minimum number of strokes rather than striving for a realistic representation of it. There is another more detailed sumi-e style called gongbi that I would not even attempt to imitate.

If you want to learn more about World Watercolor Month, click on this link or go directly to doodlewash.com. In addition to raising awareness and interest about watercolor painting, World Watercolor Month raises support for The Dreaming Zebra Foundation, a charity providing support so that children and young adults are given an equal opportunity to explore and develop their creativity in the arts.

watermill

black-eyed susan

spattered flowers

sumi-e heron

eiffel tower

bicycle in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was scanning a pond last week for activity at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted this structure. Its relatively large size initially made me think that it might be a beaver lodge, but after more closely examining the construction materials, I have concluded that it is more likely to be a muskrat habitation.

Unlike beavers that use large sticks and logs and a lot of mud, muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) mostly use cattails and other reeds to form mounds that permit them to dry out and get some air. Occasionally beavers and muskrats will share a beaver lodge, but I am pretty sure that is not the case here. The fragile nature of this kind of muskrat house makes it vulnerable to predators if the pond freezes over and allows access to foxes or coyotes, both of which inhabit this wildlife refuge.

muskrat house

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of  the best known buildings in Vienna is Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vienna. You can see the multicolored tiled roof, one of its distinctive features, in the photos below that I took a few nights ago. The cathedral is located in a busy area in the center of the city with surrounding buildings quite close. As a result, you have to get pretty close and shoot upwards to get an unobstructed view and the angles get all skewed.

In a few hours a taxi will bring me to the airport to catch my flight back to the USA. It has been a brief trip to Vienna with most of my daylight hours occupied with work, but I have been fortunate to have the chance to catch some of the beautiful Christmas decorations in the city at nights. I might do another posting or two of Vienna when I return home, but this will almost certainly be my last one that I write in Vienna itself.

Merry Christmas to you all, wherever the holidays happen to find you.

Stephansdom Vienna

Stephansdom Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last night I had the chance to go strolling through the central pedestrian shopping area in Vienna. A light snow was gently falling, making things feel even more festive as the city prepares for Christmas. One of the really cool things about this area is that each of the streets has a different style lighting. The photos below show three of my favorites.

Vienna Christmas

Vienna Christmas lights

Vienna Christmas lights

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have lived in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. for over 25 years. Like most people who live in the region, I rarely travel into the city except when I have guests. We tend to look a bit negatively at tourists, who impede our paths and generally get in the way as we rush about trying to get important things—primarily work—accomplished. It is a bit of a stereotype, but it does seem to be that most people in this area are very focused and driven.

As I continued to struggle to readapt to “normal” life after my glorious three weeks in Paris, I started to wonder how things would look differently if I approached Washington D.C. with the same sense of awe and enthusiasm that I felt for Paris. What if I stopped taking for granted all of the treasures our nation’s capital has to offer and looked at them with fresh eyes?

Saturday, I grabbed the camera gear and the raincoat that I used in Paris and rode into the city on the Metro system. I had a relaxing time visiting several of the Smithsonian museums, which all have no admission fee, so you don’t have to exhaust yourself trying to get your money’s worth. I may cover my museum experience in another posting.

What struck me the most during the day, however, was the view that greeted me when I walked out of the National Gallery of Art at closing time. It was starting to get dark and lights had come on, gently illuminating some of the buildings. As I looked to the left, I could see the U.S. Capitol Building, home of Congress, and to the right in the distance was the Washington Monument, with a part of the Lincoln Memorial visible behind it. Wow!

Now I realize that most people don’t have Washington D.C. in their backyard, but I encourage you to look afresh at the area in which you live. Imagine that you have traveled thousands of miles to see its unique beauties. For me, that change in attitude helped me to look beyond the familiar and better appreciate the beauty that was always there. I had always used that approach in my wildlife photography and only now realize how it can be broadened into so many other areas of my life.

U.S. Capitol

Washington Monument

U.S. Capitol

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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So many creative people are multi-talented and Irish poet Damien Donnelly is no exception. His poetry, which can be found on his blog at deuxiemepeaupoetry.com is both personal and universal and often prompts me to look deeply inside myself. You definitely should check out his website.

He is also a talented photographer. I was thrilled last Sunday to have the chance to spend some time with him as we photographed the inside of the Grand Palais in Paris. Here are some of his wonderful photos from that day.

