Spokes of major boulevard traffic stretch out from the Tour Montparnasse, golden streaks across the city. The Eiffel Tower makes a perfect vertical accompaniment to the earthbound light channels.
Though additional cemeteries in Paris were banned in the late 18th century, the Montparnasse Cemetery was opened in 1824 because the area had not yet been incorporated into the city. Today, it’s an odd dark space in the otherwise bright city. The idea of adjacent blocks belonging to graves and apartments has a polite kind of symmetry.
After nightfall, the Eiffel Tower puts on an hourly strobe light show that transforms the tower into a sparkly pillar in the city skyline. Much as a flash can brighten a photograph, this effect also means that long-exposure photographs of the tower make it the brightest object in the skyline by an order of magnitude.
The bridge in the distance is the Pont au Double, and it is one of several that connect the Rive Gauche to Île de la Cité. That central island fascinates me because it is the site of the medieval refounding of the city. The island used to be packed with residences alongside government and religious buildings. Today it is almost entirely dominated by the latter buildings (like Notre Dame on the right), yet I heard that census information still lists a few hundred people living on the island. Where are those last homes hiding?
A Parisian cliché says that the best view of the city comes from the top of the Tour Montparnasse—because it’s the only shot in which the enormous tower can’t be seen. My trip to Paris last week didn’t give me the time to establish that definitively, but I can certainly attest that the city looks fantastic from the deck. Cityscapes like this were what originally inspired me to get into HDR photography a decade ago, and they still fascinate me now.
From New Jersey’s Liberty State Park, the view of downtown Manhattan is unimpeded. The view extends all the way up to Midtown and landmarks like the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. With nothing but the water’s reflections between me and the skyline, there’s an odd calmness to a multimillion-person city.
I finally finished processing the photographs of the transcontinental drive, transient spectroscopy, and Transamerica pyramid that made up my 2017 sabbatical from St. Lawrence University to Berkeley Lab for solar energy research. Check out my favorites, in handy chronological order, by clicking on the image of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge below: