Archive for the 'Photography' Category

Pear-akeets

Posted in Journal, Photography at 20:42

Parakeet friend

The neighboring flock of parakeets do love a good pear tree. I went to visit them with a proper camera, my Nikon D40, which I’ve had for ten years. I used my Imado f2.8 135mm telephoto lens, which is 30+ years old, thus originally made for film cameras. With the D40 it’s fully manual, which is a bit tricky when photographing birds at twilight, but the reward is gorgeous color. There’s an album for my pics of the colorful birds now.

This character was delighted to have her picture taken.

"Heehee, you're taking my picture!"

Parisian holiday, part one

Posted in Paris, Photography, Travel at 22:25

Tricyrtis formosana - toad lily

Like a typical salaried Frenchperson, every year I have about 7 weeks of vacation days to spend. Fridays here and there, a couple of weeks at Christmas, two or three weeks in July or August. This year, rather than return to my place in Nice for holidays, I stayed in Paris. I’ve lived in France for nearly 20 years now, and there were still quite a few things I hadn’t done; places I hadn’t seen. When you visit from the opposite side of the planet, you have to make clear choices, knowing there are places you’ll miss. I had seen all the main Parisian museums, climbed the stairs of the Arc de Triomphe, looked over Paris from Montmartre, read the headstones in famous cemeteries, been inside cathedrals, studied skeletons in the catacombs, shopped the Champs-Elysées, walked Versailles… and yet there was still more to see and do!

The nicest part about living here is that you can do things at a more relaxed pace. No dashing around the métro corridors – instead you can flâner dans les rues, wander the streets as you like. The city takes on a different character: no longer are places like Châtelet and Notre-Dame just names and sights imbued with the experiences of others. They become part of a living whole and inextricably tied to specific, personal memories and experiences.

One of my first trips was to the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, where I played with sine waves and fractals, then visited the wonderful geodesic dome called La Géode.

La Géode, panorama

On Monday I strolled La Coulée Verte, a garden atop le viaduc des arts near the Gare de Lyon. It also extends past the viaduct for several kilometers. For a shorter, pleasant round trip, walk the gardens one way, then come back via the lovely shops along le viaduc.

La Coulée Verte  Beautiful views from above the streets on La Coulée Verte

Then on Tuesday I explored the wonderful Jardin des plantes, where I’d hoped to also see the greenhouses, but the museum and grandes serres (greenhouses) are closed on Tuesdays. As it turned out, I was more than happy to look at the wide variety of plants. The gardens are large and diverse.

Solanum jasminoides - Morelle faux jasmin  Ipomoea lobata

Bee on lily

Sunny summer day

Posted in Journal, La France, Paris, Photography at 17:32

Palais de Tokyo panorama

Last week I learned about Vincennes en Anciennes and their Traversée de Paris estivale, where vintage cars drive through the city, stopping at a few landmarks. Unfortunately they don’t have a set schedule, other than leaving from Vincennes at a certain time in the morning. I arrived too late at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile, which I found out by checking their Facebook page.

It was a beautiful day here, though, so I made the most of it. The walk from Étoile to Eiffel is short and pleasant, filled with architectural beauties and always a surprise or two.

Arc de Triomphe, top

The Arc de Triomphe was cleaned starting last year; you can see a lot more of the detail on it now.

Boat on the Seine

Houseboats from around Europe dock in Paris. This one was from Antwerp, Belgium.

Eiffel from Passerelle Debilly

Feline photog

Posted in Catnet, Cats, Photography at 17:44

Susu the photographer

A chirpy hello to you! We had beautiful sunlight in Courbevoie today. After checking out the grass on our balcony and watching skylarks and crows, Kanoko and I came back inside to rest on the soft mattresses that our human also likes to use. I’ve been experimenting with photography thanks to our human. At first I thought she was just clicking a little black box with a big eye at us, but then I noticed it has pictures on a screen, like the other clicky-thing she uses to post these blog entries. She showed me that the small black box actually makes the photos on its screen!

For my first tries, I took a few shots of my best friend. This one is my favorite. Kanoko was paying a lot of attention to his fur, as usual, and the afternoon light was still nice.

Susu the photographer

Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

Posted in La France, Photography, Travel at 23:14

Church of Saint Ouen

Of the multitude of Gothic churches I’ve visited in France, none has impressed me as profoundly as l’Abbatiale Saint-Ouen, known as the Church of Saint Ouen in English. If you’re wondering how to pronounce it, it’s roughly like our Owen and Ewen, which is for good reason, as they’re from the same root. Saint Audoin (Ouen) lived in the seventh century, and eventually became bishop in Rouen. After his death and burial at the original church, built in 553, the building took on his name. Three centuries later, this abbey was sacked by Vikings, which happened relatively often in Normandy. Indeed, in 911, one invader traded peace for a guarantee of his protection of Normandy… against other Viking warriors. He was named King Rollo. One thousand years after Rollo’s victory, Denmark gifted a replica of Harald Bluetooth’s runestone to the city of Rouen, where it still stands in front of the modern abbey.