Deuxiemepeau Poetry by Damien B. Donnelly

Last Sunday, this masterpiece of beaux-arts architecture, le Grand Palais was open to the public for a few hours and I rushed in along with fantastic photographer, and now street sketch artist, Mike Powell, on one of his last days in Paris, in order to snap a little of the light under the glass.

All photographs by Damien B Donnelly

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I am back from Paris now, but very much still under its influence. My final night in Paris, I walked down to the Seine River just before midnight. A light drizzle was falling, but I did not care. If anything, the rain made everything more beautiful, creating additional reflections on the cobblestone streets. As I crossed a bridge over the river,  I could see the Eiffel Tower all lit up, its searchlight piercing in and out of the clouds. It was magical!

I was having a great time trying to capture the scene when suddenly the lights on the tower went out. It was as if the Eiffel Tower had suddenly disappeared. I knew that the tower’s lights were not on all night, but I did not expected them to be extinguished right at midnight. Reality sometime has a way of crashing in on moments of fantasy.

One of my readers, Michael Scandling, challenged me to be out walking the streets at midnight to see if I might end up in the 1920’s having a drink with Hemingway. Obviously he too had seen the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris. The lead character played by Owen WIlson spends a lot of time wandering the streets of Paris and suddenly at midnight he repeatedly ends up in the 1920s, rubbing elbows with famous authors, actors, and artists of that era. Who wouldn’t want to have a chance to talk to icons like Cole Porter, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Salvador Dali? The movie additionally has wonderful footage of many places in Paris that are very familiar to me. It is one of the few DVDs that I have purchased in the past ten years.

Alas, real life does not generally play out as it does in the movies. Instead I quietly continued my walk, watching as waiters stacked up chairs in restaurants and lights began to dim as Paris prepared to sleep. For many in Paris, it was the end to just another day, but for me it was special, it was midnight on my final day in this special city, at least for this trip.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I knew that doing a painting of Notre Dame de Paris is well beyond my current skill level with watercolors, but I decided this evening that I had to give it a try before I leave this beautiful city tomorrow. I just got done with my little painting using DaVinci watercolors on Fabriano Artistico paper and it is 5×7 inches in size (13×18 cm).

I won’t bore you will all of the reasons why this is a tough subject, but I chose the front view, which made things a little easier and I ended up simplifying a lot of details. The paper is not really flat at the moment, which means the photo I took looks a little warped, but I think you can see well enough what I accomplished.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the results. I may give it another go from home, but it is recognizable, I think as Notre Dame—I especially thrilled that I completed this while I was still in Paris.

In case you are curious, I based it roughly on a photo that I took today that is included after the painting.

 

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This simple image of a curvy road in Montmartre captures well my experiences during this extended stay in Paris. I’ve spent endless hours walking the narrow cobblestone streets, marveling at the architecture, and paying attentions to shapes and colors. I’ve played tourist from time, but the famous landmarks have been of almost secondary significance to me, like the Sacre Coeur Basilica that is tucked away in one corner of this shot.

Sacre Coeur is there, I am aware of it, but I would rather spend my time wandering around the surrounding area than merely taking a shot of it and then moving on to the next destination on a checklist list. Who needs a list?

Road in Montmartre

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is finally beginning to hit me that my stay here in Paris will soon be coming to a close. Will this shot from yesterday evening be my final image of Notre Dame de Paris in the fading light of the day? Perhaps I will have a chance again tomorrow.

We’ll always have Paris.

Notre Dame de Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the view of Paris from the steps of the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre and have tried repeatedly, with varying degrees of success, to capture panoramic images with both my Canon DSLR and my iPhone 11.  One lesson that I have learned from this experience is that it is hard to judge how they will turn out when I am actually shooting them.

I was pleasantly surprised when reviewing yesterday’s images to see that I had captured some flying pigeons as I panned across the sky with my iPhone The placement of the birds was lucky too, given that the left part of the sky did not have the orange tinge present on the right side of the image.

panorama from Montmartre

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is Saturday night in the Paris, the City of Light. I took this photo a short while ago as I was crossing one of the many bridges over the Seine River.

