Paris Day 7

This morning we woke up a little early and walked east toward the Louvre.  There we met with our professional photographer, Sophie for a photo-tour of some of the great sites of Paris.  Since I already knew a bit about my camera and how to putz around with the settings, we didn’t have to spend much time with tutorials.  We quickly started learning about composition, lighting, and being a smart tourist photographer.

Obviously we started taking pictures around the Louvre which, to me, is one of the coolest areas in Paris.  The architecture is palatial (because it was a palace), and the recently constructed glass pyramids add some great lines and interesting views.  So here are some of my shots from the Louvre.

This silhouette shot is much easier to get early in the morning because there are much less people. After an hour of shooting around the Louvre we looked at this shot again, and we couldn't get a good one. Too many people. Another example of timing means everything.

30 minutes later, the small line to the left was wrapped around in front of the small pyramid.

Sometimes people can help add to an image.

Or here. I like the shadows in this picture.

Sophie pointed out this cool perspective. The differences between old and new can be very interesting.

This is an example of why you don't need to include the entire subject to get a striking image. Here, I cut off the bottoms of the pyramids, but you still know what you are looking at. This is a technique I need to practice more and more.

After a good amount of time at the Louvre, we took the subway to the Arc de Triumph.  Once at the Arc, our natural reaction was to snap snap snap pictures left and right.  But Sophie told us to be a little patient and get closer to look for the cool details we were missing from far away.  So we moved in under and around the structure and saw some awesome perspectives.

Looking through the arc from right to left (or left to right). I had no idea all of these inscriptions and details were here!

Angles, lines and light. Amazing what you can do with those three.

Standing in the center of the Arc looking up. Now if I had a sweet wide angle lens, or an uncropped sensor, this would look even more crazy. But, for my basic equipment, I love how it came out!

Sophie taught us to use other object and clues in a scene to help tell the story. In this case, you see a flame. What is it? Well even if you dont speak French, you can probably make out the inscriptions to determine its a flame for the Unknown Soldier. This is one of my favorites from the day.

Whoa! Somebody learned how to use his flash! The flash was used here, on a bright day, to clear some shadows from the sign.

From the Arc de Triumph we took the subway a short ways to the Eiffel Tower.  Well, not exactly the Eiffel Tower, but to a bridge where we got a great, unobstructed view of the Tower.  Very smart.  While in the area we also got some cool shots of the surroundings.

The rails of the subway train with the background of a beautiful sky.

Blur shot of the moving subway train. This bridge was used a lot in the filming of Inception.

We got so lucky with the weather. The clear skies can be tricky with photography, but I think we did a great job of using them. We were also lucky that they were done painting the Eiffel Tower so there was no unsightly scaffolding.

Sophie was kind enough to take this great picture of Laura and me.

The phototour was a huge success!  We got tons of great pictures and the tools to make the rest of pictures in Paris spectacular!

So now we were on our own, and we were hungry!  So we walked over to Rue Cler, which seemed closer on the map, and picked up the supplied for a picnic.  This included wine, cheese, bread, and a diet coke (aka Coke Light).  We then strolled back to the Eiffel Tower, sat on the lawn and enjoyed each other’s company.  If this is what Parisians do all day, I’m in!

Later in the day we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, all 1062 feet of it!  Even though we bought our tickets ahead of time, we had to wait a good hour and a half in line to reach the top.  If we didn’t have the tickets, it would have been about 2 hours or more.  Once at the top, we were treated to fantastic views of the city!  It was well worth the wait!!  Here are our pictures from the rest of the day.

Pastries from Rue Cler. If I had the time/money, I would have tried every one of them!

More gorgeous pastries along Rue Cler.

Open container laws are unheard of in Paris. Drinking wine anywhere you want is encouraged! This wine was terrific!

The Eiffel Tower through the class of the memorial at the opposite side of the lawn.

