“We will always have Paris,” said Humphrey Bogart in his famous movie Casablanca, and I’m sure the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was included in the memories he intended to keep alive. Sadly, that jewel of the French Gothic was devoured by the flames recently. The world cried over the Cathedral’s destruction. President Macron promises France will fix Notre Dame in five years, and a lot of resources and specialists are being put together to fulfill that commitment. However, what will come out of the restoration of Notre Dame will be a similar but also a different Cathedral from the one I visited last May, which at the same was differed from the one where Louis XIV worshipped in the XVII Century since the building suffered several restorations so far.
“When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door.”― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Photographing Historic Buildings
This post is not about view cameras, tilt-shift lenses nor explanatory pdf post-processing explanations. I am not going to list here technical advice on how to photograph architecture, I will merely emphasize the obvious: just do it! Any famous building can disappear before we have the opportunity to photograph it. Therefore, it is important to register those buildings when we have a chance, no matter our current photo equipment and while the time is sunny, cloudy or rainy.
How I worked
I look back to have discovered Notre Dame in an album of reproductions from old engravings that my uncle bought in Paris in the 1950s. Further, I remember copying the image by pencil several times during my childhood. Therefore, with Notre Dame, I went gunning for a re-do of that specific composition from when I was little, which I did in a gray afternoon on May 2018. Because I wanted that specific angle, I had to turn left and right taking pictures until I realized that I had to go down instead! descending by the old stone stairs at the level of the pier where the boats stop. Then I saw Notre Dame as I remembered “her”. Although the image from this angle is widely known, even preceding the invention of photography as I said above, the view from the dock was still splendid. Bottom line, Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment also means planning the composition rigorously. Besides, you can still see some tourists and several scaffolds that were there that day. I can not find any reason to delete them.
After Capturing Post-Processing summary.
As I said before the photograph was taken in a very gray afternoon, meaning nor the sky neither the water on the river had any color reflected. Therefore, the capturing part was just the beginning. Then I used Photoshop to bring my vision to life by using the Blending technique: I imported the sky from another picture I took near La Seine River hours before. In addition, I applied an HDR filter and played with Curves. Finally, I copied & paste Notre Dame top portion of the Towers and some sky, flipped it with a Flip vertical transformation, applied a Blur filter in abundance and merged the layer into the river.
These are pretty dramatic effects by my standard since I like to remain as close to the original file as possible. However, in this case, it turns out that it is an unrepeatable photo because Notre Dame no longer exists the way it uses to be, so the effects, in this case, are unimpeded and gladly appreciate.
Image technical data:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera | Focal lens LEICA DG SUMMILUX 1: 1.7/15mm | Exposure f 4.5 1/640sec. | ISO 400
Notre Dame location in the world:
|48.8530°N 2.3498°ECoordinates: 48.8530°N 2.3498°E|
|Location||Parvis Notre-Dame – place Jean-Paul-II, Paris, France|