I hope that your Saturday night is as colorful and filled with light.

city of light

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Before this trip, most readers could identity my “style” of photography. It is not that all my images looked the same, but many of them contained the same or similar subjects and were photographed in similar ways with the same gear. My photography here in Paris may have confused some people, because I have photographed lots of different things. There have been buildings and people, close-ups and extreme wide angle shots, and touristy and artsy images.

Today I would like to confuse things a little more with an abstract architectural shot that I took earlier this week. The image is a shot of a ramp that is part of the Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor, a footbridge over the Seine River that I photographed from close to the ground looking upwards using a mini tripod. If I were to ask you what the French word for “bridge” is, many of you could correctly answer “pont.” Maybe you grew up singing “Sur le pont d’Avignon” or know the word from some incidental contact with France.  So what exactly is a “passerelle?” It is the word that the French use for a footbridge, a gangplank, or a catwalk.

This bridge is pretty cool for several reasons. It crosses the Seine in a single span with no piers in the middle. Its deck is made of ipe, a kind of exotic wood from Brazil. Finally, this bridge is really new, especially by Parisian standards—it was built between 1997 and 1999.

So what is my style? “Eclectic” might be the right word now.

Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When you are staying in the center of Paris and walking almost everywhere, you don’t really need to plan to see cool things—they surround you all of the time. Late yesterday afternoon, as the sun was getting low on the horizon, I had to cross the Place de la Concorde to head towards home and captured this shot of the Luxor Obelisk in the center of the square.

As I was doing a little research on the obelisk, mostly relying on Wikipedia, I learned that it is a granite column, 75 feet (23 meters) high, including the base, and weighs over 276 tons (250 metric tons). Even today, transporting and erecting something this big would be an engineering challenge. Imagine what it was like trying to do so in 1833.

For some reason I thought the obelisk had been stolen, but the Archaeology Travel website provides the following details of the transaction.

“Initially both the obelisks from the Luxor Temple were promised to England. Following diplomatic negotiations they were both gifted to France by Pasha Muhammed Ali. In return,  King Louis Philippe gave the Pasha a large clock. The clock is still in place in the clock tower of the mosque at the summit of the Citadel of Cairo.”

The Wikipedia article referenced above wryly notes that after the obelisk had left Egypt, the large mechanical clock provided in exchange turned out to be faulty, probably because of damage during transport.  “The worthless clock still exists to this day in a clocktower in Egypt, and is still not working.”

Place de la Concorde

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of you know that I struggle to find ways to use the camera on my new iPhone 11. Yesterday when I was visiting the large greenhouse complex at Le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil in Paris, however, I captured these shots with that camera. (FYI, “serre” is the French word for a greenhouse.) I think the issue is that I am used to shooting mostly dynamic moving subjects and I don’t find myself able to track action the way that I would like with a camera phone or make quick adjustment to my settings on the fly. The greenhouse complex was not going anywhere, so it was easy to remember I could use my phone.

The wide angle capabilities of the iPhone, bordering on fisheye, allowed me to take some cool shots as I wandered through multiple greenhouses. The tropical greenhouse, though, fogged the lens on my DSLR because of the extreme warmth and humidity, so I didn’t even bother to try with my iPhone.

The garden is located on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in the city’s 16th arrondissement, in the extreme southwest corner. It is in an interesting area, because while I was wandering about I walked past Roland Garros Stadium, where the French Open tennis championships are held and Longchamp Racecourse, where a series of well-known horse races are run.

I could not help but smile at all of the signs that I passed for the horse track, because the French word of it is “hippodrome.” Now I realize that this French word is based on some perfectly good ancient Greek words, but I can’t help but imagine a group of racing hippopotamuses, or should I say “hippopotami” if I want to be classical. After all, maybe “river horses” like to compete against each other too.

Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

Entrance gate to Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you see when you look out your window? As I sit in front of the laptop and glance slightly to the left, I have a wonderful view through the full-length balcony door of the rooftop of the buildings on a side street perpendicular to the one on which I am living. I love being on the top floor and I spend countless hours gazing out the window, marveling at the architectural details, daydreaming from time to time—Paris has that effect on me.

I am particularly intrigued by all of the little reddish pipes of various heights sticking out of the larger chimneys. Are they vent pipes or are they chimneys too? Why do a small number of them have little metallic chapeaux?

