Steps upto the Sacre Coeur
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Three Nights in Paris – And some reflections on my camera choices

March 9, 2014

A 6 o’clock start isn’t really my cup of tea if I’m honest, especially when it’s going to be 11 hours until we reach the hotel we are staying at just outside of Disneyland. The traveling party is made up of five: myself, Hannah, our daughter Connie and Hannah’s two sisters; her twin Charlotte and their older sister Rosie. The plan is centred around Connie visiting Disneyland, but since me and Hannah can’t afford a honeymoon as such (we are getting married in a few weeks), we are going to be gifted a day without Connie. On Saturday, whilst she is being looked after by the sisters, Hannah and I shall be taking the train to Paris for a bit of sightseeing!

But first we have to get there, and that is today’s mission! Car to Reading is the first stage. And it is during this first stage I am going to take the opportunity to tell you about the chosen cameras for this little jolly.

Waiting for a taxi in Reading

Waiting for the taxi from Hannah’s gran’s flat in reading – Canon prima 120 & XP2

As I mentioned in my post about the Ricoh GR1v, the decision was to bring it and the Leica M7. Well since then the GR1v has started it’s inevitable journey toward failure. I shan’t dwell on this here as it shall no doubt be the subject of a later article. Fortunately due to a recent decision that my main tool for 28mm shooting should be a Ricoh GR1 and not a lens for the Leica, I struck up a deal with Ben (who previously bought the second GR1v – see tale of woe) to swap one of my voigtlander 28mm lenses for his GR1v… Again, more on that another time…

So, I’ve bought my new/old/other GR1v, and just incase it too has a funny turn, I’ve bought the trusty GR1s. As mentioned, the Leica has also joined me along side it’s friends the 50mm 1.5 Summarit, 35mm Summicron and 35mm Voigtlander 35mm 1.4.

The last bit of kit was chosen purely for telephoto shooting. It crossed my mind to bring something to attach my 100mm trioplan to, but I thought better of it. The chance of me shooting a lot of photos telephoto is quite slim so I didn’t want something that would be a pain to carry. The solution came to me when I found it in the glove box of the car (where it has lived for a while now); the Canon prima 120. It’s got a 38-120mm lens which although reputedly pretty good, is woefully slow at the long end. f/10.9 to be precise! Since I’ll be shooting it at the long end exclusively I have recoded the DX strip for 1000iso. Past experience tells me that chucking a roll of XP2 into the local Max Speilman even 1.3ev underexposed should give me decent enough results for what I have in mind. And that’s all the gear I have bought!

Writing just that intro has taken longer than I expected… Turns out 2yr old children occupy quite a lot of your time on long train journeys. I’ve snapped away regardless and now find myself halfway between Lille and Minnie Mouse’s house; on a train, sat next to a sleepy Connie.

Sleepy Connie

Asleep on the train – GR1s and Fuji 400

Day 1 – Disneyland…

… But first I snapped a couple of shots out of the Hotel window with the Prima 120. I like this camera, it’s not great, but it has it’s charm, and straight away is fulfilling its requirement for long lens shooting!

From the hotel window

Shot through the hotel window – Canon prima 120 & XP2

… And on to Disneyland
It’s days like to day I remember why I love a camera that I can point and poke! With a 2 yr old in tow, when it’s raining and in a busy place like Disney land just being able to point and shoot is a blessing! That said, I did shoot a few with the Leica.

Hannah and Connie

Princess’ and a tower – M7 35 cron & Fuji 400

Princess castle

Inside the Princess castle – M7, Cron and Fuji 400

Its a tiny world

If you ever go to Disneyland, the “it’s a tiny world” ride is definitely a must see … It defines the line between joy and sinister! – M7, Cron and Fuji 400

I could just feel myself slipping into photographer mode and forgetting why I was there. It’s all well and good taking photos at a place like this, but really it’s all about Connie enjoying herself, something that takes a certain level of maintenance. What it doesn’t take is me knobing around with a camera for too long, so after a few shots I settled on shooting almost exclusively with the Ricoh. And to be honest, even then I didn’t take too many photos!

