Eiffel Tower Light Show

Paris is the “City of Lights,” which is a fitting moniker. It is perhaps no more fitting than when the Eiffel Tower is set aglow in twinkling lights during its hourly light show. Of course, being a crazy photographer, I wanted even more lights in my Eiffel Tower light show photo, so I stood in the median on the Pont d’Iéna Bridge with my tripod waiting for the perfect moment when just the right assortment of cars passed for light trails and the Eiffel Tower was twinkling just right. Luckily, this median was quite large, so it wasn’t all that dangerous (Sarah might disagree!), at least not compared to places I went later during the trip. Standing in medians to give my Paris photos a bit of added light-excitement became a motif of our trip, and I’m quite lucky I was never hit by any mopeds!

Tour Like a Tourist…or Like a Local?

Obviously, if visiting Paris, the Eiffel Tower is something you’ll want to see, and you should definitely go see it. I have to admit that the Eiffel Tower was a bit of a letdown for us. Not because it lacked beauty–it was absolutely gorgeous and I came away with a number of nice photos of it–but because it was such a “touristy” spot. Everywhere you turned, there were people trying to sell you little trinkets, there were long lines to go up the Tower, and there were masses of confused people wandering aimlessly. In other words, it felt just like a day at one of our favorite destinations, Walt Disney World! 😉

It’s odd that this type of experience doesn’t bother us much in the Disney parks, but it did at the Eiffel Tower. I guess we just wanted to approach Paris more from a local’s point of view than from a tourist. We did plenty of touristy things, but we also rented an apartment instead of staying in a hotel, bought our own groceries, explored the side-streets and found hole-in-the-wall cafes, bistros, and pâtisseries, and outright skipped a lot of popular tourist spots. We enjoyed the tourist spots and wouldn’t recommend skipping them, but we also liked seeing all of the unique little wrinkles to Parisian life.


For this photo, I used the Nikon D600 and the Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens. This fisheye is meant for crop sensor cameras, but it works fine on my full frame Nikon D600; the image is just a circle in the middle of some black space that needs to be cropped, but . This isn’t ideal, but I really like the Rokinon fisheye lens, and until my photography funds are replenished, this is my interim solution. I used this lens here because my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 wasn’t quite wide enough to capture everything I wanted in this scene, and because those floodlights were giving me all sorts of wild lens flare when I tried the 14-24mm. The downside is that I have a bit of unnecessary “fisheye effect” on the horizon, but I don’t think it’s all that noticeable. As for processing, this is pretty much my standard style for editing in Adobe Camera Raw (fill light, black levels, vibrance) and then a curves adjustment in Photoshop to get the colors corrected and darken the murky nighttime sky, and some healing to remove a bit of distracting lens flare.

Your Thoughts…

Do you try to avoid “touristy” experiences when you travel, or do you embrace them? Do you do whatever it takes (would you risk being hit by a moped?) to get the shot? Share your thoughts on these pressing issues…or anything else…in the comments. One lucky commenter might win a live chicken!

9 replies
  1. Todd Hurley
    Todd Hurley says:

    We traveled to France about 3 years ago and split our time between Bordeaux and Paris. Bordeaux was incredible… everything about it (except for the weather – we went in January). I didn’t care for Paris. Once I got beyond the incredible architecture, it felt like just another big city to me. We hit as many of the touristy spots as we could, but looked toward the more local-favored restaurants to visit. One thing about France that was universal was the fact that I didn’t have a bad glass of wine the entire trip. Since my wife & I didn’t know any of the wine regions, we weren’t ever sure what we were ordering (other than red or white), but it’s like we couldn’t make a bad choice… and we drank A LOT of wine.

    Congrats on the new blog! This is a fantastic shot, btw. I risked my life as well for a similar shot in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      We don’t have refined wine palates, so we actually didn’t have any wine in France. We dined at a Belgian restaurant in London that had some excellent beer, though!

      Oh, and I was almost hit by a moped while photographing the Arc de Triomphe, too!

  2. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Nice introductory post on the blog. I like hearing the details of the photo/processing.