Yesterday I captured these images when the sunlight was shining from a particular angle and cast some beautiful shadows from one chimney onto another. As I worked on my photos, I thought I was most interested in a shot in which I was able to isolate the details of one of the larger chimneys, which is the second shot below. After deciding that I should provide a wider view to give context, I started working on another image and decided that I liked this view even more. What do you think?

My pace of life here in Paris is slow. I am not pressed by time constraints (other than my departure date) and I have few responsibilities. I am free to daydream, free to wander, free to contemplate, and free to ponder. Life is simple and life is good. Maybe I can apply some of this thinking to my daily life upon my return to Northern Virginia.

Paris chimneys

chimneys of Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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This may sound a little crazy, but I sometimes forget that I can take photographs with my brand new iPhone 11. Let me explain. For most of my working years, I worked in buildings in which cellphones were not permitted, so I never got used to having one with me all of the time. I used (and use) a landline telephone as my primary means of communication, relying on an answering machine if I was not there.

Eventually I did get a cellphone, but it was a cheap Android phone and I used TracFone as my provider. It is a pay-as-you go system and I would buy minutes annually. Being somewhat frugal, I would turn on the phone when I wanted to use it and then turn it off. The phone was for my convenience. The only exceptions I made were when I was taking photos in really remote locations or when traveling in the USA.

Recently I decided to dive deeper into the Apple ecosystem (I am writing this on a MacBook Pro) and purchased my iPhone and a T-Mobile plan that gives me unlimited talk, text, and data. More importantly, it allows me to text and use data in many foreign countries without additional charges, which has proven to be quite handy here in Paris.

So why don’t I use it to take photos? Well, first of all, I have to remember to take it with me when I go out. Twice already this trip, I left the apartment without my phone and only realized it much later. Unlike many people, I felt absolutely no sense of panic when I realized that I was separated from my phone nor any obsessive compulsion to return to the apartment and reunite with my iPhone.

More importantly, I find the position for taking photos with a smart phone to be somewhat unnatural—there is something comfortable and secure about putting my eye to a viewfinder rather than holding my arms out in front of me. One of the consequences of my cataract surgery a few years ago is that I no longer need glasses most of the time. My distance vision is now 20/20. After a lifetime of being significantly near-sighted, I am now slightly far-sighted, and it just happens that the distance at which I hold my iPhone is one at which my vision is not quite sharp without reading glasses. (My DSLRs have diopter adjustments, which lets me see thought the viewfinder perfectly, although I sometimes have issues seeing sharp details on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.)

Here are a couple of shots that I took on Sunday with my iPhone. I took the first shot from the steps of Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre and the second shot later in the evening from a bridge over the Seine River. I am impressed by the details, the color, and the quality of the images.

Change is hard, but maybe it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

Paris panorama

Seine River at night

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although I have posted a number of “artsy” shots recently, periodically I slip into the role of a tourist to capture images of well-know Parisian landmarks. Yesterday during a few brief moments of sunshine, I photographed Sacré Cœur Basilica at the top of the hill in Montmartre.

I have taken a lot of photos of Sacré Cœur during this trip, but they have all been gray and gloomy and so I have not posted them. One other thing I noticed was that the perspective was always somewhat skewed in earlier images, because I was forced to shoot so severely upwards. Yesterday I decided to walk down several levels and shoot from “ground level” rather than from one of the upper levels that provides such a nice panoramic view of the city.

During one of my visits to Sacré Cœur earlier this trip, I went inside the basilica and took a few interior shots. The first one here shows a painting just above the central altar area. The final shot shows one of the many stained glass panels that I saw. When I am inside a church, I tend to limit my movements and adopt a reverent attitude, so I generally don’t get a lot of interior shots.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur Paris

Sacre Coeur Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t know why, but last week during a day in which it rained continuously, I went snap happy photographing umbrellas. The umbrella images that I posted already were pretty straightforward depictions, albeit somewhat artistic. Here are a few images in which I loosed my creative impulses to capture something a little different.

The red umbrella in the first image really stands out, but there are a few other details that caught my eye. The normally transparent panels on the Pont des Arts have become a bit translucent because of the rain drops, adding a nice effect. You may also notice the cluster of locks on the lamppost.

