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Tuesday
Jul172012

The Notre Dame Cathedrals

Joshua Holko files another post from France

Paris is, of course, well known for its magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the sheer scale and majesty of which is biblically awe-inspiring. Photographing the Notre Dame, however, is a challenge. By break of day the building is surrounded by thousands of tourists streaming through its grand doors and climbing its towers, and the numbers do not waiver until nightfall. There is simply no opportunity to capture the building free from visitors. Because I wanted to do more than merely walk away with the usual tourist postcard photograph, I was left searching for alternatives.

In an effort to make a better photograph I decided I would get up before sunrise and try a long exposure from one of the bridges across the river Seine in the hope of capturing the Cathedral in a more peaceful and serene environment.  This viewpoint is one I had not seen before and one in which I could utilize the river to place the Cathedral in context. Although the Cathedral is partially obscured behind the trees I like the angle for the added mystery. I used a ten stop ND filter to obtain a 4 minute exposure to soften the sky and create a sense of movement in the clouds and water.

As much as I enjoyed indulging myself in Parisian café culture it now feels good to be out in the countryside and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This has been my first visit to France and it has been as picturesque and scenic as I was led to believe. With its manicured fields and gardens the French countryside is beautiful and its many small villages quaint and adorable.

Over the last few days I have spent some time in the Champagne region (where healthy portions of fine Champagne were sampled and keenly devoured), Reims and the small town of Ambois located in the Loire valley where I have visited a number of spectacularly opulent chateaus located nearby.

I was not aware that there is in fact a second Notre Dame cathedral located in Reims and was fortunate to stumble across it whilst driving though the town. The choice of how to photograph this gothic Cathedral struck me as I stood below its imposing form and leering gargoyles. I wanted to make this Cathedral appear to be both rooted to the earth and soaring toward the heavens in order to do justice to its gothic architecture and imposing stature. I accomplished this using Canon’s 17mm wide angle lens and pointing the camera up toward the towers to create an exaggerated perspective. This photograph was handheld since the use of tripods, even on the external grounds, is strongly discouraged. The key to making this work was a combination of the wide angle lens, camera angle and symmetry to create the desired effect. I was also fortunate to have some dramatic clouds and lighting which add to the atmosphere and enhance the Cathedral’s foreboding presence.

This trip has been a wonderful opportunity to shoot with the new 1DX camera which is continuing to surpass my expectations. It has the best metering and autofocus of any camera I have used. Tomorrow I will be heading for Dijon where I look forward to more photography with this remarkable new camera and of course some more “boudoir the grape.”

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