Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth. Now I can see how that statement may be controversial, so to those who disagree, I concede the following: Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth. With that off my chest, I should also clarify that the word ‘gloomy’ here is used in the context of weather only. Paris is always alive, always upbeat. But in the winter months, it can be gray, cloudy and rainy and it can stay like that for many many days. In the absence of clear blue or partly cloudy skies, taking interesting cityscapes becomes challenging. In this essay, I discuss some of ways I tried to overcome these challenges and come up with (what I hope are) interesting shots.
I started at the Place du Trocadero, which on account being directly across from the Eiffel Tower and at a slight elevation, is an obvious choice for photography. I arrived there at around sunset, with the forecast for the clouds breaking and the possibility of some color and drama. Alas, the forecast was wrong.
I improvised by doing an unconventional composition that includes the tower but focuses on some of the beautiful Parisian architecture around it.
I did another, slightly different take, that reminded me of travel brochures and guide book covers.
Then I started walking around hoping to find interesting subjects with the tower in the background. This vintage Renault seemed perfect. In processing, I experimented with split toning and playing with the tone curve to give the shot a slightly faded, aged look.
The Trocadero offers sweeping views of the city. A photographer does not have to limit themselves to the Eiffel Tower.
Another great way to capture interesting photos is on and around the various bridges that connect the two banks of the city separated by the river Seine.
Even if cityscape opportunities are limited, there are always the streets of Paris, brimming with interesting scenes and characters.
I saw this gentleman playing the Accordion behind the Sacre Coeur in Montparnasse.
If nothing else, I would visit Paris just for the Patisseries. No one makes pastries and sweets like the French.
Here’s a quintessential Parisian view, taken from steps behind the Sacre Coeur.
The rest of the images are from around the Latin Quarter, taken as dusk. I was able to overcome some of the gloom either by processing in B&W or waiting for the city lights to come on and add some life to the images.
Here’s one of the crowds headed towards the Institut de France on the Pont des Arts.
Another image from the Pont des Arts, this time of Pont Neuf (Paris’s famous skyscraper, the Montmartre is visible in the back).
Same view, different perspective. This time the Notre Dame de Paris can be seen in the back.
Yet another shot of Pont Neuf as seen from Pont des Artes.
To conclude, I made the most of my photography in cloudy, gloomy Paris by doing unconventional compositions, looking for interesting subjects, playing with effects, incorporating street scenes and processing in B&W. I hope that this will be helpful to others who find themselves in this beautiful city (or any city for that matter) in similar, uninspiring weather conditions. Happy shooting!
Paris is a love it or hate it kind of city. For me it is definitely not my taste. I love old buildings but paris is too same-y for me. Also I do not like the look of the roads and the colours of the buildings just doesnt do it for me. It is also really dirty. However, they do have grand monuments are gigantic scale and I give that to them.
Paris is just as gloomy as london and they have similar overall sunshine hours.
‘Most beautiful city on earth’? I think Venice might beg to differ…
I used to live there – used a Roleiflex 6×6 in those days. Marvelous and unique city and some of your pictures capture it very nicely. Thx for sharing.
And yes, Paris can be gloomy in the dark months – in French “maussade” or “tristounet” come to mind.
But not at heart. And then, of course, comes springtime in Paris…..
Nice article Talha. I spent there few days and remember the city revelas its full magic at night, totally new place at night, at least that’s my experience. Best, Lukasz
It shows the limitations of relying on a dictionary. An English speaker knows better than a dictionary just what a ‘gloomy’ city is. And yes, it is a description of nearly any European city in winter and not an insult.
As a Parisian, I have to agree : Paris is gloomy in winter !
You have now made the opening two sentences make no sense.
“Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth. Now I can see how that statement may be controversial, so to those who disagree, I concede the following: Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth.”
It is good thing to be diplomatic and try to make everybody happy, but not at the expense of truth, honesty or common sense. And it is never good policy to give in to trolls. It only encourages them and makes them worse.
Elaine, it’s my bad. That’s how I wrote it. Was trying to convey my love for Paris but backfired. And troll or no troll, the original opening (Paris is the most gloomy city) was kind of off-putting. Anyway, I think most people got what I was trying to say and we all got to look at some photos so no harm / no foul.
Nice article ! Thanks. Just a little mistake : Sacre Coeur is not in Montparnasse but in Montmartre !
Yes, thanks. I realized that as soon as someone pointed out my other Montparnasse mistake. Don’t want to misinform readers but it is true, whether it is Montmartre or Montparnasse, you get stunning views of Paris.
I would love to see all of these images in b&w which would have imparted or conveyed that “gloomy” appeal.
I love Paris and London, but they are second to my hometown of Washington, DC!
I really love some of your photos, and yes, during winter there is time when you don’t see the sky for days.
NB: also, the tower in the background is Jussieu (the university) not Montparnasse.
“Another image from the Pont des Arts, this time of Pont Neuf (Paris’s famous skyscraper, the Montmartre is visible in the back).”
Thanks and good catch, it is Jussieu.
Very nice photos of Paris, thank you. I just returned from a very gloomy trip to the coast of Washington and even gloomier visit to the Oregon coast where driving with wipers on high speed was like driving through a car wash. So I have a much greater appreciation of those who take photographs in gloomy weather.
Haha. Hope some of that moisture can make it’s way down to SoCal, we can always use some ..