The hour before sunset and the hour after provide wonderful light wherever you are, and in Paris it is a great time to take photos.
We took a walk down to the Seine and past the Notre Dame cathedral – I’m always looking for a different angle – which is not easy with such a well-known and much photographed building.
So it comes down to the light and how best to capture it, and perhaps go beyond the standard ‘full frontal’ of the cathedral doors and towers.
The shot above is actually a combination of three exposures – dark, centre, and light to increase the dynamic range – because the camera is not as sensitive as the human eye. This is known as ‘high dynamic range’ or ‘HDR’. You can over-do it, but I prefer to keep it subtle, and just bring out the details at each light level. The photos were combined in a small program called ‘Photomatix‘.
Golden and blue hours can also be a good time to capture the beauty of the bridges over the river – Here I rested the camera on the bridge parapet and took a couple of long exposures of the next bridge over. It is not always convenient to carry a tripod around, but there is usually something – a lamp post, or a railing – against which to brace the camera for this kind of shot. Here I brought the ISO down to 100 and the aperture down to around f/9.0 to give me an exposure of around 3 seconds.
The exposure length also smoothes out the ripples on the water, giving better definition to the lights and their reflections.
You can see that the traffic on the left which would otherwise provide distracting points of light has been smoothed into the subtle red streak of the tail lights.
So if the light is a good colour – with the darkening blue in the sky contrasting with the warm yellow of the street lights, a long exposure can really bring out the details, and the mood of Paris by dusk.