    We’ve done a mix of touristy/non-touristy while travelling, but more on the tourist side. As Spencer said, the reason the tourist sites are popular is because they are cool. Sometimes we’re limited on time and we want to make sure we see those things. Last summer I was in Helsinki and was able to just explore of-the-path things a bit more. It was fun (although challenging at times since I speak neither Finnish nor Swedish).

  3. Doug McClentic
    Doug McClentic says:

    An interesting tidbit about the people selling the trinkets at the Eiffel Tower. My wife and I were there a few years ago and as we walked up from the metro they all came running out from underneath the tower like a flock of pigeons that someone scared. Well as it turned out it is illegal for them to be there selling their wares and from time to time the police will come through and when they do the “flock of hawkers” (as we dubbed them) scatter to avoid getting caught.

    On another note, we braved the line and went up to the first level and I was able to fulfill a dream by taking pictures of Paris at night and capture the amazing cityscape. I am looking foreword to going back and retaking some of those shots seeing my skills have improved and spending more time in the city. I may even be able to drag my wife to Disneyland Paris for a day or two.

    Also, a word of warning to those of you who ever may venture into the Louvre. While we were there I was carrying my monopod and I pulled it out to take pictures of this incredible room. It is the room where the crown jewels are kept and security was all over me. I nearly got thrown out of the place! As it turns out you can take all the pictures you want but you can not use a tripod or monopod because they want you to buy the “professionally” taken pictures from the gift shop. I was told I could take as many hand held pictures as I wanted though. I highly recommend going there. Some of the most incredible things I have ever seen are in their collections.

    Love the new Blog Tom and I will be a regular reader.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      That’s hilarious. We saw police while we were at the Eiffel Tower, but now that I think about it, I can’t recall whether there were any hawkers around at the same time the police were there. Perhaps they scattered when the police arrived, or perhaps they went into covert ops mode! 🙂

      I think what you experienced with the monopod is pretty common all around France. At Versailles, I had to check my tripod before entering, and I’ve heard similar stories from others at different locations.

  4. Spencer
    Spencer says:

    I wouldn’t say I like to avoid tourist spots, but I love to be on the side of touring like a local. One of the best times I had while studying abroad in Europe was the time we stayed in a “suburb” hostel in Copenhagen that was actually the basement of someone’s home. You get a whole different perspective by hitting the grocery store, staying out of town, and seeing how people live. At the same time, most of the tourist spots became tourist spots because they are awesome in one way or another, so I always try to hit those up as well. And of course, walking around with my SLR around my neck seems a little more normal in the touristy spots than in random neighborhoods. 🙂

    As a side tip – When I’m in a new town and looking for local hotspots, I avoid using sites like TripAdvisor. They have good info, but from the tourist perspective. Sites like Urbanspoon give a lot more local flavor.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      “Most of the tourist spots became tourist spots because they are awesome in one way or another, so I always try to hit those up as well.”

      This is an excellent point, and was the reason why I still recommended that people visit the Eiffel Tower.

      A big part of this “dilemma” is time. If you’re studying abroad or are renting a flat for 6 months, you can have it both ways. If you’re only in town for a few days, you really have to budget your time. For example, we were fine devoting some time to the Eiffel Tower, but we felt that it wouldn’t be a good use of our time to wait in lines, etc., at the Louvre. Instead, we wandered around downtown.

      I don’t doubt that the Louvre is amazing (we saw the exterior and it was gorgeous), and I’d definitely do it if we had more time.

    • Spencer
      Spencer says:

      Definitely hear you on the time dilemma. I’d say I probably haven’t had too many “live like the locals” travel experiences since I entered the “real word” (post-college). Most of those came while studying or living abroad for a few months at a time. With a regular job with a regular limited time off policy, travel time becomes very precious.

      About the Louvre… it was impressive. The Mona Lisa, not so much. She had tons of crowds around her (those lines you mentioned – definitely there, so you likely made a good choice) and was way smaller than I expected. Far from the most impressive part of the museum.

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