Paris At Night

Lovers at the Louvre Pyramid in Paris at night.

The city of light is incredibly beautiful and there can be few cities in the world that offer the romance and history that’s showcased in the architectural splendor of Paris at night.

Have you had the good fortune to wander around Paris at night?

Paris By Night - The Louvre Pyramid

Have you been to the Louvre? If you’re looking for a slightly different experience of the Louvre you really should consider a stroll around this iconic structure at night.

As you can see the Louvre Pyramid is particularly evocative at night and, if you love creative photography, why not try a black and white rendering as I did.

I made the photo of the Louvre Pyramid with a Leica M9 camera. It was a beautiful camera, but it suffered from one major technical disadvantage.

Even at relatively moderate ISO (e.g., 800 and above) the Leica M9 camera produced unacceptably high noise levels.

Noise is particularly evident in dark shadow areas of an image. My night photo of the Louvre Pyramid was composed largely of shadows which showed significant and most unattractive noise.

One of the reasons I opted for a black and white rendering was because, by pushing the dark shadows into jet black, I was able to hide the noise.

Now those areas of blackness serve to frame the lighter areas of the image around which the photo has been composed.

I also had the benefit of exploring Paris during the long days of summer. I spent the warmest parts of the day photographing inside churches and museums, while the balmy evenings created great opportunities for night photography.

Exploring backstreets and photographing major tourist attractions in Paris by night was a fantastic experience. I can’t wait until I return.

Lighting illuminates cobbled streets in the Latin Quarter of Paris at night.

Paris Photography in the Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter bears that name because Latin was the language that was often spoken in this part of the world during the Middle Ages.

These days the Latin Quarter in Paris is known as a centre of learning, scholarship and art.

In years gone by famous authors like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald would debate each other, long into the night, in cafes and bars in what was, once, the bohemian centre of Paris.

If you’re going out to dinner be sure to bring your camera with you. You’ll find the stroll back to your hotel, through the Latin Quarter, well worth exploring as part of your own Paris photography adventure.

 
The Eiffel Tower at Night, Paris

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The Eiffel Tower Paris At Night

I arrived at the Eiffel Tower at dusk hoping to avoid the crowds. That was not the reality I faced after arriving at one of the world’s most iconic man made structures.

There were hundreds of people in line and it took ages before I was able to weave my way through the throng and, finally, begin ascending the structure.

I made the best of the situation by making a few photos while waiting in line.

On this particular trip the widest focal length I had with me was a Leica Summilux-M 24 mm f/1.4 lens which I paired with my then Leica M9 camera.

It’s a magnificent lens and I employed it on all but one of the photos in this post.

However, there were certainly times when I wish I’d had a wider focal length available to me.

What’s more, as described earlier, the Leica M9 had terrible noise characteristics when used at ISO 800 or above. I understand the newer models perform much better in that regard.

Local Parisians chatting outside a cafe, Latin Quarter of Paris at night.

Paris Night photography - The Backstreets

I loved wandering around the backstreets of the Latin Quarter in Paris at night. While I was alone the sense of romance was palpable.

The streets were packed around dinner time but, as the night wore on, the crowds dispersed and a lovely sense of quiet began to descend into the narrow streets and cobbled laneways I explored.

Notice how the old stone streets and buildings reflect the warm artificial lighting. It imbues the photos with the sense of nostalgia we’d all associate with the historic Latin Quarter of Paris at night.

A Latin Quarter Paris church lit with warm, artificial light at night.

Latin Quarter Paris Church At Night

Here's a simple architectural study of the exterior of a very old church in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

The composition relies upon the unique perspective achieved by photographing upwards and the contrast between the warmly lit stone church juxtaposed against a night sky completely devoid of stars.

The inclusive of the buildings on either side of the church adds a sense of cohesion by acting to frame the church which is, of course, the image's primary focal point.

All the buildings are illuminated which helps them stand out against the darker, brooding night sky.

The facade of Notre Dame Cathedral bathed in warm light at night.

Architecture and Distorted Perspectives

Tilting your camera upwards can be problematic, particularly when using a wide-angle lens.

The skewed perspective that occurs when we photograph from a position that's not completely parallel with our subject is what causes this phenomena.

From my point of view, depending upon the circumstances, the approach either works or it doesn’t.

If you’re looking for a visually dramatic viewpoint than tilting the camera upwards could work for you.

Likewise if you’re wanting to explore notions of power, malevolence or domination then a worms eye viewpoint might be ideal.

It all depends upon the story or the theme you want to explore.

Just try not to tilt your camera or photograph from an unusual viewpoint simply because you saw the technique in someone else’s photo.

Think about the implications of employing such a technique and how it could change the mood and meaning of your own image.

Paris is a very beautiful city, rich in history and architectural splendour. It’s well worth including at least a few days in Paris either end of your next trip to Europe.

If you’re planning to visit during summer do try to include at least one evening photographing Paris at night. You won’t regret it.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru