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Palais Garnier

Day Eight

In my opinion, one of the most spectacular sites in Paris is the Opera House, better known to locals as Palais Garnier. I’d rank it higher than the crowded Palace of Versailles. The shots below are panoramas at high resolution. Drag the full-size images to your desktop and open them with your favorite image viewer to fully appreciate.




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Latin Quarter and Champs Elysee

Day Seven

We did a walking tour of the Latin Quarter, and later in the day we walked along the Champs Elysee, which had a huge Christmas market about a mile long, and is where I did much of my street photography.

By now, we’ve become quite comfortable using the Paris Metro, which is convenient and easy to navigate.






Another reminder that you can view more images and videos from our trip by clicking here.

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Paris Street Photography

According to Wikipedia, Street Photography – which is not always shot in the street, but which is nearly always black & white – has its roots in Paris. What better place then, to try to master the craft? Luckily, my new Fuji x100T may be the best camera available for the genre. It’s perfect because it’s small, fast and completely silent.

Street photographers in the past chose black and white film due to its greater light sensitivity. This allowed them to stop motion blur. Today’s digital cameras with their super-fast lenses and sensors are well-suited to freezing motion. I chose shutter priority at about 1/500th of a second for most of these.

Focusing is a bit trickier. I am usually not looking through the viewfinder when I make these shots. Instead, I carry the camera at or even below my waist and pretend to be fiddling with it, while in fact I’m snapping pictures as fast as I can. I thought that maybe I should try a fixed focus distance – say ten feet – and shoot everything from that distance, but this proved to be difficult and produced a lot of blurry shots. It’s easier to let the camera (attempt to) autofocus. Naturally, when you or your subject are on the move, you will still get plenty of out-of-focus shots, but occasionally, you’ll achieve something wonderful.





Yes, shooting this way is a bit random, and you could argue that there is little skill required to make shots this way. That’s mostly true. The thing is though, that shooting “from the hip” can result in images which are more interesting and more emotional than shots of the same old architectural and landscape subjects. This is especially true these days, when virtually every square inch of the planet has been photographed by someone with far more talent and much better hardware on that one day when the light was just perfect.

Street scene

Christmas Day in Paris

Day Six

It’s Christmas! The timing of the day’s activities was perfect, as we arrived at Notre Dame during a gorgeous Christmas mass. Aside from the mass, the day felt pretty much like any other. None of the usual Christmas misery. Just fun exploring new places. What a great day!




In the afternoon, we strolled through the Latin Quarter with a tour group from the ship.



A reminder that you can view all of the images and videos from our trip by clicking here.

The grave of Vincent van Gogh and his brother

Auvers Sur Oise

Day Five

We visited the last home of Vincent Van Gogh, and stood on the very spot where several of his paintings were made. We learned that he made more than 70 paintings in the last 70 days of his unhappy life.

We also got our first glimpse of the sun today, which lasted about 30 minutes.




Another Notre Dame. This one's in Les Andelys

Les Andelys

Day Four

Les Andelys is a town of 9000 people 60 miles from Paris, which makes it close enough to be considered a suburb. Much of the population commutes from here to Paris. Naturally the town has a large church named Notre Dame where we enjoyed a beautiful organ concert.




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Rouen

Day Three

Our third day finds us in the unpronounceable city of Rouen. Eighteen year old Joan of Arc was burned alive here. A chapel was erected in the 1970’s near the exact spot of her death.

This prosperous city of 107,000 people and 70 church steeples is also home to many wooden and stone structures dating to the 16th century. I find it amazing that wood can survive this long, but here it is in all it’s bent and bulging glory.






A reminder that you can view all of the images and videos from our trip by clicking here.

While viewing the Google+ Album, you may find it interesting to click on Photo Details to the right. Most of my images are geotagged with their more-or-less precise location. You can also view the camera’s EXIF info. Also note that you can zoom any image by rolling your mouse wheel or equivalent. Another very nice way to view images on Google Plus is to select Slideshow at the top of the screen. Enjoy!

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Palace of Versailles

Day Two

After a tasty welcome dinner on board the River Baroness, we cruised a short distance up the River Seine to the 700 room Palace of Versailles and it’s jaw-dropping opulence. We inspected one of the enormous “apartments” used by royalty of the period, and toured room after room filled with gilded walls and furniture custom-built to become part of the rooms.

The Palace and its gardens are certainly dazzling, but it’s impossible not to feel the injustice of having lived this way while the rest of the country wallowed in extreme poverty.







Even in December, the crowds were huge. The spectacular Hall of Mirrors was pretty much impossible to photograph without getting 200 tourists in the frame. If you’d like to get a much better, fully unobstructed view of the place, click here.

Funny window dressing

Christmas in Paris

This year we decided to avoid the depressing spectacle that is Christmas in the US by traveling abroad for the holidays. This turned out to be an even better idea than we thought it could be. The usual guilt and stress of our most dreaded holiday melted away, and we pretty much forgot about the whole mess. For me, this year’s non-celebration meant it was easily the Best Christmas Ever. (Thank you, Kellster!)

It should some as no surprise that I took a few pictures with my new Fuji X100T. I tried a few new techniques along the way, which I’ll share in a later post. My goal now is to make a blog entry for each day of the trip with a few photographic highlights. (This may take some time.) In parallel, I’m working on a Google+ Album with all of the best images. You can view it and the hundreds of images it will eventually contain here.


Day One

We begin with a nice trip to SFO, followed up by the most uncomfortable flight ever. Where there had been three seats on our Air France 777, there were now four of the narrowest seats we’ve ever seen or sat in. Flying has become so awful. Oh well… Kelly made friends with Charlot and Marion, who offered plenty of advice as to how to part ways with our money, a few of which Kelly really took to heart. (More on this later.)

After landing at the huge Charles de Gaulle Airport, we were greeted by our driver who mentioned that I have a French name. When I told him it is actually Belgian, he offered his condolences. We dumped our luggage on the ship and despite near total exhaustion, headed out for a 40 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. Guess what. It’s big.


We are tired, but very happy…

Oakland Skyline Update

We’ve had about enough of the almost non-stop helicopter sounds outside our window. There are three or four in the air almost every evening that doesn’t include rain.

Click for a closer look at this 15,000 pixel-wide view from my rooftop. It’s not the sharpest image ever taken, but this is because the shots were handheld at high ISO with the lens wide open and manual (out of) focus. I sort of forgot that my 35mm lenses don’t perform as well wide open as the awesome lens on my X100T.

The last time I did this sort of thing, I used a tripod, lower ISO, smaller aperture and auto focus. The resulting image received more attention than any other in the history of thedude.com.

DISCLAIMER: Just as the moon was not really in that spot in my earlier panorama, there was actually just one helicopter with a searchlight in this one. I took about 5 shots of the police chopper in 2-second intervals thinking that I’d combine them all in the final pano, but this is what came out of AutoPano Pro on the first take, and I like it. Done. Well, that is until Kelly saw it and suggested this tighter crop. Yes, I like this one too!

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Photographing Four Kids is Hard

While the thought of shooting kids (with a camera) is not something I’d normally consider fun, I really could not refuse when my boss asked me to shoot his kids for the holiday. (Did I mention how adorable his kids are? Yes, they really are. No, really!)

I get butterflies before all photo shoots, and this assignment had me more nervous than most. It’s easier to focus the camera than four kids, but as always, fear morphed into fun as soon as I started working. The kids were great, and we managed to get a few winners. I can’t spoil the surprise, so you’ll have to wait until after the holidays to see them.

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Oh Just Frigate

Working on a cover of a book about pirates.

The image started as a model from the Sketchup 3D Warehouse, exported in 3DS format, imported into Cinema4D. What you see is pretty much straight out of Cinema.