Another View of Disney

It was a pretty bleak day – Ricoh GR1s and Fuji 400

Another view of Disney

Another view of Disney – Ricoh GR1s and Fuji 400

Minnie and Connie

Connie loves Minnie… I love this picture! – Ricoh GR1s and Fuji 400 (fairly heavy crop)


The parade at the end of the day. It was really raining by this time, but the characters didn’t seem particularly phased. Ricoh GR1s and Fuji 400

Day 2 – Paris

Me and Hannah have been to Paris once before; it was in the early days of our relationship so holds some good memories for us. One of the first places we visited last time was the Sacré Coeur, so we decided we should pay a fleeting visit this time! Some of the steps around Montmartre where the Sacré Coeur are not for the faint of heart, but some of the views on the accent very much make up for the struggle!


Shot down a staircase what’s height I haven’t managed to capture by half! – Canon Prima 120 and XP2

The first time we came to the Sacré Coeur and stumbled across this market of artists. I shot with a Nikon D70s back then, and wasn’t the most confident at “street” shooting… Not that I am now, I’m certainly no Bruce Gilden, but I am more comfortable, and it’s that comfort that got me these shots where I didn’t even get one last time!


Montmartre artists – M7, 35 cron and XP2


There were loads of guys with pads just walking around. – M7 35 cron and XP2

To the top of Montmartre proper, and the views of the city and other tourists almost distract from the fairly large Basilica they surround! Needless to say, I took photos of all of these potential subjects.

Steps up to the sacre coeur

People on the steps up to the Sacre Coeur – Canon Prima 120 and XP2

View from by the sacre coeur

The view from the Sacre Coeur across the city is very impressive! – Canon Prima 120 and XP2

sacre coeur

The one photo I took of the Basilica itself – Canon Prima 120 and XP2

The main reason for bringing the Canon on the trip was for tele-cityscapes. The first thing I noticed when shooting it was just how much movement I was introducing to the camera when pressing the button. The half press has a good bit of give to it, but full press requires just a touch more pressure than is comfortable. It’s the extra requirement for force that causes the camera to move which is of course especially noticeable at long focal lengths. I’m not used to this long lens shooting at the best of times, so this added issue of the shutter button threw me a little. That being said, I did get used to it as the day progressed and actually very quickly grew quite fond of using this little Canon. This camera has a following and I can understand that I think, if for no other reason than the fact that there is almost zero shutter lag!

View from by the sacre coeur

Another shot with the Canon across the city – Canon Prima 120 and XP2

I believe the choice to shoot the Canon with XP2 at EL1000 certainly would have helped keep the shutter speeds high enough to keep things sharp!

Snack time, and since we were in the area, we thought it would be rude not to have a rather nice coffee and sandwich in the cafe famed for its part in the Montmartre based film ‘Amelie’.

Café des Deux Moulins

Café des 2 Moulins – Leica M7 35 Cron and Xp2

Café des Deux Moulins

Inside the Café des 2 Moulins – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

Café des Deux Moulins

Another shot inside Café des 2 Moulins – Leica M7 35 cron and XP2

Next on the agenda was the Arch de Triomphe or “Triumphant arch” as the signs outside kindly translated for us.

arc de triomphe

The scaffolding detracted somewhat, but can’t be avoided I guess? – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

Again, we came here last time, but the mission this time was to get a stranger to take our photo.

atop the arc de triomphe

The one shot I didn’t take – taken by a random french girl. – Canon Prima 120 and XP2

atop the arc de triomphe

This young man was just chillin having a read, the Canon to hand captured the moment as well as I could have hoped for!

View from the arc de triomphe

From the top of the Arch roads go off in all directions. Canon Prima 120 and XP2

View from the arc de triomphe

Ok, so I did get another shot of the Sacre Coeur – Canon Prima 120 and Xp2

Under the arc de triomphe

I think I took a shot just like this last time, but the up-lights do make for nice lighting – Leica m7 35 cron and Xp2

From here we paid a fleeting visit to Notre Dame (after getting a little lost and ending up near by).

