Paris’ Watchful Eye (Notre Dame Cathedral)

I’ve always had a fondness for this gargoyle – every time I’m on the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral I seek him out – I don’t know if it is the crazy eyes or what but compared with the others he seems just a bit ‘out there’. I cropped in tight on him this time – I wanted to make sure I focused on the eye because although it was sculpted centuries ago it is still in pristine condition and completely expressive in his thoughts.

The craziness hits me this week because we pick up a new puppy on Wednesday. As much as I’m looking forward to it I feel I’ve got a couple of endless/sleepless/eternal nights in front of me until we get the little guy accustomed to his new surroundings. Hopefully our seven year old cat is able to integrate the new companion into her day-to-day activities. She still has a lot of energy so I’m hoping they become playmates – fingers crossed that by introducing them slowly we can make them learn to at the very least tolerate one another.

Paris’ Watchful Eye (Notre Dame Cathedral)

Paris' Watchful Eyes (Notre Dame Cathedral)

Inside Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)

Before making it to Africa we spent the day in London as we had a 12-hour layover. Initially, I wanted to head back and check out Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We were able to tour Westminster Abbey a few years back when we were in London but had to skip St. Paul’s because of time constraints. Unfortunately, we arrived in London on a Sunday and both cathedrals were closed to visitors. We wound up heading to the Tower of London instead – not a bad fall back plan and a place we enjoyed the first time through.

Last year, when we visited Paris one of the highlights for me was seeing the upper chapel in Sainte-Chapelle. The stained glass in this magnificent church is world renowned and it is obvious to see why. The picture doesn’t even do it justice – it is a sight you must see to believe!

Inside Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)

Inside Sainte-Chapelle (Paris, France)

Palace of Versailles (Paris, France)

Our ‘big’ vacation in 2015 took us to one of my favorite cities in the world – Paris, France – and we were able to visit the Palace of Versailles this time around. It was as opulent as I imagined it would be as it was built by a king seemingly trying to bankrupt his country. With the political system (no I don’t want to talk politics :)) the way it is today in the USA I have to wonder if someday in the future people will be visiting Washington thinking the same things – when is the last time we had a balanced budget?

Palace of Versailles (Paris, France)

Palace of Versailles (Paris, France)

This year we are off to Africa for about two and a half weeks so the blog may sit quiet for awhile as I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to post while abroad. From an activity standpoint we are expecting to be pretty busy:

Cape Town:
1) Shark Diving
2) Hiking the Mountains in the area
3) Touring wine country

1) Victoria Falls
2) Hiking/repelling/gorge swinging
3) Visiting an elephant sanctuary

And finally – safari in Northeast South Africa. It’s going to be an amazing trip and we are both looking forward to the adventures. I’m very fortunate to have married my best friend and travel companion for life!

Notre Dame on the Seine (Paris, France)

We are heading back from Cape Coral today to the frigid temperatures of Chicago. I’ll be back in Florida next week for work and then off to California the following week for the same reason so at least I’ll get a bit of a reprieve from the single digit temperatures that seem to be lingering now that winter has finally reared his ugly head. Hopefully, I’ll be able to sneak off to a few other warm weather destinations in February to break up the monotony a bit.

Notre Dame on the Seine (Paris, France)

Notre Dame on the Seine (Paris, France)

We walked along the Seine River one night after drinking far too much wine at dinner. I didn’t have my tripod so I had to balance the camera on the bridge wall as we crossed. The lights were bright and the church was less so as it was under construction on the backside of it. In photoshop I brought the colors down quite a bit with a black and white filter with around 25% transparency.

Notre Dame Interior (Paris, France)

Notre Dame Cathedral - The Arched Roof (Paris, France)

Getting any sort of ‘clean’ shot within Notre Dame is next to impossible as it is dimly lit and often swimming with tourists. I found the best time to arrive (as with most destinations) is first thing in the morning when it first opens. As a result, I found myself in the church at 7 AM twice during our stay in Paris. I did take some pictures, but mainly I enjoyed the silence that you don’t get where there are hundreds of people around. It still is an active church and so at this time in the morning there were many locals who dropped by before work to pray so I didn’t want to be utterly disrespectful with the click, click, click of my shutter. The shot below was taken by setting the camera on the floor with the lens pointed straight up. In post processing I worked to straighten it a bit since it is hard to judge that while being unable to see what the camera is looking at (since the LCD and eyecup are sitting flush with the ground).

An Afternoon with the Eiffel Tower

We laid in the grass, ate lunch, took pictures and people watched for a few hours. I snuck away at one point to take some pictures of the surrounding neighborhood but mainly we tried to relax in the shadows of one of the world’s icons. It’s a wonderful city to visit and for those who may be deterred by the events of mid-November I hope you re-consider because there is nothing that should stop you from living your life and seeing all that you can while taking your one trip on this earth.

