Arc de Triomphe Streaming Traffic at Night

I’ve already shared how, on our first night in Paris, I foolishly stood in the middle of the road while photographing the Eiffel Tower. I apparently hadn’t learned my lesson a few nights later, because I did the exact same thing while standing on the Champs-Élysées, photographing the Arc de Triomphe.

At first it seemed fairly safe, as there was about 4 feet between the lanes, marked with white lines on the ground. Unfortunately, this area seemed to be the de facto “moped lane” and within a few seconds of setting up my tripod, I was again jumping out of the way as a moped zoomed towards me. (Here’s the long exposure taken while I jumped out of the way!) After that, I decided not to spend too much time trying for this photo…

Although it may not seem like it based on a few of my recent posts, this blog isn’t just “stories of Tom doing stupid things to get photos.” I swear most of the time all of my photo-taking activities are perfectly safe!

French Nostalgia?

It’s been almost a year since we went to Paris, and it has grown on me. During the trip, both Sarah and I agreed that we preferred London to Paris. She still feels that way, but forsome reason, I find myself favoring Paris more and more.

This is entirely inexplicable. I haven’t watched documentaries on Paris or read anything about it, but I find myself wanting to return more and more. I can’t say the same about London, which was very nice, but there are many other places I’d like to see before visiting it again.

The only thing I can think of to explain why I want to go back to Paris is Impressions de France (for those unfamiliar with Walt Disney World, it’s the travelogue on France in Epcot). That might be part of the reason, but I know it’s not the only or even main reason.

I truly have no clue what the main reason is…I guess sometimes our minds just remember certain things more fondly than others? Beyond this explanation, I’m at a loss. Whatever the case may be, I definitely want to go back and see more of the city. I could even envision it as a place to live for a few months (certainly unlikely to happen, but I can dream).

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Photographed with a Nikon D700 and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. This uses a fairly common processing technique, and that’s compositing.

Because I was scared after that moped passed me, I decided to cut my time short, and not wait for a single nice stream of traffic on both sides. Because of that, I had one shot with good streams of traffic on the left, and one shot with good streams of traffic on the right. Both were the exact same exposure time, and since they were both shot on a tripod, this was super easy. I just opened the two layers and stacked them on top of one another in Photoshop CS6. I then applied a layer mask to the top layer and used the brush tool to bring in the traffic from the other photo. This is a very simple, very basic example of compositing (it took about 20 seconds).

There are much more complex types of compositing possible, and I have done some of them (my most common use of compositing is for “hand made” HDR where I brush in tamed highlights or brush in a layer that doesn’t have a stray person…or stroller…etc.). This is a great, powerful tool. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Just because you can composite two things does not mean that you should. I see a lot of composited photos that simply look fake because the photographer tries to add too many “cool” elements into one photo. Examples of this include compositing full moons into your photos and adding other elements to photos that flat out were not there when the photo was taken. This is a pitfall that I see a lot of new photographers fall into when they first learn compositing. It’s tempting to try to push it too far.

The ordinary person may be really impressed by all of the “cool stuff” in a single photo, but many people will notice the inconsistencies, and the glossy, overly-fake look of the photo. Trust me, I’ve seen enough cringe-worthy composites that the photographer thinks look natural, and I’ve even made the mistake of ‘pushing it too far’ myself in the past!

Your Thoughts…

Do you ever find yourself gradually forming a more (or less) favorable opinion of something over time without any real reason as to why? Ever try compositing photos? Share your thoughts on these things or anything else in the comments!

4 replies
  1. Frenchy
    Frenchy says:

    Hi from France,
    Nice shot but if you don’t mind I find colors are too vivid for me.
    You’re welcome again to visit Paris and France in general ! Why not visit the Provence or the center if you want to know the rural france 🙂
    London is great too but visit the kent for picturesque photos.

  2. Arjay
    Arjay says:

    From the picture that 4-foot gap between the lanes looks sooo much narrower. Great streaks though, especially the red one on the right.

    How long were you in London vs. Paris and where did you go in both? That might have something to do with your preference of Paris over time. When we went to London in 2011, we went to Paris for a day and while I loved it, I’m the complete opposite of you and I definitely prefer London. I’d just started getting into photography when I went–I just made sure I had lenses better than the kit lens with me–and there’s so many places I want to go back to to re-shoot with everything else I’ve learned since then. I can see you wreaking havoc (photography-wise, of course) at night across the Thames with Parliament/Big Ben on the other side. Or during sunset at Stonehenge. There’s also Bath, Glastonbury (the ruins there are incredible and it’s believed King Arthur was buried there at some point), Oxford, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus…

    In Paris, I was mostly on a bus (and a boat at one point) and didn’t really get to walk the Champs-Elysees. Most of my pictures were of the exhibits from the Louvre. If I was able to get around more and go to Versailles or at least Notre Dame, my opinion would probably change.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Calling it a 4-foot gap might’ve been a bit generous. It wasn’t the smartest idea in retrospect, but at the time it seemed like it! Maybe Sarah needs to take out a bigger life insurance policy on me! 😉

      That might be it. We were in Paris for 4 days (not including Disneyland Paris) and London for 3, and 2 of the days in London, it rained. I only had one solid night of photographing London, and even then, the conditions were far from ideal.

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