Many tourists ascend the Eiffel Tower to see the vistas of Paris. We have. There are two problems when doing this. The first is that the most iconic structure in Paris, the Eiffel Tower itself, is not part of that vista. The second is that a nondescript skyscraper, the Montparnasse Tower, is part of that vista.
We had a one day stopover in Paris while coming home from Central Europe last month. We decided to take in the vista from the top of the Montparnasse Tower. It costs less than visiting the Eiffel Tower and the view is better! This is one of the shots we got from the Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck.
Following a few hours of after-sunset photography atop Buda Castle Hill and Gellért Hill in Budapest, Hungary, we set up tripods at the Pest end of Chain Bridge to capture light trails. There is an island between the inbound and outbound lanes of traffic that is safe for pedestrians. To create the trails in the photo, a series of eight 30 second exposures was stacked in Photoshop layers, aligned, and merged into a single image using the lighten blending mode.
Light Trails at Chain Bridge
An interesting phenomenon that occurs when you have a good spot is that it attracts other photographers. After a few minutes here, several other people with cameras popped up. They weren’t using tripods so they can’t have been taking this shot.
Northern Virginia is an area of suburban sprawl with nearly identical strip malls on every corner. There are a few places, however, where the older character of the area still shows. The following is a photo of a 40’s era diner (est. July 20, 1947) that is still in operation. It has changed names and owners several times over the years and was declared a Virginia Historic Landmark in 1992. We photographed it at night to capture the warm glow of the neon sign.
This photo was taken on August 31, 2017. Specs are:
These photos of the large Louvre Pyramid and one of the smaller pyramids were taken in Paris, France, during an evening rain shower. Behind the pyramids are the Louvre Palace that houses the Louvre Museum. The first photo, in landscape mode, was taken from the main courtyard. The second photo, in portrait mode, was taken from a side passage through the Palace, directly behind the location of the first photo.
Looking closely at the photo above, you can see a bride posing between the pyramids on the left side, while her groom (far left) takes her picture. Looking even more closely, you may see feet walking in front of the smaller pyramid; it took five seconds for this person to walk in front of the pyramid.
In the above photo, the ghost of a woman can be seen in front of the pyramids; she lingered there for a few seconds before moving away. The camera was much farther away from the pyramids in the second photo, but the zoom made the pyramids and the building beyond seem very close together.
These photos were taken on October 7, 2016, at around 6 pm, with a Canon 100D camera. Specs are:
We left Sa Pa, Vietnam, at 5 pm on Friday by car, took the night train from Lao Cai to Hanoi, caught an early flight from Hanoi, and arrived in Hue before noon on Saturday.
Hue seems pleasant and a little less crowded than cities like Hanoi. We are staying on Pham Ngu Lao street, which is like a dozen other Asian streets we have stayed on in the past. It is filled with restaurants, bars, and Western (mainly French) tourists. One restaurant has Old West decor and Vietnamese servers dressed as cowboys.
We took the elevator 14 floors up to the rooftop restaurant of our hotel and took the following picture before retiring from a very long Saturday.
Hue isn’t as exotic as some of our stops, but I think we will like it.
I have wanted to photograph star trails, but we live in an area with frequent clouds and significant light pollution. However, last week we were in Meteora, Greece (there will be more about that in other posts), staying in a room with a balcony which was directly adjacent to the massive rock pillars that make this area a tourist attraction. After dark the first night, we saw the stars and they were magnificent. This was clearly a photographic opportunity.
We selected Canon 100D cameras for this trip because of their small size and weight. I mounted one on a travel tripod and attached a 10-18mm EF-S wide angle lens to make some test shots. It was totally dark, so autofocus wouldn’t work. It was so dark, in fact, that it was not possible to focus through the viewfinder. Taking a good photo would involve trial and error.
I wanted to take my photograph at ISO 100 to minimize sensor noise and to make as long an exposure as was practical to accentuate the star trails. The camera was put in manual mode with the ISO at 12800 to find feasible exposure times and apertures. Even though the sensor noise at this ISO would render the photos unusable, test shots taken at this ISO allow equivalent exposures at ISO 100 (the best on my camera) to be computed.
A second of exposure time at ISO 12800 is the same as 128 seconds of exposure time at ISO 100. Since the Canon 100D has a relatively small battery, I decided to limit the final exposure time to one hour, which meant the ISO 12800 exposure needed to be around 30 seconds. The exposure time on the camera was set to 30 seconds and a series of test shots was made at varying apertures. Using the display on the back of the camera to evaluate shots, I decided that f/5 gave me the best results. (I actually would have preferred at least f/8 but that would require me to take a longer shot or increase my ISO and I didn’t want to do either.)
Having determined the exposure parameters, the next problem was focusing the camera. I wanted the rock pillars to be in sharp focus to give a clean edge for the star trails. However, since it was pitch black except for the starlight, it was impossible to focus. An attempt to illuminate the rock pillars with a flashlight — a trick which sometimes works — failed because the pillars were too far away for sufficient illumination.
Since we had the room for one more night, we waited for daylight and carefully focused the camera on one of the pillars. To keep this setting, I taped the focus ring in place with gaffer’s tape (no sticky residue when it is removed) to keep the focus from changing. That night, the camera was set up in the same spot and an intervalometer was used to control the exposure time. The photograph shown here was the result.