Jun 28 2008

mpp – most photographed places – paris/eiffel tower

I both love the experience of visiting and enjoy the challenge of saying something new about one of the “Most Photographed Places” (MPP) on earth. There can be disagreement on what these places are (the Google photo sharing site Panoramio has their list), and I have been fortunate enough to visit many of them and I wanted to share my joys and frustrations with the experience of creating photos at a MPP.The frustration always begins with looking trough my view-finder and discovering that I simply remaking an uninspiring postcard. Not to knock the postcard – its job if to make the famous place familiar. Postcards are also great scouting tools. They can give you information about what is the “good side” of the landmark and even give you clues about where the sun will rise and set.

20050809 fr 7887 mpp   most photographed places   paris/eiffel tower

The Eiffel Tower looks good from most any angle and I decided that I wanted to show the tower at dusk with the lights glowing. The light balance happens about 20 minutes after sunset with the correct balance lasting about one minute. This requires being in the right place in advance and shooting the entire range of light – from too light to too dark. It helps to have a digital camera to review the exposures, but I still want to capture an entire series and edit later.Originally I saw a similar photo on an airline poster that made me aware that there were these great lamp posts somewhere near the tower and research on a stock photo site identified that the lights were on the Pont Alexander III, a grand bridge over the Seine. The enemy of any traveling photographer is construction. Most often this means scaffolding surrounding historic towers, as was the case with Notre Dame Cathedral during my trip to Paris. This time I was in luck. The perfect location to shoot the lamp and tower was from the center of the bridge roadway which was conveniently surrounded by construction barriers.

20050824 fr 5073 mpp   most photographed places   paris/eiffel tower

I decided to return the next night for a view closer to the tower and found the equivalent of the tripod marks on the Champ-de-Mars overlook of the reflecting pool leading to the tower that was in my DK guidebook. I knew I wanted something different and that I had to decide between the safe postcard quality location versus the risk of finding something new.

I chose to descend from the overlook, tried views from the reflecting pool and eventually spotted a carousel closer to the tower. After some test shots I decided that I needed to be on the carousel and paid the attendant for multiple rides while performing my best charades act indicated that I wanted to to take pictures from the ride.

There was again a brief window where the lights were in balance and moving horse was in the perfect location. Unfortunately the tower was in it’s sparkle light show mode instead of the more traditional illumination – one of the few example of bad French that I hope has gone out of style.

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