The two last facts that I mentioned are related. Years ago someone came up with the way that lovers should get locks with their engraved names and affix them to a Parisian bridge as they declare their eternal love. This has turned into a huge problem—there are now locks everywhere in Paris—and there has been a partial collapse of a bridge caused by the additional weight of the locks. According to an article by the group No Love Locks, Parisian authorities decided in 2014 to replace the mesh grates on the Pont des Arts, covered with locks estimated to weigh 60 metric tonnes, with the transparent panels. Obviously that has not deterred people from finding new locations for the locks—the organization I mentioned has a slogan that grabbed my attention, “Free your love. Save our bridges.”

When I took the second photo, just as was the case with the first one, I was standing on one of the paths along the Seine River and shooting at an upward angle. We often use our umbrellas as protection, from the rain as well as from others, and this shot up under the umbrella has an unusual, almost intimate feel to it.

It is hard to explain why I like the final shot. Maybe it is because of the reflected lights on the wet pavement, or the fallen leaves, or the people walking, bounded on one side by the row of trees and on the other by the covered green stalls of the bouquinists (booksellers). It is the kind of image that I could imagine turning into a painting.

So there you have it, a curious mix of images. Before I set out on this trip to Paris, I remember warning readers my postings would be atypical, and possibly a bit strange during my time here. I think this posting is the result of consciously trying to express myself “outside of the box” in a way that is fun and yet a little scary.

Red umbrella in Paris

Under the umbrella

Alongside the Seine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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When I traveled overseas for work, which I tended to do at least a few times a year, we generally stayed in U.S. chain hotels, most often run by Marriott. Those hotels are predictable and easily identifiable—from a distance you know immediately that they are hotels.

The dark green door in the center of this image is the entrance to the apartment where I am spending the three weeks that I am in Paris. The entrance is so nondescript that it doesn’t even have a street number indicated and you might think at first that it is associated with one of the adjacent stores.

For the last 25 years I have lived in a townhouse community in one of the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. and essentially nothing is in walkable distance. Here in Paris, once I descent the 96 stairs that I profiled earlier, I am in the midst of the action. Rue Montorgueil, the street on which the apartment is located, is a bustling pedestrian area in the center of the city with lots of shops, cafés, and restaurants. It can get a little noisy, but from the sixth floor, the sound levels are tolerable.

Who are my neighbors? On one side, there is a wine store called Le Repaire de Bacchus (The Den of Bacchus) and on the other side there is a gourmet tea store called Mariage Frères (Mariage Brothers). I was initially confused by the name, because the two words don’t seem to go together. Was the store founded to celebrate the individual nuptials of the brothers or were they married to each other? As it turns out, “Mariage” was the family name of the founders. According to Wikipedia, Mariage Frères Tea Company was founded on 1 June 1854 by brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage.

As for the photo, I am pleased with the way that I was able to capture the light and, in particular, the reflections on the wet pavement. The image has a part of the urban vibe that I have been enjoying so much here in Paris. It makes me wonder what it would be like to live in a place like Paris long-term.

 

Rue Montorgueil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Montmartre is the small hill with the highest point in Paris where the stunningly white Sacré-Cœur basilica is located. Previously I have posted panoramic views of the city that I took from the stairs of Sacré-Cœur.

How do you get there? There is a little funicular train that will take you up the hill, but I have always elected to walk. Multiple sets of stairs approach the summit from different directions and I have climbed up a lot of different ones. Some of them are decorated with colorful patterns, but all are steep and long.

Montmartre has become one of my favorite locations to visit and I think I have walked there every other day on average. Here are images of a few of the sets of steps that I have successfully encounterd over that period of time.

stairs to Montmartre

Stairs to Montmartre

stairs to Montmartre

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I decided to go for a late night stroll on Saturday and ended up at Place Saint-Michel in the student district not far from Notre Dame. Where else could I have been able to order a crêpe with Nutella and bananas after midnight? For the record, the crêpe was amazing.

Along the way I captured this image of the Pont Saint-Michel (Saint-Michel Bridge), one of 37 bridges over the Seine River in Paris. Those bridges come in all shapes in sizes, with several of them pedestrian only. This particular bridge links the left bank of the Seine with  Île de la Cité, one of only two remaining natural islands in Paris. The island, on which the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral is located, is historically viewed as the center of Paris.

The Pont Saint-Michel, which was built in 1857, is quite distinctive in appearance. If you look closely you will see two large N’s, each surrounded by a laurel wreath. These are symbols of Napoleon III’s Second Empire that lasted from 1852 to 1870. In the right hand side of the photo you can see the lights of the embankment on the Seine and above them the lights at street level.

