Monday, 23 June 2014

Paris .... all night long...

(Sorry if there is a long load time, I've included a lot of photos in this post)

That's right, Paris all night long! Travel there, take photos all night, then travel back home to Stroud the next morning. This is the brain child of Ghene Snowdon who does these fantastic all night photo meets. Ghene, along with other longstanding members of the London Flickr Meetups Group, organizes these sorts of meets every year. Including London All Nighters as well as Paris All Nighters. Until now I've never been on one, though I have been very tempted many times over the years. But things just didn't line up right for me to go.

This year was no different really, I've been so busy that the meet just passed me by...or so I thought! On the Monday before the weekend of the '2014 Paris All Nighter' on the 7th and 8th of June, Ghene contacted me and asked if I'd like to go in her place as something had come up and she couldn't go. At first I was stunned but then I quickly looked at my calendar and decided I could manage it. Quickly discussed it with hubby and then accepted the challenge to fill Ghene's shoes for the trip. Don't let her small size fool you, she may be a very tiny person but her shoes are very difficult to fill! Lucky for me she had everything all planned out and she sent me her itinerary with maps and even talked me through it on the phone. All I had to do was follow her instructions, manage tickets and lead the group around Paris all night on an amazing photo expedition. Oh and stay awake all night!

I was extremely excited about the trip and more than a bit nervous about being the group leader! I've organized and lead several photographic expeditions over the years myself, but never one this far away or to a place I wasn't familiar with. Like I said before, lucky for me, Ghene had it all planned down to a 'T' and passed all this information over to me to follow. I still had to plan my trip to London though and I begin looking up train times and trying to figure out how to get from Paddington to St Pancras etc. I started my own itinerary with notes and directions for me to follow on the day. My husband Peter was also helping me with this as he grew up in London and knows his way around. He even sneaked a few notes into my itinerary himself which I found later. Like after the notes about meeting the crew at St Pancras by the giant Kissing Statue he added: "Ask who knows Paris and give them the map." Lucky for him I have his sense of humour.

So my journey begins.... On Saturday I left Stroud on the 11:35 morning train to London Paddington where I caught the Underground Hammersmith and City Line to Kings Cross, which is next door to St Pancras station where we catch the Eurostar to Paris. I met Ghene there and she went over things with me again before taking me to meet the group of photographers who were going on this trip. Quick chat then off to catch the 15:31 Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord....where we lose an hour as Paris is an hour ahead of London time. We arrive in Paris at 18:47. (For those not familiar with the 24 hour clock that is 6:47pm)

Most of the gang at Gare du Nord down in the Metro in Paris (L to R) Ravi, Julie, Jackie, Mike just behind David & Kieron. 
We regroup and meet up with others of the group already in Paris then head down to the Metro to catch a train to our first destination. There are suppose to be 9 of us but one person couldn't make it. There is Mike, Ravi, David, Kieron, Julie, Chris, Jackie and myself. I sort out our Metro tickets and we head for our platform.... only to be rushed off and back into the station by armed men who I think are police but I'm not sure. Some of us speak French (Not myself) but that didn't help with the overhead announcements, we wouldn't have understood them even if they'd been speaking English. I'm with quite a clever bunch though and they figured out there was a package left on the platform unattended and they figured there was a panic as the Queen of the United Kingdom was also visiting Paris this weekend as well, traveling as we had on the Eurostar from London to the Gare du Nord. As well as The Queen there were other leaders from around the world there as well including President Obama who were all there for the D Day Commemoration.

The Metro in Paris
At this time I tried out this app that my friends Liz and James told me about. It's called 'Word Lens' and uses your phone's camera to translate different languages. I just opened the app, pointed the phone camera at the digital sign giving us information and it translated it. Really cool app! Anyway that confirmed unidentified package on the platform. A little while later we heard a muffled explosion. They performed a controlled explosion on the package. It didn't sound like it was very far away from where we were either. Soon after that we were allowed back on the platform to wait for our train. So I guess you could say our trip started out with a BANG! :-D

Mike photographing people down in the Metro while we waited for our train. 
All of this put us way behind schedule of course but that didn't seem to bother any of us. We just continued on taking photographs along the way.

Waiting for our Metro train. 

Mike never stopped taking photos :-)
Our first stop was Tour Montparnasse to photograph the sunset. We went all the way to the top where there were beautiful views all around Paris including the Eiffel Tower....which I mostly photographed. Sorry, newbie in Paris and all that. ;-)

Apparently, I'm told, that the best views of Paris are from the Tour it's the only place in Paris where you can't see the huge Tour Montparnasse! It is a very large building. :-)

I really enjoyed photographing the sunset over you've probably noticed from all the photos of the Eiffel Tower. I did take my Lee filters and I did try to use them but I found them too fiddly in a crowd of people all jostling for the few openings in the glass to take a clear shot of the I put them away before I damaged or dropped one off the building.

