My intention in creating my own blog was to showcase my photography, but you really can’t showcase something like that to complete strangers without introducing yourself and helping your viewers understand your frame of mind as you created the images they see. This adds a dimension to the pictures that is absent when just viewing an image.
My photographic journey started with my father. He was a jack of all creative trades and quite talented in his own right, but he was also quite troubled throughout his life and I believe this kept him from reaching his full potential. He did, however, expose me to three of my greatest creative joys: photography, music, and writing.
As we both grew older and I left home, one of my first real purchases after joining the Navy in the early 1980’s was an Olympus OM-10 camera with Zuiko wide angle, standard, and telephoto lenses. I shot mostly Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide film back then as I wasn’t really interested in printing anything, and I thought the colors were richer; more vibrant. It was a fully manual beast, with just a basic metering system with a simple pointer that indicated too little, too much, or just right, but it taught me to take my time and think about what I was shooting. It was a fine camera and I get nostalgic now and then when I think about it.
Fast forward about 12-14 years to the mid-1990’s and my dad had moved his camper to a walnut orchard outside of Lakeport, California and I was attending the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. My dad’s health was deteriorating and we both knew as I prepared to go to Germany for an exchange tour aboard a German frigate that we would not likely see each other again. He had a surprise for me before I left, though. He owned a Mamiya C220 twin lens reflex camera setup with three lenses that he hadn’t used in years, but he chose to give it to me, and that it was his wish that I take photos from around Europe with it.
A few months later, I had some free time, so I met up with another American in Germany, stocked up on a dozen rolls of Ilford 120 roll film, and we made the trip to Paris for the weekend. It was an exercise in the hazards of the absence of planning as it turned out, but I was able to spend one hectic day running from one monument to another trying to capture the magic that is the City of Light.
The first stop, once we commuted into the city by train, was the Arc de Triomphe, more properly called the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. The weather was still good, but was threatening. This shot was taken from an island in the middle of the Champs-Elysées, similar to the one in the lower center of the image. For those not familiar with Paris, the Arc de Triomphe is a very imposing structure that sits in the middle of a roundabout with eight lanes of traffic wizzing by the dumb tourists wanting a picture. It was an exercise in “get the shot and get out” with no time for fancy composition. As I was setting up the shot, though, I noticed that there were people on the top of the monument and discovered that you could go to the top and have a look over the Champs-Elysées and much of Paris.
This led to the photo you see here, taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe and looking down the Champs-Elysées toward the Louvre, located in the distant center of the image with the Musée d’Orsay is on the distant right with the rounded silver roof. It may not be a particularly good image from a purely technical point of view, but I’ve always thought it had a certain timelessness about it.
Turning my gaze away from the Champs-Elysées, I catch another famous monument, the Tour Eiffel. There are eight streets that arc away from the Arc de Triomphe (no pun intended) and each presents a new way of looking at the city. You can also see the very interesting way that space is used in in the construction of the condos and apartments of the 8th arrondissement of Paris. Unlike the U.S., the central parts of major cities are the most desirable areas to live, while the suburbs are much less desired.
Before I left for Germany, I bought a book on the sights of Paris and an image similar to this was on the cover. I really liked that image, with the modern building on the left and the Tour Eiffel on the right with the statuary overlooking the scene. This image was my attempt to re-create this image. The area is called the Trocadéro and it is situated on the opposite side of the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. Trocadéro is home to splendid gardens and ornamental ponds and fountains as well as the Palais de Chaillot, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine and the Musée de la Marine.
This image was me trying to get a different perspective of the Tour Eiffel than that usually captured on film. as we were climbing up the stairs (ok for the first and second levels, but not possible for the third level) I noticed the symmetry of the construction, a fascination that remains with me to this day and I held up traffic for two minutes while I composed and shot this image. My traveling partner was not happy, but then again, he was never happy.
Climbing to the second level, this is the view of the Trocadéro from across the Siene, with La Défense in the distance. La Défense is the central business district of Paris and only has a few pieces of architecture worth seeing. We never traveled there as we had only a few hours and had other sights to see. The weather was still holding on for us!
This is the view as we crossed the Siene on our way back towards the Champs-Elysées, headed for the Louvre. Looking at this rather pedestrian image makes me realize all over again how little of Paris we truly saw that day. I haven’t been back since, yet it remains one of the most remembered locations I’ve visited, and I’ve visited a bunch!
No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre, more properly called the Musée du Louvre. This image was taken near the entrance (you can see the entry queue to the right), with the controversial pyramid (now not-so-controversial) created by the famous architect, I. M. Pei and the Richelieu Wing in the background. A nice juxtaposition of the old and the new.
As we left the Louvre, our day nearly behind us and the weather turning notably Parisian (Northern Europe is well known for it’s rapid changes in weather), we decided to head back, but as we walked through this very long garden/park, this statue of Diana placed itself perfectly in front of the most out-of-place grand Ferris wheel and I couldn’t resist the opportunity it presented.
Finally, the last image I’ll share. I started with the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, so I’ll end with the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, another monument built by Napoleon to commemorate his victories. Visually, I think it is more imposing than the “other” Arc, probably because motorists weren’t trying to run me down while I photographed it. I never noticed until many years later, that at the bottom right hand side of the image is a woman taking a photo of me (the twin lens reflex is a very interesting camera and not something seen everyday).
As I look back over these images, I’m thankful that they turned out as well as they did. I was still new to using that camera and its metering system was very suspect, but I managed to get it to work consistently enough to get these images. Being 120 roll film, the negatives were 2.25″ x 2.25″ negatives, which I then scanned into Photoshop with an Epson film scanner set to the highest resolution possible, then processed to clean up the damage the negatives had suffered from storage.
Cheers! October 17, 2017.