Excited to start shooting, we dropped off our bags and went to jump on the metro, beginning our adventures outside the Église Saint-Eustache, as it emerged from plumes of steam in the Nelson Mandela Garden. I love churches, especially gothic ones, so was chuffed to be starting my camera roll off correctly. It was here I first experimented with zooming in and out, which actually changes you between cameras so you don’t lose quality, and found that with going ultra-wide, you can easily get all of the building in your shot – no more running backwards and forwards!
On to the Louvre, which was tourist heaven. I don’t know what’s more impressive – the staggering 18th century architecture, or how many people try and fail to take that stupid perspective picture of the pyramid under their fingers…either way, a shot of the more modern pyramid in mid-afternoon is nigh on impossible without tourists in…(yes, fully aware that means I’m in everyone else’s pictures, too)… If it were quiet, it would be perfectly possible to meander around the grounds alone just getting lost in the incredible architecture.
Getting far too carried away with the sights, we wandered into the designer shopping district, purchased an obligatory macaroon, and had a late lunch in a bookshop – a supposed taste of England, which made us laugh. We found ourselves passing the Grand and Petite Palais, with the Arc de Triomphe visible from the end of the road, and wandered down the river toward the Eiffel Tower. It’s easy to get “snap-happy” with such a fabulous camera (or four!), but I enjoyed working in Pro mode, composing and setting shots as I would on my DSLR, and creating artistic images that usually, you can’t create with a phone.
A particular example of this is my interpretation of the Eiffel Tower. We had intended to go up it in the early evening, but arriving just as the sun was setting, the queues were still enormous. Instead, fancying a sit down, we found a bench on a tree lined path, and I captured the orange glow of the sunset from the foot of the Eiffel Tower. I’ve never seen an image like this; it being the icon of Paris, you’d imagine it to be shot from all angles. I’d have only been able to capture this with the stunning 40mp RAW capabilities of the Mate 20 Pro’s Leica lenses (I mean really, it’s better than my Nikon!)
Wandering around at night, it had gotten dark quite early – tourists seemed to vacate the streets as soon as the light left, leaving only street sellers and refugees, and as two young women on their own, we started to feel unsafe. The nearest metro station still some distance away, we weren’t deterred and continued on to Montparnasse Tower, where we’d pre-booked combined day and night visit tickets. This was my first chance to test the Huawei’s cameras in low light, maxing out the ISO to see how they performed, and comparing the built in AI photo modes to the performance of going fully manual in Pro mode. Grainy? Yes. But you’d expect that. If you don’t intend to blow up the 40mp images the size of a bus you can get away with it. A few tweaks in Lightroom – either on the go on your mobile version, or once you’re back with a coffee in front of your Mac – to darken the shadows, and play with the exposure and vibrance, and you’ve an image that no one would guess you took on a device small enough to fit in your pocket. You need large pockets, mind you…
Day 2 was a day of death, as I coined it. First the mind-blowing Notre Dame, then onto the Catacombs, and finally Montparnasse Cemetery. It was overcast, quite chilly, but still just as beautiful.
After a traditional French breakfast in a cute little cafe, we arrived at Notre Dame in time to catch the end of a Latin mass, and hear the bells ring. We were both mesmerised. I only wish I could have captured a smell in my camera as well, the incense was so potent and homely. (Yes, my home does smell like church from time to time. Why not?!) With more low light, and light sources coming from delicate stained glass windows, candle flames, and electric lamps, I had a field day experimenting with camera settings! It was busy, but I didn’t let the crowd deter me from finding a quieter spot, or a less-seen angle, and taking the same shot using multiple methods. I had to try everything, after all.
The very inviting Shakespeare & Company bookshop was also on our list, just a stone’s throw from the cathedral – so if you’re in the area, be sure to go. (Come out of the front door, turn left, and walk straight ahead. Cross at the traffic lights, and you’ll see it to your right). Unfortunately they have a very annoying, but understandable, no-photo policy. Perfect time to try shooting on Auto with the volume keys. Cheeky! Other than of course having absolutely no idea what you’re shooting, you equally can’t be certain your picture has taken, and how much camera shake there is, as each exposure time is likely different. Most of my images taken for this experiment were blurry. I’ve kept some as memories – I love a good bookshop – but where the rooms were lighter, and I was able to be still longer, they came out crisp and sharp, it’s just of course the framing that isn’t always ideal.
Hopping back on the metro and having a quick hot chocolate at the Cafe Du Rendez-Vous, we headed into the Catacombs, which I knew would quite literally be the highlight of my trip. It’s fair to say I went to town on the picture taking here. It was fascinating. Yet more tricky light to play with, I enjoyed the challenge.
After a yummy patisserie filled lunch, we cut through Montparnasse cemetery on our way to the tower for our day visit, and in fact ended up walking around most of it, despite it’s size. The odd pop of colour was visible in the flowers, but the day had turned colder and drearier; everything looked whitewashed. The views from the tower showed the same, yet fit beautifully the colour palette of the city. Never have I seen a city whose design is so considered, every detail thought about. Beautiful architecture coupled with style and elegance. It was a joy to visit, and though fleeting, I loved it. I’ll be back in a different season, again with Huawei in hand.