The island on which sits Notre Dame is the Medieval heart of Paris, originally separated into the western section devoted to the power of the King and an eastern section to the power of the church. The land in-between was residential and commercial.
This was echoed in the 19th century by, guess who, Baron Haussmann who built many key administrative structures, such as the Prefecture de Police and the Palais de Justice, among others.
A third epoch for the island is currently being studied by the French Presidency, which is intended to give a new life to the island, making it more attractive to visitors, by freeing up more pedestrian spaces, opening access points and creating new, sub ground-level uses which do not detract from the above-ground attractiveness of the first two periods.
This view from the north focusses on the Quai des Fleurs, which is basically a 19th century construction, but includes vestiges of the presumably highly elegant, 17th century homes of the Canons of Notre Dame (see the left of the image).
I confess that prior to researching this piece, I had thought the elegant homes to be 200 years older, dating to the 17th century. They are more varied in height and appearance than in “standard” Haussmann era streets on the riverbanks.
I am not embarrassed by learning that, since I am already aware of the heavily fake appearance of today’s Notre Dame. The spire and roof design, particularly the statuary, are the result of the daring imagination of the Haussmann era architect Viollet-le-Duc, who felt impelled to perfect the idea of Gothic and Renaissance architectural aesthetics, by adding his own touch of genius. I personally think he managed to pull it off. His mark is to be seen on famous structures all over France.
Thus, the casual stroller passing the Paris town hall by the riverside walk is presented with two styles separated by 500 years of changing tastes. Day or night, this view is extremely satisfying, a waltz of horizontals and verticals emphasised by bands of colour, from the river flood walls to the homes, up past the cathedral roof and on to the sky. The effect is highlighted at night, aided by Paris’ famous mastery of monumental lighting.
Being bereft of a tripod on this occasion, my only support was the parapet of the river wall. To achieve an acceptable stabilising speed at F 2.8, I maxed the ISO to 6400, which I usually only use in music clubs, resulting in an acceptable shutter speed of 1/100.
For best quality night-time, architectural work, I would have dearly preferred to be able to shoot at ISO 200, but I had to accept that this result was necessarily going to be grainy.
Post Processing Treatment
Prior to dealing with the best-of-a-bad-world aperture, shutter and film speed choices mentioned above, I first straightened the image to correct the leaning of the steeple. It is not easy to get that angle right “in-camera”, when you are leaning on a curved, uneven stone surface, while shivering in a Winter’s night. I then used the “keystone” tool to straighten vertical lens aberrations at the edges
Next, I decided on some drastic pruning. I firstly changed the aesthetic of the original portrait aspect ratio. I made a rather drastic crop, using the “unconstrained” choice of aspect shape, ending up with a near square. Then, in order to retain the 19th century look of the final image, I “cheated” by using the cloning tool to transform vehicles parked on the quai into buildings. If you enlarge the image, you will see that this has been done rather clumsily. If I were to print this image, I would review the cloning to be less obvious.
Finally, I applied sharpening and the much-anticipated noise reduction. All things considered, I was not too unhappy with the quality of the final result
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 24-70mm zoom f/2.8G ED
Focal Length: 52mm
Focus Mode: AF-C
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Continuous
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 6400
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Copyright Paul Grayson 2017 All Rights Reserved