Night Walk at La Defense, Paris

Paris (France). As I anticipated in my previous post, I was in Paris in the past two days. More precisely, it was a very short stay, only 24 hours: quite frustrating, especially if you bring with yourself the illusion of having the time for a couple of photos (as I normally do).

Anyway, it was not so bad: as I usually do in these case, I don’t bring anything but a small Ricoh GR camera, which perfectly stays in my raincoat pocket and offers good performances. I was walking back from the restaurant to the hotel, when I noticed this “landscape”. The illuminated skyline of La Defense was there saying to me: “hey man, take a picture of me!”. It was only a matter of finding something of stable on which putting the camera previously programmed for a long exposure shot, to capture the  nice effect of light trails.

And that’s it: this is the final result. Not my best photo of the past days, but still something I enjoyed to do: isn’t it the backbone of my passion for photography?

P.S. Tomorrow I will go – again! – to Paris. Let’s see if this time I will be a bit less overwhelmed and I will find time for a walk taking some photos on the street.

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At Charles de Gaulle Airport (Terminal 2F)

Paris (France). There are many ways to spend time in an airport before catching an airplane. There are those spending money at the duty free shop, those buying the last souvenirs, those relaxing in the lounge… and those, like me, who have fun taking some photos. In this case I was at the Terminal 2F of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which captures the passengers’ attention with its ceiling made of steel and glass. And not only of passengers, since the U2 themselves have chosen this location to stage the clip of their song “Beautiful Day”.

Parigi. Ci sono tanti modi diversi per passare il tempo in un aeroporto prima di prendere un aereo. C’è chi spende soldi al duty free, c’è chi compra gli ultimi souvenirs, c’è chi si riposa nelle lounge… e c’è chi come me si diverte a scattare qualche foto. In questo caso ero al Terminal 2F dell’aeroporto Charles de Gaulle di Parigi, che con la sua copertura in vetro e acciaio cattura molto l’attenzione dei viaggiatori. E non solo la loro, dal momento che anche gli U2 hanno scelto questo luogo per girare il video della loro canzone Beautiful Day.

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Catching the Last Minute of Daylight (from the EDF Tower at La Defense)

Paris (France). Paris, Le Defense, watching out of the window at five minutes to six P.M. There is the very last minute of daylight out there, and I can’t resist from preparing my camera for a long exposure photo – through the thick window glass, though. The quasi-tripod I have built seems sturdy enough to keep my small and light Ricoh GR camera unmovable in the same position for some seconds and no matter how I’m dressed, I’m on my knees to check the composition and the final settings adjustment.

My colleague sitting in my office is laughing at me in that bizarre position … 3 – 2 – 1 – click! This photo is dedicated to her.

Parigi. La Defense, guardo fuori dalla finestra mentre mancano cinque minuti alle sei di sera. Fuori c’è l’ultimo bagliore di luce, e non resisto dal preparare la mia macchina fotografica per una foto con un’esposizione lunga, sebbene ci sia di mezzo uno spesso vetro. La specie di treppiede che ho costruito sembra abbastanza solido da mantenere la mia piccola e leggera Ricoh GR immobile nella stessa posizione per alcuni secondi e – non importa come sono vestito – mi metto in ginocchio per controllare la composizione e gli ultimi settaggi.

La collega che siede nel mio ufficio ride di me in quella strana posizione … tre – due – uno – click! Questa foto è dedicata a lei.

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Paris Gare du Nord Train Station

Paris (France). I have always had a special feeling for train stations. It’s a feeling coming from a mix of interests: I like trains, I like watching people, and I like observing the architectures. For this reason there are some places that I consider “magic”. One of them is the train station “Gare du Nord” in Paris. Although its architecture comes from mid of the 19th century, this place is still one of the most crowded station of Paris (well, to be honest with its 190 millions of passengers, it’s the most crowded station in the whole Europe and the second one in the world after Japan!). High speed trains (the international Thalis and the national TGV) depart from here to many destinations, including the north of France but also London, Amsterdam and Cologne.

When I took this photo it was Friday afternoon: I guess that the majority of people going to jump on the train were commuters going back home for the weekend. I liked to stay for quite a long time with my back leaning against the lamppost, trying to be invisible and – most important – sturdy in the middle of this people’s “flow”. I used a wide angle lens (at that time I was travelling with a Fuji X-T1 camera coupled with a 10-24 mm lens) to emphasize the beauty of the large truss sustaining the ceiling.