Church of Saint Ouen, west rose window

Another church began construction in 1062, and was consecrated in 1126. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1248. Today’s abbatiale construction began in 1318, and the last side, the west, was finished in the 19th century. The photo above is of a smaller rose window on this western side – you can see definite Celtic influence.

In addition to the flamboyant exterior – which is indeed mainly Gothic Flamboyant – the church’s stained glass windows are among its most unique sights.

Church of Saint Ouen, stained glass
Church of Saint Ouen, stained glass

If you’d like to see more pictures of the church, there are over a dozen in my photoset of Rouen. Our next entry on the Norman city will be about more down-to-earth buildings, namely the wonderful maisons à colombages, or woodframe homes.

La Cathédrale de Rouen

Posted in La France, Photography, Travel at 22:41

Rouen Cathedral towers

France still holds mysteries, even after nearly two decades living here. Last week I picked Rouen for a day trip, as the SNCF was offering a Saturday special to the Norman city from Paris. While I’ve been to Brittany and Paris, I had never before visited Normandy between them. My twelve hours spent in Rouen were so rich, I’ll be doing a series of posts on the city and its history.

This first entry is dedicated to an edifice that embodies Rouennais history from the twelfth century to our own: la Cathédrale de Rouen. The photo above shows the Tour Saint-Romain on the left, one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in history, and the first part of the cathedral to be built. On the right is the more modern Tour de Beurre, built in the 16th century, a late example of Gothic Flamboyant architecture.

Gothic architecture originated in France, and was in fact first named “French work”, Opus Francigenum. The term we use today was pejorative then: Goths were destructive vandals, and the new-fangled French handiwork was seen as a modern travesty, with Greek- and Roman-inspired Classical architecture held as the ideal against which it was judged. Even Molière, who lived in the seventeenth century, well after Gothic architecture had been established, had words to say about it:

« Tout s’y voyant tiré d’un vaste fonds d’esprit,
Assaisonné du sel de nos grâces antiques,
Et non du fade goût des ornements gothiques,
Ces monstres odieux des siècles ignorants,
Que de la barbarie ont produit les torrents… »

Translation (which can never equal the original):
All had been drawn from a rich reservoir of great thought,
Seasoned with the spice of Ancient graces,
Certainly not the blandness of Gothic ornament,
Such odious monsters borne of ignorant times,
Barbarism alone could produced by such torrents…

As for we contemporary visitors, if we exclaim “oh my God!” or “goodness gracious!” when approaching the legions of gargoyles, sculpted saints, ornate spires, and stained glass windows, all set on massive stonework, we unknowingly keep alive one of the style’s key purposes – which was to inspire awe for God and the Church.

Darkness, Rouen Cathedral

Skipping ahead another few centuries, seventy years ago this May, Rouen Cathedral lost many of her colorful windows, all of her chapels on the south side, and bells in the Saint-Romain tower, which went up in flames. The year was 1944, and Rouen was being bombarded during la Semaine Rouge, “Red Week”, by British and American Allied forces. In Rouen alone, 400 people were killed, many of them drowned after having taken refuge in cathedral cellars, unable to escape them after the bombardment.

Allied forces bombed nearly 1600 cities and towns in occupied France. In Rouen, the purpose was to destroy bridges and railways, although the cathedral is near neither and was surrounded by homes, which were razed. Understandably, the subject is complex and does not lend itself to facile conclusions. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing available to read on either Rouen or the more widespread bombardments in English. Indeed, as you can see in the Wikipedia article linked for la Semaine Rouge, there is not a single translation into any other language. For a nuanced analysis of it, I highly recommend this 2012 PDF from the Canadian Centre for Military and Strategic Analysis: ROUEN: La Semaine Rouge, by Stephen Bourque.

While many are familiar with the Normandy Invasion, few American, Canadian or British citizens know about the massive air campaign waged against their occupied ally. This offensive lasted four long years and targeted most of France’s population centers and infrastructure. By the time the war was over, the Allied air forces killed as many French as the Germans killed British civilians during the “blitz” and vengeance weapon assaults […] The greater French narrative is extremely complex and begins with Germany’s invasion in 1940 and the resulting occupation.

Rouen Cathedral continues to be restored today, its façade getting more work done, as well repairs to still-damaged structural elements. Another church targeted during la Semaine Rouge was also recently restored: l’église Saint-Maclou. Here you see its freshly-cleaned Gothic Flamboyant entrance framed by wood homes typical of Normandy.

Eglise de Saint Maclou

In the next post of this series on Rouen, we’ll look at the Saint-Ouen Abbey, festooned with gargoyles, light filtering through a veritable tapestry of stained glass windows, and containing one of the largest Gothic organs in France.

Avenue d’Iéna

Posted in La France, Paris, Photography at 20:09

As the weather finally cleared up a bit today, I was able to go on a much-desired walk. I took the métro 1 to Charles de Gaulle – Etoile and crossed the street to Avenue d’Iéna, which I then strolled down to the quais of the Seine. Not before stopping at the wonderful Musée Guimet, however!

koi nobori
On the top floor, they had a colorful temporary exhibition of koi nobori, carp streamers for Children’s Day, celebrated on 5 May in Japan.

The museum is filled with beautiful pieces from Cambodia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Korea (before it was split), China, Tibet, Nepal, and Japan, but my breath was taken away by a tenth-century Indian sculpture of a woman with a tree, called salabhanjika.

Salabhanjika

Goddess figures and trees were a key part of my Masters thesis on the feminine in cosmogonies. Across the world, an original goddess and tree of life are paired, from ancient Indus to Sumerian to Norse to Native American world creation myths. Both symbolize creation and creativity/fecundity, wisdom; that which is and that which can become.

After Guimet, I finished my walk to see Eiffel again, this time from a different perspective than I’ve had before. It’s a relatively famous spot for taking photos: the incredible Art Déco Palais Chaillot.

Eiffel from Chaillot

I also returned to the Louvre yesterday, this time to take in Flemish paintings. As always, more photos can be found in my 500px (favorites) and Flickr (everything) photostreams. I’ve been enjoying 500px, which has an active community that gives immediate feedback. Flickr has gotten much quieter since Yahoo removed statistics.

Paris views

Posted in La France, Paris, Photography at 20:40

I’ve been back in Paris for a week now, enjoying the city as it moves from a cold and windy spring to a sunny, warm one. Paris also has something that the Riviera doesn’t: fog! One morning, my walk to work resembled a fairyland of steel skyscrapers coiffed in dainty white caps. Unfortunately, it was also the one day I left my phone at home, so I have no pictures to show for it.

This weekend, two friends (and former landlords, and readers of this blog!) invited another friend and I for a delicious dinner of Thai food, made from ingredients brought from Thailand, and cooked by a Thai friend of theirs. The views from their rooftop apartment were similarly authentic, for Paris.

Parisian rooftops

The weekend before, I visited the Louvre again, and met a long-time internet friend. I had my Nikon with me, for much nicer photos than on my last visit.

Le Louvre

Going forward in time to this evening, we had beautiful sun and blue skies. Paris au printemps, c’est beau !

La Defense le soir

La Défense en boucle

Posted in La France, Paris, Photography at 19:08

Businessman sculpture, Courbevoie

Today I took a long walk around the northern half of La Défense, starting from the top (northwest), in Courbevoie, which has RER rail tracks leading to the business quarter. From there I walked to the opposite side, in Nanterre, the southwestern end of La Défense. It’s the first time I’ve been outside of skyscraper-land; unfortunately, I can’t really say I was impressed by the large Parc André Malraux, meant to be the area’s greenery. Most of the visual interest in this part of the Parisian suburbs comes from architecture rather than nature.

Thus it was that I returned to the parvis de la Défense on my boucle, or “round”. Yet another temporary art exhibition is being set up, which looks like it will be glass mosaic fishes in front of La Grande Arche.

Now with enough photos to merit it, I’ve created a set for La Défense. It has a mix of pictures taken with my phone, which has quite a decent wide-angle lens, and my Nikon SLR. You may notice several shots of the GDF Suez building (shown below) – that would be because not only do I find it a beautiful skyscraper, it’s also the client I’m currently working for. During my first few days in Paris, the sun came out and turned all the glass and metal into beautiful plays of light. Indeed, while I generally prefer natural vistas, I’ve found La Défense, with its fields of rock and concrete, trees of glittering steel, and flowers of iron, to be a postmodern forest in its own right.

GDF Suez T1 tower in the sun

Paris in a day

Posted in Cats, La France, Photography, Travel at 19:17

 

Yesterday my employer sent me to our consulting company’s Paris offices for a client interview. The potential project would be with a client located in La Défense, which is a business sector in Neuilly, just outside of Paris. You can see La Grande Arche de la Défense from the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysées; it looks like a contemporary square white arch not much larger than the historical Arc. Once you’re actually in front of it, though, you realize that it is massive.

After the meeting finished, I had an hour of free time to see Paris. I took métro line 1 to the Tuileries, the large gardens in front of the Louvre. I found a tea shop nearby, with reasonable prices given it was set between the Conseil d’État and the Louvre. I sipped a delicious jasmine tea, then took the metro and RER back to Orly for my flight home. There are a few more photos in this set of the trip.

I thought the kitties would understand me getting home a couple hours later than usual. They seemed to yesterday evening, but not this morning. As I prepared to leave for work, Susu started mewing at me and circling my feet. When I went to get my purse, she said, “MEW?!” and jumped on it. She refused. To. Budge. “No! You are staying home today! No more purses taking you to offices! Mew!” She managed to jump back on it the three times I picked her up; eventually I had to pick up my purse with her on it, then put her on the floor. “Meeewwwwww…” she cried. Too smart for her own sweet good, that little kitty-girl.