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Posts Tagged ‘canon 55-250mm’

Sometimes I take photographs when I am standing upright, but quite often I am crouching, kneeling, bending, or leaning as I try to compose my images. I occasionally  remark that I am happy that nobody is filming me as I contort my body for the sake of my craft—a kind of photography yoga. Sometimes, though, my friends will take photos of me as I am am taking photos.

Several readers wondered how close I was to the Gray Petaltail dragonfly when I captured some macro images of its eyes that I featured in a posting earlier this week. My friend Walter Sanford, with whom I frequently go on photographic forays for dragonflies, captured the first image below of me in action and graciously agreed to let me use it in this posting. You may need to double-click on the photo to see it, but the Gray Petaltail dragonfly is perched on the left fork of the branch just after the split. The dragonfly was so cooperative that I remained in that crouch for an extended period of time, periodically flexing forward to get a tiny bit closer.

My friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer has also captured me in action. She recently came across the second photo below, which I think dates back to 2013, and posted it in Facebook. I am not sure what I was looking at so intently through my viewfinder, but it seems likely that I had spotted something more interesting than the Canada Geese right in front of me. As I often do, I was crouching in the brush, with all kinds of vegetation threatening to poke me in the ear and eyes.

When a crouch will not get me low enough, I am often willing to sprawl on the ground, as in the third photo below that was also taken by Cindy Dyer. You may notice that I was carrying a tripod with me in a case on my back. Cindy is a big fan of using a tripod whenever possible for macro shots and I remember well when she told me that one of the keys to success was for me to get as low as possible and spread my legs. I blushed initially until I realized that she was referring to my tripod.

It is probably not mandatory for all photographers, but I have found that it helps to be fit and flexible. One of my personal challenges will be to maintain that level of fitness and energy as I get older, so that I can continue my “style” of photography.

Gray Petaltail

kingstowne pond

shooting position

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.

 

beaver

beaver

© 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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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’m normally very self-conscious about taking photos of people in public, but today I decided to throw caution to the wind and tried to capture images of a few of the guys who caught my attention.

The first image shows a young guy who was at the overlook area in front of Sacre Coeur and was trying to interest people in tours of the city in a bright orange vintage Citroën 2CV, the one that looks vaguely like the original Volkswagen Beetle.

I first heard the guy the second image playing the bongos (with a tambourine to his side) on a bench across the Seine from me, on a bank of Île de la Cité, the island on which Notre Dame de Paris is located. Although I was a long way away, he seemed to sense my presence and looked up at me for a moment before returning to his music.

During my final visit to Place de Tertre in Montmartre late this afternoon, I again watched Jean-Marc Lambert, my favorite watercolor artist at work. You may recognize him in the final photo from an earlier posting I did about him. Unlike the two previous times, I did not engage with him, but silently and wistfully watched from a distance.

Tour guide in Paris

Bongos player in Paris

Watercolor painter in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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People do some crazy things when they travel to ensure good luck. Art in a museum is untouchable and there are guards and surveillance systems to make sure that you do not get too close to it. When art, particularly statues, is in a public place, however, people choose to rub various parts of the artwork, which is particularly noticeable with bronze statues.

Last week I came across two examples of this “touchable” art while wandering the back streets of Montmartre. The first one is a tribute to the work of French author Marcel Aymé, a short story called Le Passe-Muraille (The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls). I read a synopsis of the short story and essentially a man gained the ability to pass through wall, but eventually this ability began to fade and he got stuck forever in the wall. The statue is pretty high up from the ground, so it appears that people have chosen to rub his now shiny left hand.

The second piece of “touchable” art is a bust dedicated to French music icon Dalida. Dalida, whose real name was Yolanda Cristina Gigliotti, was a French singer and actress, born in Egypt to Italian parents, according to Wikipedia. She won the Miss Egypt beauty contest in 1954 and began a 31-year singing career in 1956, selling 170 million albums and singles worldwide, and died by suicide in 1987.

It is obvious from the shiny areas of the Dalida statue which parts of her anatomy people choose to touch.

touchable art

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Any wild animals in Paris? While wandering through the gardens at the Rodin Museum on Friday, I came across this adorable rabbit sunning itself in a semi-shaded open area. I watched it for a while until some noisy visitors scared it away.

I knew there had to be some wildlife in Paris other than the two-legged partygoers that were awfully loud late into the night yesterday in the streets outside of my apartment.