An Afternoon with the Eiffel Tower

An Afternoon on the Champ De Mars (Paris, France)

Gargoyle Atop Notre Dame (Paris, France)

We took a tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral and visited its famous gargoyles overlooking the city below. I don’t think they could have imagined hundreds of years ago when they built the church the events that would have unfolded at its feet in November 2015.

Gargoyle atop Notre Dame (Paris, France)

Gargoyle on Top of Notre Dame (Paris, France)

It’s been over a week since my last post and since the terrible attack on Paris – a city my wife and I love so dearly. Watching the events as they unfolded on the TV was tough because we had just visited the city back in April. I can’t imagine what those unable to escape the terror felt in those last minutes. It’s unbelievable that in a city like Paris this could happen and with that what does it mean for all of us? Must we stop traveling the world and sit in our homes waiting for evil to be eradicated? We can’t in good conscience do that – we need to travel and experience the joy and beauty of other cultures or else they’ll succeed in making us all as close minded as they are. We won’t let that happen to us and thus we’ve just booked our next big vacation for next April where we will be off to South Africa and Zambia for two and a half weeks. Should be a good time!

Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, France)

One of the highlights of any trip we take to Europe for me is getting to visit the immaculate churches. I’m not an overly religious person but the architectural details, artwork and belief in a higher power that it must have taken to build these structures over hundreds of years is mind-blowing.

Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, France)

Facade of Notre Dame Cathedral

Facade at the Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, France)

Lit Prayer Candles (Notre Dame Cathedral)

Lit Prayer Candles at Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, France)

Today is a day that I’ve struggled to deal with lately. It’s been a year since I lost my father and I still miss him every day. There’s been a lot of self destructive behavior in the past few weeks and hoping with the passing of this day I’ll be better able to cope with other ongoing stresses.

I still cry every time I hear ‘Just Breathe’ by Pearl Jam – and but with the belief in a higher power I know he’ll meet me on the other side…

Yes, I understand that every life must end, uh-huh
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh
Oh I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they’ve got none

Stay with me…
Let’s just breathe…

Practiced are my sins, never gonna let me win, uh-huh
Under everything, just another human being, uh-huh
I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me bleed

Stay with me
You’re all I see…

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me

As I come clean…
I wonder everyday, as I look upon your face, uh-huh
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take, oh no

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave…

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
And I come clean, ah…

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Hold me ’til I die
Meet you on the other side…

The Heart of Paris (Arc de Triomphe)

Earlier this year we spent a little over a week in Paris and one of the highlights was watching the sunset from the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of the city. The city basically fans out from this spot with streets angling off in all directions and ultimately winding up in the hub that is the circular ’round-about’ that surrounds the historical monument.

I took a few different exposures of this shot and this was actually the ‘test’ shot to ensure that I got the exposure correct. However, I wound up liking it the best because of the number of cars that went by and the couple walking towards me. At first I was irritated with the couple because they wouldn’t move but once they started they created another interesting blur element that I thought added to the atmosphere of this space.

The Heart of Paris (Arc de Triomphe)

Overlooking the Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)

The view from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral overlooking Paris, France is one of my favorites in the world. There is not a shortage of icons to keep your eye – the Eiffel Tower of course – but also the River Seine, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, etc… the list just goes on and on.

Unfortunately, during April when we visited Paris we weren’t able to visit during the edges of sunrise and sunset so I had to settle for bright blue and cloudless skies. Thus, when processing the image I tried to add some additional interest to the scene by adding some texture to the sky, a warm filter and vignette.

Overlooking the Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)

Overlooking the Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)

Royal Chapel in Versailles (Paris, France)

As the King of France, and as per tradition of the French Monarchy, you were chosen to rule by God himself. Therefore, the chapels throughout France dedicated to their kings are spectacular. This chapel located in the house that Louis the XIV built certainly fits that mold as it is masterfully designed and in pristine condition.

Unfortunately, during the tour of Versailles they do not let you into the chapel itself so you have to stand behind a velvet rope and take pictures from the outside looking in. This shot is taken from the second floor of the chapel and is where Louis the XIV would have presided over the peasants below.

Royal Chapel in Versailles (Paris, France)

Royal Chapel in Versailles (Paris, France)

In this shot I tried to use the large and ornate doors to my advantage and shot with them clearly visible in the foreground. I took some other pictures more fully zoomed in but ultimately liked this one the best because the doors themselves are interesting with their golden designs and details. Versailles is certainly a beautiful palace and it is easy to see why the chapel stands out as being one of the more stunning rooms.