 

Pont Saint-Michel
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it is pouring rain all day in Paris, what can you possibly photograph? Like wildflowers in the spring, colorful umbrellas have sprung up all over the city and they make cool subjects.

I captured the first little scene along the Seine River this morning. I envisioned the possibility of the photo and hung around the location as the group of three people approached. I took multiple photos as the moved toward and under the bridge. The biggest challenge I had was a distractingly bright orange bicycle parked in the middle of the pathway beyond the exit. Fortunately the green umbrella was large enough in this shot to hide the offending bicycle.

I semi-stalked the next group of three young ladies as they walked through the Tuileries Garden toward the pyramid entrance to the Louvre. It was a little frustration because they kept stopping for selfies, but I finally got a shot when they moved together for a moment. I love the way that the three subjects had complementary shades of umbrellas and stylishly distinctive backpacks.

The final photo highlights the umbrellas themselves and not the owners. Although it was still raining, the owners had carefully placed their umbrellas to the side so that they could take photos of themselves with the Louvre pyramid in the background. I like the angle at which the umbrellas are placed, which, along with their black color, emphasizes the form of the umbrellas. The shadows on the wet cobblestones add additional visual interest to the image.

It was cold throughout the day today, about 34 degrees right now (one degree C) and the possibility of snow is forecast for this evening. Yikes! Fortunately I have warm clothes with me and most importantly my camera bag has proven to be as waterproof as advertised. I don’t exclude the possibility of an after dark adventure a bit later.

Umbrellas along the Seine

Umbrellas in Paris

Umbrellas in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I got up early yesterday morning to try to capture a sunrise here in Paris. The sunrise was pretty much a bust, but on the way to my location, I captured this image of a full moon over some shadowy Parisian roofs.

It is always tricky to take a shot of a full moon—the camera wants to overexpose the moon, leaving a glowing white circle. In order to get the moon looking right. I usually have to underexpose the image by a couple of stops, which leaves the content of the rest of the subject barely visible. I hope that you can just see the curve of the domed roof to the left of the moon and a roof with some chimney pipes just below the moon.

I was hoping to have more time to take additional photos, but as I made adjustments to my camera, the moon disappeared in the clouds and quickly dropped lower on the horizon.

moon in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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So much of Paris merges together when viewed from the step of Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre, in part because new construction in Paris was limited to 121 feet (37 meters) as of 1977. One notable exception is the Montparnasse Tower at 689 feet (210 meters), which is quite visible in this photo from yesterday evening—the height limitation was imposed in reaction to the construction of this building in 1973, whose size and appearance were loudly criticised. (By comparison, the Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet tall (324 meters.)

In case you are curious, the giant ferris wheel is a temporary structure in the Tuileries Garden for what I think is a Christmas market. When I first arrived in Paris, the circular portion of the wheel was only partially completed. Since that time, the wheel was completed, cabins were added, and, as of yesterday, the wheel was moving, probably in test mode.

In recent years, the rules on construction have been relaxed and some taller buildings are planned, primarily on the outer edges of the Paris. I highly recommend an article at newweek.com entitled “Will Skyscrapers Ruin Paris?” that argues, in part, that the traditional architecture of the city is part of what sets the city apart from others in the world.

Here is one thought-provoking paragraph from the article:

“When a dense area has low buildings, it forces residents to interact and puts more life out on the streets—a large part of what gives Paris its character. According to Swiss writer and philosopher Alain de Botton, five stories is the ideal height of a city building because anything higher begins to make us feel “insignificant, small, and trivial”—all words rarely used to describe life in the City of Lights. It’s no wonder artists and scholars have flocked to Paris for years for inspiration. Would the same be true if the spirit of Paris were essentially locked away in modern towers?”

In the 1942 classic movie Casablanca (my all-time favorite movie), Rick (Humphrey Bogart) famously told his ex-lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), “We’ll alway have Paris.” Will we?

Montparnasse Tower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I finally figured out a way to get an unobscured view of the Eiffel Tower from the hills in Montmartre. Yesterday evening was relatively clear and I managed to get a few cool shots just after sunset. There was a small group of tourists that jostled me a little as they tried to get similar shots with their cell phones but my monopod and longish telephoto lens (55-250mm) almost certainly helped me to get better shots.

