This is one of those images that almost never happened. Before every trip, I mentally or physically make a shot list of locations that I want to visit. It probably isn’t surprising that Notre Dame was on my list when we visited Paris. Specifically, I wanted to visit Notre Dame at night. I had seen an awesome image of the cathedral at twilight with moody skies overhead. The image had been converted to black and white, but I could tell that the composition was one that could work for me as well.
So, at the end of a long day, I found myself encamped at twilight on the Pont de la Tournelle. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t have my moody skies. The day had turned overcast and the cloud cover was lingering into night. Strike one. Of course that blocked out any openings in the sky that could have created a magical, colorful sunset sky. Strike two. Then, as any texture in the clouds disappeared into the gloom, the lights on Notre Dame didn’t come on. Strike three… almost. After waiting somewhat patiently for 45 minutes after sunset, the lights illuminating Notre Dame finally began to flicker on.
To be honest, I didn’t notice the lights at first. I had many moments of false hope prior to that. The river cruise boats that ply the waters of the Seine have their own bright lights that illuminate the buildings along the Seine as the boats pass by. Several times I thought that the building lights were coming on but it was only the river boats illuminating the cathedral as they made their way down the Seine.
Fortunately, I was able to use the river boats to my advantage. By the time I was ready to make my image, I was using exposures of thirty plus seconds. Since the boats were brightly illuminated they would show up well in my composition. With a thirty-second exposure a passing river boat would create a long brightly colored streak as it passed through the scene. The image you see here was created exactly that way. I waited for a boat to pass the Pont de l’Archevêché to begin my exposure. By using an aperture of f/22 I was able to create the starburst effect you see on the street lights of the bridge and streets beyond. It’s not the image I had in mind, but it’s still a unique view of incomparable Notre Dame. Enjoy.