Rabbit in Rodin garden

Rabbit in Rodin garden

© 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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There were dogs everywhere yesterday at the Bois de Boulogne, most of them off leash, exploring all parts of the extensive wooded area on the outskirts of Paris. This seems to be a favorite dog walking spot for Parisians and maybe for doggie daycare/training, because, as you can see in the final photo, there were some big groups of dogs.

Most of the dogs and the people ignored me, though a pair of Chihuahuas with matching bright red sweaters barked ferociously as I passed. My path crossed with one large dog and I was struck by its gentle eyes and friendly disposition. I got down to eye level with the dog and petted him a bit, with the owner’s permission. He seemed so sweet.

After engaging with the owner and dog for a few short minutes, I watched them walk away. Only then did I realize that the dog was missing one of its front legs.

Dog in Bois de Boulogne

Dog at Bois de Boulogne

Dogs at the Bois de Boulogne

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What does it mean to be rare? It seems to me that rarity, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder and is often hard to quantify objectively. When I went for a walk yesterday in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, I was hoping that I might see some birds. I already did a posting on a European Robin, arguably the most beautiful bird that I spotted during the day.

Did I see any rare birds? All of the birds that I saw were undoubtedly “common” for the locals, but they seemed rare and exotic to me, because they were new to my experience. One of the joys of traveling is having the chance to see new creatures that may share a common heritage with more familiar ones or may be totally different. For me, it is simpler to treat them all as special rather than focusing exclusively on the uncommon ones. I attempt to highlight the beauty and behavior of them all no matter how many times I may have seen them previously. Unlike some birders I know, I do not have a life list that says that I should move on to new species once I have seen a particular one—each new encounter is unique.

So what did I see? I think that I have correctly identified these species, but would welcome corrections if I am wrong. The first one was the hardest for me to identify and I learned that it is a Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)—I love the combination of colors on its body.

The second one, a Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) seemed somewhat familiar because, even though we do not have magpies where I live, I had spotted a similar-looking American Magpie (Pica hudsonia) during a trip to Denver, Colorado a few years ago. In this encounter, I was thrilled that I was able to capture some of the iridescent shine and color on the tail feathers.

The final photo shows an energetic little Great Tit (Parus major) pecking away in all of the crevices of a tree, seeking whatever tiny morsels of food that it can find.

I will probably return to more urban subjects after a day of respite in the woods of Paris. My feet definitely enjoyed the break from the cobblestone streets and I feel refreshed from my return to nature.

 

Eurasian Jay

Eurasian Magpie

Great Tit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Today I decided to give my feet a break from the cobblestone streets and instead went for a walk on some of the wooded trails of the Bois de Boulogne in the outskirts of Paris. The highlight of the day for me was getting this shot of a European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), known in French as a Rouge-gorge (Redbreast). There are different birds around the world that share the name “robin” and it was nice to finally have a chance to see the European one.

European Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Today at one minute after midnight was the official release of the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau wine. It is a made up holiday to push sales of this wine, but I like it because it is almost like the wine was designed to offend wine snobs. Beaujolais Nouvea is freshly pressed, it is cheap, and has a relatively uncomplicated fruity taste.

Here is the bottle that I purchased and I am accompanying it with some raw milk goat cheese and a whole grain baguette. The white of the plate threw my exposure out of whack, so when I made adjustments, the baguette looks like it was overcooked. Let me reassure you that it was wonderful.

Life is good.

Beaujolais Nouveau 2019

Beaujolais Nouveau 2019

Beaujolais Nouveau 2019

© 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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It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Paris. Earlier this week I awoke to the sounds of a large truck with its engine running loudly right outside of my window. Trucks come through early in the morning to collect trash, but this was different, because it was mid-morning—playing with art had kept me up past 2:00 in the morning and I had allowed myself to sleep a bit later than usual.

What were they doing? “My” apartment is located on a mostly pedestrian street called Rue Montorgueil in the center of Paris. Our neighborhood, like several others that I seen this week, was putting up street decorations for the holidays and it was those efforts that had roused me from my sleep. The first photo shows my view of one of entrances to my neighborhood yesterday evening as I walked back from another meandering journey through Paris.

