May 22, 2013
Today’s picture is one of my favorite travel photos. I like the picture from an artistic standpoint and it also brings back memories of a great trip. I took this image with my very first digital camera (a 5-megapixel Nikon E5700) almost 10 years ago. The picture was one of the winners in an international photo competition at my university a few years ago that was judged by a well-known National Geographic photographer. It also appeared as the cover photo on the university’s calendar that year.
As with many of my other photos, this was taken on a family vacation. We lived in England at the time, and we went to Paris to see the sights. We were in Paris during a very busy season and the crowds were everywhere, including the Tower. Nevertheless, if you go to Paris, you must go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. You can’t come back and tell your friends, ‘it was too crowded.’
As you can see from the photo, the lines to get into the tower were horrendous that day. My kids were fairly young at the time, and there was no way that they were going to be able to stand in lines like that. Luckily, our neighbors in England had just returned from a trip to Paris and told us a secret. If you eat at the restaurant on the mid-level of the tower, you can bypass the lines to get in. We got to the tower that day and went by those long lines to the special entrance for the elevator to the restaurant. We went right up to the mid-level and had a great lunch. After lunch, we just continued on the elevator to the top.
Form and Flow
Today’s picture was taken while we ate lunch at the restaurant. I looked down at the crowds from our table in the middle of the tower and liked how the flow of the crowd mimicked the curve of the tower from our vantage point. I also liked how you could see some of the intricate metalwork of the tower from our insider’s view. Even though this photo only shows a small part of the tower, the sweep of the metal structure is immediately recognizable to most people. One other element that I like about this picture is that it accurately reflects our experience at the tower that day: crowds and chaos.
Everyone that goes to Paris wants a picture of the Eiffel Tower. On the day we went the crowds were huge and the sky was overcast — not the best situation for the “big picture” shot of the Tower that most envision. In situations like this, it’s good to look for small parts of an iconic structure that are still identifiable from a tight shot. You might even eliminate the crowds with this technique, much like I did in the first two pictures discussed in the ‘Embracing the Crowd’ posts.
Yet, the element that takes this shot beyond ordinary is the form of the crowds that follows the tower structure. Moreover, you can get a sense of the flow of motion from the numerous people moving in the frame and the direction of the entrance line. When you can’t avoid the crowds, try to get a sense of the flow of the crowd and any forms you see within the crowd. It might just give you an award-winning shot.