Now, every time I go to Paris (especially if I catch the RER B going from CDG Airport to Chatelet) I consider to stop at Gare du Nord. Beyond the perfect mix of interests mentioned at the beginning of the post, this place is also a great location for street photography – although the recent terrorism alerts (vigipirate) are creating some problems to photographers…

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Contemplating Paris from La Défense

Paris (France). The initial idea was giving to this post a title such as “why I love shooting landscape photos with an old inexpensive 180 mm prime lens”, but at the end I thought it would have been a bit irrespectful for the old inexpensive 180 mm prime lens, which is- by the way – one of my favorite lenses for shooting landscape photos …

OK, let’s try to be serious now. I have taken this image yesterday early morning on my way from the “Esplanade de la Défense”, a large square perfectly aligned with the Arc de Triomphe and the Grande Arche, to my office. The sunrise was simply perfect, with a soft and gentle light colouring the sky with a warm orange tone. Photographing a landscape like this is more than just composing the frame, focusing the scene and clicking: the situation is at the same time calm (given by the sky) and chaotic (with the traffic along the Avenue de la Grande-Armée and the Avenue Charles-de-Gaulle at Neuilly-sur-Seine), and what I try every time to do is balancing these two opposite aspects, so that the observer can find indifferently one of them.

And for me it’s the same: I can observe this photo and think about the sense of calm I had yesterday morning at sunrise, but at the same time I can concentrate my eyes on the central stripe of traffic and be more distracted by the chaos. And – back to the beginning of the post – I believe that this perfect balance of feelings is given by a(n old inexpensive) 180 mm prime lens, which compresses the scene and puts the detail on the same plane of the general context. Here’s why I love shooting landscape photos with my amazing 180 mm tele lens!

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Winter Morning at the Jardin du Luxembourg

Paris (France). A morning walk around the Jardin du Luxembourg during an amazing sunny winter day.

I love this garden, not only because it was realised thanks to Maria de’ Medici (granddaughter of Cosimo I and therefore member of the wealthy and powerful House of Medici, as well as Queen of France as the second wife of King Henry IV of France) but also because in her intentions, the idea was to replicate the Boboli Garden behind Palazzo Pitti in her native Florence.

In 1611 Maria de’ Medici purchased the Hotel du Luxembourg to build a palace inspired by the Pitti Palace. The following year after, 2,000 elm trees were planted and a series of gardeners, including the Florentine Tommaso Francini, were invited to build a park in the style she had known as a child in Florence.

In the following centuries, the garden went through several transformations, including the sale of one of its portions for real estate developments (Louis XVIII, 1780) and new expansions, such as the one during the French Revolution.

Today is definitely one of the nicest spots for a walk in Paris (much less crowded than the Tuileries) especially during a winter sunny morning in December.

Parigi. Passeggiata mattutina in giro per il Jardin du Luxembourg, in una splendida giornata di sole invernale.

Mi piace molto questo posto, non solo perchè fu realizzato grazie a Maria de’ Medici (nipote di Cosimo I e quindi membro della ricca e potente casata dei Medici, oltre che Regina di Francia in quanto seconda moglie di re Enrico IV) ma anche perché nelle sue intenzioni l’idea era quella di replicare il Giardino di Boboli dietro Palazzo Pitti nella sua natia città di Firenze.

Nel 1611 Maria de’ Medici comprò l’Hotel du Luxembourg per iniziare a costruire un palazzo simile a Palazzo Pitti. L’anno successivo, 2000 olmi furono piantati e una serie di giardinieri, tra i quali il fiorentino Tommaso Francini, fu invitata a costruire un parco nello stile che ricordava dalla sua infanzia trascorsa a Firenze.

Nei secoli successivi, il giardino andò incontro a diverse trasformazioni, inclusa la vendita di una sua parte per sviluppi immobiliari (Luigi XVIII nel 1780) e nuove espansioni, come quella avvenuta durante la Rivoluzione Francese.

Oggi è decisamente uno dei posti più piacevoli per una camminata a Parigi (molto meno affollato di Tuileries), specialmente durante una mattina invernale a Dicembre.

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French Ministry of Culture and Communication

Paris (France). The French Ministry of Culture and Communication is located in the heart of Paris (just behind the Louvre, and close to Rue Saint Honoré) and is a very interesting example of contemporary architecture. The façade was designed and realized by Francis Soler in 2004, but what few people know is that the design was freely inspired by the painting of Giulio Romano at Palazzo Tè in Mantova: the architect said that he used the computer to deform people in Giulio Romano’s paintings, transforming each human being into a sort of arabesque. The name of this modern sculpture is “The Silver Net” (in French, “Résille argentée”) and the entire façade has been made of laser-cut stainless steel sheets.

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