Looking somewhat northeast across the Seine River from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

I like how this view of the city and river turned out as a black and white.

Panoramic of the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. Again, it was a beautiful day!

An example of not needing the entire subject to convey an image. I love how this one turned out, especially as a black and white. I might have to frame this one!

In the next post I’ll have some sweet shots of the Louvre at night.  You’ll want to see them.

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London to Paris Day 6

Today we took the Eurostar under the English Channel from London to Paris.  The train ride is only a couple hours, of which 45 minutes or so are in the chunnel.  When I was thinking about how the chunnel was going to be, I had images of a glass tunnel with fish, whales, and sharks swimming around.  It was nothing like that.  Just dark.  I didn’t take a ton of pictures on this day, so this will be a shorter post.

What did you expect would be the first thing we found once we go into Paris. That's right, desserts!

Our hotel was located right next to the Paris Opera House. It was a great location to get to the Louvre and easy access to the subway. The opera house is very beautiful.

We ate dinner at Le Mesturet. It was recommended to us by our hotel so we hadn't done any research on it. The seating was cozy and the food was beautiful! Laura got steak while I got a lamb stew that was delicious! It's hard to take pictures in some of these restaurants, so no pictures of the food this time.

A closer view of the opera house at night. This place is really lit up well at night. Well, the front of the building is, the top is completely dark. Still looks good though!

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London Day 5

This was our last full day in London.  And to start it off we walked all the way past Westminster Abbey to the Regency Cafe.  This is where we got our traditional English breakfast.  There were eggs, hash browns, sausage, beans, toast and coffee.  It was delicious!  The cafe itself was like a 1960′s diner.  And the man running the show, taking the orders, was quite a character.  He had this deep bellowing voice where he would shout out your order when it was ready to pick up.  While we were in line, were were kind of intimidated, but once we got up to ordered, he turned out to be a very nice and charming fellow.  (Did that sound British?  Fellow?  I tried)

After breakfast we met up with a tour guide to take a walking tour to see the changing of the guard and Westminster Abbey.  We really enjoyed the tour.  There was a lot of information, dry British humor, and we got great views of the soldiers for the changing of the guard.  Do you know why the soldiers where those tall bear skin hats?  It’s to make them look taller and more intimidating…..  Yeah, I think they could have found a better way, too.

When we got into Westminster Abbey, it was a mad house!  There were so many people!  But once I got over that, I had a great time checking out the tombs of all the most famous British figures.  Isaac Newton, James Joule, Handel, Edward the First, Queen Elizabeth the First, Richard the Third, and so on and so forth.  It was very very impressive.  It also made me think about how it would look if we had the same thing here in the United States.  There would be George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Eddison, Henry Ford, Scott Joplin, Janice Joplin, Jon Bon Jovi. Yeah, it would be pretty damn fantastic!  USA USA!!

That afternoon we refueled again at the Woseley with some scones and tea.  I know, When in Rome.  Then we walked through Hyde Park on our way to Notting Hill.  There we met up with some good friends who are temporarily living in London.  We had a great time meeting up with them and getting some Mexican food.  It was good, but definitely not Pancho’s Mexican Buffet.  That thing CAN’T be copied.

Here are some pictures from our day.  Enjoy!

The street leading to Buckingham Palace is lined with Union Jacks. A few days before, when Obama was in town, it was lined with Union Jacks and Stars and Stripes.

Here come the soldiers! I mean seriously, what is more intimidating? A fluffy bear-skin hat, or a fully loaded M-16 with a trained soldier behind the trigger?

This picture turned out great. Go ahead! You can celebrate it with positive comments!

More soldiers coming to storm the palace.

Westminster Abbey

The Albert Memorial in Hyde Park.

Just across the street from the Albert Memorial is this impressive structure. Royal Albert Hall. I liked the way this wide angle picture turned out.

