Europe Vacation: Intro & Paris Day 1

Posting pictures from our trip is going to take me a while. I took more than 2000! It takes time to cull, edit, and prepare them for blogging, so I'll just post them in groups as I finish them.

If you just want to see pictures, scroll right on down. If you're interested in my photography thoughts, read on!

It's no surprise that one of the most exciting parts of the trip for me was the photography aspect. I knew I needed a wide-angle lens to be able to capture sprawling landscapes and tall buildings, so I rented a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. I also wanted to be able to have something that could get in a little closer for detail shots and for pictures of us, so I also rented the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 mid-range zoom. I went with the off-brand because it was cheaper than renting the Nikon (my bill added up fast for a 10 day rental), and I was curious to try the Tamron to see how sharp of a lens it was. (A mid-range zoom would be a nice lens to have for my arsenal, but the Nikon version costs about $1800 while the Tamron is just about $500, so I thought I should give it a test run!) Finally, I rented a Lowepro SlingShot 200 camera backpack. It was perfect. Even with a heavy camera and multiple lenses tucked inside, I barely felt anything on my back throughout most of the trip.

With the wide-angle zoom lens, mid-range zoom lens, my 50, 35, Holga film camera, and iPhone, I was ready for almost anything! Turned out that the wide-angle stayed on my camera for 95% of the trip. It wasn't easy (or safe) to stop and change lenses, and the wide-angle helped me to capture a larger view without having to stand too far back.

You know that most of my photography is portrait work. When it comes to using a wide angle lens and capturing architecture and landscapes, I really don't know much. I definitely learned as I was going! Here are the thoughts I jotted down when we were there:

  • Add interest. Frame with a door, window, or arch; place something in the foreground; try for sun flare.
  • It's difficult to expose properly; I take several shots at different exposures to have choices later (guess I should bracket); snow also makes exposure difficult.
  • My light's flat. Just lots of snow clouds and dull skies.
  • I get so excited to see the sun, and I watch carefully for where to stand to get flare. I started noticing  that the line on the ground where the shade started is where I should stand to find the sun just peeking out from behind a building; however, the wide-angle lens doesn't capture the flare well in every instance. Maybe there's a trick to it.

After I uploaded my pictures and started editing, I quickly saw a few mistakes I made with the wide-angle lens. First off, you have to be directly centered (I mean dead on centered) in front of a building or for architecture shots that you want lined up. It's not something that can be straightened later if you're angled even slightly. Of course, there were other times that I meant to be angled, and that was fine. I was just disappointed on a few where I wanted symmetry and didn't get it straight. The other thing I dealt with was the lens distortion you get at such wide angles. For instance, while I really like shot of the clouds and the sky with the tiny Eiffel Tower in the bottom left, the tower looks like it's leaning! Not much you can do about that I guess.

Okay, enough chit chat... on to the pictures!

First up is Paris!
I arrived in Paris around 10am on February 3. It was COLD. After a little nap to help ease the jet lag, Nick and I set out to the Arc de Triomphe first. Nick almost always stays at the Hotel Ceramic when he's in Paris, and it's just a stone's throw from the Arc. It was quite a hike to the top, and the black and white picture is of Nick climbing the spiral staircase. Obviously, I didn't take time to fix my settings, but I liked it for the spooky feel! Below that you'll see the pictures I took from the top of the Arc.


After the Arc de Triomphe, we took the metro over to the Eiffel Tower. The sky was dull and gray by this point.


We walked around for a bit, and as the sun went down it got unbearably cold! We ducked inside a corner bar to bide our time until the restaurant opened. Dinner was a Rick Steves recommendation, and it was divine! We walked back by the Eiffel Tower all lit up (we had just missed the sparkles) and called it a night!