Cite station

The view up and down the stairs at Cité Metro station – M7 35 Cron and Xp2

The queue was long so we just wandered around outside for a little while. An impressive building!

Notre Dame

Ricoh GR1v and XP2

The seine

The canon came into it’s own again for this shot of the Seine and a boat – Canon Prima 120 and Xp2

Notre Dame

A real greb shot with the Ricoh, I saw the cyclist at the last moment.

From the Notre Dame we went a little further out to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. The metro station we got off at was right next to a small gap in the cemetery wall, we walked through and there in front of us was a map. There are a few famous people buried there, so detailed on this map were their locations. Hannah had suggested we pay a visit to Oscar Wilde, so we located the plot ’83’ and started walked in the general direction. If you ever visit Pere Lachaise cemetery take heed of this one tip: don’t expect to find a memorial stone after one cursory glance at a map! This place is huge, 110 acres apparently, and thousands upon thousands of graves! I suspect, had we done any sort of research, we could have gone through the main entrance and got a map. But we didn’t, and actually, I’m glad of that! Apart from a map of dead “famous” people feeling a little morbid, and to my mind a touch disrespectful to the non-famous, it was a chance to take a breather from rushing around the city. It’s very picturesque and so strolling with little aim through down the cobbled pathways occasionally stopping to admire a particularly lavish, or indeed particularly run down memorial was actually surprisingly relaxing … Suffice to say, we didn’t find Oscar Wilde, or any of his famous co-occupants.

Père Lachaise Cemetry

It’s rare the Ricoh lens flares, in fact, I’ve never had it flare on me!

Pere Lachaise Cemety

One of the many very long paths in the cemetery

Pere Lachaise Cemety

Tightly pack memorials – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

Père Lachaise Cemetry

Inside one of the memorials – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

On to the Picasso museum, or so we thought … It was closed! Fortunately, the George Pompidou Centre was only a short walk so with only about an hour before we needed to start our journey back to the hotel we went there. Zero expectation apart from for a bloody great big fairly odd looking building. That first expectation was certainly met! Vast! And looks like it’s outer skin is inside out! I expect the intention of the architect was indeed to make you question it’s looks! Hannah certainly wasn’t taken with it, I on the other hand just see photo opportunities, and whilst I would certainly agree it wasn’t necessarily in keeping with the local architecture, if nothing else, it presented me with a few of those!

Outside the pompidou

Our first view of the Pompidou Centre – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

Outside the pompidou

The front of the Pompidou Centre – Ricoh GR1v and Xp2

Pompidou centre

View from the queue to buy tickets, the reflections on the floor reminded me of something apt – Leica M7 35 Cron and XP2

I was expecting it to be a little more like the tate modern, inasmuch as I thought we would be able to wander round relatively freely. It seems we weren’t so the first thing we did was find the cafe and have a coffee. Sat waiting for me to get the coffee Hannah heard the person on the Tannoy say “To avoid over crowding queues for the Cartier Bresson Exhibition may involve a 30 minute wait” or words to that effect. Of course rather hurriedly we drank our coffee, paid our €26 and made our way up to the 6th floor to start queuing!

from the Pompidou

From the escalators up to the exhibition – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

Outside the exhibition

Shot whilst waiting to get into the exhibition – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

A most enjoyable exhibition, I learnt a few things too!

The Bresson exhibition

The exhibition itself – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

The Bresson exhibition

The staff all looked bored – Ricoh GR1v and XP2

The Bresson exhibition

Ricoh GR1v and XP2

The train back to the hotel seemed a lot longer than it actually was, we were both exhausted!

Tired after a long day

Ricoh GR1v and XP2

And that was it for our day in Paris, and pretty much the photos from the trip, the way home didn’t hold that ouch shooting appeal, we were all pretty exhausted I think!

I suppose I should look back at the kit I took; I’m really getting to grips with the realisation of how important it is to reflect on these sorts of things. I am actually fairly happy with my choices, but I certainly didn’t need the other two leica-mount lenses, and in fact I’m starting to doubt whether I need them at all. Of course there is a difference between “need” and “want” and for now at least I want to keep them.