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London Day 4

We started our fourth day in London by heading over to the British Museum.  From what we had read and heard from others that visited in the past, this museum is massive and almost impossible to take in in one day.  So we understood from the get-go that we would only be picking out a few sections to explore.

Probably the most famous artifact in the museum is the Rosetta Stone.  I didn’t realize that the stone was discovered in the late 1800′s.  That means all the nonsense hieroglyphics we see weren’t understood until very recently.  I didn’t get a great picture of the stone, which is pretty big, because there was litterally a shit storm of people hovering around it.  Spoiler alert, all the symbols are in Greek and hieroglyphics, you wont be able to read it.  But it was cool to see.

There were several levels and rooms filled with Egyptian artifacts.  Mummys, tombs, statues, hair brushes, arrowheads, you name it.  Everything was in there.  It was awesome to see how well preserved some of the stuff was.

The other incredibly famous exhibit is the Parthenon.  What’s that?  I thought the Parthenon was in Greece.  Well, it use to be until the British came through and liberated it from the incapable hands of the Greeks.  I say that tongue-in cheek, but seriously, the British have half of the parthenon statues.  We had these sweet audio guides to tell us about each of the scenes, and how you can tell what age the sculptor was.  I would write about it but it would take me too long to explain everything, and honestly I don’t think you would understand it.  Mostly because it’s been a few weeks, so my mind has jumbled up the facts in ways unimaginable.  It would be like playing Telephone but with Greek History.

That evening we went out to the Queen’s Theater and saw an awesome production of Les Miserables.  This is Laura’s favorite musical, and one of mine as well.  The songs were sung fantastically!  We had seats five rows from the front of the stage, so we could see every emotion being conveyed by the performers.  The theater itself was small and intimate.  It felt like we were at a private show just for us.  When we go back to London, we will definitely go see another show.

Here are a few pictures from the British Museum.  I couldn’t take pictures in the play.  Hope you enjoy!

The front of the British Museum looks a lot like some of the crap they stole from Greece.

Inside the main area of the museum is very iconic. The ceiling's lattice -like features are very cool.

I wouldn't consider this guy a mummy. But he had been preserved in the hot arid sands of egypt for thousands of years. You can tell from his body position that he was sleepy when he died.

I think this is Alexander the Great. But if it isn't, do you really care? Why do so many of these statues and busts not have pupils in the eyes? It makes them look a little creepy.

This is just one of several sections of the Parthenon. In the late 1600's, the Greeks were using the Parthenon as a munitions storage facility. Well, needless to say, they didn't have proper safety regulations, and that puppy blew up. Government knows best, right? So the British, wanting to help and everything, decided to take as much of the Parthenon as possible so the careless Greeks didn't destroy the rest of it.

There is a great story to go with all of the statues that the British saved (read stole) from the Parthenon. But these figures most reminded me of the epic tale of Terminator 2. You know when T1000 gets frozen in the liquid nitrogen. Then he tries to walk and his feet and hands start to shatter. Then the terminator pulls out his shotgun and says the line, "Asta la vista, Baby!", and blows T1000 into a million pieces of frozen metal. Then the metal melts and reforms BACK into T1000. Then T1000 hunts down the Terminator and the Terminator ends up throwing him into a pot of liquid hot metal, thus destroying T1000. Then the terminator, almost destroyed himself, says goodbye to John Conor and lowers himself into the same pot of liquid metal. But right before he is completely submerged, he gives a thumbs-up which was really cool of him seeing as he was a robot and robots really don't understand cultural mannerisms..... That's what this reminded me of.

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London Day 3

This day started with a leisurely walk to the National Gallery located in Trafalgar Square.  The weather, like the day before, was perfect.  Sunny with no clouds in sight.  Once inside the National Gallery, we made our way through countless rooms of medieval, renaissance, and impressionist galleries.  Joining us on this tour were about 20,000 school children.  The place was packed with little rascals running around and sketching what they saw hanging on the wall. 

