Paris has so many faces: from rundown, paint peeling charm, through bourgeois elegance to wedding-cake extravagance. It is also justifiably famous for the quality of its light, which has a lot to do with the absence of high buildings reducing the natural light and creating shadows, in my opinion. This is most obvious at dawn and sunset, particularly with the slanting, more distant, softer light of winter. It can also be made interesting by Paris’ wide use of architectural illumination.
Then there are the bursts of construction extravagance that make it such a daring showcase for great architecture, whether it be the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramide du Louvre, or, in this case the Grand Palais. This image concentrates the extravagance of the building and decoration with the use of artificial light.
For some reason this view has a very celebratory feel for me, evoking a psychedelic wedding cake. Admittedly, instead of the traditional bride and groom we have a wild composition of “L'Harmonie triumphant de la discorde” above the southern door. The one above the main door on the Champs Elysees also bears an imaginative name, being “L'Immortalité devançant le temps”. I know, on the other hand, that I am pushing the cake metaphor too far, when I see the blue dome as a garish British pudding (or even a jelly), instead of the habitual French croquembouche tower of choux pastry balls.
The artistic and aesthetic intention of the edifice is expressed on the inscription above the main door “Ce Monument a été consacré par la République à la Gloire de l’Art Français ». I personally tip my hat to the success of that endeavour and am so relieved that civic vandals were not allowed to demolish it when it fell into disrepair in the 1960’s (shame on you Le Corbusier!)
Exploring The Limits
The view encompassed a high dynamic range from the bright lamps to the dark background, exposure was “long”, aperture was wide open, ISO was maxed out and the heavy body and lens were hand-held, albeit mitigated by the use of a monopod and Vibration Reduction. None of the above is an ideal recipe for a well-exposed, sharp, colour-true image. Clearly, I tried to ensure minimal success by efforts to stabilise myself when shooting and by using bracketing to optimise exposure and sharpness alternatives.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G,
Focal Length: 125mm
Focus Mode: AF-S
Shutter Speed: 1/50s
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 6400
Mounted on a monopod
Like last week’s blog, I think that this image is easily challenged aesthetically, given the mish-mash of colours and forms swirling around the building. I just like the celebratory nature of it as an “out there” Parisian statement of chutzpah.
Copyright Paul Grayson 2016 All Rights Reserved