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.
It would be nice if you could include, if possible the camera settings at the time these beautiful shots were taken.
All your photos are good, but l like specially the last one.
The Eiffel Tower shot is wonderfully executed… and most importantly, unique. Nice.
Thank you for the comment, and I am glad you like the photo! It is hard to take unique photos of well-known scenes, but that was at least my goal with this image.
You did well …. and I’m one who is more at home in nature then in the city (though I’ve been to Paris many times – and I’m pleased and envious of your photo!)
I like the last photo. It looks as if Eiffel Tower is spewing smoke and ashes.
Thank you, Remi! The Eiffel Tower has a huge spotlight that spins around the city in a circle. To take this photo, I waited until the spotlight faced directly towards me, giving the impression that it was facing straight in the air. I was lucky that there was a cloud above the Tower.
Beautiful. I love B&W & it shows the world a different way. I am fairly new to photography ( 2 yrs) love every day of it. I am now shooting with the D7100 but seeing & understanding what/how you shot those pix is inspirational.
Thank you, Marg!
With black and white photography, post-processing is more important than ever. You can get rich tones that aren’t possible with color photography, and it leads to some beautiful images. I’m sure that you are shooting great photos with your D7100.
They look awesome. I’ve also been there and it was a really nice photo opportunity :D
Some photos here:
Wonderful images, Catalin! You made great use of a wide-angle lens while you were in Paris.
Thanks! Normally my blog has around 2-3 views a day. Yesterday because of this post it had 120 :D
Isn’t it illegal?
That is a tricky one. A couple months ago, I actually contacted the Eiffel Tower website asking this exact question, but I never got a response. My understanding is that this is technically a law, but that the Eiffel Tower would be hit with terrible publicity if they ever enforced it. Plus, although copyright law is different in each country, my understanding is that it is legal (at least in the US) to include copyrighted work in a piece that is not being used for advertising purposes. It is legal to sell that piece or put it online, too, so long as the piece is substantially different from the copyrighted material.
For example, if I took a photo of a guy holding a Coca-Cola bottle, I could sell that anywhere. But if I used the image on a billboard advertising that soft drinks are unhealthy, I would be violating copyright law.
This may not be the case in France, but I still feel confident that they will never enforce this bizarre law. Even so, it would only apply to the last photo in this article, since no one can copyright an entire city : )
I believe that is incorrect and the subject of misinformation. Here is what the website says:
The Eiffel Tower, built in 1889, falls within the public domain.
Daytime views from the Eiffel Tower are rights-free.
However, its various illuminations are subject to author’s rights as well as brand rights. Professional or commercial use of these images is subject to prior request from the “Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel” (the Eiffel Tower’s operating company, or SETE).
The citation “Eiffel Tower”, the names of the various services offered on the monument as well as domain names are also registered.
“Professional or commercial use” language does not mean you can’t take a personal photo and share it (as is done here), but rather meant to stop usage in advertising and the like. My understanding is that it is not clear at all that the Tower has accurately portrayed the law or its ability to enforce (for example, the language above doesn’t technically say a picture OF the tower in the daytime is permitted but rather says “FROM” which is clearly wrong. It also strongly implies that a view FROM the tower at night is not permitted which is also clearly wrong. The only picture hear that even conceivably matters is the one of the tower at night but it is not in “professional or commercial use”. As an aside, it is a shameful policy on the part of iconic landmarks and shameful fear-mongering on the part of certain publications. Just my thoughts. Carry on photo world.
Smart and appealing photography here. Would love to go to Paris. The choice of rendering a project in color or b&w is one of artistic preference; I might have done it in color but enjoyed reading your reason for using monochrome. That 105mm is my favorite lens. And hope to acquire the 20mm/f1.8. Did you encounter any problem with wind up in Le Tour?
Thank you, Art! Look at my reply to Sceptical1 if you want to see what one of these looks like in color. I like several of them better in color, actually, but I chose monochrome in part because I wanted the photos to look more connected for this article. If I print them as a series, I have kept them all black and white. When I print them individually, I decide case-by-case.
I am glad that you also enjoy the 105mm macro. These were taken on a DX body (D7000) but I am now using it on an FX camera, and both ways it is a fun focal length to use.
I don’t recall that there was much wind on top of the Tower, which seems to be unusual from what I have heard. I do remember that it was cold, though : )
I related to your comment that you would normally rather take pictures at a national park then from high points in a city. Like you, I have to say photographing from the Eiffel Tower is an exception to the “rule.” it is a fun place to take pictures from and the ride up is priceless because it makes you mildly nervous. It also moves a little bit (like all tall structures…) in the wind and it is very obvious. A great experience for sure.
I like your pictures…but honestly wish they were in color. Like all things, this is completely subjective, but I think color almost always looks better (some exceptions include areas of extreme light pollution…). Maybe its because I was stuck with B&W so often during the film era…I just want nearly everything to color. Truly, no criticism intended, just more of a commentary about my tastes.
Thanks for your comments! I completely see where you are coming from. Several of these images do look better in color, in my opinion. The only issue is that a couple of them (including the first image in the article) simply do not. To make them into a more coherent whole, I decided to remove the color from some that I normally wouldn’t have. If I print these individually, I would decide on a case-by-case basis.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I have attached my favorite one of these in color, which I do like better.
Curious how Scenes were more impressive in B&W than Color Make it feel like these were taken Back in the 1950’s when color pictures were rare and any that were around Started fading almost from the day they were printed.
Thank you for your comment, Phillip! That is an interesting way to think about it. Black and white photography certainly has a timeless feel, if the subject is also timeless.