After the museum we walked toward Downing Street which had a lot of security because of the president being in town.  Our next stop was the Churchill War Rooms Museum.  There we toured the underground bunker where Churchill and his staff conducted the operations of the British in WWII.  It was fascinating to see all the maps and living quarters of these men and women.  Churchill is revered in England, and from what I saw and read about him in the museum, I can see why.  He was pretty much a badass.

That afternoon we did as the English and got afternoon tea.  What this entails is eating dainty finger foods (sandwiches with no crust, macaroons, tarts, and scones), sipping on hot tea, and not going to work.  I could get use to it.  The tea was good, and the food was excellent.  We especially loved the scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  So much that we went back a few days later just for the scones!

AFter tea we walked toward Buckingham Palace just to give it a look see.  And as we arrived the motorcade of Obama and Cameron (David Cameron is the PM of England) drove past us.  We were less than 25 yards away and could see them waving in the car.  Who would of thought that we had the best chance to see our president in a foreign country?

The rest of the afternoon we strolled around the city just taking in everything.  It was cool to see some of the neighborhoods off the beaten path.  We walked up to Piccadilly Circus and to the Queen’s Theater to pick up our tickets for Les Miserables which we would be seeing in a couple of days.  And that night we got Thai food at a cool London chain restaurant called Busaba Eathai.  It was pretty dark in the place so I didnt get any pictures of the food, but it was really good!  We’d go back.

Finally, after dinner we strolled back toward Big Ben and the Thames so I could try some nighttime photography.  Unfortunately it doesnt get dark in London until 10pm, but I was still able to capture some great shots around 9:15-9:45.  We took pictures of Big Ben and Parliament, and also of the London Eye.  It was a very pleasant outside and very calm on the streets making the photography session pretty enjoyable.  However, it had been a long day of walking and by 10 we were ready to crash.

The columns in front of the National Gallery

Me in front of one of the fountains in Trafalgar Square.

Another view of the fountain

One of the royal horsemen looking all stately and such.

Tons of candy in a fancy store.

This is where we got some afternoon tea. It came with light snacks and scones.

The tower of snacks that was served with the tea. Everything was fantastic. Scones with jam and clotted cream is awesome! I think I'll try and make it sometime.

Gates outside of Buckingham Palace.

President Obama in his motorcade. It was amazing how close we were able to get to the driving route.

Big Ben and Parliament all lit up at night. I could have waited longer to get the darker sky, but this looks cool. I used an 8 second exposure here to get the nice silky water.

Another shot of Big Ben with some of the bridge (not London Bridge fyi).

I like this shot of Big Ben because of the nice light trails from the traffic on the bridge. I was able to get the star-like features in the street lights by closing the aperture to f/22.

The London Eye which, unfortunately, was not moving at the time. It still looks really cool next to the aquarium.

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London Day 2

In our first full day in London, we walked west to see the Tower of London.  On the map this didn’t seem like such a long walk, but there were many detours along the way.  You see, the entire city of London is under construction right now.  You can not stand on a single street corner and not see construction or a sign pointing to construction.  But once at the tower we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The crown jewels were incredible!  As well were the exhibits on armor and weapons.

While at the tower we were witness to a 41 gun (canon) salute to Obama who was visiting at the time.  It was funny to hear all the school kids talk about him with their little accents.

From there we headed over to tour St. Paul’s Cathedral which is massive!  The inside of the cathedral is very reminiscent of St. Peter’s in the Vatican.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but, you will have to trust me it was beautiful.  Before we left, we climbed the 365 feet of stairs to the top of the dome for a spectacular view of the city.  We were so lucky with the weather!