The other thing I noticed grinding me down a little was my wish to use all of the cameras I had to hand. It was a little like back when I used to have a bag full of lenses and a Nikon DSLR. The reality of course is that on a day trip, excluding the weight issue, carrying a series of small cameras with a lens range of 28-120mm is little different in terms of the mental effect it has on you to carrying a large camera and range of lenses. The choice of options distracts from the shooting experience by forcing you to look for too many possibilities at once. I find even shooting a single zoom lens opens too many possibilities to me. A single prime lens is remarkably freeing from all of that; it (excuse the pun) focuses the attention on a single set of frame lines, which to my mind at least helps me “find” the photos.

It’s not like all this is new to me either, I’ve long since moved away from zoom lens in almost all areas of my shooting life. I shoot professionally (when not in the studio) almost exclusively with a 28mm. And one of the big realisations that drove me to start this blog was how much I enjoy shooting with kit that imposes quite strict limitations on me … Yet on this occasion I gave myself this wide range of shooting options that whilst hopefully didn’t detract too much from the outcome, did detract somewhat from my personal shooting enjoyment. I guess once in a while you just need to remind yourself of these things, and try not to succumb to the “big event, need lots of kit” mentality that it appears can have a habit of creeping back in once in a while. This said, had I not had the range of gear I did have I wouldn’t have gotten the range of shots I did … In fact, thinking about it, the only camera I could have done completely without was the Leica … but I suspect I will probably ignore those particular thoughts!

Thankfully of course, it wasn’t all about photos, and the trip itself was very enjoyable!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures, there are some more in the set on flickr

Thanks for reading


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  • Reply
    March 10, 2014 at 7:53 am

    Superb write up, Hamish, and even better photos. The one I like most is the long shot across to the Sacre Coeur, but equally the cyclist in front of Notre Damme.

    Is there a city more photogenic than Paris?

    But this blog entry also brought back memories of taking Rhona to Disneyland Paris at roughly the same age. It surprised me by turning out to be one of the best holidays we’ve ever had. Thanks for jogging the old memory!

    • Reply
      March 10, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks Rob! I certainly find it a very photogenic city! I was chatting to a chap named Jonny Patience (fine art tog, v good) on twitter last night about it. I was saying about the never ending nature of the place and how it all seems the same colour. Since I only took black and white shots, I’ve not really captured that, but he sent me a link to these photos which do so very well!

      Glad I jogged your memory too! I treat this blog in some respects like a diary to jog my own … So if it’s worked for someone else then that’s definitely a bonus! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 10, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Superb set and write up Hamish. All good and lots of thought gone into this it seems. Some very good images on their own. It is not easy to display something which has such a personal event to make it accessible to those outside, something you have achieved for me.

    • Reply
      March 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Thanks Julian! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Excellent write up and great foties, H!

    • Reply
      March 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks Brian! 🙂

  • Reply
    Urban Hafner
    March 10, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    That was a great read Hamish. And lovely pictures of Paris. It is such a great place to photograph, as is all of France really. I can definitely relate to it as I have a 3 year old daughter 🙂 And I find it especially useful to take just ONE camera when out with the kids. It just reduces my stress level considerably. Oh, and let me know if you want to sell any of your M-mount lenses 😀

    • Reply
      March 12, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Thanks Urban! If I do decide to sell them, I will definitely keep you posted! They seem to be gathering rather than decreasing at the moment … 🙂

      • Reply
        Urban Hafner
        March 12, 2014 at 8:33 am

        Thanks Hamish. I have about a month to wait before I have any funds for a lens anyway. I will ask you again then.

  • Reply
    Week 8 – GR1v & XP2 | 52 rolls
    March 13, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    […] If you are interested, there are a LOT more photos from my trip to Paris in the 35mmc blog post I wrote about it here […]

  • Reply
    Canon Prima 120 - My current telephoto lens of choice! : 35mmc
    March 20, 2014 at 9:54 am

    […] if you are worried you can always shoot faster film, or just recode some slower film like I did for my trip to Paris. There are zoom cameras out there that possibly have better features or even better quality lenses, […]

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