However, it turns out that the night lighting of the Eiffel Tower is covered under a copyright, so please don’t use my shot for commercial purposes. I have a friend who reviews photos of a stock company and she unsurprisingly was well aware of this reality. Copyrights in the European Union, including France, are good for the lifetime of the artist plus 70 years. So, in 1993, the Eiffel Tower entered into the public domain (and a legal replica was later made in Las Vegas).

Here is a link to an article from PetaPixel that explains this whole issue and includes an informative video. The bottom line is that the night lighting was installed in 1985 and is considered an artistic work, covered by a separate copyright law. As many of you know, I spend most of my time photographing wildlife, not buildings, so I have never really thought about problems like this.

In the end, though, I’ve decided to post these photos, because my blog is not a commercial endeavor. If at some time I were to decide to do this professionally, these photos, no matter how much I like them, would not be part of my portfolio.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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After another brief rain shower today in Paris, the rain abruptly stopped. As I was putting away my umbrella, I glanced down a side street and caught a glimpse of this glorious rainbow. I managed to snap a few photos and then the rainbow simply disappeared.

Rainbow in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I got up early yesterday morning, hoping to get some photos of the sun rising over Paris from the steps of the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the highest point in Paris. Unfortunately it rained on me the entire walk there and while I was there. The sun did not cooperate and it is tough to take photos in limited light when it is windy and rainy.

I hope to try again when the weather is better. In the meantime, here is a composite panoramic shot that I took earlier in the week that gives you an idea of the view from that spot. I am curious to see how WordPress handles a panorama shot and encourage you to click on the image to see some of the amazing details.

I took a series of eight shots and stitched them together with the Photo Merge feature of Photoshop. Only later did I come to realize that I might had been able to achieve a similar feature with my new iPhone, but I am still so unaccustomed to it that I have not even used the phone (or camera in it) in several days.

It was a bit cloudy and dark the day that I took these photos and it is a bit hard to pick out landmarks. One of the most notable landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, is not visible in the image—it is off to the far right, hidden by the trees. As I was walking away, I caught a glimpse of the tower and by climbing on a wall and leaning against a railing, I was able to capture the second image below. You can definitely see how much the structure towers over the surrounding buildings (pun intended).

Panorama of Paris

Eiffel Tower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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During my three-week vacation in Paris, I am staying in a small studio apartment that I rented through Airbnb. It is located on the top floor of an old building on Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian zone in the center of the city that is lined with shops and restaurants.

One of the apartment’s wonderful features is that it has a balcony overlooking the street. Although I have had to bundle up a bit in the cool November weather, I love spending as much time as I can sitting outside, observing the people below. The first shot shows one of my first dinners here. I don’t usually photograph my food, but this image gives you a sense of the balcony setting as well as a look at some of my basic food groups here.

The second shot gives you an idea of the view from the balcony. Yes, it is a long way down, but it is literally not for the faint of heart, because you have to walk up 96 stairs in a narrow winding stairway in order to get this view.

The final photo shows one small set of the stairs I have to climb. On each of the six floors, there is a small landing and one apartment to the left and one to the right.

dinner in Paris

Paris balcony view

Paris apartment stairs

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After I did the posting called Sunrise on the Seine earlier today, I realized that it did not truly give readers a sense of location. Yes, it was in Paris, and yes, it was on the Seine River. The image was pretty, but it didn’t really speak “Paris.”

I shot a lot of photos this morning as I walked and stopped on the paved pathway down near the water level of the river. I was hoping to be able to capture an image of Notre Dame at sunrise. The angles and timing did not quite work out as I expected. By the time Notre Dame came into view, the sun had already risen a little too high and was directly in front of me.

When sorting through my photos, I initially rejected this image because the bright sun created a hot spot in the image. Later today, I decided to revisit the image and decided I liked it. Why? It has Notre Dame in the frame, of course, but it also shows the effects of the early morning sun as the rays illuminate the boat on the right and the concrete barrier along the pathway.

So, I decided to break my normal pattern and post multiple images today. It’s Paris, after all—I am sure I will be forgiven if I feel extra inspired here.

 

Notre Dame at sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Saturday morning sunrise on the Seine River. What a great way to start today in Paris.

Sunrise on the Seine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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