That night we went on a guided pub tour which was a lot of fun.  This wasn’t a pub crawl in the sense of seeing how many pubs you can hit and how many beers you can pour in your stomach.  It was actually a tour of part of the town with stops at a few pubs with interesting stories along the way.  Our favorite pub was “Ye Old Cheshire Cheese” which had about three levels with maybe 6 to 8 rooms and 4 bars.  Sounds big, but it was very tight quarters and pretty small.  It just had an awesome vibe.  At the end of the pub tour Laura and I stopped at a fourth bonus pub, The Blackfriar, across from our hotel because I was still “thirsty”.

It was a great day!

This Beefeater watches over the grounds to make sure everything is protected. Actually they are really there for show. How do I know this? This "imposing" guard had a cane (not shown).

The beefeaters give free tours every hour. They are very enjoyable because they have a good sense of humor and dry wit. Pretty much they are wise -asses. This was our wise-ass beefeater.

These guys were guarding the crown jewels.

This was Henry the VIII's armor. He made provisions in case he was ever in battle and suddenly got aroused. Smart king.

From the chapel in the white tower of the Tower of London

Sweet looking pistol.

Good thing I dont have any kids becuase I'm sure all of these would have been coming home.

Raven doing its duty of protecting the tower. As long as there are ravens in the tower, London will be safe. Londoners are not entirely dumb, so they clip the wings of these birds.

Tower Bridge looking good in the daylight.

The top of the White Tower in the Tower of London.

British soldier saluting to the crowd after a 41 gun salute to President Obama who was visiting at the time. They shot howitzers, it was pretty cool.

St. Paul's Cathedral which has a very cool tribute to all the American Soldiers who lost their lives in WWII. They dedicated the back of the cathedral to them. If you have a chance to see it, it is awesome.

Looking down at the spires from the top of St. Paul's

Fun reflection shot of Laura and I with St. Paul's in the background.

A view of the dome of St. Paul's from across the Millenium Bridge. When you are taking pictures of a city, it's important to look all around you while you are walking. Especially behind you becuase you never know what you might see.

A barrel table top we saw along our London Pub tour. Londoners like to drink and smoke, and they are good at it!

yum yum yum

Ye Old Cheshire Cheese pub built in 1667, the year after the great London fire. This was the coolest pub we went to in all of London. It was awesome, I want one.

Panoramic view of London (looking southwest) from the top of St. Paul's.

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European Vacation Day 1

So I havent posted anything in a while because I’ve been so busy with work and I’ve been out of the country.  For the last couple weeks, Laura and I were in London and Paris living it up.   We did a week in each city and loved every minute.

I took about a half a bazillion pictures, and I cant wait to share them with everybody.  I wont share them all, because that would get boring, but I’ll pick out some of the best. 

So here are some shots from our first day in London.  We got into the city after flying to Paris then taking the chunnel to England.  It was a long long day of travel, but that didnt stop us from exploring the city right after we checked into our hotel.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza The City right next to the Blackfriar Bridge crossing the Thames.  From there we walked all over the city.  There was so much to see.  On the first day we walked over to Big Ben and up to Covent Gardens.  Along the way we stopped in for delicious pub beer and got some fish and chips.  FYI, fish and chips are over priced (more so than most stuff in London), but you have to at least get them once.  And once is all we did.

As we walked along the Thames, Big Ben suddenly revealed itself.

Big Ben looking all prestigeous and whatnot.

Cliche picture of telephone booth.

We saw tons of the double-decker buses. Never hopped in any. We figured it would be just like riding in any other bus.

Lamb and Flag pub. A cool place with two stories. The best way to name a pub is pick two seeminly different nouns and put them together. For instance.... "Map and Wagon". Voila!!!

One of the many beer taps in the Lamb and Flag pub.

Me enjoying a delicious ale (forgot which one).

Picture of said delicious ale.

Follow the signs and you too can make it to this pub. But there are so many in the city, and most are very similar.

Fish and chips that Laura and I split. The tartar sauce/malt vinegar combo is money.

 

We got the fish and chips from Rock and Sole Plaice.

Beautiful cupcake! Didnt taste too great, but whatever.

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