The view from my camera....with another camera. The line going across the middle shows the small opening they left for cameras to take photos. The glass was quite clean but still not ideal to shoot though, so we really appreciated the little openings. 
Back on the Underground...sorry Metro. I really liked their centre poles that split into three. Much nicer when trying to share space. In this photo: David, Ravi, Mike and Julie. 
Kieron & Mike photographing Centre Pompidou.
After sunset on top of Tour Montparnasse, which was around 20:02 (8:02pm) we headed for Centre Pompidou. It was quite dark by the time we got there. It is a very strange building indeed! I didn't take very many photos here myself, but the others really enjoyed photographing it. I found a post to sit on and enjoyed the scenery, then we had to go and find Jackie as she'd lost us. Turns out she'd followed the wrong group of people for a while. We found her though, she wasn't far away. :-)

Rue Saint Merri, art installation. 
By this time it was getting close to midnight and we headed on foot towards Notre Dame via Rue Saint Merri, Rue Du Renard, passing Hotel De Ville, then Point d'Arcole and to Rue d'Arcole before reaching Notre Dame. I couldn't tell you if we hit all those points or not, but I believe we made most of them.

Hotel de Ville

I believe this to be Pont d'Arcole or very near it. :-) In this photo, upper right is Ravi, David, Julie and Mike.
By this time it is around midnight and we are running a bit behind schedule, but no worries, we are enjoying ourselves and taking lots of photographs. The Sax player above was particularly photographed quite well by our crew. Bless him. ;-)

Notre Dame
Ahhh Notre Dame! For the above shot I just had to pull my 24mm tilt shift lens out. It's quite a complicated lens to use so it took me a few minutes to set the shot up and get the exposure correct, especially in the dark! I really enjoy using that lens though. Worth every penny and worth all the trouble.

Bridge near Notre Dame over the Seine River. In other words, I've no idea. 

Pont des Arts AKA Love Locks Bridge. 
 Next stop is Pont des Arts with it's famous Love Locks Bridge. Hundreds of thousands of locks are locked to this bridge, couples come every day to lock their love to the bridge with locks with their names written on them and then they throw away the key into the river below. You may have seen love locks locked to bridges near you or on your travels. I believe this bridge is where it all started.

Love Locks Bridge (Pont des Arts)
Now while I was on this bridge looking at all these locks I thought to myself...all those locks must be mighty heavy and can't be good for the bridge or its railings. Sure enough later that afternoon on Sunday (after we were long gone I might add!) part of the railings collapsed under the weight of all the locks. Here's a story about it in the Independent: Part of Paris bridge collapses under weight of 'love locks' left by tourists

Louvre Museum
Around 01:30 in the morning we arrived at Louvre Museum. It was closed of course! But we only came to photograph the famous illuminated pyramid in its courtyard, and sit down for a little break.  We were happy to see that the lights were still on.

After this we went on a long walk to find the restaurant where we were to have our late night supper. I think it was round 02:30-03:00 when we found it. Everyone had pizza except me who had a lovely salad. I wasn't hungry but I knew I needed to eat as I hadn't had any food since arriving in Paris. Mainly I needed to drink some liquids.

Arc De Triomphe
After some much needed nourishment and rest we went to find the Arc De Triomphe.  Of course I had to get in the middle of the road to photograph it. :-D

It's now around 5am. It's not a real long time till our train back to London comes so we decided to head in the direction of the station and have a bit of breakfast and a natter. Chris and Julie were both staying in Paris and Chris left us earlier in the evening to go to his hotel room. Julie stayed with us till the end before heading for her sister's house somewhere in Paris. The rest of us headed for our Eurostar train back to London with myself traveling on to Stroud.

Sunrise near Gare du Nord
What an amazing trip and experience! Though to be honest if I ever do it again it will be with a hotel waiting for me in Paris! I stayed awake quite easily all night but the trip home was quite a struggle. I'd do it again in a heart beat though. :-)

Time home in Stroud, just after Noon on Sunday.

For the photographers who are interested in what gear I took. Not as much as I wanted and far too much at the same time. I did use most everything I took but I do wish I'd left the Lee filters behind. Could have probably left one of the other lenses behind too, like the 16-35. Oh and the 50! I didn't even use that one I don't think! Tripod was very handy, though heavy. I really need to find me a smaller lighter tripod for trips like this. Loved the 70-200 for the sunset photos and the 24-70 for most everything else. Oh and though I didn't use it much I was glad I had the 24mm tilt shift lens.

I also took a smallish compact camera with me as well, which I took quite a few photos with. Could have almost made do with that most of the time to be honest. Half the photos above are from my Sony RX100 II camera.

I had also taken a jacket for warmth, which I did not need and never took out. A rain coat and an umbrella as it was suppose to rain cats and dogs on us, but as it turns out I didn't need those either. It did rain but only while we were in the restaurant. We were really lucky with the weather.

It other words I carried way too much stuff which I had to lug around. Never mind, I consider it insurance, if I hadn't have brought those things we would have been cold and wet all night! You're welcome! ;-)

If you are interested in joining in on any future trips of this sort then please check out The London Flickr Meetups Flickr Page for more information.

A few links to explore relating to this trip:
The London Flickr Meetups Flickr Page
Link to photos on Flickr by others on this trip
Ghene's Paris All Nighter 2014 page
My Flickr Page