If you ever have the chance to visit Paris, one of the absolute highlights is, of course, the Eiffel Tower. Riding the elevator to the top is an experience in and of itself — as you fly through the Tower’s metallic skeleton, you start to see flashes of the city shrinking below you. When you come to a stop (after stepping past the fifteen-foot tall gears that turn the elevator’s cable), the view you see is maddeningly beautiful.
There are three primary levels of viewing platforms on the Eiffel Tower. The highest of these three is near the very top, and it was there that I found the most inspiring views.
I made sure to stay at the Eiffel Tower for sunset. As the sky darkens, the city of Paris begins to grow brighter. It didn’t take long for the buildings below to light up in wonderful, intricate patterns.
It can be overwhelming at first for a photographer to see such a beautiful sight. However, there is no time limit for your stay at the top of the Eiffel Tower (aside from closing time), so there is nothing wrong with taking the time to soak in the wonderful atmosphere of the place.
I will admit readily that I am the type of person who would rather visit a national park than a major city any day, but this experience in Paris struck a chord with me. Rooftopping will never be my style of photography, but I can see why some people find it so exhilarating.
Photographing from the top of the Tower at night brought with it some technical implications for my photos. I had no tripod with me, and, although tripods do not seem to be against the Tower’s (admittedly vague) rules, they aren’t particularly convenient to use around so many people. This issue can be less severe depending upon the spot you choose, and depending upon the time of day/year that you visit. Still, if you bring any support system, I recommend that you choose a monopod or a beanbag (and even those may be more trouble than they are worth).
Distant lights are dim at night, and the city of Paris is no exception. Chances are good that your ISO will be in the four-digit range for some photos, and there isn’t much you can do to avoid that. If you brace the camera against the Tower’s railing, though, you should be able to get a much slower shutter speed than you could achieve with standard hand-held photography.
Another big help is that the entire scene will be at essentially the same focusing distance: infinity. If you are happy with the image quality of your lens, you can open to its widest aperture without worrying that your subject will be out of focus. Depending upon the lens you have, this should help minimize any issues with a lack of light.
I chose to make these photos monochromatic for a reason: Paris looks great in black and white. I know that monochrome is a classic interpretation of the city, but I have an excuse — every day that I spent in Paris was utterly (and beautifully) gray. Monochromatic photos helped to mask the lack of color, and they just seemed to suit the scenes I found. This wasn’t a conscious decision going into the trip, but it was one of my ultimate takeaways.
After I returned from the Paris trip, I enjoyed revisiting the photos I took from the top of the Tower images. Nighttime photos always have their own character, and these images seemed to work well together as a sort of photo essay. None of these photos is my favorite on its own, but I am quite happy with how they work together. I have 12×18 inch prints of this series at my house, and I always enjoy seeing them next to each other. Together, they paint a picture of the mood I felt that night on top of the Eiffel Tower.