Earlier in the evening I finally investigated the large Ferris wheel that was installed in a corner of the Tuileries Garden shortly after my arrival. I had initially assumed that it was part of some kind of fair, but as I approached—and took the second photo below—I discovered that it is part of a large Christmas market. The market has a number of different rides, stands for a wide array of products, and an incredible selection of food and drinks. I was tempted by sausages, and then by raclette, and almost gave in to a hot mixture of potatoes, cheese, and bacon called Tartiflette.

In the end, I settled on one of my old favorites, a Croque Monsieur. Essentially this is a fancy grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but it is so much more than that. The heavy layer of cheese on top was simultaneously crunchy and gooey when it came out of the oven elevated this sandwich high above its American counterpart and that is saying a lot, considering now much I love grilled cheese sandwiches.

Paris looks pretty with the Christmas lights, but a part of me resents the change in the vibe of the city. The meandering cobblestoned streets that I find so charming seem slightly besmirched by a sense of commercialization that threatens to draw us away from the true meaning of the holiday.

 

Rue Montorgueil

ferris wheel in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It seems like people are using cellphones more and more often when they are behind the wheel. Earlier during this trip to Paris I noticed this operator of an excavator along the banks of the Seine checking out his cell phone.

Was he watching a YouTube video on how to operate the machine? Was he stuck in the mud and searching in Google for a solution? Perhaps he was just taking a break. Whatever the case, I kept my distance just in case he started moving in my direction while distracted by his cellphone.

As I struggle to be “artistic” in my photography, I try not to lose sight of the fact that photography is about capturing the moment. Sometimes it is about art, but sometimes it is about simply capturing something that makes me smile.

Have a wonderful day.

excavator in 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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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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One of the coolest thing about digital photography is the way that software allows you to change the look and feel of an image. This evening I played around with some different presets in Luminar 3 and got a look to one of my recent umbrella shots that I really like—almost like an antique photograph.

I tend to be somewhat of a minimalist when processing my wildlife photographs. I shoot in RAW, so I normally will tweak things like contrast, exposure, clarity, highlights and shadows, but except for cropping that is pretty much it. Shortly before leaving for this trip I downloaded Luminar 3 as part of a special deal in a pre-sale of Luminar 4.

I haven’t really used it much, but I decided to experiment with it during this trip. I tried some different looks with a recent photo that I really like. There are dozens and dozens of presets and all are adjustable, but none of the color ones satisfied me with the images.

I really like black and white and there are a whole range of options in the Tonality group of presets, including one that covers Toning. I liked the Sepia preset a lot, but settled on one called Gold and Selenium. After I made a few adjustments I got this look.

What do you think? Do you miss the bright colors of the umbrellas and the foliage in the altered version? Although I published the original shot recently, I decided to reprise it here for ease of comparison.

I like both versions a lot, though I must admit that the “feel” and “vibe” of the separate images are quite different.

Umbrellas in Paris

Umbrellas along the Seine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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With the recent onset of cold and rainy weather here in Paris, it is hard to remember that we had a bit of sunshine earlier in the week. As I was walking along the banks of the Seine River during one such sunny period, I grew entranced by the shadows that trees were casting onto the embankment walls. People passing by me must have wondered what I was photographing, given that I was facing a seemingly blank wall and had my back to the river.

The images show mostly skeletal tree forms, but some show evidence of hardy leaves persistently clinging to the branches, not yet ready to fall. If you examine the photos carefully, you can see some of the details and textures of the materials used to build these embankments. Just a few yards above, there is busy world, full of cars and people hurrying about, but here, life moves at a slower pace.

I love too seeing the giant iron rings intermittently embedded in the embankment walls.  These, I believe, are a legacy of past commerce along this river, places where barges would tie up, perhaps for safety or sleep, or simply to silently surveil the scenic surroundings. There are times in our lives when we could all use spots like that.

shadow tree

Shadow Trees on Seine River

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I spotted this bird as I was walking along the Seine River yesterday morning, I knew immediately that it was some kind of cormorant. Unlike most water birds that float on the surface of the water, cormorants sit really low in the water with their bodies barely visible. Their long necks always make me think of a periscope coming out of a semi-submerged submarine.

Although this bird looks a lot like the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) that I am used to seeing at home, I have determined that it is most likely a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). This cormorant followed a familiar pattern of behavior—it would be swimming along when without warning it would dive deeply into the water and remain underwater for a long time. It was a fun challenge trying to figure out when and where the cormorant would reappear.

Most of the time the cormorant stayed far from the banks of the river, but on one occasion it popped up right in front of me and I was able to capture this image. It was nice to be able to capture some of the orange coloration around the cormorant’s mouth, but the real prize for me was getting a clear view of its spectacular blue eyes. It is definitely worthwhile to click on the image to get a closer look at that amazing shade of blue. If you look closely at the water, you will also notice some small concentric ripples created by the falling raindrops.

When I went walking in the rain yesterday, I knew there was a good chance that I would see ducks and gulls and maybe a swan or two. Who knew there were Great Cormorants on the Seine RIver? No matter where I am, I am always thrilled by the joy of the unexpected, by those little surprises that add so much texture to life. So I choose to live my life in hopeful expectation as I scan the world for marvelous subjects to photograph, confident that they will present themselves if I keep my eyes and my heart open,

Great Cormorant

© 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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When I first spotted a police zodiac boat yesterday morning as I was walking along the Seine River, it was moving really slowly and seemed to be doubling back periodically. I wondered if someone had jumped off one of the many bridges over the Seine. Then I spotted a floating body, or at least I thought initially that it was floating.

As I zoomed in with my telephoto lens, I could see that the body was moving rhythmically and then I spotted an orange-tipped snorkel. It was a diver in a wet suit who appeared to be getting in his morning training—from what I could see he had flippers and was using a short blue board rather than performing swimming strokes.

The driver of the boat that was marked “Prefecture de Police” also appeared to be in a wet suit. I don’t know if he was bored, but from time to time he would speed ahead and make a sharp u-turn in order to zoom through the arches of a bridge, as you can see in the second image.

When the diver I was following neared what looked to be his destination, I suddenly realize that there were a total of three divers in the water—maybe the other two divers had been waiting for their slower colleague. In the third photo, the divers were getting ready to turn to the left, to an area where I believe the police/firefighting boats are docked. If you look closely at that final image, you can see a small flock of ducks in the background that did not appear to be surprised or disturbed to see humans swimming in the Seine River.

swimming in the Seine

© 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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Swans seem almost angelic in their beauty and I was thrilled to spot this pair of Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) yesterday as I strolled along the Seine River in Paris. I had the impression that the swans wanted to swim nearer to the middle of the river channel but were unable to do so because of the numerous boats filled with gawking tourists.

Periodically, as you can see in the second and third photo below, the swans had to deal with the waves created by the passing boats. However, they did not complain out loud—they are mute swans after all. The swan in the first image may have been signaling its displeasure, though I believe it was merely trying to dry its wings after being doused by a high wave.

Mute Swan in Paris

Mute Swan in Paris

Mute Swans in Paris

Mute Swan on the Seine

Mute Swans on the Seine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I think the spiky protrusions were intended to keep birds from perching on this post along the Seine River, but somehow this gull did not get the point.

gull on the Seine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I did not plan to make birding a focus of my trip to Paris, but I can’t help but take shots of them when the occasion arises. I’ve seen lots of gulls and pigeons, some mallards, and a few swans, but so far have not gotten close enough to get shots of them—I have relatively modest telephoto lenses with me on this trip.

The first image shows a crow, what I think is a Carrion Crow (Corvus corone). I am not at all certain about identifying birds in Europe, so please correct me if I am wrong. I photographed this crow and the other birds featured in this posting in the Tuileries Garden, which is located in between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde.

The second bird is a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus). Several other moorhens were swimming about in a small pond, but this one decided to boldly look for food. Perhaps it was looking for a handout from tourists.

The final birds are Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). This small flock of starlings flew about from place to place. I did not detect any signals, but all of them seemed to take off and land at the same time.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I like to photograph anything that catches my eye. Even in a place like Paris, where there appear to be famous landmarks in every direction I turn, I am just as likely to be spending time photographing these modest little birds. I think it would make me a maddening travel companion for a more normal person.

Carrion Crow

Common Moorhen

Common Starlings

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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All of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées was blocked off today to permit French President Macron unimpeded access to the Arc de Triomphe, where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and made a speech in honor of Armistice Day. I did not make it all of the way down to the Arc de Triomphe, but captured a few photos of the ceremonial guards as they made their way past my vantage point on the Champs-Élysées.

Armistice Day 2019

Armistice Day 2019

Armistice Day 2019

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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